Nov 01

ABCMouse.com Review

ABCMouse.com ReviewI know that it takes a LOT of time and energy to create a preschool lesson plan from scratch. And while you, like me, might enjoy that challenge and the ability to customize really fantastic lessons for your kids, sometimes, our best intentions don’t translate into a lesson when we need one. Sometimes you just need another day to get your supplies together. Sometimes you have a week filled with dentist, vet, and doctor appointments. Sometimes your roof starts leaking or you’re sick or just worn out. I’ve learned that I am not superwoman and I need breaks. That’s when I pull up ABCmouse.com.

I can log in to ABCmouse and let my son go. I know he’s going to learn, have fun, and I don’t have to do a thing but answer the occasional question or give him a hint. Heck, even walking him through a lesson step-by-step (which is never necessary) is still a vacation compared to planning and executing a lesson on my own. And although I personally, wouldn’t want any school program (online or otherwise) to take over the schooling of my son, ABCmouse is actually comprehensive enough to be a full curriculum for kids ages 2-5. If you’re looking for a complete package curriculum for your preschooler or kindergartner, this will fit the bill at a fraction of the cost of regular boxed curriculums. If you’re just getting started  with homeschooling or are busy with your own work or older or younger children, ABCmouse is a great option to provide your kids with a thorough education at home, without putting in hours of time that you don’t have.

A couple things that added to the program’s credibility with me was that it’s used in preschool and kindergarten classrooms around the country and that it was developed with education experts to be the most complete online learning site for preschoolers and kindergartners. They list on the site some of the specific experts they worked with and it’s pretty impressive.

One of the features of ABCmouse that I really like is the great mouse tutorial, that teaches young kids how to point, click, and drag with a mouse. My son started out holding the mouse up to his ear like a phone and within 10 minutes, he was pointing and clicking like a pro. He also really likes the rewards system they use, giving tickets for completed lessons that can be used to buy virtual prizes and pets.

There are three ways you can use ABCmouse:

1. You can have your child follow the Learning Path, which guides him or her through a series of learning activities selected by his level (set by you). The Learning Path will take him or her through several natural environments (like Beach and Prairie), each containing a set of activities. I was a little disappointed that the activities were not related to the natural environments, but your child can learn about the environments separately by clicking on different items in the scene. Do not be afraid to change your child’s level! If you think his current one is to difficult or too easy, try a different one. You can always change it back. In fact, you might as well try your child on a few different levels at first to get a feel for where you think he or she is learning the most.

2. You can design your own lessons for your child using any combination of the stories, songs, games, puzzles, and printable coloring pages available on the site. The other thing I would like to see more of is a wider variety of lesson themes. They cover the most common preschool themes, like food, the world, and space, but I’d like more, like sharing and different cultures. But, I can easily rectify that by checking some books out at the library. I do, however, like that I can combine activities of varying levels, so if my son is more advanced in recognizing his letters and numbers, but lacking the fine motor skills to put together some puzzles, I can give him more difficult activities in one category and easier activities in the other.

3. Lastly, your child can also choose any individual activity to do.

Whether you decide to use ABCmouse.com as a supplement or a complete preschool curriculum, it’s a great investment for a few dollars a month. I love having the peace of mind that I have something to fall back on if I don’t have a lesson prepared.

Oct 26

Illegal Homeschooling?

I recently read an article about a family in Sweden that had to basically go on trial to be able to homeschool their kids. Call me naive, but I truly had no idea that some countries were so hostile to homeschoolers. When I researched it further, I found out that there are tons of countries where homeschooling is actually illegal or virtually illegal, including Germany, Brazil, Greece, and Sweden. In fact, in some cases, children have actually been taken from their parents because they were being homeschooled. I was shocked! While I understand that a nation has an interest in making sure the children residing there receive a proper education, to make sure they become productive citizens someday, I don’t know why they completely rule out homeschooling as a way to achieve that. There is so much evidence that shows that homeschooled kids perform better than kids sent to school. Couldn’t they just test the kids like they do in the United States? It just boggles my mind.

