Nov 20, 2012

Soft Mozart clarifications

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Nov 16, 2012

Soft Mozart Scholarship Program!

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Nov 13, 2012

A Thomas Jefferson Education- My review

As my 5-year-old becomes school age and I have yet to start an earnest Kindergarten program for him, I have been researching different homeschooling methods to find what is best for my family.  This review is simply a reflection of part of that research.

I first heard about “A Thomas Jefferson Education” by Oliver DeMille (henceforth “TJed”) when I was in high school.  I admit their sales pitch sounds fantastic.  “A Leadership Education for the 21st century”.  “An education like the founding fathers had”, and an education based on reading great classics and finding good mentors to help in your education.  As a teenager, I was thrilled during DeMille’s lectures at the homeschooling conventions I attended, surrounded by other homeschoolers and feeling the momentum in the room.  I was inspired to want to become a leader myself.  As a youth I had great mentors in my musical studies, and they had a profound influence on my life.  I was proud to have an education that wasn’t “on the conveyor belt” of public school, and the basic premises of TJed rang true to me.  As a college student I stumbled across “A Thomas Jefferson Education” the book, read it, and felt inspired to read more classics.  I have many good friends who do TJed, and I admire them and their children.  My own siblings have benefitted from “Liberty Girls” and “Knights of Freedom”, local homeschooling co-ops started by TJed proponents.

Overall, I have had a good overall impression of TJed.  I preface my review like this because I have always tried to offer my criticisms sandwiched between compliments.  That’s what I will be doing with this post, so stay tuned for the appropriate praise of TJed at the end.

 After some of my disenchantment with “A Well Trained Mind”, as outlined in my previous post, I started looking for a more Christian approach to classical education, with the particular search for “LDS classical education methods”.  (or something like that)

I found this forum thread, and wondered why there seemed to be such negative comments about the method.  I read through a few different blogs, and I especially found "Why I don't do TJed" to be the best researched, referenced, and articulated argument against it.  I read the entire blog as well as most of the comments, and this author makes sense to me.  I won’t reiterate everything that he says in this post, but I will say that I agree with him in the entirety.  I found myself connecting the dots from a few encounters I have had with TJed proponents that struck me as odd.  For example, my early-learning approach with Doman’s methods have received some harsh criticisms, with the argument given that I should wait until they are eight to deliberately teach my children to read.  Why would a method that encourages the kind of scholarship Jefferson had object to early education?  I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder from that incident, so I’m glad I don’t remember who the discussion was with.  I only know that Oliver DeMille was quoted as a reference, in the effort to prove that my approach was incorrect.   

This didn’t change my positive outlook of TJed at the time, but when I read the blog’s post "The Learning Phases are from Modern Child Development Theory", it just made sense to me.  I have since re-read the main TJed book, as well as “A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion”, and “Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning”.   I have also done a deeper study of Dewey, Vygotsky, Erikson and Piaget, whom DeMille does indeed call “the four gospels of modern education.”  I admit that I found my study of Piaget to be particularly interesting.  I read most of “Understanding Piaget” by Mary Ann Pulaski, available at the Logan library if any of my local friends want to check it out.  It was interesting.

After looking at the phases from all of these perspectives, I have to agree with the critical blog.  I think he was spot on.

Whether you agree with DeMille’s phases of learning or not is a mute point.  He may be right.  The phases might work for your family, and that’s great.  We could debate that issue.  But I think it’s a bait and switch to say that these phases of learning were what every great leader of the past had, because it’s simply not true.  These phases were drawn from modern theory.  Demille references these authors himself.  While they may reflect the education of a few of our great leaders, they certainly weren’t applied to all of the great leaders, least of all the method’s namesake, Thomas Jefferson.  As a side study, I compared Jefferson’s actual education to DeMille’s phases, and, because I am currently interested in Queen Elizabeth I, I did a comparison of her life during each “phase” as well.  If anyone was given a “leadership education”, ie, educated to be a leader, it was she.  If anyone loved learning, had wonderful learning opportunities and great mentors, and grew to be a well-educated, great leader, it was she.  Naturally I cannot provide such an amazing education for my children, but I can also benefit by modeling her education for my children as much as possible, so I reference her childhood for that reason.  If all great leaders of the past learned through these phases, Elizabeth I is as good of an example as any, and represents the female perspective well.
Without further ado, here is my own little chart:  (Click for larger view)

