Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Classical, or Classical?

I'm a self-professed classical homeschooling mom.  At least I try to be.  At the beginning of last year when Luke was beginning third grade, I started to think ahead a little, for the first time.  K-1-2 had just been about figuring things out for today.  How are we going to teach Luke to read? To count and add? What is the most important thing to do in second grade?  It was all I could do to figure out what needed to be done a semester at a time.

Starting third grade made me realize, I need to be looking down the road a little. I need an end goal, and a plan to get there.  So I started reading and researching.  It all started with trying to figure out how and when to teach writing and composition, but this took me down a road of diving deeper into the ideas of classical education.

Before we started homeschooling, I was recommended to read The Well-Trained Mind, by the Bauers.  I loved that book, and decided quickly it was how I wanted to homeschool my kids.  History chronologically? A Type A personality's dream! It was how I wish I had been taught.  So, as I searched for curriculum, I relied on The WTM suggestions and sequences.

But as I dived into a deeper study in third grade, I came across a different stream of ideas among classical educators.  I read a ton of articles on CirCe Institute, Classical Academic Press, and more.  The key turning point was reading "Trivium Mastery."  It explained what I'd been reading, but couldn't quite put my finger on.

There are two different ideas in classical education.  They both rely on the grammar-dialectic-rhetoric progression.  But they understand it differently.  Traditionally, the ancient Greeks understood these to be stages of learning.  When you begin to study a subject, you begin with the "grammar" of the subject.  Depending on the subject, you either slowly or quickly progress and begin to analyze and synthesize, critique and create with what you've learned.  For a subject like English, it takes years for children to learn the alphabet sounds, read basic words, then progress to sentences to understand something.  But reading a sentence and drawing a picture of it is rhetoric-type work for English.  It's 1st grade level, but it's using the grammar they've learned, understanding the words and their meaning, and creating something with it.  Full circle.  To teach this way, you simply understand the stages of each learning level, and work to take your student through each stage in each subject they're studying, introducing subjects at an age appropriate time.

There is also what seems to be a newer interpretation of grammar-dialectic-rhetoric, based on Dr. Dorothy Sayers lectures.  This approaches them as relating to a student's age.  Because young grammar age children do excel in memory, this has been capitalized on, and parents encouraged to give children a lot of memory work.  Students memorize the grammar of any and all subjects, regardless of whether or not it has any meaning to them, or if they are studying it outside of their memory work.  In this model, students may spend a year memorizing a set of facts and very impressively be able to recite it at the end of the year.  Anything from Latin conjugations, algebraic formulas, geography, English grammar, spelling rules, and all sorts of interesting things!  It's simply amazing what kids can do!

In reading about all of this, it has helped me so much to identify these two different streams running in the world of classical education right now.  I've done a lot of reading and evaluating, and for our family, I really prefer the traditional classical method.  I love to have memory work, we do plenty of memory work.  We memorize poetry, Bible verses, catechism questions and answers, the Presidents in order, States and capitals, math facts and multiplication tables, spelling rules and other concrete things that kids just need to know to do their studies well.  But it's a very small part of our day, not the main thing we do.  The main thing we do is read!  Tapestry doesn't require any memory work, and I think this is so wise.  Memories are built around experiencing history through stories great books, art projects and activities.  My kids still talk about building a giant ziggurat, three years ago.  They will talk about building a life size World War I trench for years as well.  I love the idea of not neglecting dialectic and rhetoric learning in the grammar age.  Because they are capable of it at a certain level.  That's what brings meaning and understanding in, which is key to true learning and retention.

I hope this helps others who are looking at classical education and scratching their heads, wondering what makes one program different from another.  There are significant differences, and its good to be aware of them.  There are so many great programs out there, and finding the one that's right for your family is the goal! :)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Upside-down World?

You know, we left life in the United States behind in 2007.  Back then, a whole seven years ago, iPhones either didn't exist, or were so elitist, I didn't know anyone who had one.  I also didn't know anyone who had a Kindle, or iPad.  Most people had one computer for the family.  Most people didm't text, because you paid per text, if I remember correctly.

Can I tell you something? Technology has invaded our lives, addicted us, and changed our culture.  It has changed the way we relate (don't relate) to each other.  I don't have to go into detail to describe this to you.  We all know what it looks like.  People with faces in their phones, texting at the speed of light, Bible studies with no Bibles, but phones, blue lit up faces with eyes down.

But it didn't creep up on us.  We weren't like the frog in a pot of water that slowly came to a boil.  Now that we have moved back to the US, we are the frogs thrown in the already hot boiling water. : )  Can I tell you something else?

This change is not good.

There are so so many reasons why our cultural addiction to technology is harmful.  Here's one of the ones I see, though, that bothers me the most.  It's not just an addiction to the gadgets, it seems to be an addiction to information and knowledge.  And not necessarily knowledge about things that matter, but almost always knowing about things that really.don't.matter.   Honestly, a lot of the information and "news" we are taking in can be really damaging.

Ten years ago, without talking face to face, we had no way to know people's opinions about divisive topics.  We couldn't assume something about someone because of something they shared on Facebook.  (Did you know my auto correct just capitalized Facebook?!?)  Friendships were probably better, because you either avoided dangerous topics because you knew they were dangerous, and you valued your friendship.  Or you were face to face and could talk them out in real life, with measured words, facial expressions and tone of voice.  It's a lot easier to get offended by black and white words on screen, and to retaliate in another black and white comment.  This is not healthy or good for relationships.

Twenty years ago, we only got our local news.  There is so much news and information about what's going on in the world today, it's impossible to digest it all.  It keeps people in a constant state of fear.  I'm just calling it like I see it.  Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.  I'm all for awareness about things we need to be praying for, taking before the throne, and things we can actually do something about.  But the constant news and information about brokenness and depravity that we can do nothing about is purposeless.  Not to mention that having lived overseas, and hearing news about where we were, I know for a fact that at least some of what we hear in the USA is exaggerated and misconstrued to sound more dramatic/dangerous than it really is.

We're all getting suckered into thinking we need these gadgets, we deserve it.  Even down to our children!  We're bad parents if we don't give them their own iPhone by the time they're ten.  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure *I* don't even have the maturity and discipline to appropriately use my iPhone all the time, and there's no way I'm trusting my children with one.  (I'm not even mentioning the cost of all these things, just not going there).

All of this just leads to elevated stress, anxiety, and controversy in life.  Can I just encourage you to turn it off?  Unplug it.  Live your life, don't text/comment/instagram/tweet it. :)  I'm not saying technology is worthless.  It definitely is useful and has its place, I'm thankful for it in many ways!  But I'm saying, don't let it master and rule you.  Don't be the frog in the pot with the water starting to simmer...