Teaching the Trivium – Chapter 13




This post continues the discussion of Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn along with the Classical Mamas Read group led by Amy at Living and Learning at Home.

Chapter 13 – The Understanding Level: Ten Things to Do With Children Ages Thirteen Through Fifteen

The Bluedorns introduce this chapter noting that education will change at the understanding level will change because early teens are developing into thinking, reasoning, questioning creatures.  They are no longer content to know what happened; they want to know why.  At this point, I literally laughed out loud because they clearly need to meet 7 year-old Legohead L.  But the point is this, sometime around the time your child hits the teen years, education changes from learning facts to understanding the motivation behind the facts.  I imagine this can be a scary time for a lot of parents, so this chapter can really be a help.  Mostly, I just saw it as a goal for where we need to be moving over the next couple of years.

1. Family Worship – Notice this keeps coming in first place?

2. Reading Aloud – We do very little reading aloud (though will do more next year with both kids at home), and honestly I was surprised to find it still showing up in the teen years.  I can’t see us doing this.

3. History and Literature – If history has been interest-directed rather than chronological to this point, now is the time to change.  Studying history in a chronological fashion and incorporating literature of the time encourages better understanding.  Really, we are already on the same page with the suggestions: history textbook (we are using Story of the World), primary sources, timeline, biographies and autobiographies, historical fiction, and projects.

4. Composition – While composition needs to be part of the curriculum before age 13, I think this is where it needs to get very serious.  The Bluedorns recommend an emphasis in three areas: written narration, written summaries, and essays and creative writing.  I doubt we will ever get on the formal narration bandwagon, but mastering the other two forms of composition could not be more important.

5. Speech and Debate – Eloquent verbal communication never goes out of style.  It was true in the time of Cicero, and it is still true today.  Enough said?

6. Languages – By now children should be fairly comfortable with Latin, and it is time to introduce Greek.  I have nothing against Greek, but I can’t tell you for certain if we will learn it or not.  Part of me feels like if you know Latin or Greek, that is enough.  I’d like to let each child pick a second, modern language to learn instead.

7. Logic – Up until now the study of Logic has probably been informal and looked a lot like a game or brainteaser.  Now, however, is the time to start building a formal, structured study of logic.

8. Mathematics – The guidelines in this book for math really threw me for a loop.  You do no “formal” math and then jump in at age 10 with Saxon 6th grade math?  My ten year old is in 4th grade, and she is an emotional mess over math if she struggles with one problem.  I can’t imagine how she would have responded to their plan.  I think the better advice is just continue  progressing with math.

9. Science – Your study of science may have been informal up until now as well.  The Bluedorns recommend entering a science fair and allowing the development of that project to guide your study of science for the year.  This is actually a really great idea because students get experience actually doing real-world science.  Plus, you pick up background knowledge along the way and incorporate things like math, speech, and composition in the process.  Brilliant B actually entered her first science fair this year at age 10 and loved it.

10. Art and Music – This subject is left pretty open other than to say children should in some way (as the parent sees fit) be exposed to music and the arts.


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