The early core phase is the example I find most disturbing.  While the “scholar phase” may resemble Jefferson’s and Elizabeth’s youth with the time intensity of their study, a child who has not mastered the three ‘R’’s, who has not had a solid foundation in them, will not be as prepared as Jefferson and Elizabeth to benefit from the 12-18 year-old stage of intense study.  I don’t think the scholar phase is an event that we should wait for.

This leads me to my second criticism of TJed for this post, which is “Inspire, not Require”.

I disagree.  My goal is to “Inspire that which I Require”.

Let me explain.  I don’t believe that reading a classic book in front of my youth will inspire them to read a classic book too, any more then I think wearing clothing in front of my 5-year-old will inspire him to get dressed in the morning.  He may get cold, see my clothes, and decide that he should get dressed too (hurray for winters!), but it is more likely that he will get dressed because it is what I require of him.  Certainly I should set the example.  If I went around half dressed, it would be hypocritical of me to demand that he get dressed when I am unwilling myself.  How do I inspire him to get dressed?  I might ask him if he’s cold.  I can tell him the story of Adam and Eve.  I can teach him the importance of modesty.  I can appeal to the comfort of clothing over rough material like carpet.  I may provide him with a variety of awesome clothing with “Lightning McQueen” or “Star Wars” characters on them, clothes so cool he will certainly want to get dressed.  All of these methods of inspiring my children might work, and indeed they often do.  But when push comes to shove, I REQUIRE that he get dressed in the morning.  He is not going to the store in nothing but his underwear.  And in the hubbub of the Sunday morning rush to church, I have on occasion resorted to pinning him down while I button up his Sunday shirt and tie his shoes.

If then, I may require my 5-year-old to wear clothing, to be polite, to brush his teeth, and to help out around the home, why is it so unreasonable that I should require him to practice his penmanship?  I was required to brush my teeth as a kid despite my rebellious wishes, and as an adult, I still brush my teeth.  I didn’t want to do my English lessons in those A Beka books as a young child, but my mother made me do them anyway, and I’m a better person for it.  I was well prepared for college, and I doubt my writing skills would have been sufficient without my mother’s loving guidance.  I wasn’t inspired enough to pursue the basic mastery I do have on my own.  My mother required, and I rose to her expectations.

I reflected on this principle when I read the conference talk “Becoming Goodly Parents” by Elder Tom Perry a few weeks ago.  The following relates to our study of the gospel.

“President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “It is the duty of parents to teach their children these saving principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that they will know why they are to be baptized and that they may be impressed in their hearts with a desire to continue to keep the commandments of God after they are baptized, that they may come back into his presence. Do you, my good brethren and sisters, want your families, your children; do you want to be sealed to your fathers and your mothers before you … ? If so, then you must begin by teaching at the cradle-side. You are to teach by example as well as precept.”

Certainly that quote does nothing to disprove TJed, since the “core phase” revolves around teaching our children right from wrong, I do not dispute that.  I only wish to point out that I think it is very interesting that we “are to teach by example as well as precept.” (emphasis mine).  Could this be rephrased to say “we are to inspire and require”?  I like to look up words when I am studying a concept, so here I offer the Webster 1828 definition of “precept”:

PRE'CEPT, n. [L. proeceptum, from proecipio, to command; proe, before, and capio, to take.]
1. In a general sense, any commandment or order intended as an authoritative rule of action; but applied particularly to commands respecting moral conduct. The ten commandments are so many precepts for the regulation of our moral conduct.
No arts are without their precepts.
2. In law, a command or mandate in writing.

