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A Classical Conversation

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The Delaware Tea Party…And Why Writing Is So Important

Posted by Kathy Sheppard
Kathy Sheppard
Kathy Sheppard has a B.A. in Latin from the College of William and Mary and a M.
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on Tuesday, 15 April 2014
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As I traverse history with my Challenge III and IV students, I have noticed a very important trend in history. Those who are remembered in history are those who are able to write well. Our goal, of course, is going to Heaven, but if a person wants to influence the greatest number of people, he/she should learn to write well. If a person can write a persuasive essay well, he/she can write a beautiful speech, an outstanding presentation or a convincing affirmative construct for debate. In keeping with the theme of this missive, here is my thesis statement: Throughout history, we see that men are remembered not just for their deeds, but because their deeds have been immortalized in writing.

Thoughts on Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

Posted by Beth Watson
Beth Watson
Beth Watson graduated from Cairn University (formerly named Philadelphia Biblica
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on Wednesday, 09 October 2013
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In Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, Anthony Esolen writes an "indispensable guide to overcoming today's treacherous trends in parenting and education—and the overwhelming banality of contemporary culture." Esolen's scope is broad, but my focus was narrow. I looked for how these cultural shifts, which Esolen strongly argues are negative, have impacted my home, my parenting, and my family. How have these effects shaped my parenting? Have I bought into a line of thinking and pattern of behavior that is not only mentally sterilizing, but also spiritually halting?

 

I want to raise intelligent, strong, and humble men who seek God first. I want a creative daughter full of beauty who loves God and loves people. I know to place my children into God's hands, but am I blocking their view of Him through the works of my hands? Is how we are spending our time limiting their time with Him?

How Classical Conversations Teaches Us to Communicate Culture

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Tuesday, 01 October 2013
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“People and other creatures would be known by their names and histories, not by their numbers or percentages. History would be handed down in songs and stories, not reduced to evolutionary or technological trends.”

-Wendell Berry

 

What is culture, civilization, community? Do we live in a civilized community because we have tagged and identified everyone with a nine-digit social security number? Does that kind of technical efficiency define what it means to be civilized? Is the human soul satisfied because it can describe a person statistically: height, weight, race, religion, and gender?

 

Community is far more than these things; it is the songs and stories that we can tell about one another, about our forebears.

Dispute, Deny, Distort, Discard: The Constitution in the Crosshairs

Posted by Brian Tonnell
Brian Tonnell
After 22 years as an Air Force pilot, God poked Brian in the chest and said, “Yo
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on Friday, 20 September 2013
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Satan tried it first1. Dispute: “Did God really say?” Deny: He didn’t really say that. “You will not certainly die.” Distort: Here’s the real truth. “God knows that when you eat from it ... you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And the final result? Adam and Eve discarded God’s words. Dispute, deny, distort, discard.

 

Once Adam and Eve were no longer grounded in God’s ideas, what did they have to fall back on? Their own wisdom. They did what was right in their own eyes. And history continually reminds us that this is a recipe for disaster.

 

Surely we would never fall into that trap!

 

Even the casual observer will recognize that our culture is losing—more likely, has lost—its basis for Truth. There can be no doubt that our country was founded on biblical principles. During the early days of our country, the preponderance of America was Christian. Even if not all were religious, there was at least a pervading belief in the rightness of biblical principle. This foundation in biblical principle helped steer our culture down the morally right path, whether in government, the courts, the public square, business, or private homes.

Discussing the Constitution

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Tuesday, 17 September 2013
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Today is September 17. How many of you knew today is Constitution Day in the United States? Robert Byrd, a Senator who hailed from West Virginia, established the day as a Federal observance in 2004. September 17th was chosen because it is the day the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787. In fact, today marks the 226th anniversary of that momentous signing.

 

The Constitution is an exciting part of your child’s education for a variety of reasons. First, information such as that discussed above becomes a part of your child’s memory pegs, upon which he can attach additional information. The Foundations child will remember this as one of the historic events in his Classical Acts and Facts History Timeline cards.

 

Second, Patrick Henry described the Constitutional Convention as an event at which he “smell[ed] a rat.” What did he mean by that statement? Since education that is contextual and prescriptive provides the best education, you can ask prescriptive questions about the Constitutional Convention. Should the United States have called a Constitutional Convention? Should the United States have replaced the Articles of Convention with the Constitution? Should Patrick Henry have refused to attend the Convention? Should Patrick Henry have fought to have the Bill of Rights amended to the Constitution? These are the sorts of questions that can engender an excitement about an event like the Constitutional Convention, especially among dialectic- and rhetoric-aged students.