Even with the recent rise in popularity of homeschooling, some countries are actually putting new laws on the books to outlaw it. So it was legal before, but now it’s not. Why? Is it financial? I couldn’t imagine that so many parents would suddenly quit their jobs and decide to start homeschooling that it would really make a dent in public school populations. Do they just want to create a homogeneous society? Impossible! Even if everyone receives the same education, we will always have individual differences in opinions and abilities. And do these countries also outlaw private schools? No! It’s so weird. Well, I guess I’ll just be thankful I live where I do and cross those countries off my list of cool places to move to. My heart goes out to the families who wish to homeschool in those countries.

Oct 10

6 of our Favorite Preschool Activities for a Greece Theme

Having just done an Olympics Theme this summer, I was a little stumped when our Europe lesson came up and I needed some non-Olympic activities to learn about Greece. Here are 6 of the activities I came up with that we both really enjoyed.

1. Make and eat falafels.

Falafels are yummy and easy and healthy, especially if you bake them instead of frying them. My son finds the pocket bread pretty amusing, too. He’s still a little young to be much help in the kitchen, not to mention controlling his impulse to throw everything on the floor, but I could see letting a slightly older child mash the beans with a potato masher.

2. Read Aesop’s Fables.

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After going through the fairy tales from central Europe (Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood), I was relieved to find some children’s stories that I wouldn’t have to worry would give my son nightmares. We found this great collection of Aesop’s Fables with stories abbreviated enough to maintain his attention and really cool illustrations. His favorite story was The Tortoise and The Hare and he even started pretending with me that we were a tortoise and a hare racing.

3. Make a Greek Vase

No need for a potter’s wheel or a kiln, just make a picture of a vase on construction paper. We started out by looking at examples of Ancient Greek pottery online and talking about their features: the pictures on them, the color of the clay and paint, their shapes. Then I gave him a strip of brown construction paper that I had cut out and asked him to make a repeating pattern of O’s and l’s with a black marker. I could’ve called them zeros and ones, but I used the alphabet. Yes, this is art, language/math, and fine motor skills all in one fell swoop. Maybe it even counts as computer science, but I won’t push it. Preschool Activities- Greek Theme 1When he was done, he glued the strip across the middle of a bigger piece of the same brown construction paper that I had cut out in a vase shape. I trimmed the edges and voila! A Greek masterpiece!Preschool Activities- Greek Theme 3

4. Have a Tortoise and Hare Car Race

My son looooooves to play cars. I decided to use his cars to stage a tortoise and hare race. I got some tortoise and hare clip art and printed them out about the same size as his largest pull-back cars. Then I cut them out and taped them to the roofs of the cars. We put a masking tape starting line on the floor and raced the cars down the kitchen. Preschool Activities- Greek Theme 4Then we used a tape measure to measure how far each one had gone. Had to throw a little math in there.Preschool Activities- Greek Theme 5

5. Do Some Gymnastics

Okay, I know I didn’t want to do the whole Olympics thing again, but gymnastics are pretty cool and hard to beat for gross motor skills. We don’t have any special equipment or access to a gym so we just improvised and kept it simple. He was very proud of himself for walking across a piece of 2×4 that served as our balance beam and doing somersaults across the living room with me.

6. Strike a Pose

Another of our favorite activities was posing like statues. We looked online at pictures of Ancient Greek statues. Then we had our own little toga party. We wrapped ourselves in sheets and then I would pose like a statue and have him copy me. Another great activity for gross motor skills, and imagination.Preschool Activities- Greek Theme 6

Have you explored Greece or another culture with your preschooler? What activities did you enjoy the most? I’d love to hear your ideas!

If you’d like to see some of the other themes that we’re slowly working through, check out this article.

Oct 03

V Tech Mobigo Review

I was very cautious about introducing my son to technology. It makes me so sad when I see a kid who never plays outside and is engrossed in video games all day. In fact, I never let my son watch any TV until he turned 2. But, shortly after that milestone, I realized that completely sheltering him from technology was also doing him a disservice. Like it or not, technology is part of our world, our future, and a huge part of our daily lives. He needs to be technologically savvy to succeed. I just need to balance the use of technology with other activities and make sure that his screen time is really providing him some education, not just keeping him quiet while I cook dinner.

