Monday, October 22, 2018

Old School Education

Classical Education – An Effective Method for Teaching Kids in a Modern World

Are our children being educated well enough to lead the world, or barely well enough to lead their friends down the bike path? Education is a hot topic right now in politics on local and national levels. One of the interesting discussions that has been taking place in academic circles is about the methods used to teach children. With the advances in technology, many schools and families are pursuing digital educations. However, there is also a renewed interest in old school ways – Classical Education.

What is Classical Education?

Classical education dates back to the Greeks and Romans, where the Romans are credited with creating a system of study known as the seven liberal arts. These seven arts are then further divided into phases: the trivium, which represents the intersection of three roads, and the quadrivium, which represents four roads.

Modern classical education models focus on the intersection of three roads, or trivium. This model focuses on three core stages of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. One of the main premises of classical education is that all knowledge is interrelated and that our children need to acquire certain sets of tools at specific stages of their lives in order to make the best use of that knowledge.

Classical education is a language driven method, and language is explored through speaking, listening, reading, writing, and finally applying logic and rhetoric to these ideas. This approach to education is also usually done with a strong emphasis on history, using a cyclical approach. Doing this allows for kids to be able to understand how different topics they are studying, such as scientific inventions, the author of their favorite book, or technology advancements, all intertwine with history.

An example of a history outline includes 4 separate periods in history, studies on 3 cycles. This would take a student from kindergarten through 12th grade.

  • Study of the Ancients
  • Study of the Middle Ages
  • Study of the Renaissance and Reformation
  • Study of Modern Times

The Three Stages of Classical Education

Stage 1 – The Grammar Stage (grades 1-4) – This stage is all about students learning basic facts. A great deal of time is spent concentrating on memorization, with everything from math facts, to dates, to spellings of words. Even though this is called the Grammar Stage, it does not mean that it is all about language. In this sense, Grammar refers to the idea that in order to have a full academic experience our children need to learn the foundational facts across all subjects, just like they need to understand grammar to communicate well.

Children at this age really are like sponges, soaking up all of those facts, even when they don’t understand the connotations or meanings behind them. That is OK. Those understandings will come later in the next stage.

Stage 2 – The Logic Stage (grades 5-8) – At this stage in Classical Education students are at a point in brain development that allows them to start applying cause and effect to the basic facts they have acquired. This is the stage where analyzing texts, solving complex problems, and beginning the skills sets for forming arguments begins.

This does make logical sense. Think about your kids. If you have young children, they might just want to stay up later and beg for 15 more minutes. If you have kids in upper elementary grades, they might begin to tell you why they should be allowed to stay up later. Classical education relies on the natural tendencies and capabilities of our children’s brains. Just wait until your teens start formulating rhetorical arguments you have a hard time countering!

Stage 3 – The Rhetoric Stage (grades 9-12) – This is what I think of as the action stage. It is the time where students who have successfully developed skills through stages 1 and 2 get to apply those skills to real life and really engage in life. They get to experience things like travel, apprenticeships, exploration, interest led studies, and more. They get to test all of those ideas and theories that they have spent years considering. Now is the time for action and reaction – they get to explore their passions and are ready to do so.

Students of Classical educations develop skills of rhetoric in this 3rd stage, where they are able to use speech and communication to further their ideas and plans. Students get to attempt to persuade, motivate, and enlighten others.

How Can I Help My Kids Pursue a Classical Education?

Classical education does not need to be designated to specialized schools and homeschooling families. It is important to know that Classical education is an active, language driven approach to education. Passive learning techniques, such as online lectures, videos, and computers, do not exercise kids’ brains as much as the active learning of language.

This doesn’t mean you can’t utilize technology. I embrace much of the Classical Education model, but my children are also very technology savvy and use these tools in their education. Technology has its place, just don’t forget about the old school ideas, either.

If you’re interested in Classical education methods, try the following:

  • Read to your children every day.
  • Talk about what you read.
  • Ask your children questions about their surroundings.
  • Listen to your children’s questions and help them look for answers.
  • Help your child learn to write. Writing is one of those lost arts we are losing to the shorthand of texts messages.
  • Take advantage of the power of the young brain and help your young children learn basic facts – you don’t have to invest in flashcards for everything, but find games and activities that help establish math facts, phonics, historical dates and names, and more. Board games are great ways to help kids learn their facts without boring them.
  • Encourage your kids in grades 5-8 to write, and help them form good thesis points. Ask them: what is your message?
  • Talk with your kids about the difference between right and wrong, and how you in your particular culture and community define that.
  • Encourage your older children to find active ways to pursue their passions. Volunteer with them, help them find clubs that support their hobbies, and search for mentors who can support their specialized interests.

When I first began homeschooling, I heard of Classical education, and I backed away from the intensity of it. I admit that it intimidated me. Then throughout the years I have had people repeatedly assume that we were using this approach. Why? We are literature based in our explorations, we love to study history, and my kids actively pursue their passions. Classical education is natural education. If you take it to the full extreme extent, it can be a rigorous approach to academics. But if you take it as a learning tool for your own Stage 4 – Teaching Your Child to Love Learning (no – that’s not a real stage, just the one I hope I am building), it can be a great resource for your entire family.

Also check out A Well-Trained Mind  – it has some great resources and detailed explanations of Classical Education.

Related posts:

  1. Choosing the Right Path for Your Child’s Education
  2. Standardized Tests: Failures in Education
  3. Does Spelling Really Matter in Your Child’s Education?

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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