True Mythology—“Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact" (Part II: This is His Spoken World)

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Thursday, 30 May 2013
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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through Him were all things made. Welcome to His poem. His play. His novel. Skip the bowls of fruit and statues. Let the pages flick through your thumbs. This is His spoken world.

                                                                                 - N.D. Wilson1

 

This article series is an attempt to reclaim mythology—and with it metaphor—back from the rationalism that has stripped it of meaning and significance. Mythology is not only valuable, it is fundamental. Furthermore, there is a mythology that is not fictional at all, but is essential and very real: Christianity, as C.S. Lewis put it, is myth become fact.

 

What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something, but reality is that about which truth is), and, therefore, every myth becomes the father of innumerable truths on the abstract level. Myth is the mountain whence all the different streams arise which become truths down here in the valley…Or, if you prefer, myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with that vast continent we really belong to. It is not, like truth, abstract; nor is it, like direct experience, bound to the particular.

                                                                                 - C.S. Lewis2

 

In my earlier article, I argued that secularism’s philosophy of personal narrative—examined through the psychological theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—cannot have its cake and eat it too: the so-called ‘scientific’ paradigm of Maslow’s pyramid is inconsistent; at the lower, materialistic levels, it acknowledges that real things exist to meet acknowledged human needs and desires, but at the higher levels, it suddenly wants to call all the things which meet the higher human needs (such as aesthetics, understanding, and transcendence), ‘relative’—that is, not based on any objective reality, but left up to the individual’s ‘personally created narrative.’

 

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Why the Easter Bunny Makes Sense

Posted by Tobin
Tobin
Tobin Duby graduated Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Classical Liberal Arts
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on Friday, 03 May 2013
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The traditional Christian church calendar has just marked the beginning of the fifth Sunday in the season of Easter. As the celebration of the Resurrection continues, I’d like to share some information I’ve been gathering regarding the symbolism commonly used in Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas—symbolism which, although often criticized by both nonbelievers and believers alike, is grounded, not just in the biblical worldview, but in common sense.

 

My research into this subject was spurred by an image (warning: inappropriate language present on the source site) I saw on an atheist friend’s Facebook page. He had shared it from an atheist humor website called “We [unprintable] Love Atheism.” I have seen “shares” by this friend from a whole family of related websites with names like, “I [unprintable] Love Science.” This one was so self-important that it invited a friendly response, and you can be sure that I gave one in the Facebook “conversation” that ensued.

 

What Are We Thinking?

Posted by David Bailey
David Bailey
David Bailey is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Stokesdale
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on Wednesday, 06 February 2013
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Americans solve problems, explore new realms, and question authority. After all, the first European settlers on our continent crossed the ocean to find greater freedom and new opportunities. These adventurous, independent settlers and immigrants laid the foundation for American culture. Thus in America, we pay little attention to class distinctions, seek equality and fairness, value hard work, and persevere through difficulties.

 

This spirit inspired the fight for freedom from England, the settling of the frontier, the invention of modern means of transportation, the discovery of cures for diseases, and the creation of history’s best free market economy. The standard of living thereby achieved, which we take for granted, could not have been imagined 100 years ago. This success flows from a people who live American values that are based upon biblical principles.

 

In spite of all of our achievements and in our quest for fairness and equality, our culture has begun to focus on fault finding. Rather than celebrating our spirit of achievement, popular culture now dwells on the sins of the past and present. This collective self-reflection has generated negative energy.

 

Indeed, it has become fashionable to disparage one’s cultural roots. We love to condemn our ancestors and anyone who defends them. Somehow that seems noble in popular culture. We discovered the value of individual self-reflection, and have begun to apply the process to our culture.


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Philosophy: What's the Use?

Posted by Brian Tonnell
Brian Tonnell
After 22 years as an Air Force pilot, God poked Brian in the chest and said, “Yo
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on Friday, 04 January 2013
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“Why do we have to study the things a bunch of dead guys said years ago?” This is a fairly common question posed by philosophy students. It is a reasonable question, but it is a “top floor” question. To sufficiently answer it, we must journey down to the “basement” to find the fundamental issue at hand.

