Looking Behind - Planning Ahead


When I happened upon John Milton Gregory's book, The Seven Laws of Teaching, I thought that I had discovered a text that others weren't familiar with. But, as I have grown to realize, just because I haven't heard of something before doesn't mean that it isn't well known. This book and it's modern counterpart, Excellence in Teaching with the Seven Laws by Carl Shafer, have become invaluable sources of wisdom and encouragement as I tread and often trudge through the jungle of home schooling. I like to keep them handy.


Five months ago, as I was preparing to direct my first semester of Classical Conversations' Challenge B, I outlined some goals that seemed reasonably achievable for my student/daughter. I combined objectives from the Challenge B Expectations Chart with excerpts from Leigh Bortin's book The Question, another insightful read that I keep close by.


We're now halfway through our school year. I feel the need to reflect and reevaluate in order to recharge and rejuvenate for next semester. This time, I'm using John Milton Gregory's Seven Laws of Teaching to illuminate my personal goals as a teacher along with our revamped student goals for 2nd semester.


Grammar (Latin)

The duty of the teacher is essentially not that of a driver or a taskmaster, but rather that of a counselor and guide. His aim must be to develop secondary passive attention. The best way to do this is to make the stages of advancement gradual, so that while the pupil must put forth effort in grasping each new step in the lesson or in the series of lessons, the completion of each step will also make the effort seem worthwhile. 



Grace is an excellent student of Latin and has has gone above and beyond the goals set for 1st semester. The Henle text has worked well for her. I supplemented it with the Memoria Press quizzes and tests and will continue 2nd semester. 

Logic (Math)

The two chief hindrances to attention are apathy and distraction. The former may be due to a lack of taste for the subject under consideration, or to weariness or some other physical condition. Distraction is the division of the attention among several objects, and is the foe of all learning. 


Grace does not love Math. Even though she came close to completing Algebra 1/2 last school year, we agreed to do it over again. She still does not like it the second time around but she does her lessons diligently and thoroughly. Attacking her math lesson first thing in the morning, when she isn't distracted or tired, seems to work for her.
  • This semester, we'll keep the same goals but concentrate on explaining math problems by way of the Five Common Topics.

Rhetoric (Logic)

Aim to make the pupil an independent investigator - a student of nature and a seeker after truth. Cultivate in him the habit of research. Help him to test his conceptions to see that they reproduce the truth taught, as far as his powers permit. 



Logic has been a surprise to both of us. We came into this strand having no idea what to expect and have enjoyed it more than I could have imagined. Grace has met all the goals of 1st semester. 
  • An additional goal this semester is to relate the Logic to the other strands... make those connections! She already is well on her way to having the Appendices memorized.

Debate (Current Events)

We master truth by expressing it, and are glad when we have clearly expressed our thought. But in order to make talking into thinking, there must be independent and original effort, not a mere parrotlike repetition of the words of other people. The pupil himself must do much of the talking.


Reading, analyzing, and discussing current events was a highlight of 1st semester. Grace went from knowing very little and taking no side on world issues to becoming aware of what's going on around her, having an interest, and forming her own opinion. She made both biblical and secular connections. I'm tickled pink about her accomplishments in this strand. Now we start something new with new goals.

Mock Trial
  • Spend the amount of time needed to understand the case.
  • Complete each assignment with minimal help from me.
  • Be able to explain the case in her own words.
  • Create outlines and timelines.
  • Participate as a team player and in class discussions.
  • Memorize parts - be prepared.

Exposition and Composition (Persuasive Writing)

Knowledge cannot be passed from mind to mind like objects from one receptacle to another, but must in every case be recognized and rethought and relived by the receiving mind. All explanation and exposition are useless except as they serve to excite and direct the pupil in his own thinking. 




As I look over the goals of 1st semester, I have to admit that Grace fell just a little bit short here. Yes, she read the books and wrote the essays, but they were done without the amount of thought and care that I would have liked. She still needs much assistance and I'm glad that I can do that. But this semester...


Short Stories
  • Learn proper mechanics for writing a short story.
  • Read all the assigned stories and be prepared to participate in class discussion.
  • Keep a list of vocabulary words and definitions.
  • Write a short story (minimum of 5 pages) with little help from me.
  • Keep a positive attitude. 
  • (Can you tell this will be our challenge?) 

Research (History of Science)

Each new idea mastered becomes a part of the knowledge of the child, a part of his equipment of race experience, and serves as a starting point for fresh advance. It adds its own light to the knowledge preceded it, and throws increased illumination forward for the next discovery.



Grace will tell you flat out that she hates science. This was by far not her favorite strand but she did meet all the goals. She does like a project (as long as she doesn't have to work on it for very long. The Science Fair project needs to come to a close, the sooner the better.) But moving on to next semester...

Origins and Chemistry
  • Read challenging material on both sides of the issue. Keep an open mind.
  • Learn how to outline a book chapter by chapter.
  • Keep a list of vocabulary words and definitions.
  • Ask informed questions. Refer to the Five CommonTopics.
  • Participate in class discussions.
  • Memorize the first 18 elements in the periodic table.

Are you curious as to what the Seven Laws of Teaching actually are?
1. Know thoroughly and familiarly the lessons you wish to teach - teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.





2. Gain and keep the attention and interest of the pupils upon the lesson. Do not try to teach without attention.




3. Use words understood in the same way by the pupils and yourself - language clear and vivid to both.



4. Begin with what is already well known to the pupil upon the subject and with what he himself has experienced - and proceed to the new material by single, easy, and natural steps, letting the known explain the unknown.


5. Stimulate the pupil's own mind to action. Keep his thoughts as much as possible ahead of your expression, placing him in the attitude of a discoverer, an anticipator.


6. Require the student to reproduce in thought the lesson he is learning - thinking it out in its various phrases and applications till he can express it in his own language.




7. Review, review, review, reproducing the old deepening its impression with a new thought, linking it with added meanings, finding new applications, correcting any false views, and completing the true.




All in all, its been a fantastic semester and I will forever be indebted to Classical Conversations for making our home schooling experience truly memorable.




Melanie