Classical Teaching Strategies

Diane's Quick-Start Guide

Learn the Essentials of Teaching Strategies


Of all the possible homeschool teaching strategies you could adopt, the classical method of teaching academic skills in grades kindergarten through 8th grade is superior to teaching subjects.  What do you need to know when deciding?

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-- Classical Education --

What's so great about an old-fashioned classical education?

Conceived in the ancient Greco-Roman world, classical education is a popular homeschooling method for learning how to read, think, write, and speak about big ideas.

What is true? What is good? What is beautiful?

Thoughts drive behavior. Ideas move people. People with ideas control culture. As a community, we need kids who can think for themselves.

But no child begins a classical education as an expert thinker and persuasive communicator. Big ideas are challenging and require a lot of mental discipline. Your teaching strategy in the k-8 school years is to get your homeschooling kid ready to wrestle with the big ideas when he hits puberty.

Unlike a public school education that teaches subjects over a 12-year period, the classical education model teaches skills or learning tools over the first 7-8 years. It seems intuitive that we should be teaching our k-8 homeschool children skills, doesn't it?  But we forget, and get caught up in what the education establishment says, teaching irrelevant subjects in the early years.

When your ‘tween has become a master of these language skills, then you can switch to subjects in order to meet the graduation requirements of state laws and please those college admissions committees with an amazing high school transcript.

So, back to the k-7/8 school years. Your first homeschooling task is teaching the essential skills. Give them the tools, and eventually, they’ll achieve the classical education ideal. What skills should you be teaching?

Reading Comprehension
Critical Thinking
Narrative Writing
Persuasive Speech

 

By the completion of the k-7/8 classical curriculum, your child will possess the essential intellectual skills to understand and communicate about any fundamental truth of life.

The ancient Greek education ideal…that of an enlightened, mature mind…became a reality back then, and it can become a reality now in your own homeschool.

Teach skills during k-8, then switch to subjects for classical high school.

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-- Classical Curriculum --

What is the classical curriculum, and why should you consider adopting it in your homeschool?

There are so many benefits to teaching the classical curriculum in the k-7/8 years. You’ll save time, money, and headaches as you get done with school faster while creating your own custom homeschool curriculum. Plus, school will be more fun for you and your child!

When you teach skills in the early years instead of subjects, you’ll maximize your teaching time, and accelerate your child’s learning. If you’re a slave to a 36-week, subject-driven textbook, you’re tied down to that curriculum and that timetable. But, when you teach skills instead of subjects, you can do more in less time. In reality, it doesn’t take as long for a child to master a skill as it does to master a piece of academic knowledge.

Whether your child’s mental capacity is ordinary or extraordinary, you can speed up or slow down the skills mastery according to his needs. Teaching skills instead of subjects is the most efficient and productive use of your homeschooling day. When your focus is skills, you won’t get bogged down in boring, dry repetitive drill or in content that just doesn’t interest you or your kid. Skip it, and move on!

Plus, if you adopt an authentic classical education, you can completely customize the teaching content. There is no required content…there are only required skills. Completely customize the homeschool curriculum to your own heart’s desire!

Pull content that resonates with the interests, gifts, abilities, and passions of your unique child. You can also tailor the content to your own family’s story, themes, and goals.

You can still use textbooks, workbooks, and surveys, but instead of making your child drudge through 36 weeks of content, use these books as your personal teaching resource. Consider them your content teaching library. Choose topics that will bring joy while you’re teaching classical skills. Knowledge will accumulate regardless of what content you teach.

Most homeschool kids love learning with hands-on activities or field trips. Apprenticeships, internships, documentaries, recorded lectures, videos, classic literature, unit studies…any variety of content can be used in the service of teaching the essential intellectual skills.

Measure skills mastery every school year using the Seven Laws of Teaching 6-point grid and detailed Skills Checklists. Make changes to the classical curriculum every summer to take off skills your homeschool child has already mastered, and add on new skills he needs to practice.

Remember, classical methods have a proven track record. If you use them, they will help you raise kids who master the English language, apply sound reasoning to problem-solving, and communicate clearly in writing and speech.

Unlike prepackaged textbooks, the classical curriculum gives you freedom to teach skills with any content you want to learn.

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-- Reading Skills --

What reading skills does your homeschool child need to master?

Even though you didn’t have homeschool teaching strategies when your child was a toddler, you have already begun teaching the essential reading skills. Conversations with your baby teach him the English language, as do your daily read-alouds.

Mastering reading skills means learning the system of rules that govern the native language. To the ancient Greco-Roman world, the vernacular languages were Attic Greek and Latin. The art of grammar included the mastery of the alphabet, handwriting, spelling, reading, declensions, and conjugation. The child who mastered Greek and Latin grammar was able to use the language to full potential.

English is the native language of your 21st century homeschool child, so your classical teaching strategies will include the reading skills set including how to (1) read, (2) spell, (3) handwrite, (4) punctuate, (5) capitalize, (6) use proper grammar, and (7) decipher unfamiliar vocabulary.

