25 April 2008

Teaching the Trivium

I borrowed a copy of Teaching the Trivium (Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn) from a homeschooling friend of mine, and it's been a very interesting read thus far. I'm going to throw out some thoughts here, and I'd love a little bit of conversation on this, some feedback, and even some holes poked where I'm not quite thinking straight. I'm sure that'll happen here and there. One thing that I wonder about is if there aren't some communication gaps because of the difference between the words that "Protestant Christians" use when talking about their faith and the words that "Mormon Christians" use. I've noticed that in other conversations and I wonder if that's not causing some of the troubles that I'm having with this book.

Some sections have some great ideas - I'm currently setting up a notebook for my Japanese study based on the book's ideas, as well as mulling over the idea of teaching Greek or Hebrew. But there are some other things in the book that I find a bit disturbing, most particularly the suspicion that the authors seem to have toward academic excellence.

Consider the following quotes:

"The Scripture is sufficient to educate us in all necessary areas of life." (page 37)

Maybe I'm missing the point, but my first thought upon reading this sentence was "what about laundry? and cooking?" I love the scriptures, and I can't begin to define the value they are to me in my life, but I don't think that I learned any of my practical daily "life skills" from them. And that's just one area. There are whole fields of information that are useful, good, and true, that are not included in Scripture. As I understand it, Scripture's job is to help us to remember God, to remember His covenants, to teach us how to return to Him, and to point our minds and hearts to Christ. In essence, Scripture teaches us to live "after the manner of happiness," which is in compliance with God's laws. I'm just not convinced that everything we need to know to conduct our daily lives, practically speaking, is in there. Nor do I believe that ALL truth is in there. There's just not that much Scripture, and it's a big universe full of all sorts of truths!

I like what the Bluedorns have to say about the family being the intended place for children's education. They have some really great Bible verses that make a lot of sense to me. But after they establish the importance of family in a child's training and education, they go on to say,

"There is more to life than what is styled 'academic education.'" (Page 39)

This statement is true. But the way that the authors make it seems to betray a distrust of a strong academic education, or a the very least an uncertainty of the value of strong academics and higher education. By itself, it's not a bad statement at all, but in the context of their book it becomes part of a pattern of thought that I'm not able to agree with at all. This suspicious approach to academic excellence is more apparent here:

"Why Follow a Classical Model and Method?
1.
Academics. Certainly, some parents choose a classical style of schooling because they are attracted by the academic achievement. They want their children to achieve high academic goals in classical languages, in logic, and in communication skills. They want them to study a very high level of material. Perhaps some of this is driven by a sort of academic snobbery, but much of it is driven by a sincere desire to see their children challenged and excel for the glory of God." (Page 41, emphasis mine)

I'm not finished with the book yet, and in spite of the fact that I've picked on this one aspect of the book, I'm finding a lot that is useful in the book. Not the least of which is the way that it makes me think about the goals of education and ponder what is the Lord's method of education. Teaching the Trivium approaches a Classical Education from a different direction than The Well-Trained Mind. I plan to stick with TWTM as my main reference, but TtT is certainly an educational read which I am enjoying!

6 comments:

Keeley said...

Hi Ritsumei, great thoughts! Firstly, I hope you don't mind, but I tagged you.

I think the quote "The Scripture is sufficient to educate us in all necessary areas of life." refers to the idea that if you have any problem in life, the answer will be in the scriptures.

I like your idea though: "I'm just not convinced that everything we need to know to conduct our daily lives, practically speaking, is in there. Nor do I believe that ALL truth is in there. There's just not that much Scripture, and it's a big universe full of all sorts of truths!" =)

Hmm, I amazed that the book seems to espouse an avoidance of higher education; classical education is set up so that you will be more than ready for higher education - it's mean to lead you smoothly into it. Perhaps it's just warning against pride in your own learning, rather than acknowledging Heavenly Father's hand in all things?

Ritsumei said...

I don't know: they don't come right out and SAY higher education is bad, just seem so suspicious of it. I've got some further thoughts on it, but I ran out of time and Monkey cheerfulness. Later in the afternoon I was reading about their way of teaching kids to use various libraries - including major university libraries, so it's not such a huge thing that they didn't teach their kids enough to get into college. I wish that I could ask the authors about it, because it sure does seem like an odd attitude to be finding in an educational book. Perhaps you're right about it being avoidance of pride. I just don't know. But it's a bit disconcerting in the first several chapters as they lay out their arguments not just for homeschooling, but for Christian Classical Homeschooling (as opposed to evil Humanistic Classical Homeschooling).

