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 Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Fourth Edition)Classical Education and the HomeschoolThe Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical EducationSimply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any ChildClassical vs. Modern Education: A Vision from C.S. Lewis (Classical Education, Lost Tools of Learning, Liberal Arts, Trivium, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Curriculum, Charlotte Mason)
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.
Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping AmericaAn Introduction to Classical Education (Latin Edition)The Lost Tools of Learning: Symposium on EducationThe Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (Updated and Expanded)Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness & Beauty (Classical Education Guide)
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!
Please check out my Pinterest board for lots of resources to get you started!
Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home EducationEver After: How to Overcome Cynical Students with the Role of Wonder in Education (Classical Education, case for classical education, homeschool, classical … approachable, trivium, well-trained mind)Trivium: The Classical Liberal Arts of Grammar, Logic, & Rhetoric (Wooden Books)The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and RhetoricTeaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical StyleHomeschool Basics: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style
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!
*Please note that your confirmation email will come from Jen at A Helping Hand Homeschool (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please “white list” this email address so you don’t miss it!
CHRONOLOGY BOARD GAME by Buffalo Games – The Game of All Time!Professor Noggin’s History of the United States – A Educational Trivia Based Card Game For KidsTimeline American History GameTimeline Historical Events Card GameBrainBox for Kids – World History Card GameWay Back When in HistoryAmerican History Memory Game By Classical HistorianTrivia Game – American Trivia Family Edition – the America Themed Family Board GameProfessor Noggin’s History of Art – A Educational Trivia Based Card Game For Kids