Regardless of what kind of schooling your family does, COVID-19 has put a serious wrench in all our routines and educational plans.
Public school and full-time private school mamas and dads, I want you to know that what you are embarking on over the next month is WAY HARDER than homeschooling. For one, it was sudden and a complete surprise, and therefore way outside of your norm and routine. Two, you're having to implement a curriculum you didn't choose and aren't familiar with. You've had little to no prep time (mentally and emotionally, nevermind academically) to figure out completing education and having your kiddos home 24/7. Three, the schoolwork you are doing is having to be majorly overhauled in many situations in order to work it into an e-learning format. THIS IS SO HARD.
So while we are all adjusting to new normals here are our best tips and advice from a full-time teacher, to homeschooling Mama, to Head of School, and to university-schedule school.
2. 1. Do your best to avoid iPads, phones, and TV during home learning days (or AT THE VERY LEAST until schoolwork is completed). Obviously, this doesn't pertain to your child's electronic device used for e-learning. Based on many years of experience, you will have a MUCH harder time with attitudes, motivation, and work completion if technology is allowed to be used intermittently between schoolwork assignments for fun or babysitting. Just a show here and there, just a quick game here and there. It will ruin things! Trust me on this one!
2. Establish a routine! This is of UTMOST importance. The biggest mistake families make who come from full-time school to the university-schedule school (or even who move to full-time homeschooling) is treating "home learning days" as Saturdays or no school days. This is when your entire day goes out the window. Before you begin e-learning on Monday, have a chat with your kids. "This is not 'no school for a month.' Here's the school calendar showing us what days we are required to do our schoolwork via e-learning. On these days, we will get up and routinely run our school day until it is completed (see tips to follow). These days are treated just like the days you wake up to go to your school building down the road."
3. Be consistent! Force yourselves to be up and and ready to learn earlier rather than later. If it's past 9am and your people are still lounging around, you're going to struggle! Keep bedtimes normal. We HIGHLY suggest that all mandatory school work is done in the morning, sometimes extending into early afternoon, and then allow your kiddos to spend their free time however they want. Can this include technology? Sure. But, we can’t emphasize how much better our days home are when we don’t use electronics. (Myself included)! If you are new to this whole schooling at home thing, a great "ease your way into no-tech home education days" would be to restrict all TV and technology until all schoolwork is completed and they've done something non-screen for the afternoon. Save the show and iPad play until the witching hours when you're preparing dinner and winding down the day.
So, if my kids finish schoolwork by early afternoon and I'm trying to avoid technology overtaking the remaining hours until dinner and bed, what can we do?
1. Get outside. As I type this, it's snowing in Indiana, on March 14th. Classic. However, hopefully it won't last long and we'll have some better weather. At least the plus of coronavirus hitting when it did is that we are slowly moving into spring weather at the same time. What about your big kids? Yep, kick them outside too. Moving their bodies FOR AT LEAST 30 minutes a day is PARAMOUNT. If your big kid is too old for your fenced in backyard and swingset, have them go for a walk around the neighborhood, ride their bike, or even run on your treadmill. Get their bodies to move and everyone will feel better mentally and emotionally.
Ideas: Ride bikes. Build fairy/troll houses with rocks and sticks. Make an obstacle course. Take a walk. Put them outside and tell them, "Don’t come back in until I come get you." Don't take on the Mama guilt that YOU have to be outside playing with them and curating their fun. They are KIDS. Kids are supposed to play outside, be creative, and make their own fun. Use their time outside to take a breather for yourself.
2. Audiobooks. Instead of turning on the TV or handing your child their iPad after schoolwork is completed, hook up your blue tooth speaker and tell everyone to get a craft or project, find a spot to sit, and hit play. Yes, this works with big kids and teenagers too! Even if they think you're weird at first for making them "listen to a story." Access to audiobooks is free using Hoopla and Libby. There are also a lot of fun educational podcasts.
Ideas: Coloring, Legos, loom bands, play-doh, Pearler beads, drawing/painting, putting together puzzles.
3. Read Alouds. Pick a good book and make it a point to sit down and read aloud at least 10 minutes every other day. Don't feel pressured to do it every single day, because you won't. Instead, make it a goal to finish a certain number of read alouds before school resumes mid-April. It might be one chapter book, or maybe two. Your kids are NEVER too old to listen to you read.
Ideas: Your kids can do any of the audiobook ideas above while they listen to you read. What books? Where do I start? Check out The Read Aloud Revival website, Facebook page, and podcast. You'll find yourself incredibly inspired to bring back this lost art.
4. Art on KidsHub via YouTube. Yes, you need a screen but your kids are engaging with paper and pencil/marker. You can get creative and read a book and then lookup a subject from the book and learn to draw it!
5. Cook together, write friends, family members, and grandparents a real snail mail letter.
6. Stay positive. This could be the best opportunity to slow life down and connect with your kids without the hustle of activities taking your time away from one another.
The last word of advice- don't set yourself up for Mama guilt! Go into the next month with WAY, WAY less on your list of "all the amazing things we are going to do with our kids this month at home." It's so easy to see all the Pinterest and Facebook posts about fun, educational, and connected things to do with our kids, and feel an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt that we can't or don't want to do all those things. Those things do not make you a good or better Mom than the next.
When you resist the urge to curate a plan to do ALL.THE.BUCKET LIST.THINGS. you actually free yourself up to have the mental and emotional bandwidth to do SOME of ALL.THE.THINGS and not feel guilt about it.
So, outside of finishing required schoolwork, I suggest picking two things to focus in on.
Mine are simple: Be calm and read aloud. That's it! No crazy lists of ALL.THE.THINGS. we should do with our kids. Outside of getting the required schoolwork done, those are the only things at the must-do top of my list.
Goal #1- Be Calm. Be calm and control MY reactions towards my kids. Yes, they are going to complain more about school than usual because they are now full-time homeschooling and were not before. Yes, they are going to complain about being cooped up, and not being able to watch TV ALL DAY LONG, and yes, they are going to fight with their siblings more because everyone is out of their normal routine. But if I stop and control MY response and remain calm, I can handle all their crazy much better. (And check out the resources and podcast of Celebrate Calm. These will be a HUGE encouragement).
Goal #2- Read Aloud. In this day and age of Pinterest and social media posts about ALL.THE.THINGS. everyone is supposedly doing with their kids that is perfect and struggle free, it's easy to feel guilt that you aren't measuring up and that your kids are a literal hot mess. They aren't. They're humans, just like everybody else's kids. Don't underestimate the INCREDIBLE act of connection, relationship, and memories that surround reading aloud. Keep a running list pinned up somewhere of all the books you read, or color in a printable calendar for every day you read to your kids. It'll help you see that you really ARE doing much better than you think!
And more than anything- do not base your ability to home educate on e-learning!! E-Learning is the WORST indicator of anyone's ability to do anything with their kids. The worst. Just, keep that in mind. :)
Phonics & Learning to Read Q&A
The learning to read process follows 6 steps.
