The primary source for curriculum at my house comes from Classical Conversations. We follow the classical education method – grammar stage, logic stage, and rhetoric stage. What is funny to me is that when I first began considering home school, I thought this was most surely not the method for me. It seemed so dry and boooring. Yet, it kept coming up as an option in various ways around me. Eventually, I remember thinking, “okay, Lord. I’ll look at it.” Turns out that it’s a really great fit for my family.
If you think about how you would typically learn most anything – say photography for example – you would first begin by learning what the terms are. What is an f-stop, ISO and shutter speed? You would begin by memorizing the various standard f-stops, shutter speeds and ISO numbers. You would learn the definition of the rule of thirds, what exactly a dutch angle is and what depth of field means. That is the grammar stage. You are learning the vocabulary or grammar of your topic.
After you’ve learned these things, you’d begin to apply them to your photography. You’d begin to look at a subject that you want to photograph and think to yourself, “I really love the light right here and the fact that my daughter is looking so cute. But I really am not interested in capturing all the dirty laundry in the background. Let’s think through which elements of photography that I’ve learned and figure out which one will allow me to take the best picture in this situation.” That is the logic or reasoning stage.
Eventually, after you’ve taken enough pictures and mastered both your grammar of photography and your logic for taking a shot the way you do (because you’ve practiced and practiced it so many times – also known as drilling) you will have the experience to enter into a reasonable debate or judgement with another experienced photographer about what makes a great image. You can articulate your thoughts about the aperture and exposure from your own experience and persuade another experienced photographer to your way of thinking. You can defend your own work if it comes into judgement. You could also begin to teach the grammar and logic of the subject to a less experienced photographer. That is the rhetoric stage.
So you see, the classical method of education is actually pretty typical of the way we intuitively go about learning something new. It only sounds dry and boring when a dry and boring subject is presented to us. For example, me learning the language of baseball and drilling my facts about the rules, the history and the statistics sounds incredibly boring to me. But if I had a love for baseball, that’s exactly what I’d do – naturally.
The trick as the teacher is to find ways to engage the student so they discover their own natural love for knowledge. All knowledge. Then they begin to follow the trivium – the stages of classical education – naturally. As the teacher shows the student how to memorize the facts (like skip counting or the times table), how to use those facts (to figure out how much money the child might earn at a task) and eventually how to debate and persuade with those facts (perhaps as part of a team building a professional project) the child is also learning how to teach themselves anything they might decide they want to know in the future.
With my young students I find a few key ingredients extremely helpful to my home school life.
- my laminator
- my hook and loop dots
- my printer
- dry/wet erase markers
All of these supplies are remarkably inexpensive for the home educator.
In future blog posts, I’ll share some of the methods that I employ here at home to make classical education and Classical Conversations in particular, come alive.
And… of course, my picture for today. My girl got a new ‘do!