With all that in mind, I began searching for the best toys to help him learn to use technology, while remaining educational. The toy I finally settled on was the V tech Mobigo. It’s a handheld device, built to withstand preschoolers, with downloadable games as well as game cartridges. The console itself has both a touch screen and a slide-out Qwerty keyboard. Some of the other game systems I looked at didn’t even have a keyboard or had a keyboard in ABC format, which is great for learning the alphabet, but my goal was to introduce him to real technology, which means a Qwerty keyboard, in my opinion. The other thing I liked about the keyboard is that it was a slide-out, so he could play games not requiring the keyboard with it tucked safely away. The touch screen was another selling point for me because that’s such a prominent part of technology now, too. The new Mobigo 2 even has motion sensors and voice-commands, so it operates even more like a smartphone than the original version. The only problem I’ve had has been with the touch screen being non-responsive sometimes, but it seems that a battery change has fixed that.

The games available for the Mobigo are aimed at 3-8 year-olds, divided into 3-5, 4-7, and 5-8. The game cartridges are mostly based on popular characters, like Toy Story and Cars, which I wasn’t thrilled about, but my son didn’t seem to mind. The games available for download are more generic, but excellent. We got him a game that turns the touchscreen into a piano keyboard and another that teaches him to count animals on a farm. The games are each focused on certain skill sets, like language, math, problem-solving, memory, etc., so I feel better about giving him the Mobigo to play with than some less educational games out there. I don’t like to spend a fortune on game cartridges, but the downloadable ones are much more reasonable and they even give you a few freebies. And did I mention it’s been a life-saver on car trips?

All-in-all I’m really happy with my choice. I’d recommend the Mobigo to anyone else who’s looking for an educational way to introduce technology to your little ones.

Oct 02

A Fun Learning Game That Will Help Your Preschooler Learn Their ABCs

Preschool Activities & Learning GamesIf you’ve ever tried to teach a rambunctious toddler or preschooler, while battling their irrepressible energy, you may need some preschool activities that involve more than just their brains. Physical learning games are a great, fun way to teach your child that will motivate them and keep them wanting more.

One of our favorite learning games is what we call the “Letter Race”. To play, I simply wrote different letters of the alphabet on index cards with a marker. I place 3 random letter-cards at the opposite end of the room or yard, then I stand back on the other side with my son and tell him, “When I say ‘Go!’ I want you to run and get the letter ‘n’ (or any other letter) and bring it back to me as fast as you can.” I ask him if he understands and maybe even have him repeat the letter. Then I say, slowly, “On your mark…Get set…Go!” I cheer him as he runs down, chooses the letter, and runs back. If he gets it right, I’ll sometimes give him a small treat or else a hug and a “Good job!”

The beauty of this preschool activity is that it’s a triple-threat: It helps him learn his letters, it provides him with physical exercise, and it develops impulse control by teaching him to wait to run until I say “On your mark…Get set…Go!”

This learning game is also totally customizable. You can use uppercase, lowercase, numbers, colors, shapes, or anything you can draw or glue to an index card. You can play with more than one kid, too. Just have them each go for a different letter.

The Letter Race always results in a laughing, happy, (smarter), exhausted kid…Perfect!

Sep 19

3 Rules to Follow to Keep Your Sanity When Implementing Your Preschool Daily Schedule

Preschool Daily ScheduleToddlers and Preschoolers seem to have a built-in braking mechanism that kicks in whenever you’re in a hurry or have a schedule to keep. The more they resist, the more you push and the more you push, the more they resist. It’s like a religious war. There are never any winners. However, children do really thrive on a routine. They feel more in control when they can predict what’s coming next and being in control definitely makes them happy. Strike a balance and create a schedule that works by following these 3 rules:

1. Transitions Will Take Longer Than You Think

You may have Art from 9:00 to 9:25 and Music from 9:30 to 9:55, but at 9:25, with your child covered in sequins and glue in her hair and wanting more than anything to keep working on her masterpiece, do you really think you’ll be learning about pitch by 9:30? Build a more reasonable transition time into your schedule from the get-go and save yourself a lot of frustration. While your at it, try to minimize the number of transitions in a day. There’s no law that says you have to cover every subject every day, at least not that I know of and especially not at this age. Spread your curriculum out over the week. Try focusing on 3 or 4 subjects each day for a longer period and alternate those with recess and snacks.

