Thursday, February 11, 2016

What IS a Classical Education?

 Over the past 12 years of having children in a classical christian school, as well as homeschooling classically, I have learned more than I ever learned in school myself.  A large reason for this is because I was (and likely most of you!) raised in an educational philosophy of modern educational reform.  In other words, the educational system we all know of during approximately the last 100 years, when classical education shifted to a "progressive" model.  It is precisely our own "progressive" educations that make us think of the classical approach as novel or foreign.  I have had so many moms frustrated with their child's education lately asking about homeschooling, or classical education in general that I thought I would try and summarize here what a classical education really is. 

So what IS Classical Education or The Classical Tradition? 

That is a very difficult question to summarize in an elevator type explanation.  There are some great men who are part of the classical education revival such as Dr Christopher Perrin of Classical Academic Press or Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute, who can give a short answer such as "the cultivation of the human soul reflecting on truth, goodness and beauty by means of the seven liberal arts", or "the unfolding and cultivation of a human being or the soul that becomes the best version of himself".  They will tell you however, that there is so much more to it than that.  Education IS to become fully human.  
 I can try and share from my own experience what it has meant to my family and how it has educated us - mind, body and soul.  It has been such a blessing to us, that I want it to be a blessing to you too.  Our kids have developed a love for literature and the natural world because of this pedagogy (method and practice of teaching). When I asked my three girls what they thought the most beneficial, most enjoyable, or favorite part of being classically educated was, they all answered the same thing - developing a love of learning.  My oldest college girl added being able to speak in front of any size crowd for any length of time and be perfectly comfortable doing so. 

What is a classical education? 

- it is simple, yet profound
- it is to teach children in the natural ways they want to be taught
- it is an ancient traditional approach to education
- it cultivates a life of learning steeped in wonder and curiosity 
- it views the world as a living museum that we are to be in awe of  
- it is a constant quest to find truth, goodness and beauty  
- it is a cultivation in wonder 
- it is to love that which is lovely
 -it is equipping a child for every good work
- it is the interconnection of all knowledge
- is is to be trained up to serve
- it is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue
- it teaches a child how to think
- it is learning how to learn 
- it is the study of classical languages such as Greek or Latin
- it is joining the Great Conversation by reading the Great Books
- it is the seven liberal arts 
- it is a traditional education handed down to us
- it is a rich and vigorous stewardship
- it orders its curriculum around different principles 
- it confronts the challenge of communication, both written and spoken so as not to conform to the spirit of the age 

Dr. Perrin describes Classical Education in a wonderful analogy of stepping into something as grand as the Notre-Dame Cathedral.  It is something so large, so multi-faceted, so beautiful and all encompassing, with so many entry portals, so many functions to serve and with an abundance of perspectives, that it is simply bigger than something we can grasp.  It's like learning a new culture - classical education is an ongoing adventure of discovery.  

 The classical pedagogy was started by Greeks and Romans by the seven liberal arts as a means to instill wisdom, virtue and elegance.  The seven liberal arts were taught in two groups, the trivium (meaning three ways) and the quadrivium (four ways).  The trivium consists of: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric - these three stages draw on the nature of a child as she grows.  

Grammar Stage - (typically grades 1-4) The stage when a child naturally wants to absorb knowledge and facts, loves memorization, rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, foreign language, mathematics, history, literature, facts about plants, animals, etc. These are the years when the building blocks are laid for all that lies ahead.  It is the time to absorb facts.

Dialectic (or Logic) Stage - (typically grades 5-8) The stage when a child naturally starts to become less interested in acquiring facts and instead begins to question the "why" of things, she becomes interested in cause and effect, how different fields of knowledge connect, and to the way facts connect to make a framework for logical thinking. She delights in pointing out fallacies and she is naturally argumentative, this is the time to teach her to argue well.

Rhetoric Stage - (typically grades 9-12) This stage builds on the first two.  The high school student learns to write and speak persuasively, confidently, forcefully and eloquently.  The student applies the logic learned in the logic years to the foundational facts learned in the grammar stage to express her conclusions in a clear and concise form of communication when they are naturally yearning to express themselves. These are also the years the student begins to specialize in the fields of study that interest them. These are the prime years for art camps, apprenticeships, foreign travel and perhaps some college level courses or other specialized training. 