 

Once upon a time, there was a popular nineteenth century philosopher who espoused some very disturbing ideas: Morality and values are man-made crutches that have led to the degeneracy of western culture; Christianity is a destructive establishment serving as a narcotic for the masses; and finally, God is dead. If you are thinking “Friedrich Nietzsche,” you are correct. We now leave the “top floor” and travel down a level to discover more rudimentary questions. How is it that these horribly twisted ideas of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and nihilism have come to permeate our culture? Why is it that Nietzsche is called “one of most influential of all modern thinkers”?1 How could it be that his “revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life”?2

 

To answer these questions, perhaps descent to a still lower level must occur in order to discover a more fundamental question: how could so many people be drawn to a worldview so replete with lies? To answer this question, we must look to history; we must go back in time, all the way to the beginning, where we finally arrive in the “basement” to unearth the foundational issue.

 

Time to Reflect

Posted by David Bailey
David Bailey
David Bailey is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Stokesdale
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on Friday, 28 December 2012
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During the holiday season I enjoy the opportunity for reflection. At the year’s end life can be busy, but I like to make time to take a deep breath and think.

 

I find it helpful to take a few steps back and look at my life. I see how my children have grown, I look at the impact my life is having on the world, and I see the person I am becoming. I can see my life more as a story and I feel less overwhelmed by the moment.

 

I keep a journal, and have for over twenty years. My collection of journals is the story of my life. I write about my struggles, successes, fears, joys, insights, and more. I often write my prayers and record lessons God is teaching me. As God shows me who I am, I try to capture that on paper.

 

As with any story, there are different versions of my life story. First, there is my story as recorded in my journals and retold by me. I am the main character and it is all about me.

 

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What We Get Away With

Posted by David Bailey
David Bailey
David Bailey is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Stokesdale
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on Thursday, 16 August 2012
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A pastor friend began serving a plateaued traditional church many years ago. He helped the church grow tremendously, and the church continues to thrive under his leadership today. In the process of leading the change, he had to get rid of the old church constitution and bylaws. He persuaded some key people to just ignore the old rules and let the church write some new ones. It worked. He got away with it.

 

When Franklin Roosevelt came into office, he proposed sweeping legislation to begin government entitlement programs and work programs. Collectively, we call these programs The New Deal. He got away with changing the role of government in the lives of American citizens. When Congress and the courts challenged some of his other initiatives, the president tried to increase the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, from nine to fifteen. This would have allowed him to stack the new court with jurists sympathetic to his agenda and to remove the legal hurdles. He did not get away with expanding the Supreme Court.

 

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Lapbooks for Cycle 1

Posted by Nancy
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on Monday, 28 May 2012
in News and Updates

 

Do you love lapbooks? Well, A Journey Through Learning has received permisson from Leigh to recommend many of their lapbooks for cycle 1! What is a lapbook you ask? It is like scapbooking, but with an educational twist! Your child records information, through drawing or writing, into fun little mini-booklets. Those mini-booklets are then glued into specially-folded file folders.

 

A Journey Through Learning not only provides ALL of the templates and instructions, they also provide STUDY GUIDES for each topic!!! These study guides make doing your weekly memory verses so much more educational. No more looking up the information!!! When complete, your child will have something to show dad, grandparents, and friends. They also are wonderful for your sharing time at CC. Every time your child shows and explains the contents in his lapbook, he will be continuing to learn the information within it and not even realize it! Lapbooks are also motivating for the reluctant learner.

 

So, check out the special tab just for Classical Conversations cycle 1 on A Journey Through Learning's website and let the fun begin!

www.ajourneythroughlearning.com

 

New products for Classical Conversation are being added daily! Before school starts in August they will have notebooking pages, file folder games, Latin review, copyworking and more!

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Words Aptly Spoken: American Documents Book Review

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 01 August 2011
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The newly revised Words Aptly Spoken*: American Documents will serve as an excellent resource to supplement your Cycle 3 American history studies. In Challenge I, WAS: American Documents serves as aspine for the American government class so that students are exposed to the original documents that have framed and informed our nation. This well-rounded resource can be used in three ways with Foundations students: as a reference book for parents and students; as a resource for presentations; and as a means to inspire heroism and patriotism in our children.