2. Be Flexible

Be ready to go to plan B…and C, D, E, and F. Accidents and unforeseens will happen. You will be taking potty breaks during circle time and cleaning up faces covered with marker during science time. Activities will not go as planned. Preschoolers are also very complicated little souls. Quite similar to hormonal pre-teens, you never know if you will have an eager, cheerful cherub, or a testy, defiant troll. If you had planned to make rainclouds in a jar, but are trying to engage a child who won’t stop crying about getting the wrong cup at breakfast, it’s time for plan B. Make some adjustments to your schedule. Move up reading or music or something else they’re more receptive to, rather than fighting a losing battle. Your child will feel better in a little while and you can try the rainclouds then.

3. Keep it Simple

Less is more. Don’t expect too much of your preschooler. At this age, it’s very difficult for a child to sit for a length of time and focus on a task. Try to keep learning as organic and fun as possible. Keep tasks of concentration to short periods and don’t push it when your child is obviously ready to move on to something else. There’s plenty of time in grade school to establish academic discipline. Rather than planning elaborate projects that will frustrate or confuse your child, keep your activities quick and simple. Although simple experiences may seem boring to you, remember that your child is just discovering the world for the first time and a simple experience will make more sense to him.

Remember, there will be good days and bad days. Strive for a regular routine, but don’t become undone or think all is lost when you stray from your original plan. Your schedule should help you, not beat you down and some of the best lessons are accidental.

What kind of preschool daily schedule do you use? I’d love to hear any tips you might have to keep things running smoothly.

Sep 08

Homeschool Science and Cultures

No, not bacterial cultures. People cultures. One of my main goals in homeschooling is to teach my child to be compassionate. Compassion is one of the traits that I wrote about here, that I feel contributes to a person’s happiness. In my Lesson Themes article, I mapped out my plan to teach compassion, and as part of that plan, I teach my child about different cultures.

One of the difficulties with having a preschool theme or a unit study focused on a culture is finding a way to tie science into the lesson. One easy way to solve this problem is to study the culture’s natural environment. After all, the environment people live in has a lot to do with their culture.

Homeschool Science and CultureWhen we did our Latin America theme, I focused our science activities on the rainforest and the different animals that live there. We even did some experiments about clouds and rain.

For an Asian theme you might experiment with volcanoes or learn about pandas. For Africa, obviously there are a ton of animals to learn about. You can also learn about types of climates, since Africa has so many. Europe might take a little different turn if you live in the United States or Canada, since its wildlife and climate are so similar to North America. To incorporate science into a Europe study, you could investigate the engineering marvels of the continent, like the dikes and canals, medieval castles, the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, and other Ancient Roman and Greek technology. Obviously, you can also include man-made structures in your studies of other continents. There are some amazing structures found on all of the populated continents. But, those areas also have quite a bit of unique natural history to cover too, that I wouldn’t want to skip.

I’d love to hear how you’ve incorporated science into lessons about other cultures. Please share your ideas!

Sep 05

13 Ideas to Teach Homeschool Music

Homeschool Music

Practicing the harmonica with Grandpa

You don’t need to be an expert in music to teach your children about it. You just need to do a little bit of research and you both will learn a lot!

I think it’s important to teach my son about music because Creativity is one of the traits I think will help him be successful in life. I wrote about teaching Traits and Skills that contribute to lifelong success in my article Skills to Build. I also think music helps make history and other cultures more relatable.

For young children, I always want to break subjects down and start with their most basic elements. I can use that as a foundation for deeper exploration once the basics are mastered. Here is how I broke Music down for our Homeschool Music Curriculum:

  • Elements of Music: Pitch, Rhythm, and Tempo
  • Basic Instrument Groups: Wind, Percussion, and String
  • Common Instruments: Piano, Violin, Drums, Guitar, Trumpet, and Flute
  • Broad Musical Cultures: Asian, Latin, European, and African
  • Basic Musical Periods and Styles: Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Folk, Country, Blues, Jazz, Rock, and Rap

This adds up to 26 potential lessons or roughly one lesson for every two weeks in a year. So about every two weeks we explore a new musical topic. I’m sure it will actually take longer than a year since we’ll probably have “off” weeks.

