What is classical education?
This method appealed to me even before I ever thought to homeschool.
Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. ~The Well-Trained Mind
I am all about these 3 classical concepts: multum non multa (not many things, but much), scholé (from the Greek, then Latin for restful learning), and festina lente (make haste slowly).
It’s not natural to analyze problems logically. Parents get frustrated and kids get exasperated when the expectations are too high for their developmental stage.
I teach my kids to think by Socratic Method. I constantly ask my kids questions to help them see, hear, taste, understand the world around them, what they’re reading, what they’re experiencing.
I can customize our homeschool for which stage my children are in and what their abilities are – times four (we have four kids).
These are the classical learning stages:
They are flexible and fluid and each child transitions into the next stage at a different time. Sometimes, it seems like a step forward and two steps backwards.
Memorization is super easy at this time.
Reading lots and hands-on learning are key.
Goals: Facts and Memorizing
Also known as the Dialectic Stage.
Brain melts down and reconstructs with hormonal and developmental changes. How you assist in the rebuild is super important for how kids will process information the rest of his or her life.
Making Connections about learning concepts is key.
The art of argument can be introduced at this time.
Goals: Debate and Logic
Move on from the art of argument to the more delicate art of persuasion. We learn about marketing and psychology at this time.
Analysis and synthesis are key.
HOTS: Higher Order Thinking Skills – It’s important to encourage older kids, teens, and adults to dig deeper with their learning, to ask the harder questions, to get to the heart of the matter, and to suck the marrow out of life.
Goals: Essay Writing, Research, and Discussion
How we homeschool:
- Integrative Learning – We like using unit studies, little microcosm lessons, to really learn about a concept.
- Whole Family – we do almost everything together and we like it like that.
- Cyclical Education – chronological over 4 general time periods of history: ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and modern. We go through the cycle about 3 times over a “homeschool lifespan.”
- Travel – we love learning about our world and seeing the places we’re learning about. We’re so thankful we get to explore our marvelous world!
- Notebooking – more free writing instead of boring fill-in-the-blank “busy work” worksheets.
What can my kids handle and when they can handle it?
Children grow at different rates. My eldest is 15 and just entering the rhetoric stage. My son is 5, just beginning school, and is in the grammar stage. My middle girls go back and forth in the grammar and logic stages.
Just because my daughters are in the dialectic or rhetoric stage doesn’t mean we don’t encourage memorization. We still do lots of hands-on work. It’s important to add on the more difficult concepts without leaving out the basics.
There’s a lot of cha-cha when kids transition into new learning stages.
The concepts that define our classical homeschool:
Multum non Multa
We’ve sometimes gone overboard, trying to do too much, stretching too thin – and not succeeding. We prefer to go deep rather than wide. My kids are more than mere vessels to pour facts into. They have a say in what they learn, where their interests lie. I consider their desires.
I see too many curricula offering just a taste of information before moving onto the next thing too quickly. My kids are often unready, hungering for more, desiring to dig deeper to understand what we’re learning. We often spend lots more time than allotted in the teacher guide because we enjoy learning.
Why would I hold them back or push them further when they are so intent on learning right now?
Learning is supposed to be leisurely.
The original design of school in ancient times was “apart from physical work.” While we certainly do chores in our home, we prefer to learn in a restful manner. I don’t crack a whip from dawn till dusk. I have a very general agenda and we usually learn at our leisure.
Can you imagine? My public school experience was anything but leisurely. I can and do provide a restful learning environment for my children.
Their hearts are more important than academics.
I don’t want to work my kids to death with busyness. We often don’t complete all our curricula or do it as directed. Are you shocked? We sometimes skip reviews, quizzes, and tests if my kids grasp the concepts quickly and easily or if I feel they’re pointless. I don’t do grades.
If I don’t know how my four children are doing in their studies, then I’m not a good homeschool mom. I don’t have to measure them up against anyone. I used to teach 120+ students and I kept grade records because I had to and because I couldn’t have told you what each child earned on the essay assigned last Tuesday.
We don’t bother with co-ops since they defeat our purpose. I don’t want checklists and schedules and random parents teaching my kids something they don’t even understand themselves. I won’t join any classical cults either.
We limit our extracurricular activities so we don’t feel stressed and rushed.
I make sure the kids get enough sleep. In the spring and summer months, we go to bed later since the sun is still out at 10 PM. We wake up in the morning whenever we naturally rise if we don’t have anywhere to go. It works for us. It’s normally between 6:30 and 8, so don’t think we sleep until noon!
I protect our time so we can be free to learn how and when we want.
Our brains must rest in order to make the connections and assimilate new information. We all need quiet time to just be, to think, to ponder.
When professors, doctors, other professionals take a break from their work to rest, study, and learn, it’s called a sabbatical.
We all need a Sabbath.
I think activities should have a proper balance of urgency and diligence.
If tasks are rushed, mistakes are made and the desired results are not achieved. Work is best done flowingly, being fully engaged in the task when there is no sense of time passing.
I love seeing my kids absorbed in their learning. I strew books and materials around the house and we love to explore together. We may take a break from our regular lessons to study our backyard pond with its tadpoles and cattails.
We travel often to learn about new cultures, foods, art, language. I don’t make my kids do travel journals every time (honestly, they beg to!). We like to coincide travel with our homeschool studies, but we also learn about new places before, during, and after our trips too.
We live the journey and remember.
I try not to interrupt my children when they are learning and working hard on a project. We don’t have bells, timers, or cute electronic traffic lights to signal when math time is over or to begin history reading.
We prefer a natural flow to our learning.
Some days, we will do science all.day.long. and I’m ok with that. We snuggle up with books or Netflix some days when the weather is cold and blustery. We make time for that and it’s important.
Other days, we may play outside in the warm sunshine and worship God in His creation and develop our family relationships. We bask in the sunshine and watch the iridescent bubbles float through the air or admire new blooms peeking out of the sodden soil. We listen to birds and watch clouds.
Learning doesn’t have to look like copywork, memorizing dates, math manipulatives, or anything dealing with paper and books and pencils at all.
Children learn just fine when we get out of their way.
Learning is living.