Friday, April 29, 2016

A Taste of the Feast


I like to think that our MSJ Schole homeschool encompasses a do-it-yourself, academically challenging, comprehensive education. My goal is to provide a classical education with a Charlotte Mason bend to it. One that's thorough yet gentle.

I'm continually trying to figure out exactly what teaching and learning classically, gently (or maybe gently classically) really means. Classical Academic PressThe Well-Trained Mind, and most recently TriviumMastery  guide me on my classical quest while Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online encourage a gentle approach and provide wonderful living book lists. They all provide me with much food for thought.


Classical Academic Press elegantly describes classical education as the cultivation of the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty by means of the liberal arts. Christopher Perrin offers a few analogies of classical education. It is like a museum, an art gallery, or (my favorite) a banquet table laid with all different kinds of exquisite pleasures just waiting to be tasted.


The Well-Trained Mind is somewhat more specific.

  • It is language-intensive; not image-focused. Students use and understand words rather than video images.
  • It is history-intensive. Students are given a comprehensive view of human endeavor from the beginning until now.
  • It trains the mind to analyze and draw conclusions.
  • It thrives on self-discipline.
  • It produces literate, curious, intelligent students who have a wide range of interests and the ability to follow up on them.
Trivium Mastery breaks all this down and gives examples that explain how to actually make all of the above happen. I've discovered that by teaching the trivium I'm guiding our children as they develop the skills necessary to discuss and interpret ideas. The trivium is actually three skills: 1. Reading (Grammar) 2. Thinking (Logic) 3. Speaking and Writing (Rhetoric). These are developed simultaneously throughout life according to the individual's personality and learning style. 

Thanks to Diane Lockman and Trivium Mastery, I have an outline to lead me in the process of teaching my children the skills necessary to be lifelong learners. In preparing our daughters' end-of- the-year portfolios, I've compiled a list of specific skills that they each worked on this year. The following is an outline of the skills my 9 year old tackled (gently) this year and the resources she used to help her achieve them.


 9 year old daughter
                        IIFP personality (Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving)                   


READING SKILLS - Grammar
How to read:
  • Read a-loud favorites: The Wheels on the School, James and the Giant Peach, Black Ships Before Troy, Bambi, The Wanderings of Odysseus, The Back of the North Wind, Archimedes and the Door of Science, From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler, Understood Betsy (hands down favorite), The Wind in the Willows, Robin Hood, The Magician's Nephew, Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, Cymbeline, Macbeth.
  • Independent reading favorites: Mary Poppins, The Family Under the Bridge, The Borrowers, Heidi, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, A Triumph For Flavius, Matilda, The Tale of Despereaux, Thimble Summer, Rabbit Hill, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Trumpet of the Swan.
  • Favorite books read to me and/or narrated: Our Island Story, Trial and Triumph, Seabird, Burgess Book of Animals, Burgess Book of Birds, Parables of Nature.



How to spell:
  • Find and correct errors in book excerpts that I have edited.
  • Learn how to spell some of the the most common words in the English language and the spelling rules associated with them.
  • Learn spelling rules. (Logic of English)
  • Divide syllables. (Logic of English)
  • Play spelling games. (Logic of English)
  • Use the dictionary.

How to write


How to punctate and capitalize (Logic of English and reading books)
  • Learn rules of usage
  • Add missing marks and capitalize
  • Find and correct errors 

How to use proper grammar

  • Memorize the eight parts of speech (Logic of English and Classical Conversations memory work)
  • Understand how they are used in sentences. (Shurley Grammar)
  • Diagram sentences. (Classical Conversations and Shurley Grammar)
  • Begin learning latin noun declensions and verb conjugations. (Classical Conversations and Lively Latin)
  • Use proper grammar in everyday speech.





THINKING SKILLS - Logic


How to arrange data according to systems






How to solve problems (Saxon 5/4, math games, Classical Conversations)

  • Identify and complete sequences.
  • Explain the steps of various word problems.
  • Memorize mathematical operations and formulas.
  • Answer puzzles and  riddles.
  • Work through high-order thinking activites.

How to use the scientific method (Classical Conversations, A Child's Geography, Real Science 4 Kids, Earth Science)


  • Achieve familiarity with the general laws of science. 
  • Perform and document experiments.
  • Verbalize steps to observe, predict, and conclude.


How to analyze literature


How to listen

  • Listen to audio books. Swallows and Amazons, The Story of the Amulet
  • Learn about classical composers while listening to their works. (Harmony Fine Arts)
  • Narrate understanding.
  • Answer questions.

SPEAKING SKILLS - Rhetoric


How to maintain a conversation (Lifelong goals)

  • Look at people when conversing.
  • Shake hands and repeat names.
  • Listen attentively.
  • Answer the telephone and take a message.
  • Exhibit proper manners.




How to give a speech and perform for an audience
  • Memorize and recite poetry. (She has memorized over a dozen poems and has recited many of them in public)
  • Maintain eye contact and use appropriate body language. (Classical Conversations presentations)
  • Play both group and solo music at recitals. (piano and violin)


As you can see, teaching classically is all about teaching skills rather than teaching subjects. Being tied down to someone else's curriculum lesson plans isn't an issue. What a difference when comparing this method to modern education. Classical education is a never-ending, well planned feast rather than a check list of assembly line cafeteria food. Savor the tastings and enjoy the freedom!

Melanie