The final point I will address in this blog is my concern about the “You, not Them” principle of teaching.  I agree that I should set an example to my children.  I read and they see it.  I play the piano and they see it.  My husband and I don’t talk down to our children, we expose them to as high of a vocabulary as we are able.  I should never neglect my own personal development.  

However, I will never do this at the expense of “them”.  It’s ALL about them.  I don’t want to become the best person I can be so that they will have more to aspire to.  I want them to surpass me, preferably big time.  It’s all about creating an environment appropriate for their learning.  

If it was all about me, I would be reading more of Jane Austin’s novels, systematically making a list of new vocabulary words.  I would have a blog focusing my reviews of classic literature, instead of on how to be a professional mother. But because it's about them, my area of focus is on reading books like “A Well Trained Mind”, online reviews of homeschool curriculums, and education forums like “BrillKids”.  The books we bring home from the library are mostly to enhance my children’s education, not mine.  

Guess what?  I’m learning a lot too.  To teach my children about the world, I must be one chapter ahead.  At least that’s the goal.  I’m quickly realizing that ultimately my role will soon enough be to open as many doors as possible for my children.  I must have the perception to help them continue to progress one chapter ahead.  This takes a lot of time, effort, and work.  If it was about me, not them, I doubt I would be able to fill my role in this regard.

I suggest that if you focus on them, you will in turn become a better parent, you will become better educated, and your ability to fill your role as their parent and guardian will be increased.  A few years ago I wrote a song entitled “The Making of a Queen”, of which I will share the last phrase,

“Will they live happily ever after?
Am I helping them to see
The way they should be living?
What the Lord wants them to be?
And then a voice within me whispers
Something I never had foreseen,
With this prince and little princess
Comes the making of a Queen.”

This seems like a good time to switch gears and offer praise where praise is due to the TJed movement. There is a strong emphasis on moral character, and I honor them for that.   

I love the idea of “Youth”, not “Teenager”.  The word “teenager” is relatively new, and is associated, in many ways with the rebellious follies of the high-school drama queen, the high school jock, or the ditsy cheerleader obsessed with makeup and the upcoming date on Friday night.  (I’m not implying that all cheerleaders are ditsy, rather than trying to portray the quintessential image that a cheerleader who is ditsy brings to mind.)  A teenager is in a phase of development that is isolated from the rest of their life.  Youth, on the other hand, are young adults.  We don’t want to raise our children to be kids, we want them to grow up.  A family with youth recognizes that this transition is coming, and prepares for it.  In my church, we have “Young men” and “Young Women”, ages 12-17 inclusive.  Now at 18, a young man may serve a full-time, honorable mission.  This is the potential the church sees in him, while the world still gives him the “lofty” aspiration of continuing his “teenager” years.  I want my children to become “youth”.

I will also say that I gained a lot of good advice from “A Thomas Jefferson Home Companion”.  I do recommend this book.

One of the valuable insights I got from this book is the importance of having an educational master plan.  They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  I agree!  I’m trying to get a good plan in place so I can follow that blueprint, and it’s changed a lot over the last couple of months.

The 9 key elements to an effective master plan are as follows:

  • Classics – YOUR list (ie, make your own with the books you want to study)

  • Cultural literacy, breadth, and depth (includes your family history)

  • Academic Programs (your specific curriculum)

  • Adult skills (how will you teach baking, how to check the oil in the car, etc.)

  • Organizational programs (such as Boy Scouts, 4-H, and choir)

  • God (be specific about how you want to teach religion)

  • Family Relationships (family traditions?  Will older siblings tutor the younger ones?)