Common Concerns/Questions When Teaching Your Child to Read
My child can blend a consonant and a vowel together (ex: ha, he, hi, ho hu), but when they go to read a word, they revert to sounding out each individual sound, h-a-t, instead of ha-t. Why are they doing this?
When sounding out a sentence, my child just read the word "bike" in the last sentence but when they get to it again, just a few words later, they don't remember it as "bike" and have to re-sound it out. They even do this with sight words they know! I think there's something wrong with them and maybe it's a learning disability or processing issue.
Why can my child sound out/read single words on a flashcard or written on paper, but when they are put into a sentence, they either cannot read it, or they meltdown?
My child cannot answer one question about something they JUST read.
This will be the case until your child is a fluent reader who no longer decodes words. Do not test your child's comprehension on words, sentences, and stories they are working hard to decode. Test comprehension on things that YOU read ALOUD. Read your child lots of good literature. Don't ask them questions, instead say, "Tell me about the story I just read." Or, "What's something you can remember about this story." You will be SHOCKED at the detail they can remember.
My child still cannot determine if a letter is b or d. I think they are dyslexic.
This is a common assumption about letter reversals in reading and writing, but it's the wrong conclusion to instantly jump to. There are many students with dyslexia who have never once struggled with b and d reversals. Letter reversals in reading and writing are not even considered a concern until after 3rd grade. Gently and calmly correct or guide.
All the other kids seem to be catching on to reading, but my child is not. What is wrong?
Chances are nothing is wrong! Reading is almost entirely developmental. You cannot speed it up any faster than your child's brain is ready to go. The more you force them, the more you grow a distaste in learning and a distaste for doing hard things. This does not mean you don't work through their lessons and require them to finish their work. It just means to do not add undo stress and anxiety if it is not clicking as fast as you want it to click.
Is reading hard? Yes. Absolutely. Affirm that for your child when they say things like that.
"You are right! This is a really hard thing, but you CAN do hard things." And it might just be the hardest thing on the planet, but keep a soft tone and a smile, especially when they are angry, melting down, or giving up. When you match his/her frustration with yours, or his/her anger with yours, you fuel the fire instead of putting it out.
If your child is still working really hard to decode and a lesson seems long, split it up! Do half of the reading, or half of the phonics lesson. Then move onto another subject and come back to it. Or, wait several hours and come back to finish the rest.
And remember, this too shall pass, and your child will be reading in no time!
The Weird Words We Use- Part 1
If you hang around a classical school long enough, you will quickly hear what most perceive as odd, or even old and outdated words. It's also easy to assume that classical schools are just playing word games and dictionary games. But the words we use, why we use them, and what they mean matter greatly.
School Speak, Part 1: Virtue
This week, we are tackling Virtue. In classical schools, our students often hear the word "virtue." But what does it really mean and how should it practically display itself in the lives of our school community, our students, and our families? And how does it differ from value words?
People often assume that the words value and virtue are the same. Most words that you hear around typical schools are value words (commitment, honesty, kindness, loyalty, etc). Today, most students see these value words as subjective and ever-changing depending on the person or situation. In our current culture, value words are morally subjective. Even the word "value" sounds flimsy, as if it can't bear any weight. For example, you might hear the phrase "family values," which, in our culture, is extremely subjective.
Value words are largely behaviorally driven. They aren't a part of who a person is, but rather, something they do, that they can switch in and out of.
Virtue is a broader concept than we try to nail down with values. Virtue is not moral behavior. Virtue is one's disposition, one's typical reaction. It is the excellence of human nature, a joyous person! When someone is virtuous they are mature. They display the excellence of human nature.
Virtue= the good life; a full, flourishing, joyous life. The excellence of human nature.
So what does this practically look like?
There are four historic virtues
Temperance- often times, people naturally attribute temperance to the areas of food and alcohol. But it's not simply a matter of balance vs. moderation. Balance suggests neutrality- this is just as heavy as this, and therefore it's balanced, and therefore good. But, this is a weak measure. Temperance (or stated as moderation) is everything in its correct proportion. A modern day example of temperance might be getting a handle on your iphone or social media habits. Moderation- smartphones and social media in its correct proportion. Correct proportion does not automatically mean balanced. It would be unwise to assume that one's social media habits should always balance equally with their work habits. 8 hours in the work day, 8 hours of social media usage? That's balance. That is not everything in its correct proportion.
Justice- giving to each person their due, not just fairness. Sometimes that means giving an A to someone who does better work and a C to someone who does less quality work. We give each other what we are due, for example, respect and love. Paying taxes is a form of justice. Moderating punishment to crime and moderating rewards to the performance. That is justice. Justice is a reflection of reality.
Courage-there are two types of courage: active courage and passive courage. Active courage is rushing into battle. Running into the chaos. It's saying, "I may be scared, but I'm going to do it anyway." Passive courage is standing your ground. Passive courage says, "I'm not leaving my post. I'm going to stand guard and do the good. I am going to stay where I am and say no. I am not going to run." In a nutshell, C.S. Lewis says courage is every virtue at its pressing point. It takes courage to be temperant when you don't want to be.
Prudence (Practical Wisdom)- Prudence is the virtue needed to balance all of the other virtues. It is misunderstood as not being a prude or not being easily deceived. But that is not prudence. Prudence is practical wisdom, and it is the master virtue. It distinguishes humans from animals. We don't just act. We reflect on our actions. Like courage, there are two forms of prudence: passive prudence and active prudence. Passive prudence is the practical wisdom needed to know what to do with the stimuli that come one's way. A job opportunity presents itself, what should one do? Work life, family life, church life is pressing in on every side, asking for your commitments and your time. What should one do? How does one decide what to say no to and what to say yes to? Active prudence is proactively making plans, planning your life. It's planning and goal setting, and charting a course, with wisdom. It's knowing what to do and making a plan to do it, rather than just sitting by and letting life happen to you.
So when we talk about virtues at school and in the home, what are aiming for? Virtue is about ourselves, others, and our orientation towards Gods and the universe. It's comprehensive. We are aiming for a deep, long-term disposition, a typical reaction of a person's heart and mind. It starts with small actions, that build to a habit, and then a character trait.
We are aiming to model and pursue virtue so that our students and children do so as well. We are forming into them habits, loves, affections, and orientations that simply just become a part of who they are. These things don't shift and change like value behaviors, they simply become a part of who our students are.
What does this practically look like in the school and the family?
School: The worst questions you can ask your students after they jump in the car after a school day is, "Did you have a fun? Did you have a good time? What grade did you get on your math test?" These kinds of questions subconsciously tell our students that in order for school to be good, right, and beautiful, it must be "fun." That if something isn't fun, or over the top exciting that it must not be worthwhile. It also tells our students that learning is about grades and outward measures, rather than cultivating a love of learning and a growing ability to process how to learn things. What we value, we celebrate. Ask questions that show what you celebrate.
