Here we are faced with a new ‘traditional’ school year ahead of us. I have sought out Public Schools in my neighborhood and have done some basic research on the nearby schools by talking to various parents and observing some classrooms and teachers, watching specifically for teaching styles and how the children respond (researched all last school year too). I’ve come to realize that the thing about public school is depending on the make-up of the student body and the number of active parents who are compelled and truly value what their child(ren) are learning makes all the difference, resources allocated and political tape aside. There are some basic principles I’d like to ideally see taught in the traditional public school classroom (far reaching, but ideally). That is for teachers to teach the Classical 7 Liberal Arts. Not many public schools are teaching the Classical 7 Liberal Arts in depth enough for an impact on a child’s life. I say this because by me sitting in on classrooms, I have noticed that many teachers only focus on a small general subject, the basics of math and reading, science, art, and recess time.
The 7 Classical Liberal Arts Include:
These are the Ancient Classic 7 Liberal Arts which make me old school in laying a strong foundation for my children and how they learn and what they are exposed to.
With this in place, I can trust that they will be given the time to think about the world around them and how they can relate these subjects to their world. Today, in the classrooms I visited, there aren’t any teachers teaching grammar or dialectic or rhetoric. Its JUST teachers reading stories to the children (that is good) but let me hear and see you explaining how the language works and how it us used. How can children understand the language they use in speech daily if they do not know these basic 3 components? It makes all the difference in how one communicates with another. Arithmetic & Geometry go hand-in-hand in the traditional public school classroom, thus leaving very little space for free-thought as to how geometry is used all around us and how in our modern world we are able to understand numbers and their meanings. This too is skipped over for lack of the teachers knowledge (missing in many Master of Education programs) and a very rushed curriculum (which is the norm in many public schools). Many public schools have axed their music programs due to lack of funding (this is partly due to unequally allocated resources and political tape). Luckily, the schools I sat in classrooms at were fortunate to have an outside music program in place, but there are too many public schools that lack a music program in place, especially in inner city public schools. Lastly, astronomy has been totally forgotten, left out, made to seem a mystery of superstition and mythos. In reality, astronomy is in our immediate world and is very much a necessary component for learning the world around us on a larger scale; the whole. Astronomy is definitely not taken seriously and barely brought up even in a high school chemistry or physics class.
The Classical 7 Liberal Arts have lost most of its components in the traditional public school classroom.
Studying the Classical 7 Liberal Arts is a way to really understand self, world, and others. Without these basic ancient components of study, the public school curriculum is not sufficient in application or comprehension.
So, What do I do? I want my children to grow up learning and applying the Classical 7 Liberal Arts in all that they do, for better understanding, better communication, and a more practical outlook in life. This year is different for us, because I plan to have my children in a public school setting, yet, what I am doing at home is still supplementing their public school education with the Classical 7 Liberal Arts as a foundational curriculum. All summer long we’ve been exploring nature, exploring the stars, learning about planets, learning about sacred geometry, numbers, what they mean, and how to count. My children are young, 3.5 and 5.5 years old.
A book I’ve been using with my children for the last year is
And Another Book I recommend for teaching these to your child(ren):
Needless to say, I have also looked at homeschooling as an option for the last 3 years along with my interest in the Classical 7 Liberal Arts and because my children are still young, I have been ‘homeschooling’ them for the last 3 years. This year will be different because my oldest will be in a public school for the first time. She is already reading at the 3rd grade level, already doing math at the 2nd grade level, and socially has grown by leaps and bounds; she is 5.5 and will be in Kindergarten.
The word Kindergarten is derived from the German language and the direct translation is “Children’s Garden,” primarily it is very much a pre schooling which helps to prepare the child for the upper grades through socialization and interaction, nurturing children like nurturing ones garden. Although, I have seen that in the classrooms of some of the schools I sat in, the nurturing was minimal, and the interaction between student and teacher was very controlled (not an option for me to choose when I saw/see this interaction!) I love play-based kindergarten programs rather than controlled academic learning for someone so young.
What I have found and have come to appreciate is how closely in tune the Rudolph Steiner Waldorf Education is in tune with the learning of the Classical 7 Liberal Arts. A few years ago, I researched and was pointed in the direction of the Waldorf Curriculum for homeschooling. I love the concept because it allows for young children to freely choose what they are interested in learning about amongst subjects such as Oral Language (Grammar & Rhetoric), Nature (Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy & Music), Cultural Languages (Dialectic).
There is a homeschooling training program that I adore and highly recommend for those of you who are interested in Waldorf Homeschooling. It is specifically targeted towards Grades 1-8th and is hosted by Waldorf Trainer, Barbara Dewey at the Taproot Farm. You basically invest $300 and get to spend 3 days on her farm undergoing extensive Waldorf Training which you bring back to your children and your family as it incorporates the Classical 7 Liberal Arts, which I value highly and is not often found in public schools.
Another option is to freely-school your children yourself by no one’s program or standards, other than your state requirements for homeschooling: http://www.hslda.org/laws/
As a Free-Homeschooler, you have the option to make up the curriculum as you go, day-to-day, letting your children guide you by way of their interests, using the Classical 7 Liberal Arts as a template to go by. I do think some children need closer guidance, ideas, and materials for them to explore deeper and to become creative in their own right. Plus, each child has their own interests and needs. With homeschooling period, its important to have a list of resources ready and on hand, knowing the state regulations for your state, and lastly to become part of or to create your own homeschool group whether online or in your physical community. Yahoo Groups is a good place to start searching online: http://groups.yahoo.com/search?query=homeschoolers
Speaking of New School, I was reading in the local paper here that the top 5 things for your kindergarten student is to be sure you go out to buy 1) USB flash drive, 2) make sure your 5 year old has access to the internet (I don’t like that idea) with parental controls, 3) headphones for using computer or handheld learning devices, 4) calculators that do all the work for you, and lastly 5) your child’s personal email address.#FAIL
All the items listed were a BIG FAIL in my book! You would be setting your child up for complete distraction to actually learn and exposure to be seen and contacted by pedophiles and child predators by allowing and setting up an email address with internet access for your 5 year old! Headphones are a FAIL too because I think this would allow for the child to become isolated and disconnected from what is being taught in the classroom because they can’t hear you. I just think of games and music being played and entertained instead of actual physical learning and physical social interaction. The USB Flash Drive for a 5 year old is unnecessary all together, as I don’t think most 5 year olds have the ability to write an essay or dissertation to be saved on a flash drive. SOURCE of this FAILED List: Chicago Parents Magazine, August 2012 Issue, page 20
My Personal Back to School List of Supplies #keepitsimple:
- Crayons or Color Pencils
- Glue Stick
- Child Safe Scissors
- Art Sketch Book
- Journal with lines
- Pencil, Sharpener, Eraser
- Compass & Ruler
- Prompting Flash Cards for Numbers/Math & Site Words
I guess I’m old school. I’m a 70s baby with the mind of my parents when it comes to learning the ‘original’ way so that you don’t depend on a calculator or computer device to work out the problems and issues for you. AND so that you don’t depend on todays public schools to ‘teach’ your child things that have little meaning for succeeding in the real world.