Archive for the ‘He Said, She Said’ Category

Why Classical? – He Said

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Isn’t Latin a dead language?  Why teach it?

“Ut ager quamvis fertilis sine cultura fructuosus esse non potest, sic sine doctrina animus.” or “A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation.”  -Cicero

The great orator Marcus Tullius Cicero made this excellent observation.   A well- educated mind requires instruction.  The classical method is language-driven–specifically focused on Latin and Greek.  The teaching of classical languages are often seen as a reason that classical teaching is dated.

Many of the great thinkers throughout history were taught by the classical method, including instruction in Latin.  At age 19, John Calvin wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion, originally in Latin.  The translator of Harry Potter into Latin was the personal tutor to the British royal family.

If you take a close look at the great works of Western thought–specifically the Latin and Greek writings–you move from language to history, theology, mathematics, law and philosophy.  With Latin and Greek comes access to almost 3,000 years of the human experience, both triumphs as well as failures.  This access is direct and not through translation, which generally is good, but still is a third-party interpretation.

Access to many works of Western thought in their native tongue provides a unique opportunity.  We are trying Classical Academics Press Song School Latin and Greek to expose the kids to these languages early.  We will post our experiences with the products as we use them.

Why Classical? – She Said

Monday, August 30th, 2010

A little over a week ago, Nate introduced our “Why Classical?” series with an overview of the topic. In this next installment in the series, I will give my opinion on the issue. Later, Nate will respond to my post. We hope to explore a number of issues in this manner, a category which we will name “He Said, She Said.”  We think Nate’s voice will provide a refreshing perspective, since the majority of homeschool bloggers seem to be moms.

As for why I like the classical method, or at least a variant thereof, part of my reasoning hails back to my teacher education. A good part of our secondary methods course (practically all except practicum and classroom management) was working with teacher candidates from other disciplines to create an interdisciplinary unit.  The thinking behind this is simple: learners retain information better when they can draw meaningful connections between subjects.* Integration is not merely desirable in classical education. Rather, it is practically a cornerstone. The curriculum covers the whole of history from the ancients to present day, integrating the literature, scientific developments, and fine arts of each time period. Admittedly, English grammar and math will be more difficult to integrate, but no more so than in the classroom.

One real advantage to classical education, which I find lacking in the current system, is that as students progress through the three stages, they build upon previous learning. Without the proper building blocks, it is difficult for learners to think critically and make meaningful connections with and between subjects. The Indiana Academic Standards mandate that in Kindergarten, students ” examine the connections of their own environment with the past.” While well-meaning, I believe that this is sort of putting the cart before the horse. Why not give students a full review of history, from start to finish, before asking them to make connections?  Young children are sponges for information, and much of history is more fascinating than you might believe.  As for grammar, I will spare you a description of the atrocities I saw on tenth-grade papers during my student teaching experience.  How students were allowed to progress that far without a basic grasp of sentence structure and punctuation is beyond me.

In short, I like classical education because it teaches the subjects within the proper context and provides the building blocks that students need to think critically about content.  Et tu, Nate?

<< Why Classical – An introduction

*National Middle School Association: NMSA Position Statement on Curriculum Integration Note: I realize that this article also mentions the benefits of the learner’s relationships with content, teacher, and other learners.  I may touch on these at another point, since I believe homeschooling supports all of these.  However, I cited the one that is relevant to this post.