Instead, ask your child virtue questions: How were you courageous today? Maybe they were nervous about sharing their writing paper with the class, but they did it anyway. Maybe they saw another student being unkind to someone, and they displayed active courage. They ran INTO the chaos, defending the weak, and stood up for what was right. How were you temperant today? How did you show everything in its proper proportion? Maybe your student took the teacher's 10 minutes of free time and spent some of it hanging out and chatting with friends, but then took the last few minutes to get started on their math homework.
Family: As a family, at dinner, driving in the car, etc., make virtue dialogue a normal part of your family life. Maybe you see that your family has some big issues with moderation- everything in its correct proportion. Maybe you start conversations about where a lack of moderation might be seen in your family. Give them easy examples to understand the virtue. Balance means an equal amount. Do you think it would be wise or healthy to eat as much candy as you do vegetables and protein? Do you think it's wise or healthy to watch as much television as you do reading or completing schoolwork? Of course not. But is it bad to eat candy, or completely terrible to watch television? No. Everything in its correct proportion. Many adults have never been directly taught these things as children and were left trying to navigate the virtue of temperance as young adults and failed miserably.
What about prudence? Practical wisdom. Do you and your spouse sit down and plan out your week, or your next few months? Do your children see you practicing this? Do you make it a priority to plan a date night every week? Do you talk to your kids about why you chose the educational path you did? That in all these things you are planning your life. You are injecting practical wisdom into life. You are planning for life, instead of just simply letting it happen to you.
When a person develops into a person of virtue, it goes much deeper than value words- than behavior driven actions of "sharing toys," and "being obedient." It becomes a deep part of their character, of their disposition, of who they are, and how they typically react and respond to life.
What we shine a light on will grow. When we keep putting virtue in front our students and children, we begin to see more of it. They become actions, then habits, and then a character trait.
Misconceptions About STEM Programs
One of the first assumptions I hear from parents who are just beginning the discovery of classical education is, "Well, what about STEM programs? Isn't classical education weak in math and science?" In a digital age, where less and less emphasis is placed on reading, books, beautiful artwork, and the eloquent and persuasive nature of the written and spoken word, it's natural that the thing that appears to stick out about classical education most is its emphasis on language arts and history. While it is true that classical education has deep roots in history, literature, languages, and the arts, it absolutely has competitive math and science programs.
Our assumptions about what compartmentalized programs (such as STEM) really mean or accomplish is actually the issue, not the false assumption that classical education is weak in math and science.
The world is full of complex problems- cures for cancer, disease research, solar inventions, and the endless complex problems in software and technological advancements. The answer to solving these problems is not emphasizing math and science. Yes, math and science are important, but compartmentalized math and science programs will not lead the way for innovation and advancement.
Innovation experts and consultants stress repeatedly that innovation isn't a matter of subject knowledge. It's about thinking in flexible, integrative, and multidisciplinary ways, across many fields and types of knowledge. It's about being able to synthesize and integrate different perspectives and models; of understanding and taking into account different human, cultural and economic needs, desires, values, and factors and, from all that, glimpsing a new way forward that nobody else managed to see.
And that, leads us to why classical education is the best way to educate students in the fields of math and science, ultimately leading to math/science innovation and advancement.
Classical education teaches students how to learn. Traditional education teaches students what to learn. Traditional schooling stresses passing tests, retaining compartmentalized information in the form of disjointed classes, and simply putting the information back out in testing formats.
Classical education teaches students to integrate fields of knowledge, to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, within all subject matters. Therefore, what is being taught in one subject area absolutely matters to what is being taught in another, and students must learn to see those connections. Classical education purposefully and consistently connects academic disciplines and forces students to make bridges in their knowledge. This is the greatest difference between classical education and traditional education.
Producing students who are innovators is not simply about providing "better" quality and quantity in our math and science programs. Instead, it's about re-thinking how we educate students overall.
It's a matter of restructuring how we approach and teach all our subjects, from the liberal arts to math, science and engineering. It means focusing as much on teaching how to combine those fields of knowledge and how to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, as we do on the subject matter itself.
STEM is a marketing tool more than anything. Jobs in the "STEM" field actually require resilient, problem solving thinkers, which is what classical education seeks to produce. STEM programs are simply compartmentalizing math and science. True entrepreneurs and science/math advancement happens when connections are made. Traditional, disjointed approaches to math and science don’t make connections. If you can’t make connections, think, and apply, you can't make math and science advancements.
Out of all the job fields, the science and math fields are quickly changing with every single year. Attempting to teach to this in compartmentalized programs like STEM is counterproductive, just like teaching to a test is counterproductive. If we are seeking to produce students who are learning and memorizing math and science in STEM programs that will become quickly obsolete by the time they are going to get a job or attend college, it is useless. Students need the flexibility to think differently, to make connections across all academic disciplines, and they need the resiliency to know they can tackle any tough thing that comes their way. This is how true advancement in the math and science fields happen, and this is the backbone of classical education.
How do you know your child is getting the best education for math and science advancement? Give them a classical education that teaches them to think, and to deeply and effectively collaborate and make connections. So while we absolutely believe our math and science courses are important, we believe our ability to produce thinkers who can apply, make multi-disciplinary connections, and therefore become innovators, is the most important type of education we can give students.
Here at the Academy, our school uses one of the top gifted math programs in preparations for our higher-level high school mathematics courses. Our teachers go through extensive math training and are committed to fostering math language and math thinkers in our students. Our math curriculum doesn't let students get away with memorizing algorithms and using tips and tricks to solve problems. Students have to think the problems through, use multi-disciplinary knowledge, and think through what is really going on in order to solve problems. This is mathematical thinking and this provides a solid foundation on which to grow and prepare the way for math and science advancement.
Are you interested in learning about how classical, Christian education prepares your student for jobs and advancements that aren't even discovered yet? Come to an info night or contact us to learn more!
Is It Worth It?
It's hard to believe we are almost through week 5 of the school year. Maybe you are a returning family, maybe you're new to the school and to the idea of being such a big part of your child's education. But either way, if you are like most of us, you've found yourself asking more than once in the last 5 weeks, "Is this really worth it?"
All of our parents have big lives going on, personally, professionally, and within their families. It begs the question, not just from outsiders, but sometimes within ourselves, "Is this really worth it?" We have beautiful days where everything goes as planned and we can't think of a better way to order these family years and educate our children. But then we have those hard days, where nothing goes as planned, schoolwork is taking entirely too long, and you and your child keep going head to head about that one subject they just can't stand. Maybe you're thinking, "I'm totally screwing this up. They are seeing a frustrated, overwhelmed side of me that I don't like. We were supposed to be doing this for the BENEFIT of more time together. For these supposedly picture perfect scenes of schoolwork around the table, lots of beautiful, rich books, and more time to play. But instead, it's chaos and it's stressful. And, are they really learning? Surely they will do better under the direction of someone else ALL five days of the week, not just 2 or 3."