Here are 13 ideas to help your child learn about music:

1. Find music that represents the topic and listen to it during meals and throughout the day. While you’re listening, find opportunities to talk about your observations about the music.

2. If you don’t have access to the real thing, look at and color pictures of instruments.

3. Watch videos of instruments being played on YouTube, so your child can learn to associate the look of the instrument with its sound (I love YouTube).

4. Practice miming how to play different instruments with your child.

5. Watch videos on YouTube of different musical styles and music from other cultures (Did I mention that I love YouTube?).

6. Look for opportunities for your child to have hands-on access to instruments and in person viewings of people performing music.

7. Listen to the music playing in stores and in the car and ask your child what instrument he hears. My son got in the habit of just pointing out instruments that he heard, without me even asking.

8. Practice making different rhythms with a drum or rattle with your child. Help her make the rhythm and then let her try herself.

9. Invest in a xylophone to explore pitch. Contrast high and low notes and try to sing along to emphasize the pitch. Play a game where your child reaches up to the sky when you play a high pitch and touches the floor when you play a low pitch.

10. Make your own instruments to explore different cultures. In our Latin American lesson, we learned about quitiplas from Venezuela on YouTube (did I mention how great YouTube is yet?) and then we made our own with plastic cups. It’s a lot of fun as long as you aren’t prone to migraines. You can also make a horn out of a rubber hose or a rainstick from a paper towel roll. Search online and you will find some awesome projects.

11. Explore moving in different rhythms and tempos. We hold hands and run across the room in different tempos and I showed him how to step, step, cha-cha-cha. It’s one of his favorite things to do now and it’s pretty hilarious.

12. Listen to music and clap the beat together. Or tap your toes.

13. Provide some inexpensive instruments that your child can play with. My son loves his BluesBand Harmonica. They’re very inexpensive and it has really helped him develop an understanding of pitch. We’ve even given them as gifts to several of his little friends. There are lots of other kids’ instrument sets that are low-cost and really fun, too. Just take a look at your local toy store. There really is no substitute for hands-on experience.

There are a million fun and easy ways to learn about music at home. I hope these 13 suggestions will help get you started.

What ways do you learn about music with your kids? Please share your ideas!

Sep 04

21 Ideas for a Preschool Nutrition Lesson Plan

“Do you know what breakfast cereal is made from? It’s made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!” –Roald Dahl

For a preschool nutrition lesson plan, I suggest you start with the basics. What is food? Where does it come from? What is good food? This is a theme I expect to repeat several times over the coming years, with increasing detail: food groups, the pyramid, what specific foods do for our bodies, etc. For now, I think it’s important to develop a healthy relationship with food and an adventurous spirit toward trying new foods. Here are 21 ideas to get you started.

Language Skills:

1. I made some simple worksheets on Word, just using clipart. Make a few rows of 1 letter followed by 3 pictures of different foods. Ask your child to circle the food that starts with the letter for each row. Here’s an example:

Preschool Nutrition Lesson Plan- Letters Worksheet
2. For writing practice, you can make a few more worksheets, one for each letter you want to work on. At the top type “tT is for tomato” or another letter and food. Then insert a picture of that food from your clipart. Under the picture make a few lines for your child to practice writing the letters on. Comic Sans is a great font for this because it looks like hand-printed letters (or you can just write the letters in yourself). Here’s an example:

Preschool Nutrition Lesson Plan- Writing Worksheet

Books:

3. There are some great food-related books out there. Some of them talk about foods from different cultures to help open your child’s mind to different kinds of foods. Books I’d recommend for the preschool crowd are:

The very hungry caterpillar, by Eric Carle
Little Pea, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Crunch Munch, by Jonathan London
Burger Boy, by Alan Durant
Brownie & Pearl Grab a Bite, by Cynthia Rylant
Everybody Bakes Bread, by Norah Dooley (this one’s a little long, but very interesting if your child can stay focused)
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake, by Michael B. Kaplan
Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli, by Barbara Jean Hicks
The Little Red Hen
Lunch, by Denise Fleming
This is the Way We Eat Our Lunch: A book about children around the world, by Edith Baer

Science:

The best science for this preschool lesson plan is cooking!

