In my last post, we went over information on the method behind Traditional Homeschooling; today, we’re moving on to Classical Homeschooling. The two do share some similarities, but there are also quite a few differences to be aware of.
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While Traditional Homeschooling is based on a scope and sequence related to skills and facts, Classical Homeschooling is based on developmental abilities, ideas, and building connections.
A Quick Note
Classical Homeschooling does tend to be fairly rigorous, and in a way, it’s supposed to be. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult.
There is a learning curve for those of us who didn’t grow up with a classical education, but that part of it is actually kind of fun: you get to learn right along with your child, building your skills as you help them build theirs. It does take a level of commitment, though…it’s a lot more difficult to turn to a teacher’s manual for the answers. That’s not a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.
That said, let’s dig into Classical!
This method is built upon a system called the Trivium. This word basically describes “three levels” of learning. It capitalizes on the fact that at each age, children learn in different ways.
If we can pinpoint the ways in which our children learn at each stage, it stands to reason that they will learn more effectively.
One of the foundations of Classical Homeschooling is the connection of subjects. This is heavily based on language and history and revolves around historical eras in a three or four-year cycle. This cycle usually involves ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern eras. Literature and science are planned corresponding to the time period being studied.
While studying the Ancient era, a child will also read Greek myths, learn about how people lived in ancient cultures, and study things like biology and astronomy, since they were areas that were heavily studied in ancient times.
Each time a “cycle” of three or four years is finished, the student starts over, but at a higher level in accordance with the next stage.
The three levels of the trivium are most commonly called the Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric stages. This is for a couple of different reasons.
Each of these subjects corresponds to the developmental level of most children in that stage. Because of this, that subject is generally the skill to be focused on during that stage. Hence, these became the commonly-used names.
The Grammar Stage
The Grammar Stage is used to describe children in the elementary grades, generally 1st through 4th. The main idea behind the instruction in this stage is children at this age learn best through memorization. In fact, many children this age enjoy it.
This can be seen in a young child proudly singing the ABC song or belting out the “books of the Bible” song. This same child might tell anyone who will listen random facts about whatever they are learning.
At this stage, children are often able to absorb huge amounts of information, but most are not yet able to make abstract connections between the facts they are learning.
They might be able to tell you all about King Tut and Leonardo da Vinci, but may fully not realize that the two did not know each other. They can rattle off Schoolhouse Rock songs about nouns, verbs, and adjectives . However, they may not yet be able to use them properly in their own writing.
And that’s ok.
The point of this stage is to build a wide, strong foundation upon which to build later; the idea behind Grammar is that it forms the building blocks upon which everything else is learned.
The Logic Stage
In the Logic Stage, which generally lasts from around 5th to 8th grades, the student moves from asking “what” – from memorizing tons of details – to asking “why.” Please note that this is not the same as your preschooler asking, “Why???” 18,000 times per day. Rather, it is a sign of analysis skills beginning to emerge.
Your child is beginning to connect all of the information that they have learned up till now, to form patterns that will help them as they continue on.
This is the stage in which you will find your child able to write a cohesive paragraph rather than random sentences. You’ll realize they think about which math function to use rather than just assuming.
It is also where you will find them begin to form some rather strong opinions about ideas they come across, though those opinions won’t always be based on the full picture. They are starting to gain analytical skills, but they’re not fully there yet. That’s why they need the instruction of the Logic Stage.
Although “Logic” seems intimidating to many of us – and perhaps not a term we generally associate with middle school and junior high kids! – it really is an apt descriptor for this stage. (It’s also a great time to start teaching the basics of logic!)
At its core, “logic” is the connecting of ideas to form a solid basis for further communication; that idea is the foundation of instruction at this stage.
Originally, rhetoric was a specialized area of study that taught students to master the areas of literary genre, writing, and speaking in order to communicate well (and persuasively) with any audience.
In Classical Education, the Rhetoric Stage is the stage in which a student learns to really use the information, details, and patterns that they’ve been building to analyze and communicate ideas on a deep level. This stage generally spans what we would consider as high school, about 9th through 12th grades.
During this stage, students move from abridged or “kids” versions of literature to the real thing. They read things Homer’s Odyssey, Beowulf, Shakespeare, Dickens, and more.
Children write in order to teach, persuade, compare and contrast, and present research, rather than just to put facts together in a logical order. They start to really engage with deeper ideas, deciding what they do and don’t agree with, and why. (This might seem a little intimidating as a teacher – I know it did to me – but there are lots of resources to help you out.)
Students will often start working more independently at this point. Remember that they do still need you as a teacher and discussion partner, though. They’re working through some pretty meaty stuff, determining how they really see the world. That’s something they’re going to need your guidance with!
You do want to eventually guide them to the point where independence is a reality. Don’t expect them to reach that point simply because they reach a stage. They still need you!
Implementing the Classical Method
There are many programs and resources that talk about different views on implementing Classical Homeschooling; please be aware that each will discuss the method from the view of the author. Use the one that best fits your family and beliefs.
Please check out my Pinterest board for lots of resources to get you started!
Classical Conversations (CC):
This program operates campuses, often called “communities.” CC is in many different states and has levels called Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge that children go through. The students go to classes once or twice a week and learn at home the rest of the week. Lesson plans, book lists, resources and community support are provided by CC. You can find CC materials in the drop-down box below – just enter “Classical Conversations” as the keyword.
The Well-Trained Mind:
This is one of the original books written for the homeschool community about Classical Homeschooling. The Well-Trained Mind follows the education method that the authors used in their homeschools. They provide quite a bit of background information as to how and why they taught what they did. This allows the parent who didn’t have a classical education to quickly get “up to speed.”
Teaching the Trivium:
Teaching the Trivium, written by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, approaches Classical Homeschooling from a Christian perspective. The Bluedorns employ a Classical structure and methodology. However, they choose resources that point toward scripture and biblical ideas. This volume also provides a large amount of background as to why and how they taught what they did.
Wrapping It Up
If you’ve tried Classical Homeschooling, what do you love about it? What were issues that you ran into?
And if you’ve never tried it, what are some questions that you have? I’d love to know your thoughts – comment below!
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