But that, dear one, is where you are wrong. YOU, in all your imperfect mess, are the absolute best place for your child to land, no matter what society, the "church," and the school system has to say. We've crippled parents to think they are incapable. But, God chose YOU and created each one of your kids to uniquely fit with YOU. You were perfectly crafted to parent your child, mistakes and all.
I think sometimes we believe that we are best for our child only when WE are at our best. But, this is a lie. The Adversary did well with this one because it gets us thinking that the daily grind isn't worth it if you fail. That you might as well give up because there's too many chaotic days, not enough of those Pinterest home education days, and certainly not enough "I love math" sessions happening around the dining room table. But, these are lies.
"The most powerful, meaning making moments in our relationships with our children happen in these incredibly imperfect moments." (Brene Brown), and what better way to create an incredibly imperfect moment than to oversee your child's schoolwork at home! Kidding. But not really.
Maybe this new style is exposing your weaknesses more, maybe it's forcing your family to be the messy, imperfect people that you actually are, instead of stuffing it away or pretending it doesn't exist. Maybe it's forcing you to build the sacred, to have the hard, but meaningful conversations, the ones that really matter. Maybe it's linking arms with your child and sympathizing with their struggle, giving an example from your own life. Maybe it's learning to say the words, "I'm sorry. Mommy was being really impatient. Will you forgive me?" Maybe it's learning to slow life down, to say no to crazy extracurriculars so you have time to read to your kids or take a walk.
Maybe it's all those things and then some. But what it surely is, without a doubt, is saying yes to the imperfect. And when your kids grow up and look back, the gift of your imperfect parenting is worth every single moment.
When we live WITH our kids, not simply among them for a few hours after every day of a 40-hour full-time school week, we are giving the incredible opportunity to say yes to the glorious mess. Why do you want the glorious mess? Because at the end of the day you AND your children can say, "Yes, I was imperfect. Yes, I was vulnerable, and I was even afraid. But, I'm also brave and worthy of love and belonging, simply because Jesus made me." And let me tell you dear ones, that is NOT the message the world gives our children.
So could you be getting "free hours" away from your kids for 30 hours a week instead? Yes. Could you be choosing to not be in the trenches of their education? Yes. Could you be doing something else entirely with your time instead of learning how to be a better more calming parent, a better teacher of your child, and a Singapore math expert (haha)? Yes.
But dear ones, these years are short. Soon, your home will be quiet again and these mini humans will be adults. Yes, one day you WILL be able to order your weekly "free time" however you want. You WILL have more lunches out with friends, and more early morning quiet than chaos. But right now, you've chosen the unique path of creating the sacred, in all its mess, WITH your children, not just among them. You've chosen the gift of time to not just educate well, but to be there to give the important messages of Jesus, of the cost and value of showing up, of being brave, and the insurmountable message that love and belonging are your birthright no matter what the world tells you.
It's okay to say it's hard. It's okay to say it's not always fun, and it's okay to look forward to the day you are at the top of the summit of Mt. Everest and these years are "complete." So even when it feels like you are drowning in papers, schoolwork, and chaos, know that this time you've chosen to engage, to pay attention, and to do the hard life in front of your children is a relatively short season.
Is it worth it?
It absolutely is. The summit of any mountain is not easy. Most of the time, we don't even recognize its beauty, or its affect until we have reached the top.
So until then, keep climbing. Keep showing up...
For more encouragement, check out Brene Brown's book (print or audio) The Gift of Imperfect Parenting.
When I look ahead and think to myself, what specifically about the Christian faith do I want my children to leave home with? The obvious answer is their salvation. But beyond that, what do I hope they carry with them?
The answer is simple...I want them to leave home with an understanding of how the Gospel is part of their daily life as a Christian, not just for their moment of salvation, but for their everyday walk. How does it change how they view themselves, how they view the world, how they view joy, victory, pain, and sorrow?
This God we serve, this Jesus, is meant to completely permeate every inch of our lives. Easter is not just about the facts that Jesus died and rose again. If the facts stay facts, and have no bearing on our every day life, we are missing the abundant life that Jesus offers.
This week, this Easter, my heart has been heavy with those in my path who have experienced loss and experienced the deep pains of this world. I found myself asking God to show me what Good Friday and what Easter Sunday means when people are walking through intense suffering. How does this Gospel impact even suffering?
Often, we speak Christian cliché’s when someone experiences tragedy or suffering in their life. "Trust the Lord." "God is in control." "They are in heaven with Jesus." "God is still good."
Are these things true? Absolutely, yes, But from experience, when you are walking through a season of difficulty or you have experienced incredible loss, those statements are often more painful than helpful, at least at the time. Instead, people need to know what the power of the resurrection means for their pain, what it means when they wake up again tomorrow and realize the suffering wasn't a dream.
If you are walking through the pain of this broken world, I pray that you know deep in your soul, deep in your heart, that this is not how God created life to be. I’ve sat with friends, experiencing incredible loss, and comfort is found in that truth. I myself have walked through darkness and found that this comfort was the only thing at times that kept me moving along... that this is NOT how God created this world to be. Sometimes in the sleepless, dark filled night, that truth is the only thing that calms the anxiety.
If you are walking through suffering, remember, you were never created to experience pain like this. You were never created to experience death, loss, pain, and tragedy. You were not created to experience the life-altering devastation of losing a loved one, of experiencing illness, of feeling the weight of broken relationships. This is not what you were made for. There is comfort in that because if we know life was not supposed to be this way, we know from God’s Word, that it won’t remain this way… and that’s where that small beacon of hope still remains lit in our hearts, even on the darkest of days.
It reminds me of Good Friday…that space between the cross and the empty tomb… that dark, empty space- after hope left, but before grace came, before Jesus' resurrection took place. I imagine Jesus’ friends- confused, dark, lonely, afraid, shaken to the core… “Is Jesus who He says He is? But He said he would be King and now He’s dead?” The confusion. The despair. The questions. The fears. The loss of hope. That space between the cross and the empty tomb is where I imagine it feels like you still are.
But I want to tell you dear one…that the dark, empty, hopeless space between the cross and the empty tomb is no longer there! That’s the significance of Easter. That’s what Easter has to do with the tragedies we experience today. That’s what Easter has to do with the loss of loved ones, with terrible illness, with broken relationships. That’s what Easter has to do with our life when the brokenness of this world crashes down our front door and changes everything we ever knew.
You see, without Easter Sunday, we are stuck in the despairing pit between the cross and the empty tomb…that dark space where our tragedy and pain causes us to be uncertain, the pain that makes us question if God is who He says He is, that space where we question everything we ever learned about Jesus. That’s the dark empty space of Good Friday.