  • Experience (ie musical performances, gardening, animal care, etc)

  • Places to go (nature walks, museums, in addition to family travel)

The Home Companion has a beautiful chapter about how a free society should develop the traits of Liber and Public Virtue.  Demille then goes on to define “Liber”.  It comes from the Latin root for true, or tree bark, which was used for contracts and writing.  Liber was associated with the elete who could read and write.  There were two classes of people in ancient Rome, the slaves, and the liber.  Liber is the root of Liberty, Library, and liberal arts.  I add that God gives liberally to those who seek wisdom from him.  He then goes on to describe Public Virtue, which is not the state of having a public with individual virtue, or electing officials with personal virtue, as much as it is having a society that is willing to voluntarily sacrifice personal benefit for the good of society.  DeMille shares the inspiring stories of Robert and Mary Morris, Thomas and Lucy Nelson, and  Samuel and Eliza Adams, among others.  It was a beautiful chapter that touched me.

DeMille points out that it is a fallacy to think that finding “balance” in our lives means that we should balance work with entertainment.  The correct balance for our lives would be 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work, and 8 hours of leisure time.  Leisure ≠ Entertainment.  As a matter of fact, entertainment was something that the elite of ancient Rome created for the slaves to keep them pacified.  This idea had a great influence on me.  Now when I find myself wanting to waste time on Facebook, a little voice says “Entertainment is for slaves.”  Hopefully I’m improving, and am filling my leisure time with more worthy pursuits.

The Home Companion has some fantastic appendixes, such as suggestions for how to teach homemaking skills, and suggestions for book discussions with older children.

So there you have it in a nutshell, my review of TJed.  This study has been a long process, and I’ve delayed the process of typing out my feelings and sharing them publically, as I know some of my local homeschooling friends may see it and it is not my intention to offend.  I think I have looked at the method as a whole objectively, and fairly.  I read criticisms, but  turned to the primary sources (Demille) before drawing my own conclusions.  I feel like I should share those conclusions, and this blog post is it.

I doubt that there is a perfect homeschooling method that would work for every family, so, as always, the best thing to do is to take what we want and leave the rest.  This is what I have done with TJed.  I’m “leaving” most of it, but I do think my study of DeMille’s books were worthwhile.  This is especially true as I now have a better understanding of how TJed works, and my local homeschooling community is overall prone to it.  If this approach is working for your family, more power to you.

Nov 10, 2012

John Thompson Review

I highly recommend John Thompson as a method.  There are a lot of piano teachers that ultimately recommend the piano series they were taught with as a child, and, well, I guess I'm no exception.  However, when I first started teaching piano lessons, I told the parents that I would use whichever method they wanted to use, it didn't matter to me.  I knew that a lot of parents already had piano books, and I wanted to help them save money.  I figured that I was the same teacher, and it wouldn't really matter which method I used.  Well, that was a good learning experience for me.  Because of that approach, I got to see and use a variety of different methods, from Bastian, Alfred, Thompson, and Schuam.  For some reason I never did use the Faber piano method, which I have heard great things about.  After a few years of teaching like this, I realized that method books really do matter.  (surprise!)  I also realized that if a parent is willing to pay a teacher to teach their student, an extra $7-10 for the right piano book is just pennies in the bucket.  Ultimately, most parents will need to buy more piano books anyway, as their students progress.

So with that introduction, here are a few reasons I love John Thompson:

  • He doesn't shy away from key signatures besides C, F, and G major.
  • He doesn't shy away from requiring the hands to move out of "home base" position.
  • He uses primary sources early on in the series.  Soon, if it doesn't specify "Arranged by J.T.", you know it's the original music by the composer listed.
  • There really is something new every lesson.  For students who actually practice (we all know there are plenty who don't!), the John Thompson method will be an accelerated course.  "Grade 5" for John Thompson is much harder than "Level 6" in Alfred (the last book in each series)  There is less busy work.
  • I like the history blurbs that many of the pieces have. (I admit other methodologies have this perk too)
  • J.T. has endured the test of time.  I'm old fashioned like that.
  • I really like the duet book for the primer, "Teaching Fingers to Play Ensemble".  The local stores didn't carry this, so I ordered it online.  This is a fantastic resource if you play!
  • (Most importantly) I really like the songs in his books.  They are cute and often clever.  They are real music.  I loved them as a child, and as an adult who taught for a few years from several other methodologies, I found that charm lacking.

