Sunday, June 28, 2009

Exploring Classical Education

Our son loves making circles!
We are now going to make this part of our everyday 'curriculum' (see below).

After reading books on Unschooling and talking in-depth with one of biggest proponents of Unschooling in our state, we feel that it is not quite the educational approach we would like to take. I loved reading The Unprocessed Child and The Teenage Liberation Handbook. I loved learning how attachment parenting can grow and develop into unschooling. I loved understanding the importance of respecting the child and have changed a number of ways in which I interact with our son as a result. After 2 weeks of some changes on my part, my son and I are understanding each other much better, we are enjoying our time together much more, there is less of a struggle to do things that need to be done, more affection, more lightheartedness, more being present together, more time to smell the roses along the way, no more need for rewards and punishments... I didn't know our wonderful relationship could even get any better. Yet, there is still something about unschooling that seems lacking where the proper education of our son is concerned. For one, allowing our child to sit in front of the TV all day and eating junk food (if that's what he wants to do) IS harming him internally. Allowing our child to be exposed to things we think he is still too young to be exposed to - even if he thinks he is ready - is doing damage (I once watched a very violent film as preschooler and it bothered me greatly for decades after). We want our son to be a balanced person and we believe strongly in long term happiness and that it far outweighs fulfilling a series of short term pleasures. Our list could go on.

At the opposite end of Unschooling is Classical Education based on the trivium. The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home was an interesting book that showed us another way to homeschool. It is full of well-researched resources and homeschool information that I really delighted in reading and having (such as how to schedule homeschooling, books at each grade level, curricula, etc).

On Unschooling: (this explains some of our disconnect with unschooling)
Classical education is diametrically opposed to "unschooling", which is immensely popular among many home schoolers. "Unschooling" is child-centered. It assumes that the child will learn all that she needs to know by following her natural impulses and that any learning that is "imposed" on the child by an authority figure will prove unproductive.
Classical education is knowledge-focused, not child-focused. It attempts to teach knowledge in a way that awakens the child's interest, but the child's interest is not the sole determining factor in whether or not a subject should be followed. How does a child know whether something will interest and excite her unless she works at unfamiliar (and perhaps intimidating) material to find out what it's all about?
Unschoolers also tend to denigrate "book" learning in favor of "real learning. Many unschoolers claim that the day-to-day realities of family life provide plenty of opportunities for learning. For these unschoolers, taking care of the house, grocery shopping, cooking... and son on provide enough opportunity for children to learn real-life skills without "doing school" in a formal way.
While this may be true, a child's education shouldn't be limited to "real-life skills." Classically educated children should be able to cook, write thank you notes, and tie their shoes. They also know where their country came from, how to construct a logical argument, and what puella means.
Unschoolers claim that students who aren't forced to learn the mathematics table in third grade can pick them up in a day once they hit sixth or seventh grade and get interested on their own. In our experience, the student who doesn't learn the math tables in third grade will never be comfortable enough with math to get interested in sixth or seventh grade.

Suggested Preschool Curriculum from Birth to Three: 10 minutes a day for each subject

READING: lots of books, ask questions about the stories read (why did...?), learn the alphabet, learn sounds of each letter, learn vowels --> all this is pre-reading preparation

WRITING: hold pencil correctly, draw circles and loops in a counterclockwise direction, dot-to-dot skills --> kindergarten writing preparation

MATH: count 1 to 20, count by 2s, 5s, 10s, start working on simple maths

GENERAL: Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready

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