09 October 2009

excellence, we hope.

I've written about why we're not settling for what people keep telling us would be "fine" for our children. And why traditional options open to us are not approaching the limit of excellence. And reiterated that I understand education decisions to be a matter of individual conscience - not something about which anyone can proclaim what is best for each family and each child.

So, what to do.

This is a decision reached over about nine months of intense investigation - which involved talking to many a family, visiting many a school, reading many an article and a short stack of books.

We've decided to classically educate. We think that this is something, like most forms of education, that can be done in a school or at home. We'd prefer to send the children to school, especially as they get older, for a variety of reasons. But right now there is not a reputable classical school available to us where we are - and with Paul in school and me at home with the younger two, we could not really afford to pay private school tuition. So, for now, we're doing it at home.

Which is hard. But not weird or scary. Our kids get out, meet people, love each other, have friends, are funny and hopefully kind, loving, generous and peaceable. We'll be reevaluating constantly on all of those topics. Especially the good sense of humor one - because what would we do with boring children. Run screaming out the door.

The classical education model has been adopted by people of all faiths and by people of no faith. Our faith does play a big part in our education - mainly because we believe God created the earth and is its sovereign. But when it comes to explaining our education decision, it's fairly irrelevant.

So what is it?
It is a belief that children's brains learn different ways as they develop. And a belief that subjects, especially history and literature, are ultimately tied together.

What is the strategy?
The method for classically educating is based on the trivium - which is best flushed out by Dorothy Sayers in the essay titled The Lost Tools of Learning. But, to summarize, the trivium is a tri-fold stage of learning from primary school age through high school age. From the time a child is four to five, they are very engaged with and able to learn and memorize the grammar of things - the basics, the rules, the math facts, the dates, etc. This stage ends around 10-12 and the child becomes more engaged with argument - He or she wants to understand the why of things - and how they all fit together - literary criticism begins, historical decisions begin to be examined, not just learned. And then around 14-15, the child begins to learn to express himself or herself. Writing and speaking are emphasized - specifically engaging in debate.

So, you take these three stages of learning to heart and base your education around them.

The method we'll be using at home comes almost straight out of one of the best books about education of all time. The Well Trained Mind. I recommend that anyone with children buy it. Or if you're just interested in education. Or if you enjoy well written nonfiction. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, her mother, are brilliant, strong women after whom I'd model my methods any day. Their humor and joy at educating comes across on almost every page of the book.

To kind of summarize:
A truly classically educated child learns the history and literature of the whole world chronologically, repeating it in each stage.
So, in first, fifth and ninth grades, the child studies the ancients - the stories and writings of the ancients.
In second, sixth, and tenth grades, the child studies the middle ages - up through the rise of the renaissance.
In third, seventh, and eleventh grades, the child studies the early modern period. This starts with the renaissance and goes roughly through the civil war.
In fourth, eight, and twelfth grades, the child studies the modern period, which starts with the war and goes through today.
Science is done on a four year cycle as well, but not in a time system way, although the types of science do correspond with what the people who you're studying in history knew at the time -
1,5,9: Biology;
2,6,10: Earth Science;
3,7,11: Chemistry;
4,8,12: Physics/Computer Science

The math method is not as different from what one normally would do. In fact, we're using Saxon math, which is something utilized by many traditional public and private schools.

A better summary than I've written is available here - written by Susan Wise Bauer.

This is where we are - this is what we think the path to excellence for our children is. There are classical schools popping up all over the place, and we hope our children can attend one of them one day. But if not, we'll labor on - doing our best to equip them with as much knowledge as we can.
And we'll continue to reevaluate, all the time knowing that we could be wrong. Not just about what is an excellent path, but even about what is best for our children. We're fallible people. Shocking, I know.

No comments:

Post a Comment