Welcome to the fourth 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. (should such a conversation ever materialize 😉 ).
Ah, now we’re to the meat of the book–the nitty-gritty–the good stuff: just how do I go about facilitating a classical education for my children? These first two chapters in part two of The Core are an encouragement to me as we draw nearer and nearer to the start of this new academic year.
Chapter four: “Reading”
Y’all, this is what I’m all about–reading. While I really didn’t receive too many new revelations in this chapter, I did receive a lot of confirmation that the way we live around here, surrounded by books and with books in our hands much of the time, is good. I knew that already, of course, but since I don’t know too many people in my closest circle of friends who are quite as book-crazy as we are, it was nice to find this encouragement. (Steady Eddie gave a rather sarcastic snort when I read to him the statistic that “the common factor shared by all proficient readers is that they live in households that contain over a hundred books.” I don’t even think a comment is necessary here. Maybe a few pictures will do. 🙂 )
(Thankfully, all these books have since found a home in our school room. I hope we can get it straightened up sufficiently for me to share pictures of it soon.)
Anyway, the part of this chapter I found to be the most useful are the details about the types of reading children should do. I felt better about my girls’ obsession with the Boxcar Children, the American Girl books, and Nancy Drew after I read this:
Reading below level increases speed and accuracy and should be the type of reading any of us spend the most time on. (90)
Really, this made me feel a whole lot better about how the girls, Lulu in particular, have spent 90% of their time this summer. It also encourages me to be a bit more methodical about requiring my girls to read challenging books or passages aloud to me. I intend for this to be a part of our learning week every week this upcoming school year.
I also got a lot of encouragement from Bortins’ discussion of spelling and phonics. Having used a more traditional, list-based spelling curriculum for a little while and ultimately rejecting it in favor of a phonics and rules-based curriculum, I feel good about what we’re doing in our homeschool for reading and spelling. I hope to share more about this in a curriculum post this week.
Mostly I just felt gratified by reading this chapter on reading. 🙂
Chapter five: “Writing”
Like chapter four, this chapter provided a lot of encouragement and opportunities for head-nodding for me. I like how Bortins breaks down the writing process and helps me to see just what a complex task writing actually is. Sometimes I don’t realize what it is, exactly, that I’m asking my students to do. This is the kind of teacher I want to be–one who teaches her students how to do hard things well and praises them for a real job well done, not for mediocrity and half-hearted effort:
Children are more willing to do hard things when they know they hae achieved something worth doing. They are quick to detect flattery when they are complimented on a piece of writing that they know no one can read because the words are spelled wrong, the thoughts are incomplete, and their ideas are unconnected. Flattery develops at the least an aversion to writing and at the worst a cynicism toward doing things well. Don’t falsely praise your students’ efforts. Always encourage and then move on to constructive criticism. (108)
I wish I had read this book and The Well-Trained Mind back in my early days of teaching. I’m not sure how much freedom I would’ve had to implement this method in the schools where I taught, but I think it would’ve at least helped me look at little differently at writing instruction. So much of what Bortins says in this chapter, epecially about expecting students to do too much too soon, I have seen played out, even in the college classroom. So many of the students I’ve taught in community college came there ill prepared to write the essays I assigned, which likely indicates serious holes in their grammar-stage learning. However, now I think going “back to the basics” would look differently for me as the teacher; now I know what the basics are.
I really got a lot of practical insight from this chapter about how to go about teaching writing–about how important even just one sentence is. I like the checklist Bortins provides for punctuation and capitalization on pp. 123-124. I especially like the suggested questions about paragraphs on page 125. I was happy to note that I already do a few of these things with Lulu as I am transcribing her oral narrations for Writing with Ease. For example, if Lulu includes a sentence that doesn’t relate to the rest of the sentences in her paragraph (we don’t really call it that, but that’s what it is), I’ll ask her to pick out the one that doesn’t fit. This sort of one-on-one, back-and-forth relationship is so effective.
I think I’ll revisit this chapter again and again.
What did you glean from chapters four and five?
Links to previous bookclub posts:
- Chapter 1: “What’s Wrong with Education Today?”
- Chapter 2: “Why We Need Classical Education”
- Chapter 3: “How Classical Education Can Help You”
(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.)