02 September 2010

Washing their brains?

It lately probably seems like all we do is eat, but...

This is our second 'real' week of homeschooling. We quit with the hippy-type (read: wonderfully perfect in every way) summer time homeschooling which involved me requiring Ada Brooks to read most days and quizzing her on her fractions while we measured out teaspoons of things for supper recipes. (See the all-we-do-is-eat thing above....)

And when I say 'requiring', I more mean occasionally ensuring that she is still gobbling up books like we're all about to enter the world of Farenheit 451.

But, last Monday, Paul started school, and so did we, in earnest -

So, how do we do school?

Well, we get up in the morning and turn on PBS kids and go about our day.

Gotcha! =)

No, really, we get up, and most days we have Family Worship, Memory Work, Handwriting, History, Reading Aloud, Spelling, Creative Writing, Math, Grammar, Listening, Free Reading, Free Art, Piano - All interspersed with breakfast, lunch, play time and rest time.
And on Fridays Ada Brooks does science with her daddy - so you scientists, don't worry!

[And once Jackson Classical starts in a couple of weeks, she'll also be getting Spanish, Latin, Ballet, Formal Art, Kindermusik, Gymnastics, Tap (which she and I both despise, but it builds character?), Science.
As well as doing Spelling, Grammar, Handwriting, Creative Writing, History - same curricula as at home, but in a classroom setting.

(I LOVE to pluralize curriculum... curricula just sounds so awesome!) ]

Oh! and we do laundry. Which consistently ruins my day.

Perfect day + Laundry = Mediocre Day
Mediocre day + Laundry = A double gin on the rocks

So, I'd like to post about those various subjects and how we're doing them.

We'll start with Memory Work - because, well, it's the FAVORITE.

It's everyone's favorite - which means that I probably need to move it to later in the day, so it would be better used as motivation.

But for now, first up, Memory Work. We are (mostly) classically educating, which means we subscribe (mostly) to the idea of the Trivium - which is basically that at different stages in life kids are bent in certain ways. When they are young, they absorb discreet facts without argument and with remarkable talent. They are sponges, so, we give them lots of good stuff to soak up.

[Someone rewrite that sentence to avoiding ending it in a preposition, please! I cannot - I'm too tired.]

Middle School age - they start asking questions - dialectical type learning. High School Age - they are ready to learn to present themselves to the world, so we teach them on a rhetorical level. They interact with literature in a critical way - they write and speak about what they know.

That is a gross oversimplification, but I don't have time right now! If you want to know more, email me. Or read this here. And then email me. And I've written about it on this very blog before.

Anyway, so we do Memory Work, because we believe that 1) they like to memorize at this young age, 2) they are good at it, and 3) if they memorize it now, they'll likely never forget it.

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,

That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak

I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -
Memorized by me in 2nd or 3rd grade. And will go to my grave.

Although, 'unbroke' always got on my nerves. Unbroken, Henry! The past participle of break is broken!!!!!

But, I've always had trouble with poetic license as it relates to grammar rules - not punctuation, just grammar. e. e. cummings just made me proud with his rebellion in punctuation -
Hate poetry?
Read anyone lived in a pretty how town. You'll change your mind. Or should.

But the grammar rebellion, well, that's just, well, I need a glass of wine to make it through "I found the arrow still unbroke"

A contemporary example would be, Steve Earle, one of my favorite singer/songwriters has an amazing song called "Me and the Eagle"
Go and listen to it here. Please. It will uplift your day.

But, he says "Me and the eagle are of the same mind"
I mean...come on.... THE EAGLE AND I, STEVE... THE EAGLE AND I!!!!!!!!!! But, it would sound awkward, just like unbroken wouldn't rhyme with oak...


I mean... I believe that poets should have that right... I just don't like it. There are a lot of things I believe that I don't like. Which messes with one's head - let me just tell you. I could write a book about how what we like influences what we believe way, way too much.

Memory Work.

You should come and watch it, because, well, it's pretty darn cute. And sort of amazing.

Ada Brooks's list of current memory work:

  • Catechism (westminster children's)
  • Presidents (she knows them all, but has to still practice, because she took a break for the summer, and forgot everything from Woodrow Wilson until John F Kennedy)
  • States and Capitols (She's up to about 25)
  • Books of the Bible (OT down, we're just reviewing, NT is not as steady)
  • Psalm 1
  • Psalm 23
  • Gloria Patri
  • Doxology
  • History Timeline (Quick - which came first? Crimean War or American Civil War? Also, add to that Queen Victoria's Great Exhibition.... yeah - I can't do it either, but Ada Bee is working on it, which is fairly amazing to watch)

Eason's Memory Work (cutest thing, well, since cute as word existed):

  • Catechism (Westminster Children's - and he keeps up with his sister just fine, he'd like you to know)
  • Books of the Bible (He's got the Pentateuch down... =) )
  • Psalm 1:1
  • Presidents (He's through John Quincy Adams, which, incidentally is how far I can go...)
  • Gloria Patri
  • Doxology
  • Jewish Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the 12 tribes - you want cute? listen to Eason say "Naphtali") - he's got these down like it's nobody's business. It helps that one of his favorite songs has them in it.

