Where to Begin?

I love a good book.  I love learning about learning.  Put those two together, and well, I am sorry if you run into me because I will be gushing about what I am reading and learning.  I can’t help myself.  I am a sharer.  If something thrills me, I cannot keep it to myself.  Everyone must know.  And everyone must like it as much as I do, haha.

This past summer, I was able to spend a lot of time reading.  My boys are to the age where they play reasonably well together, and so we spent many a morning in the backyard – they, scaling the swingset and digging up dino bones, I soaking up some Vitamin D and reading & learning.  I read several books on homeschooling and learning in general and thought I would share a brief review here.

If you are considering homeschooling, I highly recommend reading a few books.  The Internet is wonderful, but if you search Pinterest long, you will discover a multitude of blogs.  All very wonderful and useful, but if you don’t know how you feel about homeschooling and learning, you may find yourself following a method and curriculum that is better suited to someone else simply because you saw it on a blog.

Perhaps the first book I would recommend is Teaching in Your Tiara by Rebecca French.  She gives an excellent overview of the different schools of thought regarding education: classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, eclectic, etc.  It is also a great introduction to all the lingo that comes along with homeschooling!  Then, once you have a general idea of a method that you think might suit you, start reading some books that go into more detail.

An excellent read on the Charlotte Mason method is For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  I highly recommend this book to all parents, regardless of whether or not they plan to homeschool.  I would say this is a parenting book actually.  It is incredible to me that Charlotte Mason had such insight into children when she was not a parent herself.  She was a British educator in the early 1900s.  Her ideas were revolutionary at the time.  If you are a fan of Miss Stacy in the Anne of Green Gables series, you need to read this book.  I feel like I am a more patient, gentle, intentional mother for having read this book.

Here are some of my favorite Classical Education resources:
The Core by Leigh Bortins
Perhaps more than any other read, this book clearly lays out what exactly Classical Education is, and why it is effective.  As a former public (modern) school teacher, the first time I read this book, my mind resisted at every turn.  This was not how I was taught to teach.  It couldn’t be right.
And yet, I couldn’t quit reading it either.  It was intriguing.  By the time I reached the end, I was coming around to the idea of Classical Education.  The second time I read the book, I was sold.  In particular, the second chapter Why We Need Classical Education is riveting.
When I taught high school, I was constantly amazed at how many students didn’t seem to know basic facts.  Over time I realized it was not because they were unintelligent, but rather because memorization is no longer valued as an important skill.  Children as young as elementary school are “doing algebra,” “applying content to real world situations,” etc, but drill them on their multiplication tables and you might be shocked at how little they know.  In an effort to push our children to higher levels of accomplishment, we are actually depriving them of a very important step in their cognitive development.
I loved this passage from this book: “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 main reasons: 1. It strengthens the student’s brain by straining it a little more each day, and 2. 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.  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.”

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie Wise
This mother-daughter duo literally write the book on Classical Education.  I will confess that I haven’t even read the entire tome yet.  I have read the overview and the early years.  I found myself nodding my head throughout my reading.  In particular, I enjoyed this passage: “In the elementary-school years – grades 1 through 4 – the mind is ready to absorb information.  Since children at this age actually find memorization fun, during this period education involves not primarily self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts and training in basic thinking skills: rules of phonics and spelling and how to use them, rules of grammar and understanding good sentence structure,  poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plant and animals and the human body, how numbers work and the basics of mathematical thinking – the list goes on.”

I could literally write on this topic for hours.  But little tummies are rumbling, and that is probably enough for today.  Happy Reading!

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