I also want to address some of the criticisms I have heard of the John Thompson method.  Some say his books are too hard.  Boo hoo. 

Some are rightly concerned of the excessive fingering in his books, stating that the student will develop a dependency on finger numbers.  Well, that really is the case sometimes.  Some students get very comfortable with the finger numbers in the Grade One book, and have a rude awakening when they get to Grade Two and they can't rely on the finger numbers anymore, since there is a lot of thumb-crossing under, etc.  Even so, the First Grade book does introduce a lot of different key signatures, and it helps the student play proficiently sooner.  I'm using a color-coded method for my 3-year-old to help her play proficiently sooner, so obviously finger numbers isn't a big issue for me.  I think this concern can be avoided by starting flash cards when they start the "First Grade" book.  I didn't just require my students to say "A", they had to say the name, and play the correct "A" on the piano, whatever the octave.  I personally never developed a dependency on finger numbers as a child, and I credit my teacher for her consistent use of flash cards at every lesson, as well as sight-reading exercises out of other books.  Besides, being able to follow fingering is important. 

The other concern some have with J.T. is that the theory lessons incorporated in the book are sparse.  This is true.  I think Music Theory is very, very important.  I don't think I had a lot of theory in the beginning grades, but when I was older, my 3rd piano teacher had me go through a course and it was extremely helpful to me.  I will probably find a separate theory book for my children when they finish the primer.  I highly DON'T recommend Alfred.  Unless you know music theory well yourself and can correct the errors to your students, stay away.  I had some very interesting discussions with my students when, again and again, I had to tell them why the book was wrong, and why the authors might have tried to explain things the way they did.  Thankfully, I am confident that my students weren't scarred by Alfred.  I'm not ready to offer a better solution yet because I haven't done my shopping, but I assure you, Alfred isn't it.  I was sorely disappointed that such a popular series could get away with having so little scholarship.  95% of what Alfred teaches is correct, but if you don't know better, that 5% that is wrong can come back to haunt you later.   I'm pretty sure the Bastian books are good, but I haven't taught with them past the 1st grade level.

Currently, I am simply requiring my children to practice every day, but I am not requiring them to sequentially work through the book.  Yet.  They have skipped around a lot, playing the songs that tickles their fancy.  They can choose to practice from the primer book, or the nursery rhymes from The Solfege Train.  I am starting to require that they play songs with both hands.  The songs in this primer book are already familiar to my children because I have been playing them for them for years, and we have a separate piano book upstairs with our story books.  It's one of their favorite bedtime story books because they know I'll sing to them.  Because of this early exposure, they are playing the rhythms correctly on their own, so I haven't addressed rhythm as much while we are at the piano.  We have separate rhythm exercises that we do away from the piano, independent of piano practice, so I am letting them focus their piano practice on the mechanics of playing the piano.  I require them to practice with the fingering in the book, and in the key the music is written.  (that's a side effect of having the "movable do insert" and the color-coded notes.  My son wants to transpose everything back to "C".  Too bad!  Oddly enough, my daughter will play the songs in keys like F# major if the insert has been left there, without batting an eye.)  Separate of the "Do, Re, Mi", my children are learning to identify and play "C, D, E" for me.  I always preface a new song by pointing out, "This song is in F major, so we need to move the "Do" behind the "F".

Anyway, this is our piano program.  I am planning on getting them finished with the J.T. primer by the end of the school year, and then mastering one of John Thompson's grade books every year after that.  If they move faster than that, great, but I'm not going to require more than that.  I've decided that the Grade 4 book is what I am going to require of each of my children, as if they finish that book, they will have the basic piano literacy I want them to have.  I will supplement John Thompson's books with my church's published music, such as the Primary book and the hymnal, as well as popular music my children may be interested in.  I bet if I bought "Tangled" music, my daughter would eat it up!  Note to self.

