Homeschooling Classical Education - Tweaks for next Year?
Posted by Mollie Shaw on
This time of year, many home educators are considering how to tweak their programs for next year. Many have participated in programs such as Classical Conversations or other classical co-op programs. Others have used classical curriculum items or followed classical curriculum websites such as Ambleside Online (a Charlotte Mason approach). All home educators have noted which curriculum choices have worked best for particular children and which have not. So, every Summer, it is normal to see questions popping up about the strengths and weaknesses of various programs.
In my experience as a classical home educator, I gained confidence in using classical methods with my own, self-selected, materials. For example, instead of buying a set of history curriculum which follows a chronological approach (Mystery of History, The Story of the World), I learned to use a basic encyclopedia (Kingfisher) to determine my topics for the year and then supplement that basic information with other books from the library which related to those topics. I selected the number of topics by the number of weeks that I planned to teach history - about 30 seemed to work out well. I also selected topics based on my own kids' interests. Therefore, we focused on wars and art a lot.
I realized that Classical Education methods such as copywork, memorization, dictation and narration can make almost any content "classical" in the way that it develops the child and stimulates habits of the brain. Classical content is content that have been viewed as highly valuable over the test of time. Therefore, old but amazing things - whether they be literature, history, or recipes can be respected as "classical" in this sense. They are also classical because they are good in the moral sense. In ancient Greece, a good speaker was judged on his moral judgment as well as his skills as a leader. A valued leader was a good man speaking well for the greater good.
One way to use classical methods is to create dictation and copywork exercises from their Bible, literature or history primary sources. They can also use the same passages as their memory work. Add sketching to their pages and you have covered handwriting, writing mechanics, spelling, memorization and art objectives in one activity. If a child narrates a story back to you after you have read it to him, then you can write it down or have the student write it down as an exercise in composition.
I love the Classical Christian Education movement which has grown strong and established since the early 1980s. I owe my own re-education and the education of my own children to the leaders such as Douglas Wilson, the Dettweilers, Jessie and Susan Wise Bauer, Wes Callihan and Fritz Hinrichs. This is a wonderful time to be teaching our children at home.