Welcome to the second virtual meeting of The Core Bookclub here at Hope Is the Word. You can read more about the bookclub, as well as find out the schedule, in this post. Be sure to like Hope Is the Word on Facebook to participate in the discussion over there, too.
Chapter two of The Core focuses on the differences between a classical education versus modern education and why classical education is superior. The big emphasis of the chapter is not so much on what’s wrong with modern education (though there is a bit of that in there) as it is really explaining the stages of classical education: grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic. One of the biggest a-ha’s for me was not so much a revelation as a reminder: that a classical education is really a method that can be used to learn anything. ( I remember being quite pleased with myself when I figured that out after reading The Well-Trained Mind.) Bortins says that over and over again in chapter two:
For the classically minded parent, quality academic material provides the content on which to practice the skills of learning. So whether a teacher, a computer, a parent, or a book requires an assignment, the parent is ultimately resonsible for training the child to have the character to practice the skills necessary to complete the task. The classical educator understands that struggle is part of the learning process, expects to teach students accountability by assigning rigorous academic tasks, and uses the challenges within the assignment as an oportunity for the development of brain and character for the whole family. The goal is not to check off items on a list–one more assignment completed or one more answer given correctly. Instead, we want to teach young children how to behave so that the brain can function optimally. (43)
I also appreciate Bortins‘ emphasis on memory work and overpractice in the grammar stage. I’ll admit that while we do memory work in our homeschool, sometimes I feel like it’s the thing that requires the most effort from me and the thing that I find easiest to let slip, at least in terms of attention and quality. Honestly, I don’t look forward to memory work usually because it’s hard for me. My memory is poor and I’m distracted; what used to be easy and almost second-nature for me has become a challenge and a chore. Bortins encourages me that even I can retrain my brain:
We access information from our brain most comfortably when we have developed the capacity (which involves the discipline and character) to over-learn information. If our brain is damaged in one area and we work very methodically, we can often overcome our handicaps to a greater extent than most of us realize. So even though my brain is not perfect, it can compensate for its deficiencies if I work hard. (44)
We are all functioning with brains that tend to the deficient end of the spectrum. Therefore our brains require extensive physical therapy–called education. Whether your children are absolutely brilliant or thoroughly incompetent, they all require more physical therapy. (44)
This encouragement and Cindy’s repeated emphasis on the importance of Morning Time in her Charlotte Mason homeschool (both at Ordo Amoris and her other blog, Morning Time Moms–not so much about memorization as about just doing important things together) makes me more determined to not rush our Circle Time this year and treat it as the most important time of our day. Bortins‘ ideas on memorization also resonate with me because we are in the process of starting an AWANA program at our church, and her encouragement is a reminder that this is worthwhile and entirely do-able. It also encourages me to persevere through my girls’ growliness over piano practice some days to help them become proficient musicians. 🙂
I don’t have much to say about the dialectic or rhetoric stage because we’re not there yet in our homeschool. However, as a former public high school teacher and a former public school student myself, I can see that the goals of the classical method–that students are prepared for the rhetoric stage–are goals that we try to attain in traditional school (at least in my experience), but something has sometimes been disconnected before we get there. This passage resonates with me and my experience:
While rote memorization is currently considered unnecessary by many educators (as exemplified by the allowance of calculators before college math), classical educators consider it advantageous for two reasons:
- It strengthens the student’s brain by straining it a little more each day, and
- the student takes in quality content that informs an educated person.
These differ greatly from the “edutainment” offered to encourage elementary students to “enjoy” school. Classical educators prefer to prepare children to work hard at learning until the skills become enjoyable [emphasis mine]. Consider this important difference: classical teachers prefer to teach children to like memorizing quality content (such as a rhyme or sonnet) so that one day they can enjoy difficult assignments. We want their self-esteem to be based on actual accomplishments. (49)
Yes and yes.
What did you get out of this chapter?
Links to previous bookclub posts:
(Rather than put up a linky each week, I’ll just ask you to link up your blog posts in the comments. If you’re reading along and would prefer to just share your thoughts in a comment or on Hope Is the Word’s Facebook page, that’s good, too.)