How I got interested in the Classical Method for Homeschooling:
Probably the best way to start is to explain why I started homeschooling in the first place. I started out as a public school teacher at a junior high (7th-9th grade). It didn’t take me long to understand some of the inner workings of that system–things most parents never even think about or consider. I was amazed at the discipline problems and how little time I was actually able to teach the kids. Even as a strong Christian I felt strapped in how I could express my beliefs, and usually didn’t do it at all. There was so much wasted time. There was also a lot of crime (we even had a full-time city police officer on campus at all times.) I would look up at a few dedicated, sweet kids in my room and think, “It’s so sad that you are in this situation; I never want my kids to be in a place like this if there is an alternative.”
But I didn’t know of any alternative, except for private school. I had still never heard of homeschooling. Then I had a child transfer into my class midway through the year who had been homeschooled. I was very skeptical about it. And then the drama teacher next door to me told me her daughter was homeschooled because she had severe learning disabilities and was pursuing a singing career. I thought, “How can you be homeschooling her when you are teaching here all day?” I later learned that her husband actually did shift work, so he was home with the girl during the day; she was old enough to do a lot independently, and there is so much flexibility to when you can learn (evenings and weekends). My paradigm was beginning to shift.
After three years I couldn’t handle the junior high environment anymore and went to teach at an elementary school. It was brand new. The teachers and administrators were wonderful. I had a full-time aide in my classroom to help me at all times. You’d think this would be the perfect situation for the sweet little kids! But I was seeing what was wrong there, too. The children spent SO much time standing in line in the hallway, waiting for the bathroom or P.E. or lunch. It was such a waste. The children had to be treated as a group and taught as a group, instead of as individuals. And there were those teachers who were screamers or so focused on the problems in their own homes they really couldn’t take care of 22 young kids at school very well. The saddest moment for me was on the last day of school one year I looked around at my kindergarteners (I taught K-4th grade music and had 600 students) and realized how few of their names I knew. If I didn’t even know their names, how could I be teaching to their needs? I was pregnant by this time and decided to spend some serious time investigating homeschooling.
The first method I studied was about Classical Education. I read Dorothy Sayer’s article “The Lost Tools of Learning” and was really inspired by it. Another book that I read soon after was For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Shaeffer Macauley.
What an incredible book! I learned so much about education and was introduced to Charlotte Mason and her wonderful ideas. (More on her in another post!)
I went to my first homeschool convention (Illinois Christian Home Educators, www.iche.org) when my oldest was 17 months old and my 2nd child was 6 weeks old. I was blown away and brought my husband with me the next year. He was blown away, too! Now, after all these years, homeschooling is such a lifestyle for us, we don’t see how we could do it differently. We pray that the Lord will allow us to continue until our children graduate from high school.
Teaching the Trivium:
One of the seminars I attended at that first homeschool convention was with Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn of triviumpursuit.com. They said many things that really resonated with me and helped to form my philosophy of education. I love their article “Ten Things to Do Before Age 10” and have followed it (though not perfectly) with all my kids. I also use their book Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style
as a resource for choosing homeschool curriculum each year. I love that their style of classical education mixes in the unit study and Charlotte Mason methods. That’s exactly how I love to teach!
Tapestry of Grace
We are now using Tapestry of Grace, which is based on the classical education method. Each year (there are 4 total) uses history as the spine for learning the other humanities (literature, writing, arts). We read “living books” rather than textbooks (Charlotte Mason!) and study the same lessons as a family. But the lesson plans are specific to the child’s level of learning: grammar, diaectic, or rhetoric.
Do you have questions about Classical Education? Please leave a comment and let’s talk about it!
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