A classical education is language focused.  The mind must first be supplied with facts, then given logical tools for organizing those facts, and then finally being equipped to express those conclusions. 

The quadrivium consists of: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.  It is the education of a whole person, not just the calculating intellect.  Classical education is based on the tried and true methods of a liberal arts education invented by some of the greatest minds in human history such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Christ, Augustine, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis.   It rises above the ever dumbing-down and politically correct education offered today in most schools.  It is an education that is precious - because our children are precious.  A child is not a vessel to be filled, but rather wood to be ignited. She must be taught personally, in relationship.  Classical education is filled to the brim with rich literature.  

A classical education takes history as its organizing outline, beginning with the ancients and moving forward to the modern in history, science, literature, art and music.  It typically has a 12 year study of history in four year repeating cycles - Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern Times. 

Another analogy that Dr. Perrin shares regarding classical education is that of some of the oldest roman roads - roads that are still in existence and used today.  Returning to the classical methods is much like walking on those roman roads.  So many have walked before us, and we can still walk that path today.  I walked those ancient Roman roads with my first daughter the year she completed her own classical education.  Wow - that is an experience that is hard to put into words.  Ironically - so is seeing a child who has been classically educated grow into a well-educated life long learner of the true, good and beautiful.  A child who can eloquently and persuasively present ideas of wisdom and virtue, one who is a lover of classic literature and a confident communicator, one who knows what she believes and why, one is humble in her knowledge and seeks to glorify God and defend her faith flawlessly, is one who has been classically educated.  Seeing your daughter buy a copy of Dante in Italian while visiting Rome speaks for itself. 
 With the severely lacking state of the educational system of today, I am so passionate about renewing the classical tradition of education.  It will take a great awakening of so many to see how fundamentally flawed our current system is, that teaches against the nature of a child, and want to jump into classical education and embrace it fully.    Classical education was lost 2-3 generations ago, and it will likely take 2-3 generations to rebuild.   I feel classical education is a call to return to being makers of culture, instead of embracing every passing whim and floating along on the breeze of whatever is currently popular in education right now. 

To develop educational virtue, love and humility must be present in a classical education.   To love truth, goodness and beauty is to love God, for HE IS truth, goodness and the source of all things beautiful.  Humility comes from being in the presence of something great - something much greater than ourselves - that is the presence of God.

A wise man is always more aware of his lack of wisdom, than the possession of it. " Confucius

"Education is simply the soul of a society, as it passes from one generation to another." Chesterton 

Understanding classical education is a journey, it is understanding that it is not necessarily about the curriculum choice, but in the way it is presented and the methods used.  With that understanding, you can click here to see our curriculum of choice for our 4th grade homeschooler. 

If these educational methods make sense to you, and you want MORE for your children's education, search out a classical school for your kids - or maybe even consider homeschooling.  I know it's not the best choice for everyone, but I firmly believe that a classical education - even if only one or two of the stages - is an education you won't regret giving your children. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Macro Snowflake Photography

 I can finally cross this one off the bucket list!! I have ALWAYS wanted to capture snowflakes.  Today the snow was just right and it worked pretty well.  The quality isn't spectacular because - you won't believe this - I captured these with my I-phone using a clip on macro attachment.  I can't wait to get an actual macro lens for my good camera - maybe one day.  For now, these will have to do! 

"For by Him all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible....." 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Top Homeschool Room Ideas

I'm so honored to have our homeschool room featured on 

They have a post on Top Homeschool Room Ideas with some fantastic spaces and lots of great ideas! 