But friends, Sunday is coming! It’s because of this Sunday, that your pain right now, has hope of relief, has hope of redemption. You see, because You are dearly loved by Jesus, because you are His own, you have the joy of what comes on Sunday. Without this Easter Sunday you would remain camped in that hopeless space, just trying to find a way to make it through the rest of your life. But that’s not you, that’s not us, because we have a RISEN Savior. Easter is not just about Jesus dying on the cross, because if He just died on the cross, we would still be stuck in that dark, hopeless pit, with fear and uncertainty. Jesus’ death is only significant if He rose again, which He did!!
If Friday happened, but Sunday never came, there would be no hope. No immediate relief. No future full relief. But Sunday DID happen, and that’s where everything changes. Sunday, is where everything changes.
I am reminded of a hymn from childhood...
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is with me, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He’s always near. He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives. He lives, within my heart.
And that, dear ones, is why there is hope…
But...no, it does not mean there won’t be pain.
In my experiences with some groups of Christianity, it has angered me to hear the ways some speak of pain. People falsely claim that because they believe in God, because they have hope, that they will be shielded from harm, and if it finds them it will not hurt too badly. Equally insidious is the false claim that if pain finds you it is evidence of a failure in your beliefs. That is a lie that I think we may sometimes tell ourselves so that we can feel like we are in control, that an unexpected tragedy could be avoided with effort. But I do not believe at all, that this is the message we were intended to hear. It is NOT the message of Jesus, and it is NOT the message of Easter Sunday- the pinnacle of our Christian faith.
Life is full of beautiful people, believing in God, yet experiencing dire pain. No, our lives will not be absent of pain, but the way we process that pain is what will be different, because we know there is an Easter Sunday. Friends, we don’t remain in the hopeless pit of that empty space between the cross and the tomb. We process pain differently because grace came… because Sunday came. Jesus came! He rose! He conquered!
No, no, no- your faith and beliefs cannot change your odds. It doesn’t hedge your bets, and it doesn’t build up a buffer zone that will keep life’s brokenness from finding you. BUT, it can shape your perspective on the narrative of your life. In I Thessalonians 4:13, we are told, “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.”
Maybe this Easter you are experiencing the full weight of a very broken world, but be encouraged that Easter Sunday is coming, and because of Easter we have some present day relief, with the hope of complete and full future relief when God restores everything back to the way it was supposed to be! That’s what Jesus’ resurrection means! His resurrection is guarantee that one day we will experience FULL relief from the pain of this world. That it will all be restored and made right again.
So in the deepest parts of your hearts, where it hurts the most, continue to remind yourself that life is not supposed to be this way. We were not created to experience pain like this. We were not created to experience death. You were never meant to carry the weight of the tragedies in this world. God did not create the world and life to be this way. And, one day, He is returning, but not as a humble, gentle baby this time, like we celebrate on Christmas day. This time, he is coming as a Warrior, coming to complete His rescue mission, coming to make everything right again. One day, the pain of losing loved ones, the pain of illness, the pain of broken relationships, and the all the pains of this world, will be made right. And so.... we have HOPE.
I pray dear friends, that you see a new sweetness to the significance of Easter Sunday. That God comforts you in a way you have never dreamed possible. That He not only comforts you here and now, but that He reminds you of the FULL restorative comfort that IS to come, that WILL come, that you are GUARANTEED, all because He rose again. His resurrection is your assurance that ALL of life will one day be restored, including every ounce of the suffering you experience today.
What is Easter Advent?
Spring weather is finally peaking its head out and with that, comes preparing for the celebration of Easter. Christmas is the birth of Jesus, when God sent the Redeemer to mankind. But, Easter is the pinnacle of the Christian faith when Jesus died and rose again! Why then does it seem like we do so much at Christmas, but seem to drop the ball at Easter? After all, if the baby King born in a manger didn't die, and rise again, what kind of god are we following?
Easter should be the highlight, the pinnacle of the Christian church, and sadly often times, it is not. In theory and in discussion, yes. But in practice? Usually not. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, outshines Easter by far, but, what is Christmas without Easter? Many times Christians associate Easter with dressy, uncomfortable outfits, an array of the pastel colors purple, pink, yellow, blue, and green, the "secular" celebrations of baskets and easter bunnies, all culminating with an extra special visit to church on Easter Sunday where the pastor tries to make the "same old story" about Jesus' death and resurrection somehow new and exciting. That is what used to come to mind when I thought of the Christian church and Easter. But, over the last many years, we've watched our family celebrations change and watched many Christians and churches begin to celebrate, to really celebrate, and it has been fantastic to see. Jesus is nothing close to being a "same old story."
I heard a writer say it like this, "It seems like Easter should be a military celebration, a Roman Triumph, a victory parade. Torches burning, bands blaring, pigs roasting on a spit. The God-Man has destroyed our last enemy, death, and has utterly triumphed over every foe. I don’t know quite what this should look like, but I do like what Robert Louis Wilken wrote in First Things:
If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the face of angels, turned toward the face of God.
If we want our children to see, know, and understand Easter for what it is... a glorious, triumphant celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, then we must change how we approach it. It's not just a fancy Sunday that happens once a year, with an after church Easter egg hunt with the grandparents. If we want to present our children with a God they long to follow, a God that captivates their hearts and minds, a God that they see and know as being as awe-inspiring as He truly is, then we can't just give them culture's idea of Easter.
So what does this mean? What does this even look like? Well, that's up to you! It doesn't mean you have to go all out, create all kinds of crafts, and activities. The way you cultivate an Easter celebration in your family will not look exactly like someone else's. Maybe it's intentionally reading through the events of Easter with your kids during Holy Week, while another family sets up an Easter tree, does resurrection eggs, and crafts. Maybe you spend Maundy Thursday doing a family service project in your community while sharing the good news that Jesus is alive and active! Maybe it's taking a quiet, reflective hike with your family on Good Friday, talking and discussing with your kids what it would be like if Jesus never came and rose again?
Here's an Easter Advent that our family works through during Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday) every year. Please feel free to use it or adapt for your family.
Each day has a reading from a story Bible, an Easter egg to open with a trinket that goes along with the story, and a picture ornament that also goes along with the story. Both the trinket and picture will be hung on the Easter tree, much like a Christmas advent Jesse Tree that hangs ornaments from the Bible stories leading up to the birth of Jesus. You can right click the Easter pics below and "save image as" and then print. We hole punched the top and made ornaments. Our Easter tree is simply branches from outside stuck in a heavy vase.
The following items are used in the Easter Holy Week Advent that I've prepared, but they can easily be read using other sources by matching up the Biblical stories. We use multiple resources because some story Bibles don't include all the events of Holy Week, or one might explain an event better than another. You can always read the events straight from the Bible as well.
Resurrection Eggs- We adapted these to fit the Holy Week readings we chose. Use however you'd like.
