05 November 2010

On Classical Education

We've been playing at school for quite some time, but shortly The Real Thing begins. I've been studying up so that I know what I'm doing. It's time to put into words what exactly is a Classical Education. What does that mean at our house, for our boys? Although I've been studying classical homeschooling for 3 years now, planning to use it when Monkey got big enough, putting the answer to the question, "What is Classical Homeschooling?" into words is no easy feat. I'm giving it a go anyway.

"We believe in education, and we spend a substantial part of our budget on the education of our young people. We expect them to think. We expect them to investigate. We expect them to use their minds and dig deeply for knowledge in all fields. If we have a motto, it is this: ‘The glory of God is intelligence.’ "
-Gordon B. Hinckley
(Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 127)

The Basics

The Classical education is a framework, a philosophical structure with which to organize and give form to the everyday effort of education. Within this framework there is a great deal of freedom to follow the student's interest; to spark his delight. Broadly speaking, the education of a child is broken into three general stages: the Grammar Stage, the Logic Stage, and the Rhetoric Stage. These three together are known as the Trivium.

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. This classical pattern is called the trivium.
-Susan Wise Bauer

In the Grammar Stage, we'll learn the basics - the foundation or "grammar" of the various topics we study. The use and structure of language, arithmetic, elementary science, and history. While this will include memorizing lists, math facts and so forth, it will also include reading the story that is history, as well as plenty of classic literature and hands-on projects. The student may also begin Latin in the Grammar Stage.

So far (except, of course, for the Latin), our curriculum contains nothing that departs very far from common practice. The difference will be felt rather in the attitude of the teachers, who must look upon all these activities less as "subjects" in themselves than as a gathering-together of material for use in the next part of the Trivium.
-Dorthy Sayers
The Lost Tools of Learning

The Logic Stage - middle school, more or less - revisits each area of study, and find connections. Connections in events; relationships in all sorts of knowledge. In addition, the student in the Logic Stage studies logic itself, in order to better understand the relationships between the various pieces of information that he revisits or encounters. Learning logic formally also allows the student to identify faulty arguments and propaganda in advertising, politics, and so on. Logic Stage students should also be ready to begin working with some original sources. As they continue reading they will see a number of unabridged classic books and poems. The student also begins to study Latin if they haven't already.

A classical education isn't a matter of tacking logic and Latin onto a standard fifth-grade curriculum. Rather, logic trains the mind to approach every subject in a particular way -- to look for patterns and sets of relationships in each subject area.
-Susan Wise Bauer
The Well-Trained Mind, 234

In the Rhetoric Stage the student takes the knowledge and skills already gained and uses it to consider ideas and then express his thoughts about those ideas clearly, elegantly, and forcefully, whatever the "subject" under discussion.

Rhetoric is dependent upon the first two stages of the trivium. The grammar stage laid a foundation of knowledge; without knowledge, the rhetorician has nothing of substance to say. The logic stage taught the student to think through the validity of arguments, to weigh the value of evidence. In the rhetoric stage, the student uses knowledge and the skill of logical argument to write and speak about all the subjects in the curriculum.
-Susan Wise Bauer
The Well-Trained Mind, 462

The Purpose

For members of my faith, learning is a religious mandate from which we are not released upon graduation. Education is, and must be, a life-long pursuit. The purpose of a child's education is less to fill his mind with everything he'll need to know throughout his whole life - an impossible task for a mere 12 years - and more to give him the tools with which to learn all he will need moving forward from graduation.

For the sole true end of education is simply this; to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.
-Dorthy Sayers
The Lost Tools of Learning


Tianna said...

I think you did a pretty good job at summarizing it. Very good post! I think I'm going to share it. :)

Jeannetta said...

I'm so excited for you!

Ritsumei said...

I'm glad you like it, Tianna. I spent most of my blogging time this week working on it, so it's nice to hear that it turned out well!

Jeannetta, I'm super excited too! It's going to be a bit yet before we actually take the plunge, but the day is getting closer. The plan is to add things a little at a time over several months, so that we can settle into the increased work load gradually. He's still a bit young, and I don't want to go too fast, but we've prayed about it, and feel like it's time to be getting started, so I'm getting my junk together. Deciding on curriculum, figuring out all the stuff that needs to be figured. Ya know.


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