When you have a child, you naturally begin teaching them even before they begin talking or walking. In the medieval past, the Trivium was taught as mainly three subjects: grammar, logic and rhetoric but perhaps the reason the classical method has experienced a revival is because it transcends all time and people because, it roughly corresponds with the progressing development of the child’s brain and skills. Another reason i feel Classical education has become popular is because our modern school system in America sucks, for lack of a better word. Ok, i can use other words, many longer 😉 A beautiful short video illustrating why children fail in school: http://www.raisingsmallsouls.com/animalschool/animalschool.swf
I won’t even delve into problems with schools but i will list three main issues i have with government-funded schools. Children are not instructed in a way that makes them lifelong learners or encourages thinking but are simply taught to get the right answer and sometimes that answer isn’t even correct according to others but it is to the textbook publishers. Education here is largely approached as one- size- fits- all where individual talents are not recognized or developed and weaker areas are ignored while grades are given when the child doesn’t truly understand the subject or content. The grade earned is not accurate compared to what the child learned. In other words, there is no mastery only satisfactory or sufficient enough to go on to the next concept or grade while in reality there are many “holes” and no true understanding of the subject. Finally, values standards and morals are no longer expected or being taught in schools. I am not talking about religion, i am talking about a child learning they are not the center of the universe and how to behave and interact with others. i learned teaching dd, the latter is defined as a course in “citizenship” and was required as part of the curricula in Texas and some other states.
Citizenship is loosely taught in kindergarten as “Social Studies”. You know that book, All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten, yeah values that’s what i mean. In Islam we call it Adaab and Akhlaq: manners and character. Our public schools have no real character development.
I know some would say that character development and teaching values is the parents job, but there needs to be consistency between school and home for the child to excel. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s this wasn’t a problem because school teachers had most of the same attitudes and values the parents did. I’m not staying ALL of their ideas were good* but accountability for your actions and academic excellence was emphasized. With modern society and largely the breakup of the family, babies and small children are away from their home. Children are away from their mothers in daycare or preschool and this has created students who are unattached, uncompassionate, with behavioral problems as well as speech, reading and math delays. It is not only the breakup of the family or mothers working but the lack of values and morals in society now in general. The new generations motto” ITS ALL ABOUT ME”.
According to the WTM, the first stage is preschool or first grade till about fourth grade. Logic begins at either fifth or sixth grade depending on the student’s abilities and is generally considered now to be “middle school”, six through eighth grade. Some schools start “middle school” at fifth grade. The logic stage begins to ask how and why, connecting and understanding what they learned or memorized in the grammar stage. Rhetoric begins when the student uses all the information they have learned from the grammar and logic stage to express what they have learned through writing, speaking and even debate. Being able to communicate throughly, eloquently and ready for college level work is the goal of the Rhetoric stage. For more information about the Trivium stages and classical method read an excerpt from The Well Trained Mind here http://highereducation-mama4x.blogspot.com/p/wtm.html Also i enjoyed reading her blog, it’s a good overview the WTM for those who haven’t read the book or for beginners.
Any psychologist or parent will tell you that in the beginning years the child copies by word and action whatever he/she sees. This is the parrot stage, the “grammar” stage in the Trivium. When the child grows older, about age nine or ten they start to make connections, compartmentalize and rationalize the information they have learned. They become a thinking being. I know that in Judaism the age of understanding and becoming responsible for one’s actions is twelve or thirteen, which is based on the Torah or Old Testament. Muslims are told in the Quran at age ten the child must start praying. In Islam it is puberty around the age of ten the child is accountable for their actions but it depends on the level of mental maturity and physical development. Recently I found out age fifteen is the latest age for accountability if no other signs of puberty are present. i will look up the scholar that said this.
I have three children. My daughter, my first baby, is now eighteen. She will be starting college soon and wanted to stay in Texas when we moved out of state. My other girl dear daughter age eleven,(dd) is now starting uncharted waters: the middle stage of the Trivium, the logic stage. The baby of the family my son, (ds) is considered in first grade now and he is six years old but will be seven after September. i am starting over again using the WTM but he has memorized many chapters of the Quran in Arabic and some dua between age three and six, as well as beginning reading and math. He has been begging me to let him lead the prayer but i said no not until he is seven but i realized he is already seven because we follow the lunar calender. The lunar calender is shorter by about two weeks I think, so technically he is seven. Muslims are commanded to have their children pray at age ten so it is important to remember at age nine they may already be ten thus it is obligatory for them to make salat.