I suspect you're right about the "all necessary areas of life" thing - it just seems like such a sweeping statement for folks who later on are into precise usage of language, including teaching good diction. Certainly Scripture is absolutely critical! I just don't think that all the truth God will allow us to find is contained in the few pages of revelation that have survived to the present day.

Keeley said...

I wonder if they're suspicious of the liberal agenda and whacko lecturers that so many universities have? Do you get the impression that they think girls shouldn't have higher education but boys should?

I'm really interested to see what your impression is now that you've read more of the book.

I think with the scripture thing, it's a matter of religious interpretation...ie, that's what some religions believe about the bible. I've come across the idea that all truth is in the bible - and that's why God didn't need to reveal the Book of Mormon - everything the whole human race could ever possibly need or want with regards to instructions from God is in the bible.

Ritsumei said...

Actually, I just read what they think about educating girls: girls should be educated too. They need to be able to think with their husbands, they need to be able to defend the gospel, and they need to be able to teach their children effectively, so they also need to be able to think.

I really need to do another post, because it's a fascinating read. Keeps me thinking the whole way along. The sister at church that loaned it to me likes it better than TWTM because of the Christian flavor that it gives to the Classical Education. My worry is that there would be too much that's just a little bit "off" from our own LDS beliefs - things like all truth is in the scriptures, specifically the Bible, that looks reasonable on the surface, but when you examine them a little more closely... Hence my questions about the curriculums you're using a while back. I am wary of things that may introduce things that are almost correct. Things that are almost correct are often difficult to detect or explain to a child, and I don't want Monkey to be learning things that are almost correct as truth.

Keeley said...

I totally agree with their reasons why girls should be educated; though I'd add that as "The Glory of God is Intelligence", that it's good for EVERYONE to be educated as much as they are able within their lifetimes - not just to teach children or defend the gospel; though those are very worthy reasons in and of themselves.

Yes, I think it's a valid worry to be concerned about teaching our children incorrect worldviews. Though, I have to say, whether our children are homeschooled or in public school, they're going to be exposed to incorrect ideas - incorrect beliefs and ideas are EVERYWHERE. Our job as parents is to say "Yes, that's what they believe. However, this is what we believe."

It's a wonderful teaching opportunity, to notice and acknowledge the different things people believe, and then point out our own beliefs. That juxtaposition can clarify the issues for our children.

Speaking of the curriculum I'm using, amazingly enough, I was reading through the Rod and Staff catalogue, looking at the English specifically (for Ben, as recommended by the WTM), but browsing through the curriculum sets, when I felt such a warm, peaceful, comforting feeling. I really feel that (for us) this is the right choice for Andrew. Holy toledo, just talking about it I'm getting that feeling again.

I must admit, Ritsumei, it kind of blows my mind that I'm feeling this way, when I'd never thought before about using the R&S curriculum set. I've been thinking "Are you sure? Are you SURE this is right?" and, for us, I think it is. Maybe not for Andrew's whole homeschool career, and certainly we won't start until he's 6 or so.

That's what's so amazingly wonderful about homeschooling. You can pray about what's right for your child, and as the Lord has a strong interest in what's best for His children, He'll let you know what's right for that child. I'm so thankful for prayers, for the influence of the Spirit, and for a Father that loves us so much. =)

Ritsumei said...

That's awesome! I love the whole concept of continuing revelation! It must be kind of scary, not believing in it. It's no wonder that folks believe in the infallibility of scripture. Without continuing revelation there would be no method for correcting errors that crept into scripture through centuries of translations & things, not to mention wicked men, and so you'd HAVE to believe that God would keep the scriptures pure and perfect: otherwise there would be no way of being sure that you were actually following Christ! But revelation clarifies the whole situation and makes it possible for God to tell us when something has gone wrong in the transmission of scripture from ancient times to modern times, and to clarify when the language shifts, so we understand in our own tongue, and to expand on lost concepts and all those things and I'm so incredibly grateful for that!

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