Our entire homeschool experience has been laced with pregnancies, new babies, and even a broken foot for ten weeks. Keeping our schooling simple has been my primary focus over the years. If you know my story, you know that I wasn’t all that crazy about homeschooling, which you can read about here. In order to execute this wonderful model of simplicity, I use Classical Conversations.
What follows is my collaboration of what I’ve learned & how I understand the Classical Christian Model of Education. It’s not perfect, and I’m still learning. But, I’ve enjoyed learning it, and implementing it in our home.
Classical Education is a specific method of educating your child.
Emphasis on how to learn.
Classical Education puts more emphasis on how to learn rather than what to learn. Using this method, we are doing more than just providing information for the student. We are practicing a method that can be applied to anything needing to be learned in life: riding a bike, driving a car, cooking a meal, mechanics, becoming a doctor, etc…
This method does not have to be confined within the boundaries of academics. However, we can use academics to teach our children how to develop the skill of learning, so that in adulthood our children can apply this method effortlessly (without even thinking about it) to all aspects of his or her life.
Understanding the method.
What’s the method? The method is very simple, yet might need explanation. There are three steps:
Gathering information, or the grammar stage. This is when we gather, and store facts. But we don’t want to just pick up some facts here and there. We need to be able to retain our facts. This first step uses the tool of memorizing to pound in the facts for long term use. We work on memorizing facts, and then review these facts so that years down the road the facts are still there ready to be used.
This process takes time—expect the child to forget, and have to be reminded; that’s part of the process. This stage does not focus on understanding because it’s not always necessary. Although, it’s not forbidden either! Children like to explore their facts, and what’s the fun in learning if you can’t play with your information? However, a child can (and should) still memorize facts even if he doesn’t know what it means. That can come later.
Remember, we’re not spending just today learning. We’re spending a lifetime of learning, and we get to spend many years focusing on academics with our children. Simply stated, this is a time of memorizing facts; and in general targets preschool-elementary years.
Dialogue about and explore your information, also called the dialectic stage. This is a time of wrestling with ideas pertaining to the information. It is a time of questions, answers, and making connections between one topic and another. An understanding of the information is beginning to solidify in the child’s brain during this time period. You’ll also see the importance of having facts memorized.
If a child can’t remember when, where, or what happened in history, how can he discuss its effects on science or mathematics or language development?
We must know our facts! It’s very important!
The memorizing is just as important as the understanding. We want the understanding to last a long time, a lifetime even. Having the facts available, ready to be used, makes this stage easier and more fun! This is an understanding stage; and generally targets the later elementary, middle, and early high school years.
Make the application, and give it to others, also called the rhetoric stage. It’s tempting to say this is the time when we apply our information. It’s true, but simply applying the information stops short of the beauty of the rhetoric stage. The rhetoric stage is when we’re able to see the big picture of the information well enough to break it down for others. We’re now able to teach the information back to someone else.
This is the beauty of the classical model; because at this stage we can now develop our own thoughts on the information as well as walk someone else through their own thought process of the information. This is a time period of applying & giving it away; and generally targets the later high school extending into adulthood.
God is the central focus.
The Classical Christian Model puts God as the focus of education, and integrates the subject matter. God reveals himself to us through all subject matter: science impacts math, which impacts history, which impacts English and so forth. As we learn more about the subject matter we discover an important aspect—it all points back to God!
“…and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17
God is ready, and willing to reveal himself to us. The question is, are you willing to seek him?
Recognizing the big picture.
Classical Education is “big picture” focused. I like to think of it as a puzzle. In gathering information we are handing out puzzle pieces to our children. But in memorizing the information we’re ensuring our children can hold on to the pieces for later use; we don’t want them to drop the pieces. For if they drop the pieces, they can’t put the puzzle together.
While dialoging, and exploring information they are beginning to put the pieces together. Different parts of the puzzle are being put together at different times. At this stage children will view glimpses of the big picture.
Applying, and giving the information away, is the point where the puzzle is completed. A child can look at the completed puzzle, ooooh and ahhhh over the completed puzzle, explain the aspects of the puzzle, and then take the puzzle apart assisting someone else in how to put the puzzle together.
Often times I’ve heard, and experienced, that these different stages overlap. Even if your child is in the grammar stage, he will try and play with the dialectic stage. Or there may be times in the rhetoric stage you find your child is lacking in knowing his facts. You may decide, let’s go back and work on the facts again so that we can reason through this easier. The age ranges aren’t necessarily concrete, just a guide.
Any stage of life for any subject matter.
You can use this same method of learning right now with anything you wish to learn! Whether it is to further your own academic development, or learning a new skill. This method applies and is a very useful tool.
Once again, after spending several years learning, and experimenting with this method, this is the best way I have come up with to explain Classical Christian Education. As you can see in some areas I added the term “Christian” and other times I did not. This is simply because you can use the Classical Model without God, but you do need to ask yourself, “what is the focus of our education?”
I hope this has helped you have a clearer understanding of the Classical Model. I love using this method, I can see the benefits of it, and I can also see how anyone can apply it to their lives. It has also helped me keep my focus of school, as well as obtaining efficiency in my homeschool.
Do you educate classically? How do you explain classical education? What classical education resources do you use?
This was shared with: Hip Homeschool Mom,