Overall, the John Thompson series is a great course.  Alexander Schreiner, world class organist (and my great-great-uncle) recommended this series, and his advice gives me more confidence in recommending this series to you.

Nov 6, 2012

Review- The Well-Trained Mind

“The Well-Trained Mind, A Guide to Classical Education at Home” By Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.

My oldest is kindergarten age, so I have been revisiting popular homeschooling methods in an effort to find one that will fit my own homeschooling style, as well as meeting the needs of my children.  I have heard Susan Bauer speak twice in person, and I originally read this book 6 years ago, before I was married.  Now I re-read most of it, and have overlooked some of the curriculum choices that she recommends in the 1999 edition. 

I have not read the newer edition, although from the reviews I have read online, I feel little desire to.  Apparently, the new edition highly recommends the learning materials that these two women (mostly Susan) have created to accompany the trivium.  If I decide I am interested in their products, I know where to look, but I prefer to see what these women recommended as the cream of the crop before they became biased towards their own materials.  I can’t blame them for it, but I’m content to study and review the 1999 edition.
Overall, I think that this is a great book.  I am confident that following this methodology would produce great results for my kids.  I appreciate the author’s candid remarks about the hard work that will be necessary to give children a superb education.  It is intense and complete, and I like that.  I want something that will challenge my children and this book fits the bill.

My 5-year-old struggles in his handwriting because he wants to write his circle letters clockwise.  Bauer recommends starting preschoolers in writing by letting them draw lots and lots of counter-clockwise circles.  Case in point of the good advice this book has to offer.

This book outlines in great detail the author’s top picks for all of the academic subjects, from pre-K through 12th grade.  She gives her full review of what she thinks the pros and cons are for these top picks.  Her subjects include the “three R’s”,  History and Geography, Science, Latin, Religion (stating only that your family’s religion should be taught) Art and Music, Logic, Languages, Rhetoric, and Computer Skills.
In a nutshell, the authors recommend that you rotate through the subjects by spending a full year in each of the following categories:

  • Ancients (5000 BC- AD 400)
  • Medieval-Early Renaissance (400-1600)
  • Late Renaissance- early Modern (1600-1850)
  • Modern (1850- present)

Most subjects, not just history, reflect upon this division.  Science during "Ancients" reflects on what the Ancients could see, and so on.  These four eras are divided into the Trivium, “Grammer”, “Logic”, and “Rhetoric”.  “Grammer” is taught during 1-4 grades, and is a time for learning the basic facts in each subject.  This is where you memorize your parts of speech, spelling, multiplication facts, etc.  During the “Logic” phase (5-8 grades), a student covers the materials again, but learns how to evaluate what is logical, and how to recognize fallacies.  Finally, during the “Rhetoric” stage (9-12 grade), the student learns the art of persuasion, as they develop their own opinions and gain the ability to defend their world view.

Overall, I really love this broad overview.  I do not want my children to be passive in their understanding of how the world works.  I will train them in rhetoric, as I believe this skill to be essential to leadership.  Many great leaders of the past were trained in rhetoric, such as Queen Elizabeth I and Thomas Jefferson, and I can see that this training served them well.  Such a study was unfamiliar to me until I read “The Well-Trained Mind”, so I am grateful to the book for that.

I highly recommend reading this book, with the understanding that you take what you want and leave the rest.

I have a few criticisms of the book, which prevent me from tackling this approach head-on.
First is the effort the authors make to appeal to the secular crowd.  In and of itself, this is not a bad thing, but the constant apologetics of how the Christian material in some curriculums may offend some readers, while ignoring how secular materials may offend Christians, seemed inconsistent to me.  To her credit, she does recommend some Christian materials, such as A Beka, and I appreciate that.  She gives excellent secular alternatives, which I think is great.  Here is an example of her inconsistency:

