Commit to Memory, Commit to Heart

The second day of The Classical Preschool calls for memorization. And that is what we tried to do today. My tot grabbed another Curious George book about fishing right after breakfast, and I took the opportunity to teach him a nursery rhyme, “12345 Once I Caught A Fish Alive” which also teaches numbers.

I realized that I have to write down some goals for our homeschooling, and knowing his numbers, shapes and alphabets by the time he reaches three years old is definitely included. I have made a mistake of not being intentional about teaching preliteracy skills with my firstborn. I am not  going that same route again. We’re not doing any writing yet, but we’re committing these things to memory.

A big bulk of Classical Education composes of memorization during the Pre-Grammar and Grammar stages. Dorothy Sayers describes this life stage as Parrot, where children mimic and follow what has been taught to them,

The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things.

The Reformed tradition blends perfectly well with Classical Education as it also emphasizes on catechizing tender hearts early on. Although my two-year old may not yet “parrot” all that I teach him, I am hoping repetition and lessons through song would aid memorization at this stage.

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As a Christian parent, my aim for child-rearing is not only to help my kids accumulate academic skills; my primary role is to make them disciples of Jesus and own their baptism one day. One of the ways to do this is to give them the language of faith through catechesis. Anthony Hoekema gives the definition and purpose of this instruction,

Catechesis is the ecclesiastical training of the children of the covenant, aimed at preparing them for profession of faith, active church membership, and kingdom usefulness. In the light of this definition, the purpose of catechesis will be to teach the covenant child such material as he needs to know in order to make an intelligent profession of faith within the church to which he belongs, to be a well-informed member of that church, to be a ready witness to the teaching of the church, and to live a full-orbed Christian life in accordance with the principles taught by his church.

While modern education seeks to put the child in the center of all learning, Classical Christian Education sees that God is the center of all learning. It recognizes that all truth is God’s truth, and that one cannot fully distinguish truth and error without understanding God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. Everything should then be examined through the lenses of Scripture, as it relates to God and His revelation. Children need not be shielded from the plethora of opposing philosophies and harsh realities of life. Rather, they need to be grounded firmly on the Word of God, which will then arm them with the grid whereby they can sift through different ideas that will come their way.

Catechetical instruction at home and at church, along with regular Family Worship, aids in this spiritual nurture.

Read Aloud Day

I am adapting The Classical Preschool for homeschool, and the first day begins with Read Aloud. As I have mentioned in my previous post, my two-year old tot loves to read with me. I have discovered today that he only enjoyed reading books that interest him. He would usually choose the books he wants to read—our open bookshelf allowed him to do that.

I was ecstatic to start teaching my toddler, and I chose the beloved children’s classic, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina for our Read Aloud Day. I thought it would be fun to read about the peddler selling caps. Since my son is big fan of Curious George, I also chose Caps For Sale because monkeys are a big part of the story. But I was wrong. He wasn’t interested in reading the book with me at all.

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I managed to snap a quick photo of my tot checking out the book before we got started. He opened a few pages, and he diverted back to one of his favorite books instead, that is the Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. You could say that my attempt at restarting homeschool is #FAIL. Oh well. That just proves that not everyone gets into the whole homeschool rhythm from the outset. But I will try this again, and maybe start with the book that he likes.

How did your first day of homeschooling a preschooler go about? I would love hear all about it in the comments.

Beginning Our Homeschool Journey

I am not a professional teacher. My training was Computer Science in university, and Biblical Studies for my post-grad. But I have always loved teaching. And this was one of the primary reasons why I entered seminary almost 10 years ago.

Teaching the Bible to adults is quite different from teaching little children, I tell you. So when I became a mama about five years ago, I was convinced that it was my calling to teach and train my firstborn. She wasn’t as keen as I hoped she would be so I pushed homeschooling to the side. I recently learned that it may because of a learning disability. I will write about that some other time. Now that I have grown older and wiser (hopefully), I am eager to restart homeschooling with my toddler who just turned 2 years old last week, and supplement my prechooler’s phonics education using the Orton-Gillingham approach.

I have held Classical Education in high esteem ever since I was first introduced to Dorothy Sayer’s essay, The Lost Tools for Learning. Like Sayers, I too believe that children are like sponges. Just as in the Reformed tradition where children are catechized with Biblical doctrine during their tender years, Classical Education also seeks to provide the knowledge base that is foundational to their living in and enjoying God’s world. This why I’m going through the Classical route, even though I have been tempted to explore other more child-centered approaches like Montessori.

I’ll be adapting “The Classical Preschool” by Living and Learning at Home. But I’ll be trimming down the curriculum into four days (Tuesdays to Thursdays).

Here’s what I hope to do with my two year old this year:

  • Day 1: Read Out Loud + Narration
  • Day 2: Memorize
  • Day 3: Manipulate
  • Day 4: Explore

Since Day 1 (Read Out Loud) and Day 4 (Narration) in the original curriculum was related to each other, I decided to combine the two. My toddler thoroughly enjoys reading with me, and I wish to do something more systematic to improve his speech and vocabulary. It is my hope that he can string more words in the coming weeks because of this activity.

I have originally wanted to use A Year of Playing Skilfully as suggested by Classical Academic Press. But the curriculum is just way out of budget for us right now. Plus, I have to admit that I am not a very tedious person who will prepare crafts and activities ahead of time. I am very practical, and prefer ready-made resources whenever possible. I’ll be using what I already have at home, that is June Oberlander’s Slow and Steady Get Me Ready for our Explore day. This book is also recommended in The Well-Trained Mind by one of the classical homeschooling pioneer, Susan Wise Bauer.

My aim is to learn while I teach my two kids. I also want to document the highlights of our homeschooling experience, and hopefully introduce the beauty of Classical Christian Education to the rest of the Filipino people.