4. Cook with your child and talk about the different ingredients and where they come from.

5. Talk about how the texture of foods, like pancake batter and eggs, change when you cook them.

6. Make bread together and observe how it rises.

7. Make ice cream together and observe how it changes from a liquid to a solid (and maybe back to a liquid again).

Math:

Math also comes into play when cooking.

8. Talk about how to read measurements and how the timer counts the minutes.

9. Show your child how 2 half cups make a whole cup and other combinations.

10. If you have a chalkboard, you can draw a cookie with raisins and ask your child to count the raisins, or draw 2 cookies and ask him to point to the cookie with 5 raisins.

Music:

11. Play Patty-cake and I’m a little teapot

12. There’s a CD by Putumayo Presents called Picnic Playground that has some excellent multilingual songs for kids about food. The songs range from reggae to jazz from all over the globe. And it’s cool enough that it won’t drive you crazy listening to it.

Preschool Nutrition Lesson Plan- ArtArt:

13. For a food-related art project, try finger-painting apple trees. Have your child use the side of his hand to make the trunk, dab his index finger to make leaves, and dab his pinky to make apples.

14. Another art idea is to use cut pieces of food to stamp with.

15. You can also cut out pictures of food from magazines together and glue them by color to a rainbow. I just printed a rainbow from my Word clipart. I actually cheated and printed out different foods also, since I didn’t have many magazines with food in them.

Gross Motor Skills:

16. Try having an egg race with your child. Use plastic easter eggs on a large spoon and see how far you can each get without dropping it.

17. You can also pick up a watermelon (if they’re in season) and try rolling it across the yard or the living room.

Preschool Nutrition Lesson Plan- Fine MotorFine Motor Skills:

18. Rice is a great material to play with to help develop those little finger muscles. Make it more fun by dying your rice different colors. We put a cup of rice in 4 ziplocks, added 1 Tbs of rubbing alcohol and 20 drops of food coloring to each bags and then massaged the rice around inside the bags to spread the color. Then just spread the rice out to dry. It won’t take long because of the alcohol. Maybe an hour or so. Afterwards you can mix all the colors together in a big container to play “sandbox” in. Ask your child to make piles, separating the rice by color. Of course you’re only going to expect this for 20 or so grains, not the whole container. No torturing please.

Memory:

19. Print out some different food pictures in pairs and glue them to index cards. You should wind up with pairs of identical cards. Turn them face down to play “Memory” together.

Make Believe Play:

Pretending together is one of the greatest learning activities for kids. It might seem like a waste of time when you’re making a lesson plan for preschool, but dramatic play develops your kids’ creative thought, their self-control, and their understanding of your topic.

20. For our food theme, my son pretended to cook me breakfast and we ate it together. I talked him through the steps of making a meal. “Are you going to stir the pot on the stove? Where is your spoon? Can you get it out of the drawer?” He doesn’t have a play kitchen or anything. This was all done pantomime style and he LOVED it.

21. We also pretended to go grocery shopping around the house. Use your imagination! Wooden blocks were our bread and green legos were spinach. He used a wagon as his shopping cart. Later, I pretended to be the cashier and he paid me with a fake credit card we got in our junk mail.

Developing a healthy relationship with food, learning to appreciate a wide variety of tastes, and learning how food helps our bodies has a huge impact on your child’s future health. Remember to set a good example and make it easy for your child to eat healthy foods. As much as possible, cook your meals at home and eat them together. It will pay off.

Nutrition is one of the lesson themes from the 3rd article in my How To Create Your Homeschool Plan Series. If you’re looking for other lesson plan ideas, you can find a ton in that article.

Do you have any great food-related activities? Please share!