The Jesus Storybook Bible
The Gospel Story Bible
The Ology by Marty Machoswki
The initial plan below is geared more towards the young child. The adaptations we use with our older kids is also listed.
Day 1- The Triumphant Entry (Sunday, April 14th)
Day 2- Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Monday, April 15th)
Day 3- Jesus Washes the Apostles Feet (Tuesday, April 16th)
Day 4- The Last Supper (Wednesday, April 17th)
Day 5- The Garden of Gethsemane (Thursday, April 18th)
Day 6- The Crucifixion of Jesus (Friday, April 19th)
Day 7- The Burial of Jesus and Darkness Covers the Land (Saturday, April 20th)
Day 8- The Resurrection (Sunday, April 21st)
However you choose to celebrate, find what works for your family and celebrates King Jesus! The focus is not on having the best Pinterest inspired Easter activities or becoming so stressed over the advent prep that it takes away from the purpose all together. If you have a house full of littles and doing the resurrection eggs, the Easter tree, and the readings is too much right now? Don't feel badly. Do what you can, where you can, and enjoy giving your kids a celebratory glimpse of our risen Jesus!
What is The Classical Academy? The Classical Academy is a classical, Christian, university-schedule school that brings the style of university education down to K-12. We provide a full, private school education utilizing professional teachers and dedicated parents. Students attend classes 2-3 days a week with teachers and peers, and work at home on the remaining days under the guidance and tutelage of their parents. Check out our Best of Home AND School post. Interested in learning more about the Academy? Our next info night is April 15th.
It's nearing the end of your home day schoolwork. As your child begins cleaning up their work space, Mom starts checking over their work making sure everything was understood and done correctly.
You notice that she missed a couple of math problems so you circle them and call your child back. "Honey, great job on this math. I circled numbers 2, 7, and 13 that you got wrong. Can you come over here and correct these?"
What happens next?
Tears, exasperation, drama, and a melting down child because the answers are wrong, or because they have to fix them.
The typical parent response is often one of two things:
1) The sing songy, sweet Mama voice saying, "Oh sweetheart, you don't need to get upset. You are so smart. You just need to fix these right here. Let me stand here and help you."
2) "Why on earth are you acting like this? If Mr. Brown was telling you to fix these answers you wouldn't be melting down and throwing a fit in the middle of class would you? You absolutely better not do that!"
Neither of those responses are necessarily bad, but they are likely not the most helpful responses.
Both are emotionally charged, just on different ends of the spectrum and most of the time, our children who get extremely emotional over schoolwork, wrong answers or correcting mistakes simply need fewer emotionally charged confrontations and SPACE.
Try this instead.
"Hey sweetheart. Great job on this math paper. I circled numbers 2, 7, and 13. You may want to look at those. I need to go get started on laundry. If you need some help or clarification, come get me and let me know." AND THEN WALK AWAY.
What we typically do as parents when our children get wrong answers on their schoolwork or have to correct something, we stand over them. We stand over them, and hover, often nitpicking their work, being overly specific in how we want them to fix it, and we frustrate them because "this should be simple and I know you already know how to do this." For our emotional, perfectionist driven kids, and our strong willed kids, this response makes them dig in their heels.
This would be similar to you being at work all day and you prepared a company budget or put together a product launch presentation and your boss walked into the room. "Hey, this is good, but some of your line items are off, and you didn't present this information well enough in this section. Can you fix this?" And then he stands there. He puts his hand on the back of your chair and watches as you type and work to fix your mistakes. As adults, we would not handle this well. Our kids don't handle it well either.
You need space and they need space.
Another reason our kids don't do this at school is partly because they aren't within the normal emotional comfort of their parents (which is good and normal), but also because teachers don't tend to hover. The classroom environment naturally gives space. When you have a class of students teachers tend to point out areas that need improvement and move on, leaving the students to work out the mistakes. Then as needed, students ask for help or clarification. But this isn't what we tend to do at home. We emotionally charge the situation by being overly sweet and trying to build confidence (which at the moment is not what they are usually needing) or by getting upset at their meltdown. Both ends of the spectrum often don't work.
Instead, bring their attention to what needs to be fixed or worked on, and walk away.
When you walk away you are giving them space to deal with their own frustration. Their frustration isn't necessarily bad and not even something they can directly just "not feel." So instead of fighting them on it, give them space to wrestle with their own emotions without you standing over them. Give them space to own their own reactions.
The other thing giving them space will do is help your reaction. We cannot control our kids emotional reactions (as much as some parenting gurus want to make you believe you can). But what we CAN do is control our OWN reaction. We know we don't want to fight or wrestle with them, so space takes us out of the immediate emotionally charged space. When we control our own reactions, it makes us more calm to deal with what's in front of us, and it helps our kids to calm down.
What is The Classical Academy? The Classical Academy is a classical, Christian, university-schedule school that brings the style of university education down to K-12. We provide a full, private school education utilizing professional teachers and dedicated parents. Students attend classes 2-3 days a week with teachers and peers, and work at home on the remaining days under the guidance and tutelage of their parents. Check out our Best of Home AND School post. Interested in learning more about the Academy? Our next info night is April 15th.
Why Memorize Poetry?
Why do we memorize poetry? Why do our students participate in Recite Nights? Isn't memorization just "kill and drill?" an educational past time that should be drown out by now? Absolutely not!
When you set out to achieve something, the first thing you do is decide where you are going, or what you want to accomplish, then, you work backwards. You have to know where you are going in order to know how to get there.
At The Classical Academy we want to produce graduates who are effective thought leaders, people who can communicate well, and with confidence, using their knowledge, investigation skills, analysis, and evaluation to express themselves logically and persuasively. This doesn't just happen and it doesn't come simply through taking one speech class elective in high school. It begins with memorization and starts all the way back in grammar school.
Andrew Pudewa has some of the best remarks on memorization and poetry, "You can't get something out of a child's brain that isn't there to begin with." Being a competent writer or speaker doesn't only rest on learning grammar and practicing more and more writing. Students need a large database in their brain of reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns. Even more important than knowing grammar rules and knowing vocabulary words, is knowing how those words naturally, correctly, even artistically fit together in phrases and clauses. Students who write and speak well are always the ones who possess an extensive repertoire of words, an intuitive understanding of when and how those words can be used in idioms and combinations, and an automatic sense of when they have been used correctly or awkwardly. What enables this type of sophisticated linguistic talent is not a conscious knowledge of "rules," but the database of language information which has been stored in the brain.
This brings us to the obvious question- where are students growing their database of linguistic patterns? Your typical child's main source of language is through TV, movies, internet, media, and same age peers. It won't take long observing our current culture to realize that if media and peers are the main source of linguistic patterns we are in big trouble! Parents, teachers, and other adults are also means of linguistic patterns, but most of our conversing with our children is not exactly on a sophisticated front as we tell them to, "Please put your clothes away." "Did you get your schoolwork finished?" etc.
