Monday, April 27, 2009

A Classical Education, Part 1

Before learning about classical education, I wandered through several other homeschooling books without finding quite what I desired. Ruth Beechick's books on the 3Rs were informative but not what I wanted. I disagreed with her better late than early stance and found her academic scope even for the basics to be a bit light. While it would be possible to get your child off to a great start with her suggestions, I wanted something more laid out. I didn't want to have to plan lessons for the 3Rs because I knew myself well enough to know that without good planning I tend to let things fall to the wayside. I also wanted more of a long term vision. Before I started, I wanted to know that I could continue all the way through high school, but I hadn't found a framework that covered the entire span of education. Enter The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. I finally found an educational method that made sense to me.

The classical model of education is based on the trivium. In the grammar stage, young children learn facts for everything from math to grammar to history. In the logic stage, they begin to question what they are learning looking at how information is related and organizing it into a framework. The rhetoric stage allows them to use what they have learned to express themselves and form their own opinions. The exact ages for each of these stages varies somewhat among classical educators, but I find breakdown in The Well Trained Mind of 1st-4th, 5th-8th, and 9th-12th to be the simplest and easiest to use.

Beyond introducing me to the classical model of education, The Well Trained Mind provided me with two more key components for our homeschool. First, it gave me a starting framework that spanned from K through 12th grade. I finally had a vision of what education could look like from start to finish. I could evaluate and set not only goals for the coming year, but longer term goals to make sure that what we work on one year prepares us academically for the years to come. Second, it gave me a myriad of resources to accomplish those goals. While I do not currently use every curriculum that is recommended in the book, I can honestly say that I start my curriculum search each year by evaluating what is recommended. Many of the choices I use successfully. A few I have altered to better fit the needs of my children. I'll talk more about some of these changes in upcoming posts.

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