Sep 02

How to Raise a Leader: Classical Education

Classical EducationWant to raise your child to be a leader? How about the next Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln? Then you might want to look into Classical Education. And if you’re choosing homeschool because you don’t think public school will provide rigorous enough academics, then Classical Education may be the way to go.

History

Classical education is based on how the ancient Greeks and Romans approached education. It was formalized in the Middle Ages into a structure called the Trivium. Classical education is the way many of the Founding Fathers were educated and it was the way most schools taught up until the last century, when new methods started taking over. Recently, it’s started to regain popularity among homeschoolers. Many private and charter schools are also returning to a classical format with some really impressive results.

How Does It Work?

There’s a bit of a debate over what classical education actually means. There are a quite a few books out on the subject and while they all agree on certain elements, they also disagree on a lot. Examining all of the different approaches to a classical education is beyond what I can cover here, so I’ll stick to the most popular interpretations.

Language is the keystone to classical education. That much is true. Classical learners focus on the use of words to learn and teach rather than a lot of visual aids. This method is thought to cause the brain to work more actively, which helps you learn more. Most classical educators teach Latin or Greek in addition to English. There are a few reasons for this. One is that learning Latin grammar is believed to help students learn English grammar. Another reason is that knowing Latin or Greek allows the student to read classic literature works in their original language, which would give the reader a better understanding.

Today, classical education is usually distinguished by what’s called the Trivium. The Trivium consists of three stages of teaching: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. These stages are supposed to coincide with how children’s minds develop.

In the Grammar stage, young children, who are fantastic little sponges of knowledge, are taught to memorize large quantities of facts, including grammar rules, definitions, and historical dates and names. This is the age when they easily accept everything we tell them as the truth, as easily as they believe in the Easter Bunny. They don’t question; they just absorb.

When children start approaching puberty and begin to doubt their parents’ and teachers’ infallibility, they are progressed into the Dialectic or Logic stage. At this age, kids start to question everything and desire conflict. The logic stage delivers. They use reasoning to examine the cause and effect and interconnectedness of things. They evaluate historical events and how the courses of events can be explained logically. Logic, of course, is the cornerstone of problem-solving. They start to develop more capability of abstract thought at this age. Algebra, a more abstract math, is also started.

Later on, around the teenage years, they move into the Rhetoric stage. At this point, they understand logic and possess the knowledge to back up an argument with facts. They start to apply what they’ve learned and put it in their own words to form a persuasive argument. They learn about persuasive speaking and writing, fantastic skills for real world success.

It’s the perfect trifecta for a future leader: Knowledge, Problem-Solving, and Persuasiveness.

Resources

Unfortunately for Secular Homeschoolers, almost all classical resources have a Christian slant. In fact, if you search for ”Classical Education” on the internet, based on the search results you may start to think that “Classical Education” is synonymous with “Christian Education”. Not true! Christian homeschoolers have embraced Classical methods, but classical education was around long before Christianity even existed. There is no reason you can’t give your child a classical education that is completely secular. Also, with Classical Education, you generally piece together your curriculum from many sources, so you can just choose secular books to give your child. The only source that you may have to tolerate a religious slant is a parent’s guide to classical education. The most comprehensive books for parents are all from a Christian perspective. However, this is not a source you would be giving to your kids, so you can filter through the religious content with little problem.

Two excellent books on classical education are: The Well-Trained Mind and The Core. They both provide specific instructions and schedules as well as explain the benefits and history of Classical Education. Some people prefer one to the other, but I’d recommend reading both to give you an idea on how classical education can vary. Since they both are written by Christian homeschoolers, they recommend texts for your children that are a combination of secular and religious, so view those recommendations with caution. Some quick internet research will give you a better idea. The content is so helpful in The Well-Trained Mind and The Core that I would overlook that.

Even if you decide classical education is not for you, that doesn’t mean homeschooling isn’t. There are a million different ways to go about it. If you’re still on the fence about homeschooling in general, read my post 6 Reasons Why Homeschooling is Good…Regardless of Your Religious Beliefs. It’s not for everyone, but there are some amazing up sides.

Let me know if you have any experience with classical education and if it was positive or negative. Would you recommend a classical education to other homeschoolers?

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