I enrolled my son in an online school in our state that uses the k12 curriculum. Check it out with sample lessons at www.k12.com I don’t recommend it for everybody because it is highly accountable and time-consuming. When i taught my dd with it in Texas, we spend at least five to six hours a day on instruction. K12 is designed for the first grades until grade four or so to be dependant on the parent while after fourth and fifth when the child’s computer skills are sharp and reading is easy they are supposed to be more independently learning. By high school the student is expected to be fully independent, while only coming to the parent for a few questions or to keep track of progress, which is easily done online. Dd is ONLY an independent reader, everything else she has to be nudged or nagged, lol. Eventually, the Texas k12 program was like pulling teeth but she did love online classes which they held for math and other subjects especially for kids needing help. If you could not attend at that time, you could watch a recorded class later, it was really neat.
Anyway, k12 can be good for some home educators but it’s not for everybody, it’s very thorough and covers subjects and topics you may not want to, or want to go a different route, or you may not agree with their interpretation. You also have to move at the class pace and can fall behind if the child doesn’t understand or wants to delve deeper.
I did feel World History was pretty un-biased and i liked the approach. unfortunately dd does not enjoy History the way I do but i’m gettin her there 😉 I absolutely LOVED the way k12 teaches spelling. More on that later.
K12 divides Language Arts into four areas: Grammar, Writing, Spelling and Reading (Literature). Of course, k12 Reading is the same as schools: snippets of great folktales and books with comprehension questions and other activities afterward, something I don’t like and the authors of The Well Trained Mind are against. Even as a child i preferred to read novels and talk about it in class verses excerpts and tedious worksheets. Dd starting loosing her luster and her favorite subject became a chore. Later, i will write a post about their reading list as well as their approach to spelling, similar to a seminar I attended on teaching spelling.
Years ago, i also discovered Sequential Spelling another awesome, common sense approach to spelling. It is particularly succesful with dyslexic children and adults or others with learning disabilities. For more info, visit http://www.avko.org/sequentialspelling.html
In addition to phonics, i am a fan of the most common words in the English language or the Dolch site words because they appear most frequently in what we read and they do not follow typical rules, so the child cannot sound them out. If the child can master these, it would be a great benefit to their skill and speed in reading. There are many lists and sites online with the Dolch list or you can search most common words English language. I have some of my favorites saved on a disk, i will add that later. Here is a free sample from the sequential spelling site of 220 Dolch words check it out, it’s really neat how they cover them: http://www.avko.org/Samples/650/650%202.16.50-90.pdf
So, we are waiting for ds’s first grade k12 curriculum to arrive. In the meantime, I helped him increase his reading and arithmetic. I also started him with the Ancients for History. Currently he is able to read short vowel words, most common sight words and words with silent ‘e’. Even though he was nowhere near his sisters verbal skills age one and up, suddenly he started making logical connections they never did at his age. While his sisters always exceeded what was in What to Expect the First Year guidelines, he was speech delayed and in all other areas from birth to almost three AT LEVEL or average. I felt bad then because they were so advanced at each stage compared to him I thought he wouldn’t be as bright as his sisters. I was surprised when he started making statements that were far beyond a child’s comprehension at his age and making logical connections. I wish i could remember one he made before. The other day when I reviewed the multiplication tables with dd, he shouted out the answer not because he memorized it but because he counted it in his head, something his sister was never able to grasp at age six! We tested him several times and even dd was surprised and proud of him. I will take that over her being annoyed at him anytime!
I am testing and recognizing his strengths so I can further develop his strengths while increasing his abilities in weaker areas. I feel so many children’s strengths are not recognized or fully developed whether artistic, linguistic, mathematically or in humanities. I wasn’t trying to rhyme i swear sometimes my thoughts come out like that. We started the first couple lessons in First Language lessons, which he almost immediately memorized after i repeated the definition of a noun and grew restless after five minutes. Actually, i’m sure I have told him what a noun is and that’s why he was impatient.lol. I read online the first book, levels one and two is very repetitive while the second, levels three and four speeds up considerably. This is true so with dd i had skipped ahead once she understood the lesson. With my son, it is even more important to move on once he ‘gets it’ because he grows bored and likes to be active. Although none would describe his sister as introverted, she can read for hours. i hope he can do this one day!
I meant to start this post with what i did so far with ds and dd. Ds, beginning the grammar stage, new for him, again for me and logic with dd but my thoughts and writing grew too long so i will write a separate post and continue an overview of what we did in the next post, God willing.
*Such as, children should be seen and not heard