Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Way We Do It: Classical Education with Charlotte Mason on the Side

We have decided to homeschool our boys according to the classical method. Susan Wise Bauer lays the plan out nicely in her book, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. So here it is for those of you who are interested (my notes and ramblings appear after this brief description from the book):

Grades 1-4 are the Grammar Stage, where the child spends his time learning facts which are the building blocks of all future learning. Facts like the rules of phonics and spelling, grammar rules, vocabulary, stories of history and literature, descriptions of animals, plants, and the human body, rules of mathematics, and so on. Children this age usually find memorization fun. Education during this period does not revolve around self-expression and self-discovery.

Grades 5-8 are the Logic Stage, where the child learns to examine the "whys" of what he's learned. This period examines cause and effect, how different fields of study are interrelated, and the logical framework of the facts he's memorized. He is more able to think analytically and to critique, not just memorize.

Grades 9-12 are the Rhetoric Stage, where the child applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information acquired in the early grades and expresses his opinions in clear, forceful, elegant language. This is also the time for specialized training in the child's fields of interest.

The 12 years of education also repeat this four-year pattern of study: Grades 1, 5, and 9 study (in increasing depth, of course) the Ancients (500 BC - AD 400); grades 2, 6, and 10 study Medieval-Early Rennaissance (400-1600); grades 3, 7, and 11 study the Late Rennaissance-Early Modern Times (1600-1850), and grades , 8, and 12 study Modern Times (1850-present day).

The classical education method appeals to me for several reasons. First, it is organized into clear areas of focus for all twelve years. I don't feel so overwhelmed now, because I at least have an idea of where I'm going with my children's education. Even though I'll never be overly structured on an every day basis (let's be honest), having an outline helps me to stay on task.

Second, I believe that the three stages, called the trivium, accurately follow the development of a child's mind and fully utilize his abilities at the different levels of study. I especially like what Susan Wise Bauer says about the Grammar Stage: "Young children are described as sponges because they soak up knowledge. But squeeze a dry sponge, and nothing comes out. Your job, during the elementary years, is to supply the knowledge and skills that will allow your child to overflow with creativity as his mind matures." Language teacher Ruth Beechick writes, "Our society is so obsessed with creativity that people want children to be creative before they have any knowledge or to be creative with." Susan continues, "Too close a focus on self-expression at an early age can actually cripple a child later on; a student who's always been encouraged to look inside himself may not develop a frame of reference." How many young people do you know that have this problem of self-focus and self-accountability?

Third, I want my children to be able to join in "the Great Conversation," the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages. We'll be studying history, science and literature in a chronological order, and reading mostly from original texts. By the time they get to high school, I want them to be able to formulate their own opinion on the classic writers, scientists, theologians, kings, etc. That way they will have the ability to analyze and comment on what is going on in the present-day world.

And fourth, I want to learn all this stuff, too! I'm tired of references to literature going over my head. I plan on learning more than I ever did when I was in school. I plan on learning Latin right alongside Baker. I'm excited!

Along with the structure of the classical education outline and texts we'll be using, I also incorporate some of Charlotte Mason's ideas. She believes, and so do we, that children are born people. They aren't future workers, they're people! They are individuals with different learning styles that can and should be considered when you teach them anything. There is a lot of room in a classical education for individual learning styles. Also, children should have a lot of free time to just be kids; they should be allowed ample time to explore their world, outdoors. And last, Charlotte Mason believes in using "real" books, not textbooks. Read, read, read, and have the child narrate back to you what the book is about. We will do this a lot.

So, there you have it; Our way of homeschooling, our "Philosophy of Education", if you will. Just in case you wanted to know!

1 comment:

  1. That is the best definition of education I have ever heard! I have always thought that children and young people should be celebrated for who THEY are--everyone learns in a different way. I am so proud of you, Trish, for your constant quest of the right way for your family...and while doing that, being a role model for others. By the way, I miss you!


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