We’ve always been those crazy parents who read to their children straight from big books, really big books like classic novels and histories. And when we read to them from the Bible, we read straight from the Bible, like from the big leather-bound, grown-up looking book straight off the nightstand.
And you know what, we’re gonna keep on being those crazy parents, because what started out as an inkling and a cool idea in our home, has turned into a way to educate our kids, based on hundreds of years of experience of people throughout western civilization. That sounds exciting, right?
I’ll back up here a bit and try to say what I’m saying. Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about why young kids nowadays aren’t always taught the same level of things kids were taught decades and centuries ago. Why were kids once trusted to learn two and three languages before the age of ten, not to mention straight, not watered down, history and literature, along with scientific theory and math facts and equations before? And why are kids generally not trusted with these concepts, subjects, and experiences now until they are much older? I am really asking here. I don’t have the answers. I know there are a lot of answers to this, and some of them have things to do with advancement in education and the creation, production, and marketing of super fun and useful workbooks, manipulatives, and instruction manuals. And some of the answers may be good answers like trying to teach kids things they are interested in, so they will grow up and love to learn. The answers go on and on and on, I’m sure. But thankfully, these answers really aren’t what I have to deal with finding right now. All I am trying to focus on here is what style to use when educating my kids this next school year. It’s getting close to curriculum ordering time! I need lessons plans and material, not answers to all of the random, nerdy life questions I have.
So what I’ve been doing is a whole bunch of late night reading on classical education and modern education. I have a desire to take advantage of this “sponge” period my children are in, before they grow out of it. Young children have an amazing ability to memorize and to grasp onto new languages and facts in a way that people rarely hang on to as they grow and start moving into different developmental stages. So, we are moving more towards the classical end of the spectrum in our home. We are using books, riddles, rhymes, and songs to teach what has started to be known as only higher level education. We are bringing in more language study, more poetry and classic literature, more histories, and we are going to work more theories and facts into our study of science, math, art, and music, so that when our kiddos get older, and move away from the “sponge” or grammar stage and into the logic or “now what do I think about or do with all that stuff I learned as a tot” stage, they will be filled up with stuff, and not have to bother with square one of learning everything, at the same time when they would rather be thinking “why, how, what, and Oh!….Now I get it!”
So, I know this is a little ambitious and probably a little vague. I guess I could sum up this whole post by saying: we are excited about next year and all of the knowledge we hope our kids will be exposed to and hold on to. There are so many educational theories and styles out there, and I really don’t think there is only one right or good way to go. In addition to classical education, I am a big fan of Charlotte Mason’s teaching style, and I find a lot of cool ideas in Waldorf curriculum. Classical isn’t the only good choice. But when you make the decision to homeschool, you also need to decide how you’re gonna do it, so you get the daunting and exciting task of choosing the path your children will take as they learn. There are so many paths to take, and I think it is important to choose a great fit for your children, for your family, and for the teacher. There’s my disclaimer to all of these strong points I’m making about our choice to go in one specific direction.
We are going to set the bar high and not work with too much “twaddle”, as Charlotte Mason would call some of the reading material and kids workbooks of today. Kids don’t always need to be spoon-fed little teeny bits of things we want them to learn later, sometimes we can just teach them the things now, while their minds are young, and their memories are at their best. Kids have done it before, so why not my kids now? Again, I’m seriously asking. And don’t get me wrong, I love a good children’s book as much as the next Mama, but they don’t all have to have pictures and simple sentences, do they? How about a good princess picture book as a simple treat at bedtime, and then the next morning is full of quiet listening to history time. We have been running a little test around here to see how this will work out as we shape our curriculum around classical education next year, and so far, we are blown away by the bits of knowledge kids keep with them. They can understand big words. We don’t have to stop reading a book to a child to say, “This big word mean this….”. I mean, this isn’t how we taught them the small words, no we just spoke the words and then they understood them in context, which is much simpler and much more effective. So, we can go ahead and just use those big words! They’ll catch on, and they’ll understand much more of the stories we read to them if we aren’t always stopping to explain this and that to them. Just read the story.