This is why we have such strong convictions about reading not just any book, but good books, to our children and students. The quality of books your child reads and hears is essential to their development of language patterns.
But is that all there is to it? Read and hear good quality literature? While reading and hearing sophisticated language patterns in consistent, large quantities helps build a repertoire of sophisticated language, all too often schools and parents neglect the other essential piece- memorization.
Andrew Pudewa continues, "Memorized (or "by heart") language was a mainstay of education for almost all of recorded history until about 60 years ago, when misguided educationists began to promulgate the idea that memorization, along with other types of 'rote' learning, was harmful to children's creativity, understanding, and enjoyment of learning. Perhaps one of the most damaging doctrines ever to invade teachers' colleges, the concept that memorization was at best unnecessary and at worst downright harmful, is now handicapping another generation of students, who, because of the sad state of the popular media, are most in need of the linguistic foundation that memorization provides.
Young children will naturally memorize language patterns from their cultural environment. If teachers and parents don't provide enough high quality models, kids will automatically internalize and memorize random stuff from their environment- mainly TV advertisements and songs on the radio, most of which we would not find to be "reliably correct and sophisticated." If we don't provide the content and opportunity for organized memorization kids will let popular culture be their teacher. If we don't provide them with Belloc and Rossetti, they'll memorize McDonald's commercials and the theme song to their favorite TV show. Memorization is not only natural for young children, it is culturally powerful and educationally essential.
Neurologically, memorization develops the brain in a way nothing else can. Neurons make connections through frequency, intensity, and duration of stimulation. When children memorize (and maintain the ability to recite) interesting poems, all three of these variables are involved in a powerful way, strengthening the network of neural connections which build the foundation of raw intelligence. In short, the more neurons we have connected to other neurons, the more "RAM" we have in the CPU of our brains, and the rigor of memorization of poetry is a powerful tool in this process."
What are other benefits of memorization?
Why poetry specifically?
So what does this practically look like? Do we actually see the benefits pour back out of our students from memorizing good poetry? We do!
One of the poems our 1st graders have memorized is "Who Has Seen the Wind" by Christina Rossetti. One of our students was working on this poem with his mom. She used the poetry as a teaching opportunity and told her son, "The wind is like the Holy Spirit."
Then, all on his own, he spontaneously began to say his own poem, modeled after the concept and linguistic pattern of Christina Rossetti's poem that he had internalized. He wasn't taught how to do this. He wasn't asked to write poetry from scratch. It's a natural outpouring of filling their minds and hearts with truth, goodness and beauty.
Who Has Seen God
Who has seen God?
Neither I nor you:
But when you believe in Christ
God is passing through you.
Who has seen God?
Neither you nor I:
But when the Holy Spirit comes
God is passing by.
This is a 1st grade version of what it is all about...Educating students in such a way that their education naturally pours out of them. This is what they have to show at the end of the year. We seek education that naturally pours out in hundreds of ways over seeking standardized test scores and a report card.
Take an example from an older student memorizing a portion of "Overcoming Fear" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
We name the One who overcame fear and led it captive in the victory procession, who nailed it to the cross and committed it to oblivion; we name the One who is the shout of victory of humankind redeemed from the fear of death—Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Living One. He alone is Lord over fear; it knows him as its master; it gives way to him alone. So look to Christ when you are afraid, think of Christ, keep him before your eyes, call upon Christ and pray to him, believe that he is with you now, helping you . . . Then fear will grow pale and fade away, and you will be free, through your faith in our strong and living Savior, Jesus Christ.
Why is it important that this rich and beautiful prose is permanently resting in his heart and mind? In times of despair, worry, or anxiety, this student will have a feast of words, along with Scripture he has memorized, to draw on, to fill his mind with truth, and to encourage his heart. Not only that, he will have a repertoire of language and concepts on which to draw as he speaks and encourages others in times of difficulty. This doesn't mean that students start weirdly reciting things from rote memory to themselves or others in times of trial. What it means is that his brain and his heart have internalized the concepts and language patterns and those things begin to pour out. You simply cannot tell what you do not know.
Students at The Classical Academy have the common experience of committing to memory a wide range of sophisticated poetry, prose, Scripture, and great speeches and having the opportunity to present their pieces at Recite Nights throughout the school year. These nights are the exact opposite of dry, boring, drill and kill memorization. You wouldn't believe the wonderful pieces our students from PreK all the way up recite. It's one of the best loved programs at the Academy.
Interested in seeing what it's all about? Contact us to attend our next Recite Night, or come find out more about The Classical Academy university-schedule school at a parent info night.
Make Great Books Great Again
Why care about reading? Why care about reading the Great Books? What exactly are the Great Books? What value do they bring to life? What am I missing out on?
In classical education, you hear a lot about The Great Books. Many classical schools even have a statement about the number of Great Books their students will graduate having read and processed. However, most people, including many parents sending their children to a classical school, have no idea what the Great Books are.
First, a quick background nutshell of the literature road to the Great Books- in classical schools we have a high regard for, and love of, good literature. Does it matter what you read to your kids, or what you allow them to read? Absolutely! The cultural idea in education is to just get them reading, it doesn't matter what it is. But, it does matter! It matters greatly. Your kids need to eat too, but that doesn't mean you just feed them Fruit Loops!
We start reading and enjoying good, solid literature from that very first read aloud as a baby. We choose high quality literary books for their sophisticated language patterns, their solid vocabulary, and their deep, engaging stories. In the grammar school, these are books like Madeline, Corduroy, Blueberries for Sal, Doctor DeSoto, Aesop's Fables, Peter Pan, Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, Robin Hood, and hundreds more. These books prepare our students to enter the great conversation of Great Books when they enter logic and rhetoric school.
What exactly are the Great Books? Why care about them? Why read them? Does it really matter?
Yes, yes, it does!
What is it about binge watching a Netflix series that we as humans love? It's exciting to get into the lives of people, to get lost in their stories, to see life, or specific circumstances through their eyes. The story, getting ourselves INTO a story, is what draws us into TV show binges.
What we don't realize is that the exact thing we are drawn to in a TV binge series can be experienced much more richly in a novel, poem, or epic. The problem is that we rarely take the time to properly enjoy and digest our food, much less a good book. A Great Book is more challenging and as a culture we have lost the ability to wrestle with a complicated book. Instead, we choose the easier, more passive route of trying to satisfy our desire to be in the center of a story by binging on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon video. It takes more endurance and actually requires something of us to feed ourselves with a book. Television requires nothing of us.
So what are these Great Books classical schools talk about reading? Who decides what a Great Book is and why should we care?
What exactly are the Great Books?
