Last week I shared the basics of the classical education model. I hope I disspelled some myths and misunderstanding.
Today, I want to tell you, classical education can be doable and fun… to any mama! Seriously.
Why It’s Fun & Doable:
Sticking to tasks that are developmentally appropriate is doable!
The funny thing is that I think classical education takes the pressure off in the younger years. It doesn’t expect lower elementary students to explain or evaluate, just memorize. This is the easiest time to do it, so do it however works for your kids: chanting, singing, signing, writing. Mix it up.
Just introduce facts (people, places, events), knowing you will build on that later. Ignore current models that say memorizing is boring or too hard for young children. That is nonsense (in general, children with learning issues are different, but I would also say that memorizing strengthens the brain, so it’s good practice even for those who struggle).
As they grow, you get to add evaluation and eventually debate. How fun is that? Tell a kid that your goal is for them to logically defend their opinion (and possibly sway you in an area ) and you could have a very motivated child.
One of the Ah-ha! moments during SWB’s talk was when she spoke of asking the child to do only appropriate tasks. Frustration sets in when children are asked to do tasks that they are not ready to do (frustration for the student and the teacher). I love that classical education takes this into account.
Grammar stage (~grades 1-4): memorization, input of information (directly as well as through exploration)
Logic stage (~grades 5-8): gather and evaluate information
Rhetoric (~grades 9-12): fine tune evaluation skills and develop personal communication skills
For example: this means NOT asking a young elementary student to predict or evaluate (ex: What do you think will happen next?). This is not appropriate. They have not experienced enough “cycles” to predict (Which is why they keep asking if it’s almost Christmas) and do not have enough knowledge to evaluate (No clue what is a reasonable guess about what adding vinegar and baking soda will cause? or what a talking pig will do next in the story!) , so what they do instead is feel inadequate or disappointing and/or learn what the teacher wants them to say.
I can elaborate more on this if you would like (so be sure to say so in the comments, if you want me to). Please read SWB’s handout on The Joy of Classical Education (and consider listening to the talk) because she gives some very helpful tidbits on what to focus on in each subject area.
Developing the basics is doable!
Classical education emphasizes the basics: reading, writing (and all that it entails), and communicating. Honestly, if you focus only on these aspects of education fully, you would have a student exposed to wonderful topics and fluent in language. This would allow them to springboard into anything they are interested in themselves.
It often includes some mother language study (Latin and/or Greek) because studying these languages strengthens writing and reading skills in a variety of ways. This sounds intimidating, mostly because the majority of us were not taught Latin or Greek and we don’t think we’re smart enough to teach them. Guess what? There are many currics out there now that will walk you through it. Seriously.
AND… even if you only study Latin and/or Greek roots in depth, you’ll still be getting a lot of wonderful language input.
So… that’s doable, wouldn’t you say?
Exploring and dialoguing is fun!
At the grammar stage, you are just filling and exploring. How fun is that? Teach them the being verbs, the names of all the states, and short poems via singing or chanting. They will soak it up. Explore everything via books or hands on moments. Let them learn the name of every insect, snake, or bird they want. That is all very fun.
At the logic and rhetoric stages, you get to dialogue with your kiddos. You get to help them see the beauty behind a story, the purpose of the created object, and motives behind events. You also get to encourage them in developing the skill of presenting their opinion in a logical and solid way. Really discussing topics with your children and watching them engage is very fun!
Reading great books is fun!
The most important method in the philosophy is soaking your child in language (I might need to clarify: good language; not the crud that’s on The Disney Channel) and the most important method for this is really great books. Quality books. Well written books. Timeless books.
Getting to read lots of great books (but not all of them, c’mon, our kids have to have books to read when they are adults!) is important, but don’t allow a list to overwhelm you. Do your best and strive to challenge your child with quality books (not fluff, except at the beginning reading stage when they are developing fluency, still, even then, be sure the books are quality, not poor topics or poor moral inupt). Reading classics is important because they are classics for a reason. You don’t have to read every.single.one.of.them.
Read them aloud together, to start (fairy tales are super!). Next, have the child start reading them herself too. Don’t stop reading aloud, though. Ever.
My very favorite part of homeschooling is reading wonderful stories together. I’ve shared about that before, so I won’t go into it more (read the link if you’re not convinced).
Yes, you will talk about these great books, but not in depth for every one of them. You can kill their love for reading if you are dissecting every single book. That’s not what classical education is about.
Teaching history at appropriate levels, using living books, and cycling through is fun!
Use living books and original texts to teach history is much more fun than textbooks and it is completely doable. Honestly, this is how I fell in love with history. Libraries are chock full of these books. The first year I taught Daniel at home we used Sonlight Core D. Oh, my! I was in love. All the historical fiction brought history alive to me. Seriously.
The well written books have stuck with me forever and I talk about them to others. That is learning! I don’t remember a single thing I read in a history textbook. Ever.
Making sure that you only expect the appropriate level of understanding is fun too. Younger kids love learning about people, while older kids enjoy seeing what was going on behind the scenes and uncovering motives.
Since classical education cycles through four years of history, you can be assured your child will hit a topic again. This takes the burden off and makes learning more fun (for student and teacher).
So… Staying developmentally appropriate + developing the basic + exploring & dialoguing + great books + teaching history using living books & at the appropriate level = Classical Education = Doable and Fun!
I hope this has helped you see that the basics of classical education are doable and fun for anyone. It’s not a stuffy method for brianiacs and those fluent in Greek only.
Classical education does not mean reading every great book, learning Latin & Greek, writing a dissertation on France’s influence on America and vice versa, or diagramming in French. Though you are free to do that if you like.
I don’t know Latin (though I’m going to learn it with the kids this year via Visual Latin) or Greek. I’ve never read Democracy in America. I have never been on a debate team.
I’m just a mom who sees that a tried and true method focusing on all I’ve mentioned can be a great way to train a child’s brain and help them grow into all God wants them to be.
Classical education: doable and fun!