No, I'm not really requiring my three year old to memorize things, but he gets so upset if he's left out of Memory Work - So very upset - so we started making up things for him to learn (which is why the Jewish Patriarchs came in- who really needs to know those?) -

And so no, I don't spend a lot of time saying "Come on Eason, who comes after James Madison?" Actually, I spend no time on that.
We are, however, working on the catechism with him - I've become a believer in catechizing your children. I just wish there existed catechisms about other subjects - history, english, math and science, and not just our faith. The faith thing is huge, but the way catechism works - in question and answer format - enables such great memory, and it would be great if when I said,

"How does one make possessive a singular noun ending in s?"
Ada and Eason parroted back,
"By adding an apostrophe s."

In the same way that when I say
"Have you a soul as well as a body?"
Eason says, without flinching,
"Yes; I have a soul that can never die."

What comfort to him later in life!

There are two concerns people have about this memory work thing -
1) It sounds awfully stringent and tortuous - they are so little - let them play.

Which I would answer with the fact that they consistently BEG for memory work. Ask Ada Brooks her favorite subject - Art and Memory Work in a dead heat for first. Eason, seriously, will quit playing legos, unprompted, to come to the table to do memory work. He gets very, very upset if he doesn't get to give the presidents a go, and if I forget to ask him the patriarchs because, again, who cares, he very adamantly reminds me. If they are begging to do it, it cannot be that bad.
Also, it's 30 minutes a day.
I am not James Mill pounding Greek into little John Stuart so that one day he has a nervous breakdown. I promise. Really, I do.

The other concern tends to be 2) Aren't you brainwashing them?

Well, in one way, yes. I am purposefully forming their brains around certain facts. But all of the facts are true.

Most of them are things that are objectively confirmed by numerous sources - George Herbert Walker Bush was, in fact, POTUS from January of 1989 to January of 1993.

It occurred. It's true truth. Truthiness. Really.

I mean, unless we're in the matrix.

hee hee hee. Gotcha again!

There are other facts that are disputed - Have you a soul as well as a body? a lot of disagreement there.
But I believe it's true. I mean, most days I do. And if I believe it's true, why shouldn't I teach it to my children?
Oh, so they can grow up and "discover" it themselves?

I hope they do that, too. I'm fully prepared for, and hoping, that Ada Brooks comes up to me when she's fifteen and says, "Hey- what if this whole faith thing is just an opiate for the masses?" - At which point, I'll sit down and explain to her my own moments in that place - why her father and I both had (have) a lot of those moments, and ultimately, in a Kierkegaard-esque move, made a decision to stop having those moments, or rather, made a decision to live faithfully.

Which requires, incidentally, that we teach our children our faith.

Giving your child a grounding in the faith that you hope they will always hold is not brainwashing - it's the only logical thing to do.

Paul and I toyed with, as I'm sure most educated people do at some point, trying to teach every faith/nonfaith with the same level of objectivity and letting the kids 'make their own faith decisions.'

But rejected that because 1) it's not possible - look at the way public schools in America have tried this - it doesn't happen, 2) What's the point, really? So we can have an air of superiority about not brainwashing our children?, and 3) because I believe that the God that I actually believe in would not have me to do that.

Proverbs 22:6 teaches us to "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Tell them what to do! And if you tell them what to do (love their neighbor), eventually, if they're smart, you are going to have to tell them why (Because we believe in scripture and in Jesus and that's what scripture and Jesus say).

I brainwash them about math - 2 + 2 = 4

(and yes, they just believe this for a while - before they 'discover it themselves' - and yes, there are those educators who actually take the whole discovering it for themselves to the logical extension it requires and don't teach the math facts - they wait for discovery. Guess how well those folks do on the SAT?)

I brainwash them about nutrition - Broccoli is good for you, velveeta not so much.

So, yes, I guess I'm also brainwashing about God. And history. And grammar.

If, at the end of the day, we've only told them things that are true, what will it matter that we've poured those things into their brains before they can intellectually fight back?

And, again, if they're true, what will it matter when they do fight back?


  1. "We give them things up with which to soak"? Thank you, Sir Churchill.

  2. You said, " I just wish there existed catechisms about other subjects - history, english, math and science, and not just our faith."

    Have you looked at Classical Conversations memory work program (Foundations)? You can see much of it online but it's even more impressive IRL. Of course, this is one person's idea for those subjects but it could be a good springboard.


  3. No, no Steven, she is memorizing the States and their capitol buildings - like "Mississippi: Capitol found in Jackson at 400 High Street, built in 1903. =)

    Elise - I have their Foundations book on order! We'll see!

    Thank you Amanda... =)

  4. I would have loaned you mine to preview. Sorry I didn't catch you first but hopefully you will find it worth your while.