To know God and to make Him known.

The Joy of Foundations

One of the benefits of using the classical model of education is that it is the most efficient way to educate. That is because we are following the nature of a child: the model that follows God’s design. Read through Proverbs and you will see these three words over and over: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Knowledge and understanding are foundational, the Proverbs proclaim, for wisdom which is the goal of education. Modern education models often skip to the final stage and emphasize creative output at age 6, and then deal only with grammar level knowledge in many subjects at age 17. (That was my personal experience anyway.) That will lead to frustrated young children and bored teenagers because their brains are not wired to do those things at those stages. If you understand and follow the model, learning will be joyful.

It is easy for new Classical Conversations parents to over schedule and overwork themselves if they do not understand and trust the model. Keep in mind that children ages 4 through 11 need to be memorizing lots of facts and learning to read and write. (This is the knowledge, or grammar, phase.) Students ages 12 through 14 should understand those facts by engaging in asking questions and discovering answers while practicing their writing and speaking skills. (This is the understanding, or dialectic, phase.) Students ages 15 and up are finally focusing on the outpouring: an elegant essay, an inspiring speech, or a challenging debate, all of which invite the older student to express original ideas. (This is called the wisdom, or rhetoric, phase.)

In Foundations, the focus is memorizing the facts. Practice reciting the facts every day. Memory work practice time is the fun part of our school day. We chant and sing and march while we review. I use the memory techniques demonstrated by our tutor or we make up our own. Do not stress over understanding all the facts at this point. Every topic covered in Foundations will be covered in depth during the Challenge program. I promise. If you can get to the library and find books about the topics we learn in Foundations that is great. Use those books for the students to practice reading or read aloud to them so they practice listening. My children are always eager to read about something their Foundations tutor has memorized with them in seminar. Pick out lots of books and spread them on your coffee table and let them feast on the books! Let them choose which ones to read first, second, and third. Allow them to be curious and follow their curiosity. Let them discover the information! This will foster a love of learning and you will probably find that if they have this joy in discovery, they will read more and learn more than they will if you assign reading and quiz them on it. Feel like you need a quiz? Here is a good format: You say, “Tell me about that book.” You listen and smile and say, “That is very interesting. Tell me more!” You listen some more and smile some more and enjoy learning together.

Use your Foundations presentation time to the max. During the week as you are reading library books, notice what seems to delight your student the most. The topic that delights the student can be their presentation topic. Have them draw a simple picture or two based on the book and make a note card with some facts on it, then have them practice giving a little talk to mom, dad, and their siblings using these things. By the time they have given this much effort to a topic, they will have learned a lot about it. No worksheet or quiz could compare to this rich experience.

Science and art projects are for getting the students hands on things. Children learn through touching things, so let them handle the science projects and let them experiment with the art and music. After doing a science or art project in Foundations, let your child experiment with the same materials again at home. Just set the materials out for them to experiment with. Let curiosity lead the way and see what they discover. If they ask questions, look up the answers together on the Internet using a kid friendly source or find more library books and read more about it.

When you add Essentials class onto Foundations, continue to keep the model in mind. All those papers in Essentials class are practice. That is not to say that your student should not do their best. It is to say, keep it in perspective: it is practice. Lots of practice is required for the skills to become second nature. Your focus should be on getting lots of practice, not creating a masterpiece each week. (That will come in the upper Challenges, I promise.)

Keep these principles (and promises) in mind as you plan your school year and you should be able to enjoy learning together. Yes, learning can and should be joyful! If it is not, you may be focusing on the output before you have completed the input, or put into classical terms: focusing on wisdom and understanding before building a firm foundation. Keep your days as simple as possible and allow time for discovery and the joy of building a good foundation.

CATEGORIES: Classical Christian Education

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