Friday, September 30, 2011

The Core, by Leigh Bortins

I had read The Well Trained Mind a few years ago and really enjoyed it. But also knew there were a number of things that didn't sit well with me.  It wasn't too long after that, that I found TJE and knew it was more what I was looking for in overall educational goals. 

But, after implementing a lot of the classics/mentor approach, I guess I was ready for more.  I read about The Core, Teaching your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins. She is also the founder of Classical Conversations, which has a newsletter I've been receiving for a few years.



And it got me really excited about implementing some of the classical/grammer stage tools to our learning tool belt.

I read The Core and was a bit confused as to whether TJE and classical education were compatable or not.  I wanted to be sure I wasn't being lazy or stubborn.  So as soon as I finished The Core, I picked up TJE, for the 4th time.  Great book! :)

And after reading both, I do think that they are mostly compatible, although some of the details are different.  Both aim to teach the student through classics in all subjects, and both aim to help the student use their natural  curiosity to learn, while also encouraging a true joy and independence in education.  So, I look forward to re-reading Well-Trained Mind and other classical education books, to learn more tools to educate myself and my children.

Bortins broke the book down into two parts.  The first is 'The Classical Model' and is the why behind the concept.  The second is 'The Core of a Classical Education' and is the how of classical education.   In it, she breaks down the various subjects into more details.  She had a separate chapter for: reading, writing, math, geography, history, science and fine arts.  Each chapter gives personal stories from her life and other classically trained people (past and present), appropriate books and resources, as well as ideas for implementing them.  The last chapter and epilogue give more tools and ideas as well.

It's not a long or complicated read.  It is definitely encouraging and exciting and very informative.  She stresses the need for more information to be gained at each point, and gives ideas as to where to look.  She is a Christian and writes from that perspective, but tries to show the bigger picture, so a person from any 'religion' would enjoy it if they are interested in the classical model of education. 

A few of the tools that I am especially excited to use from The Core this year are:

1.  Geography/map drawing.  I am super excited about this.  They have it broken down into weekly lessons of sorts.  I love how it's broken down and am excited to be learning/teaching geography.  She says, if you do it regularly until they are out of the house (and review it regularly the rest of your life),  that they can/will have the entire world map memorized.  Depending on the person, they may have a lot of details memorized, or just general outlines.  While this may change over time, my plan for this school year is to take one day a week, probably Thursday, during our table time in the morning, and do our geography lesson.  It will only take about 10 minutes and will be mostly repetition.  Starting with the great circles (continents), learning how to label them.  And adding details slowly after that.  Starting with continental blobs, and then oceans and then working on the details of the 'blobs'.  I'm so excited!  My plan, until now, has been to just have a map on the wall and refer back to it whenever we read about a place.  We'll still do that of course, but I think we'll really enjoy drawing the map also.  I don't think it's 'necessary' for learning and proper education, but I do think it can strengthen skills and be fun and useful. Plus the kids love to draw, so it will utilize their natural curiosity.  The other day I came into the living room and Samuel had the globe and was drawing his own map from it.  I was shocked as we hadn't really discussed the geography much.  He was making a treasure map and he naturally used what he had at hand to draw it.  Sweet!!!

2.  Math Facts.  I confess, I've never seen much of a need for memorizing them.  But after reading her book, and seeing how it works in day to day life, I came to appreciate how much of a boost that would give the kids (and myself) in learning and implementing math in the future.  So this year, I am looking forward to learning our math facts.  Mostly multiplication and division tables, as we learn them, in Myia's 3rd grade Saxon math book.  I hope to make it fun for us.  My plan is to use visuals to learn it, and to do things like throwing balls to one another and saying them out loud together.  I figure Samuel can learn them with us, even though he won't have a clue what they mean yet.   I'm a little concerned about teaching Samuel 'facts' before he understands the need for it.  But, I think I am going to try it this year and see how it goes.  And pray it doesn't mess him up for life. :)

3.  Reading.  I am reading 'The Writing Road to Reading' by Romalda Bishop Spalding
And hope to find a few other books she mentions on english grammar.  Once again, my inclinations leaned more towards just learning english grammar by reading.  Which I still think is an acceptable way to learn.  But, one thing she mentioned that caught my attention, is that if you really learn your own language well, it will make learning other languages considerably easier.  Enough said!  I was talking to my FIL and he said that he learned a lot more about his own language while learning Spanish.  If I can give my kids this tool to make learning foreign languages easier, I'm on it!  As usual, it's a lot more work for me, but I'm willing and ready.  I too want to learn other languages, and currently feel like it's an impossibility for me.  I am planning on learning the rules for English language really well, and teaching them to my children as we read and write together.  I do not currently intend to use the Spalding Method for teaching reading.  But that could change, esp with Samuel.  She bases her method on phonograms, instead of letter sounds.  It's interesting and I'll hopefully think through it all and post on here soon.  I really did enjoy the book and actually bought my own, updated copy.  And even found out they teach it in some of the NYC schools and offer training classes to parents on how to use it properly.  I'm on the mailing list!

4.  Writing.  I am taking Tuesdays and Thursdays to copy a verse from the ESV Bible of my choosing.  We discuss what it means, the context if relevant, and then the kids copy it.  So rather then doing Eggermiers (have I mentioned how much I like Eggermiers?  I LOVE that book!) those days, we copy the text.  I look forward to learning more from the Spalding reading book I mentioned above, so I can use that time to teach the kids proper grammer, hand/paper position and letter formation.  I figure, we can learn it together, since I don't know much of it either. 

5.  History, science and arts I feel I need to wait on until I get the others figured out.  We'll continue to learn about them through books, videos and daily life.  But she had some good ideas that I'll look over again and consider.

If you are looking into the possibility of using the classical method of education for yourself and/or your kids, I would highly recommend you start here.  Well-Trained Mind is more thorough, but much more overwhelming also.

I look forward to seeing how God will use it to change the outlook of our education. 

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