Parents and students can use the materials in WAS: American Documents as a supplement to the Foundations Cycle 3 memory work. The first section contains pictures of the presidents and their vice presidents and the dates of their terms. The book also includes the Preamble to the Constitution, a list of the seven Articles of the Constitution, and the complete text of all twenty-seven Amendments to the Constitution.  All of these can be used at home to reinforce the memory work.


There is much value to reading the original documents of American history as opposed to just reading about these documents. During week two of Cycle 3, try reading  the Mayflower Compact  aloud as a family to start  a conversation about the Pilgrims and their plan to form an orderly society in the New World. Parents and older students can also read the complete texts of the Missouri Compromise (week eight), the Emancipation Proclamation, the Dred Scott decision (week nine) and the Brown v. Board of Education ruling (week twenty) as a means of delving into issues of slavery and civil rights.

In the classical, Christian model of education, students progress from knowledge (grammar), to understanding (dialectic), to wisdom (rhetoric). In the classical sense, rhetoric is defined as finding the  means of persuasion best suited to  the audience and situation. The speeches in WAS:  American Documents provide the best examples of American rhetoric—speeches which stirred patriots to form a new nation, healed a fracturedpeople, honored the sacrifices of fallen soldiers, and roused a citizenry to action.  All American schoolchildren should be exposed to these historic words . When grammar students hear, memorize, and recite the passionate appeals of American leaders, they are being prepared to become great leaders themselves—leaders who will be able to persuade others with their own excellent words.

Foundations students can begin by memorizing short American speeches and documents or excerpts from longer pieces.  Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech makes an excellent presentation. Students will enjoy treating their classmates to this fiery oration. Who could fail to be moved by his words?

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!”
-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps
from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren
are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish?
What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at
the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course
others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

Take the opportunity to use Patrick Henry’s speech during week four as a discussion of the rising desire for liberty that resulted from the Continental Congresses.

Every American student should know the poignant words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address , words which reminded a divided America of the importance of unity and offered prayers for the fallen soldiers:  “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” When students inscribe these words in their hearts and minds, they will possess powerful reminders of the distinctive ideals that set America apart from the rest of the world.

Students should also be familiar with the words of FDR’s “Pearl Harbor Address:”  “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” They can read and memorize this speech in conjunction with the week eighteen history song . Finally, expose students to the famous words of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address:


And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-
ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but
what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of
us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With
a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our
deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help,
but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.



Finally, families can use the poetry in WAS:  American Documents as an antidote to the flatness of revisionist history which tends to destroy the reputations of the Founding Fathers and other American heroes .  In contrast, we must inspire our grammar stage students with the amazing and heroic deeds of Americans from previous generations. Students can thrill  their classmates by reciting the thrilling  adventure of Pocahontas and John Smith as recorded in Thackeray’s poem “Pocahontas.”  The repeated refrain of “Five Kernels of Corn” makes this poem easy to memorize and gives children an appreciation for the sacrifices of those who forged a way in the New World. Boys will delight in recounting the life of Nathan Hale, a Revolutionary War spy hanged by the British. Or, they may relish  reciting the last moments of the “Defense of the Alamo.” Enrich your child’s understanding of immigration to America (week sixteen) with the moving words of Emma Lazarus “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.”  
Recreate the past for your children as you read, reflect, and recite!

*Words Aptly Spoken is abbreviated as WAS for ease of reference.

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Americans Don’t Know U.S. History

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 27 June 2011
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Years ago, I watched an episode of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  One of the “person on the street” segments featured Leno asking bystanders two questions: 1) “Who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?” 2) Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”  Only one viewer answered the first question (it’s the address of the White House).  Every viewer knew the answer to the second question (Spongebob Squarepants).  Wow!


This weekend, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with American historian and author David McCullough.  The topic:  the shocking lack of history knowledge among the college-educated populace.  McCullough addressed four problems with today’s history education:  1) We teach history poorly if at all, 2) teachers are required to have a degree in education, not a subject, 3) history is taught as a series of discrete subjects which fails to give students a sense of chronology, and 4) history textbooks are boring.


The article quoted the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress, which “found that only 12% of high-school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation’s history.  And consider:  Just 2% of those students understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.”  Seeing these results re-fueled my passion for tackling Cycle 3 with my young children next year.  Whatever else I accomplish in my homeschool, I am certain that they will know that Brown v. Board of Education ended segregation in schools.  What’s more, they will know the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the American presidents, the states and capitals, and the chronology of American history from Columbus to September 11.