The list that comprises the Great Books is an emergent canon. Once you pick up one, you realize it's referencing Descartes and you wonder who that is, so you pick up that book, and then it mentions Aristotle, and now, you're going to the library to read him. The Great Books are self-referential and self-evident. Mortimer Adler called them a great conversation between geniuses. They are constantly asking questions, answering each other's questions, and referring to each other. Different schools, book lists, and libraries have different lists of what they consider the Great Books, but 90-95% of the time the lists are identical because it's emergent. The books refer to each other and you really have to read them all to get what all of them are saying to each other. Here's an example of some:
Why should we read the Great Books? What do I get out of reading stuff from dead Ancient guys?
The Great Books teach people to reason well and communicate winsomely. Reading and studying these books ARE for everyone and reading them helps you to become culturally literate. They teach people to know how to think, and to know what’s at stake. If all we ever do is passively receive information, especially information that is homogenous to our own beliefs and thought systems, we cripple our ability to be culture shapers, to be creators and innovators. We stop ourselves from growing as humans.
What does challenging my thought systems and growing as a human practically look like using the Great Books?
The majority of average education is very pointed. Students grow up, and as adults, they might have an education background in chemistry, biology, engineering or math, but they have major holes. The vast majority of us have lopsided educations. We reach our adult years and realize we missed out on humanities and the liberal arts. We have no idea about psychological thought or philosophical thought and we find ourselves unable to read certain types of literature. This greatly hinders our ability to participate in the great conversations of what it means to be human- testing our belief systems, engaging with people of different faiths, and challenging our own presuppositions about life.
For example, let's take Plato's The Republic. It starts by asking, "What is justice?" Justice is wrestled out, the geniuses talk about what it may or may not be. Suddenly, the presupposition I've had in my head about justice is being broken. Or is it? We have our own ideas that came from our parents, our faith backgrounds, our educations, and even pop culture. We often aren't even aware that we have a script about justice until we confront a conversation about justice.
When we use the material of the Great Books to discuss things like justice, we are given the opportunity to test the script we've been given, to talk through, debate, and analyze the natural presumptions we hold. Simply reading them isn't enough. Discussion is where comprehension, and then action takes place. Discussion is paramount, otherwise, we get a bunch of young people who, when asked why they believe something can only respond with, "well, because." It is only when we firmly believe something that we actually allow ourself to be challenged and change our viewpoints if necessary.
How to read the Great Books
There are so many ways to read, discuss, and enjoy the Great Books. There are all kinds of resources and books online that outline the works considered in the Great Books collection. The two most popular ways to read are syntopically and chronologically.
Syntopically means that you study the books according to a specific topic. For example, going back to justice. You might explore the topic of justice throughout the Great Books and see what people had to say and write about it over a thousand years. This approach is great because you move from author to author and don't get stuck on one specifically, especially if it's one where you don't particularly enjoy the writing style.
Chronologically means you study the books in order. They scaffold on each other, and the author's reference various works. When you do them in order you understand the references they are making, and the entire conversation begins to make sense.
How long does it take?
Reading the Great Books isn't something you set out to do in a year. It's a lifetime growth trajectory in which you are constantly engaging with great minds and great ideas. It's a transformative lifestyle choice. It doesn't mean you have to feel overwhelmed by a process that really is never-ending. Sometimes it means you jump in full force for a season, and dial it down a little in other seasons. But what it does mean is that you are always seeking to learn and grow, and what better way to learn and grow than to explore the great minds and great ideas of the past and then, converse with others today about it. How do their ideas flesh out today, what does it mean for humanity? What does it mean for our presuppositions and our own faith beliefs?
How does discussing the Great Books as an adult propel you towards additional growth and learning outside the Great Books?
The process of reading and wrestling with difficult content in the Great Books means you are willing to put yourself in a position where your beliefs are challenged and forced to solidify, change, or grow. How does the great conversation within the Great Books lead to other areas of growth? Maybe it's finding a challenging podcast to listen to, one that stretches your faith, or one that simply exposes you to others who are different than you, and choosing to sit down over coffee with a group of friends to discuss what new thoughts you encountered.
What does studying the Great Books look like in logic school (7th-8th) and rhetoric school (9th-12th) look like?
At The Classical Academy, we begin students on the lifelong journey of falling in love with the Great Books in 7th grade. Our Great Books course is called Omnibus and encompass history, literature, and theology. Students gain a greater understanding of our world, its history, and our Creator, while learning how to challenge many of the worldviews they will face during their lives. By the time students graduate and have gone through the complete Omnibus program throughout 7th-12th grade, they will have worked through all 66 books of the Bible.
The Omnibus courses are comprised of primary and secondary books. Primary reading material includes titles from the Great Books within the historical context, while secondary books and readings are from Scripture as well as modern fiction and non-fiction.
Cathy Duffy, a popular curriculum review expert describes the typical Omnibus class as follows: The Omnibus textbook provides background and thought-provoking material for students to read before the Great Books reading assignment. Each of these sections is written by an author familiar with the primary reading. For example, one author/expert in the area writes the sections on The Odyssey, Aeneid, and the books from the Chronicles of Narnia, while another author/expert covers some of the biblical books, and yet another author/expert writes on the Epic of Gilgamesh, and another does Julius Caesar. Each of these contributions follows a similar format with information about the author and context, the significance of the work, the main characters, summary and setting, and worldview.
Following this preliminary material in the text our phenomenal and experienced Omnibus teacher leads students through class sessions utilizing both the preliminary reading and the Great Books themselves. These vary in number and content depending upon the Great Book to be studied. Here's an example of how it works for the Code of Hammurabi, one of the first written records of a code of law. Talk about opportunities to discuss!
After working through the preliminary material, students are led through thought-provoking questions such as "Why are laws necessary? How do we know when laws are just?" After this, students begin reading the first section of the Code of Hammurabi.
The session activity puts students to work as jurists. They are given three cases with the assignment to judge them according to the Code of Hammurabi and then according to the Bible. When this is finished, students continue reading the next section of the Code.
Students have a recitation period with a series of discussion questions. Students extend their learning by drawing up their own legal code for their house rules. Students then read the rest of the Code and continue discussing questions such as "What do laws have to do with justice?" and "How is justice understood in our culture?" Our Omnibus teacher leads students through a somewhat logical progression of thought as they deal with the key ideas. As students move into the rhetoric stage, they culminate their studies with their own persuasive writings and speeches about their work in the great conversation of the Great Books.
Do logic and rhetoric school students really read every single one of the Great Books?
Studying the great minds and great ideas within the Great Books is a lifetime pursuit, and a lifetime of conversation. With that in mind, we have crafted our curriculum in such a way that allows the average child to excel and the gifted child to be challenged, all while staying true to a classical method of learning. Not every single book will be read in its entirety, but as the learning model goes, students will go deeper and deeper into the material every year.
Want to learn more about the art of dialogue and conversation in learning throughout our school and particularly in our logic school? Check out A Better Approach to Middle School
Looking to find out more about Fishers classical, Christian, university-schedule school? Attend one of our upcoming info nights!