For 1-4 grade history, she recommends "The Usborne Book of World History".  This book is to be used by reading 1-2 pages a week, and then going to the local library and checking out several books on the topic presented.  I LOVE that approach, as our family already has a solid library routine, and I want my children to learn from living books as much as possible.  However, if you read the reviews of this book on Amazon, the consensus is that there is a lot of nudity in the pictures.  (I am not implying that Christian parents are the only ones who might be offended by this.)  Gory depictions of throat slitting, gladiators crushing heads, and pubic hair are all among the charges brought against this book.  This book is to be the core history book for little children, no alternatives are suggested, and no mention of this potentially offensive material (I’ll say!) is mentioned.  If she mentioned it with an apologetic approach, saying you will have to decide for your family, the recommendation wouldn’t bother me.  But she doesn’t.  I admit I haven’t personally seen this book, but if there were several parents who took the effort to give it a negative review because of this issue, you would think that this material would be on par with mentioning that a potential curriculum choice contains a scripture reference here and there.  If this is an issue for you as it is for me, I recommend that you carefully read reviews of her recommendations before purchasing.

Another criticism I have is that Susan Bauer is undoubtedly a strong feminist, strongly opinionated, and, in my opinion, condescending in her writing approach.  Her religious views, while Christian, are also very different from my own.  For these reasons, I will not be choosing any of Bauer’s products with my children.  I read about half of her “Story of the World, Volume 1, Ancient Times”, and I didn’t finish it because this was my perception.  I’m only giving my opinion on this matter, but this is my blog, my review, and I’m entitled to share it.

I have been looking for history alternatives, and aside from checking out lots of books on the subject, I’m leaning towards “A Child’s History of the World” (the updated one with a boy blowing bubbles on the cover), and “The Mystery of History”, although I have not made a final decision on this matter yet.
I also do not agree with Wise/Bauer’s insistence that Latin be included in the curriculum.  In the days when knowing Latin was the only way to study the Bible, certainly an understanding of Latin was of great benefit.  I also understand that many of our modern words have Latin roots, which makes this study valuable today.  However, many of the founding fathers studied Latin, and straightway abandoned the study as soon as they left school.  I think a study of modern, living languages would be of much better use for my children.  My husband’s English vocabulary was dramatically improved when he learned Spanish, because words that sound similar have the same Latin or Greek roots.  I’ll ask him what a word means, and he will often use a Spanish word and its meaning to help explain the English word to me.  He also uses his Spanish when conversing with members of our community who struggle with English.  Wise/Bauer further argue that Latin teaches a child’s mind to think logically, to organize, and to build vocabulary.  Knowing a foreign language guards against arrogance as a child comes head-to-head with the reality that his language is not the only, or even the best, language in the world.  Well, these are good arguments, but I don’t think that Latin is the only, or even best way of teaching my children these principles.  Learning piano will certainly teach my children to think logically, and it most certainly requires organization of thought to play with both hands.  Any foreign language can accomplish the other goals of Latin.  These notes are not to discourage anyone from studying Latin, as such knowledge would certainly be useful.  Rather, I hope to convey that a family should not feel that Latin is a requirement.  I see it as an elective, while a foreign language of the family’s choice would be a requirement for a classical education.  Again, that’s my opinion, but take it with a grain of salt.  I have not personally studied Latin aside from “Dies Irae”, and foreign language was never my forte.

In summary, I will simply reiterate that “The Well-Trained Mind” is, for me, a great reference book that I am content to allow the library to store for me, although I am sure I will be checking it out again and again as we approach each stage.  I see the benefits of having a classical education, and I want this for my children.  I am still in the studying phase of my own learning, as I do not believe that Wise/Bauer are the ultimate source.

On the BrillKids forum, "A History of Education in Antiquity" has been recommended as a great source to understand what a classical education really entailed.  It isn’t easy reading by any means, but I find myself wanting to tackle it for my own education.  Such information could only help me as I teach my own children.  “The Well-Trained Mind” is only one great book of many to help me give my children the education I desire for them.  It isn’t the ultimate “bible” for me.
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