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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why not Classical?

So, what is classical education?  By the way, you should never start a sentence with "so"...at least it's capitalized, right?

I have yet to find a clear, in a nutshell definition.  However, here is what I can tell you about it.  Classical education follows a trivium (the Latin word for "three roads"), consisting of a grammar, logic and rhetoric stage.  It's major emphasis is on memorization and is language-focused.

I have only been in the grammar stage for my homeschool career.  Alison will, in theory, move to the logic stage in a few months.  So far, I have found the approach refreshing as it emphasizes just mastering reading and writing well.  I am a firm believer in less is more; do a few subjects really well rather than muddle through a lot. 

I love the idea of building a strong foundation of learning and I do believe that memorization is an essential tool for further/harder learning.  I can also support the idea that having strong grammar skills will equip students to be able to learn other subjects more efficiently.

Lessons are more conversations or working on memorizing, rather than just a lecture followed by busy work.  I have found that my kids learn the best this way; walls immediately go up when I hand them a worksheet, but fall down when we talk about new ideas after reading a book together.  We have tried 3 online programs for transition periods and to my shock, the kids hate them.  I love the one-on-one time with them and I love seeing little light bulbs go off in their head, but it's also hard to do this with 3 kids in 3 different grades and several different subjects.

And here's where I'm thankful no one reads this blog...because I'm definitely about to ruffle some classical education feathers.

First, I'm not 100% on board with the extent grammar is emphasized.  Yes, it is the grammar stage and yes, it is important.  However, I have a student who actually needs more emphasis on math.  Grammar comes naturally to her and easily excels in it, but math is more of a struggle and is more of an area that her foundation needs work to make sure it's strong.  I also want my kids to explore more in the science area than just some facts.  It's ironic that I'm saying this because all of our experiments have failed in Arizona...literally this weeks I ordered caterpillars to watch change into butterflies and they never showed up and are for sure dead somewhere in the lost abyss.

Second, the biggest thing I'm currently struggling with: memorization.  They say to memorize grammar rules and math facts and history timelines and vocabulary and maps and science facts and artists and composers and the list goes on.  I completely agree with the fact that memorizing these things gives children a solid foundation to build other information off of.  I also support the fact that just practicing memorization is good for the brain.  I want to implement this more in my school and I was excited about reading 'The Core' to get the tools I needed.  Unfortunately, she left me hanging.  Basically, I realized that those tools lay at Classical Conversations.  Sure, we'll give you all the facts you need to memorize to be smart...but you have to come to our school.  What I'm mulling over is, are these facts that need to be memorized abstract or concrete?  Meaning, are there set, universal, facts that my kids need for their foundation OR can I set those facts that they need? 

This bring me to my third feather to ruffle; why we don't do Classical Conversations.  Or any co-op for that matter.  Year round homeschooling is a must for us.  I'm thankful that life circumstances forced us into it because now I love it.  Even after a week off, I can tell we are all ready for the routine again and we never loose momentum; I never have to "waste" time reviewing or catching back up.  I also love that it creates an atmosphere of always learning and is in a way, preparing them for life with a full-time job that doesn't have summers off.  PLUS, who wants a summer off on the surface of the sun? not me.  Year-round homeschooling and not wanting to do life on another person's schedule (yes, that sounds crazy selfish) is the first reason we don't participate.  Second, it's another person/people teaching my kids.  Leigh Bortins says herself in the book that children learn best from the person whom they feel knows them and cares about them the most.  We learn best from people we have a relationship with and trust.  She even argues that students in public school don't learn as well because they can't have a close relationship with a teacher they share with 30 other students and know will not be in their life the following year.  I would argue to say that could be somewhat true in a co-op.  Mrs. Smith may be teaching history this year, but my kids don't know Mrs. Smith and she for sure will not be their history teacher next year when we move.  Finally, we feel that classical conversations is a school in itself.  It takes up a day of the week and adds work on to the rest of the school week and to us, that's not homeschool.  Are your feathers feeling ruffled yet?  I'm sure some of you are wanting to push that socialization button right now.  I promise friendships are important to us and we work hard to get our kids involved in activities where they can learn something and be with friends.  On the flip side of that, I'm *usually* careful not to over schedule because a simple life, is a happy life.

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