Or click the link here to see our newest homeschool room with some organizational ideas. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Organize Your Homeschool Room

Throughout all the years of homeschooling our learning space or homeschool room has taken many different sizes and shapes! Back when all three girls were homeschooling, we dedicated our entire basement to our learning space.  For a time when we had two homeschoolers, we dedicated our dining room to our homeschool room.  Now that we have just one fourth grader learning at home, our needs have changed considerably.  Last year, we had simplified down to just using the one or two shelves, and a big comfy chair or the dining table to do our work.  I loved the simplicity of that.  Half way through the year we ended up getting our current homeschool desk, but still were in the dining room.   I'm a huge advocate of having an "atmosphere" conducive to learning.  What that means to me has changed over the years however.  You can read about my recent thoughts on that by clicking here.  This year, we have what would be considered our formal living room as our dedicated homeschool space.   It's given us room to spread out a bit compared to last year, yet still lets the room function well for the entire family. 

 These great bookshelves from Ikea hold not only our school books, but most of our entire family library as well.  My camera equipment, along with photo albums, and other books are stored in the cabinets below. 
 This cozy little corner of our homeschool room is where I can be found during most morning hours.  This is where our favorite part of the day happens - morning basket time.   Oh homeschool mommas, if you haven't discovered the wonderful, tender, rich together learning time that is the morning basket please do a quick google search!  Morning time, morning basket, circle time - it has many names, but oh how it can change the tone and atmosphere of your homeschool day.  Our morning basket has actually turned into a morning shelf.  That lower shelf right by my chair is where we keep all our morning basket activities.  

The brown filing cabinet beside my chair serves as my desk and charging station for the laptops.  I keep all of my supplies organized in the drawers, and the handy organizer sitting on top of the cabinet contains my planner, our favorite memory work book, our scripture memory cards, schedules and more. 
 One of my favorite decorative pieces in our learning room is this vintage desk that belonged to my husband when he was in first grade.  Those books on the desk were from his childhood too, with his old Bible right on top. 
 This desk from Ikea has worked GREAT for our needs.  We bought the two base pieces separately and then bought a separate table top and simply used velcro command adhesives to attach the table top to the bases.  The side with the cabinet door is like a locker for Boo where she keeps all her daily school books, the other side with the drawers is great for organizing all her school supplies. 
 Daily school books inside the locker side of the desk cabinet base.  You can read all about our curriculum here. 

 Boo's desk drawers with organized school supplies...
 Our most used learning manipulatives are handy right in these drawers too. 

Can you believe those cute cursive letters on the wall came from the Dollar Tree?  Right in the middle of Boo's desk is an organizer that holds her history cards, bible cards, latin vocabulary cards, and our map stickers. 
Hanging a map right above the school desk has been just perfect for Boo.  We use removable markable opaque stickers (each subject a different color) for marking the spot on the map as we come across them in our different readings.  This is a great living way to naturally learn geography throughout any subject.  You would be surprised how many times you might encounter a "place" in your studies.  We always stop and find it on the maps above her desk. 
 That dark blank looking cubby just above our morning basket shelf is our charging station.  There is a power strip hidden under the felted mold that lets us lay our phones right on that shelf at night to charge.  It's also a great way to make sure all kiddos leave their devices out of their rooms overnight. 

 One of my favorite homeschool resources is this My Book House book collection.  My mother-in-law owns this set from when she was a child, my husband grew up reading them, and now her grandchildren are using them.  I found this set on Ebay for a steal! I'm so excited to have our very own set now.  You can read about how to incorporate them into your homeschool with this great post by my friend Pam at Ed Snapshots.  

 A super fantastic way to organize your homeschool day is with the simple use of a spiral notebook.  This easy trick has made my little type A student super happy as she giddily checks off her little boxes as she goes through her day. She knows exactly what needs to happen each day, she can use her own time management skills, and I can see at a glance what has been done and what may need to be transferred over to the next day.  It's a GREAT way to keep track of exactly what gets done and our reviewer loves being able to see EXACTLY what happens each day.  If something happens that wasn't scheduled, we can just jot it down and we suddenly have a great record keeping system.  Super easy, super effective, super organized! I just write this up each evening or (usually) each morning right before our school day begins. 

  Up above Boo's desk in the dark cabinets is where we keep our extra school supplies, paper and notebooks.  In the cabinet on the other side is our household office supplies.

I hope you enjoyed a peek at our homeschool room and were inspired with some ideas on how to get your own homeschool supplies organized! 

Hip Homeschool Moms