McCullough is not the only notable American bemoaning the lack of history education.  Diane Ravitch, professor at New York University and education historian, notes:  “In 1987, I coauthored a book with my friend Chester E. (Checker) Finn Jr. called What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know? which reported on the first federal test of history and literature. We lamented what seemed to be a loss of cultural memory, a position that hit a public nerve but was scorned in the academic world, which was then caught up in postmodernism and a revolt against “the canon.”  Our view was that you can’t reject the canon if you have no knowledge of it.”   In other words, we cannot educate our young people because we can’t agree on what to teach.  In contrast to this postmodernist confusion, families in Classical Conversations pursue a clearly defined set of knowledge about history (and other subjects as well).

For example, it the Wall Street Journal article, David McCullough cited a conversation with a female college graduate who had no idea that the original thirteen colonies were all located on the East Coast!  This problem is easily remedied with an inexpensive map and some paper.  In Cycle 3, our children will learn to identify the original thirteen colonies in their geography memory work.  The first problem—that American schools generally do not teach the content of American history—is solved by the memorization of a core body of knowledge about American history and geography.  At home, families can supplement their history education with exciting stories about important Americans.

As students get older, they will reinforce this core body of knowledge by studying American government and economics in Challenge I and by studying American history from Columbus to the present in Challenge III.  By building on their early education, we allow them to reinforce the knowledge they memorized in the early grades and to delve deeply into that knowledge in the later years as they begin to write persuasive essays and debate historical issues.

So, now for problem two—teachers receive a teaching degree but not a degree in a particular subject.  As homeschool parents, we are not hampered by the requirement to have a teaching degree.  However, many of us have to face the obstacle of gaps in our own education.  This problem can be easily solved with two ingredients—a passion to learn and time spent reading.  If you have gaps in your own U.S. history education, do some reading this summer to fill in the gaps.  The A Patriot’s History of the United States is a comprehensive and detailed resource. If you don’t have time, plan to investigate great books which teach U.S. history and enjoy them with your family this year (a future article will address U.S. History read-alouds).

The third problem McCullough lists is the lack of chronological instruction in history.  This is why we have our young students memorize the timeline of history from creation to modern times each year.  In Cycle 3, we will also learn songs to teach the chronological history of the U.S. along with important people, places, events, and dates.  In Challenge I-IV, students create a timeline each year so that they continue to see the chronology of world history.

Finally, McCullough laments the boredom of history textbooks.  At Yale, McCullough had the privilege to study writing with Thornton Wilder, novelist, playwright, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He recalls that Wilder challenged students to write history in such a way that readers would be desperate to hear the end, even though they already know what happened. By learning along with our children, we can practice delivering stories with drama and excitement and can express our delight in stories that are fresh and new to them.

In conclusion, McCullough has a few recommendations.  First, he would change the way we use the textbooks:  “I’d clip off all the numbers on the pages. I’d pull out three pages here, two pages there, five pages here—all the way through.  I’d put them aside, mix them all up, and give them to you and three other students and say ‘Put it back in order and tell me what’s missing.’ You’d know that textbook inside and out.”  In Challenge A-IV, this is essentially what we ask of our students.  Instead of spoon-feeding them knowledge, we ask them to research topics, create their own illustrations, and present them to the class.  We ask them to engage in speech and debate events, and to create their own timelines and study guides.  Finally, he would have teachers capitalize on the gift of the young for absorbing knowledge (think Foundations memory work).

I will think about Mr. McCullough throughout the year as we listen to history songs and stories in the car, draw maps of the United States, and complete presentations on famous Americans.  I will ponder his suggestions as I listen to the speeches delivered by my Challenge III students and review their U.S. history timelines.  Once again, I will be amazed at what the students accomplish, and I will be grateful for the vision of Classical Conversations and the communities of families.

Link to complete Wall Street Journal article

Link to National Assessment of Educational Progress 2010 Report Card on History

Link to Patriot’s History


Tags: History
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The_Core_of_History

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 14 February 2011
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Through history, we see God’s unfolding plan for humanity.   We learn about both the incredible triumphs and the failures of humankind.  As American historian David McCullough wrote:  “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”  We read and remember so that we may, in turn, act wisely.

  

Tags: History, The Core
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