So you’ll spend the k-7/8 school years teaching these reading skills:

reading + vocabulary
spelling + phonics
handwriting
English grammar
punctuation + capitalization

 

Your goal over the next few years is teaching whatever content you want to bring your child to reading skills mastery. By the time he reaches puberty, and you begin to build that amazing high school transcript, you ‘tween will be equipped for reading the challenging ideas of classic literature, histories, scientific theories, mathematical operations, and a host of other content containing life’s biggest ideas.

How would you grade your child's reading skills?

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-- Critical Thinking Skills --

What are the primary critical thinking skills?

Teaching strategy #2 is mastering the critical thinking skills. In the original classical education model, mastering the art of logic meant learning how to think with an emphasis on the operations necessary for clear, critical analysis. Remember, logic was a skill-set, so the child learned the tools of thinking (syllogism, induction, deduction, observation, fallacies) so that he could later apply these skills to the reality of whatever abstract ideas he wanted to explore in thought, writing, or speech.

Help your child become a sharper thinker by teaching how to (1) arrange data, (2) solve problems, (3) structure arguments, (4) perform and document scientific experiments, (5) analyze literature, (6) research a topic, and (7) listen critically.

Devote the k-7/8 school years to mastering these essential thinking skills:

categorizing + classifying data
problem-solving
argumentation + debate
formal logic + fallacies
observation + scientific method
literary analysis
research skills
foreign languages

One caveat about foreign languages…there are experts on both sides of the fence about whether to teach a foreign language when the child is young or wait ‘til high school. Don’t let people tell you that you must teach Latin or formal logic for your education to qualify as classical; this is simply untrue. Latin was the vernacular language of ancient Rome…that’s why they learned it, not because there was some Divine mandate or some special content.

Is there value in teaching Latin to a homeschool child? Yes, of course, but don’t sweat it if you decide it’s not right for your kid. Bring your child to English mastery, and he will be far ahead of his public school peers.

Much of the critical thinking skills mastery comes through daily Socratic questioning sessions. Teaching your homeschool child the 5 W questions and the 1 H question (who, what, when, where, why, and how) will give him more tools for performing a close reading of classic texts, experiments, foreign languages, and arguments so that he comes to a fuller understanding through directed self-discovery.

What critical thinking skills need the most attention in your home?

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-- Writing Skills --

Every homeschool mom wants her child to be a good writer.

Literacy was very important to the ancient Greeks and Romans, too, but spoken rhetorical skills were more highly valued than written skills. In our culture, writing skills may be more important, so make sure you include teaching writing skills in your k-7/8 homeschool strategies.

Mastering classical rhetoric, also known as the art of oratory, means learning how to invent, arrange, style, memorize, and deliver speeches with persuasive eloquence. Stylistic devices made boring debates compelling, so the student of a classical liberal arts education learned three appeals (ethical, logical, and emotional) and figurative language like parallelism and alliteration.

There is a huge benefit to teaching your homeschool child classical rhetoric sometime during the early high school years or even 7th or 8th grade, but for now make sure you bring your child to narrative writing skills mastery in these six critical fiction and non-fiction genres:

paragraphing + sentence variety
creative prose writing + poetic verse
expository + persuasive essays
thesis statements + research papers
journalism + narrative non-fiction
note-taking methods

 

Teaching writing skills can be as simple as showing your child the established formulas (like sentence syntax), pointing out patterns, and imitating prose from classic childrens' literature.

Teach writing skills until your k-8 child reaches substantial mastery.

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-- Public Speaking Skills --

Where would classical education be without classical rhetoric?

Learning how to invent, arrange, style, memorize, and deliver speeches with persuasive eloquence is one of the most important skills for a young adult with big ideas. You don’t have to wait until high school to equip your child with public speaking skills.

Start now by incorporating a daily three-minute impromptu speech at the kitchen breakfast table. Put a jar of short speech prompts (quotes, phrases, topics) out, and have your child pick one each morning to outline and deliver. You’ll be amazed how this daily ritual will improve your child’s public speaking skills and confidence.

In addition, include these speaking skills in your k-7/8 homeschool teaching strategies:

conversations
storytelling
impromptu + illustrated speeches
debating current political, economic, and world events
speech delivery techniques like eye contact, movement, and pauses

 

Innovative, efficient learning can happen year round in your homeschool; the potential for creative teaching is only limited by your imagination and inspiration. No longer bound by certain homeschooling methods, grades, subjects, or artificial school structure, you are free to teach the classical education skills in ways that uniquely meet the needs of your family.

A true classical education is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all formula.

Complete the classical education curriculum, and one day you’ll realize that your young adult is an extensive reader, critical thinker, engaging writer, and persuasive speaker…a fully equipped, refined citizen who has the potential to change his world on a grand scale.

Give him the public speaking tools now so that he's ready when the platform for influencing others appears.