Saturday, January 13, 2018

Still Classically Educating After All These Years

I grew up reading. I grew up learning from books and to books I turned when we began homeschooling 27 years ago. Books have figured heavily into our family life, homeschool world and larger community. (I edited a book this summer, The Cup of Salvation, by Rabbi Pesach Wolicki and am currently reading a review copy of Nancy Pearcy’s book, Love Thy Body). Basically, everyone around here is either reading, writing, or listening to a book of some sort around here most of the time.
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We began homeschooling with a great books approach using a literature based curriculum and  pedagogy for years, despite seeing obvious holes and weaknesses in it. I loved the idea of Classical Ed and had a well-loved copy of The Well Trained Mind that I read yearly, but I just could not make it all come together.

In 2006 I discovered Classical Conversations as I was researching curriculum for the large local co-op that I had started and was running. Leigh Bortins just happened to be speaking a few hours away and I took the opportunity to go and listen to her. She changed my understanding of education and learning. We changed our curriculum, co-op, and focus and haven’t looked back. Leigh Bortiens talked practical application of the theory of classical ed. She was compelling and challenging. She told me that I could in fact learn grammar. This was a paradigm shift for me as I thought that you either had the grammar gene or you didn't. She said teach to your kids strengths (check) but also teach to their weaknesses (oh, we should shore up our kids academic weaknesses, too!). 
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Classical Education is a catch-phrase for a lot of things, but at its core it focuses on skill building through a series of stages, most commonly known as the Trivium (Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy). The Trivium is what is mostly talked about in homeschooling circles, as it’s the foundation for higher level thinking.
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The Trivium is comprised of the Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric stage. The Grammar stage focuses on Memory work, the Dialectic stage focuses on the rules of Logic and argumentation and the Rhetoric focuses on presenting well through the written and spoken word. Classical Education is also word versus image focused (for a more in-depth analysis of the differences, check out Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman).
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Utilizing the classical method has saved us enormous amounts of time and money. We are focused on developing skills and honing those skills so curriculum is often non-consumable. Also, being committed to a pedagogy, versus a curriculum, allows far more freedom in how and when materials are gathered. There is no longer the yearly confusion about whether our curriculum is “working” or not. We have either learned the skills we set out to or we need more work on those skills.
Teaching classically has built my confidence and ability to teach. Mainly because I am not “stuck” anymore. Classical Ed has gifted me the freedom to not know, to learn and to grow beyond self, or school, imposed limitations.
And more stuff I’ve learned educating classically. Important stuff:
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  •  You aren’t going to learn most things the first time you see it; that’s overview. You must become familiar with material in order to really learn it.
  •  Memory is the mother of learning. Memory works requires time on task and drill. And more drill.
  • Overlearning is underrated and misunderstood. Overlearning is taking a difficult and uncomfortable behavior or skill and turning it into an automatic skill.
  •  Learning something for long term memory is not the same as the short term memory required to cram for a test.
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  • When you memorize something, you own it. Memorizing material allows you to make connections and see relationships that don’t happen when you don’t own the material.
  • We should teach to our kid’s strength and allow them to go as fast and far as they can, while at the same time, shoring up their weaknesses and requiring them to push beyond comfort. Difficult things are often uncomfortable. It’s o.k. for our kids (and us!) to be uncomfortable.
  • Kids are capable of working much harder than we give them credit for or they often belive.
  • Fun is great but solid academics afford our kids the opportunity to push beyond their comfort level and gain the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from working hard and accomplishing much.
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  • Building copiousness goes way beyond a set curriculum. Scaffolding information is very helpful to mastering difficult material.
  • Using planners and breaking down long term projects does not come naturally to most kids.
  • Most people do better with a study buddy or drill partner.
  • -Envisioning what could be versus reacting against is a much more effective long term motivator.
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  • You are not going to know everything. You can learn more than you probably give yourself credit for. Even if you were terrible at grammar or science in elementary school, you have the tools and skills that you have learned as an adult. Things will come easier to you know. Be the lead learner in your home. Wrestle with concepts- it won’t hurt you or your kids to see you struggle to learn something or gain mastery over new concepts.

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Classical Eduacation has allowed us to go far beyond the simple surface of things, dive deeply, teach and learn efficiently and well.
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While we love the pedagogy of Classical Education, our goal is not to turn out little intelligensia robotrons. Our goal is to educate life-long learners who know and will continue to appreciate and discover Truth, Beauty and Goodness. 

Ad gloriam Dei! 

What do my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about their Homeschool Method? Go visit them to find out!

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 15th.
How Our Academic Co-op Completes Our Eclectic Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
A Method to Our Madness by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Finding Our Homeschool Method by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
How We Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Give Us.... by Annette @ A Net in Time
A day in our Home by Sarah@DeliveringGrace
Lit-Based Education: How We Homeschool by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Overhauling Our Homeschool - Adjusting our "How" to fit our "Why" by Sabrina Scheerer @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler: Expectation Vs. Reality by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Captain's Log, Supplemental - Our Homeschool Days by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
How we get it done. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
How to Organize Daily Curriculum with the School Cart by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Learning For LIfe by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Eclectic Homeschooling: When It All Comes Together by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
A Typical Day? by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
This is the Way We Do Our School, So Early in the Morning by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
A Little of This and a Little of That: Eclectic Homeschooling by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Still Classically Educating After All These Years by True North Homeschool Academy
So what exactly is Life Led Homeschooling? by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
The way we learn ~ 2018 Virtual Homeschool Fair by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Our Homeschool Routine by Joelle @Homeschooling For His Glory
Homeschool Methods – 8 Tips for the Journey by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

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