To know God and to make Him known.

Finding Freedom in the Grammar Stage

Once upon a time, I attempted to find a craft, worksheet, and online activity or video to flesh out almost every subject of every week of Foundations memory work.

When we entered a year of overwhelming challenges and setbacks, I desperately struggled to keep a firm grip on my lesson plans, but our circumstances forced me to let go. At first, I wrestled with dreadful feelings of inadequacy and failure. However, during that humbling year, I made a simple yet liberating discovery: Whatever may befall us, we can simply rest in the classical method. Our children will learn without crafts, videos, and worksheets.

I discovered that as classical educators all we need at the grammar stage are the four Rs:

  • Reading
  • wRiting
  • aRithmetic
  • Recitation

Everything else is an unnecessary extra. In all honesty, many of the activities we were doing before our humbling year hindered our homeschool. We often neglected the core skills to pursue those unnecessary extras.

This entire experience led me to realize that at the grammar stage, we are emphasizing skills, not subjects.

I was always a bit confused about this, thinking that Classical Conversations spanned (or surveyed) such a large amount of history, but then argued that we should master—not survey—the subjects. It seemed contradictory to me.

Yet last year when life interrupted, we experienced firsthand what this meant. We simply emphasized skills, not subjects. We did not "dig in deeper," but fell back to the four Rs. And despite our year of setbacks, our children still learned an amazing amount of information. In fact, they mastered more than they ever did before. Later, it occurred to me that when we dig deeper into each and every week's memory work at the grammar stage, perhaps we are neglecting the mastery of the material to pursue the surveying of the material?

I discovered that our children will thrive if we simply memorize and recite at this foundational stage. They do not have to understand each and every thing we ask them to recite. That will come later. It will come up in some of the most unexpected places and at the most unexpected times. It will be brought to the forefront when we stumble across it in our normal reading. And it will be built upon with more formal understanding, discussion, and debate when our children embark on their journey through Challenge.

Sometimes our family still completes activities that correlate with our memory work, but it is no longer our focal point. And no matter what we plan to do, we fall back onto what is necessary. Therein lies peace and freedom.

So can I take a mid-year moment to remind us all of what we need?

For those in the Classical Conversations Foundations program, all you need is:

  • A Bible (No fancy curriculum needed. Just read the Scriptures together.).
  • The Foundations Guide
  • A tin whistle.
  • If possible, the Classical Acts & Facts History Timeline Cards. (If your children ask who, what, when, where, how, or why about Martin Luther, take out the timeline card and read it together!)
  • A math program (We use Saxon, but that's another story.)
  • A language arts program (until your children are old enough for Essentials). We use a spelling program that teaches phonics and then we teach sentence structure, punctuation, parts of speech, and so on via copywork and dictation. Our family no longer uses a formal English grammar program before Essentials. We found it is not necessary for our family. The Foundations English Grammar memory work will prepare students for Essentials.
  • A library card. Your book selections need not even match up with your history or science memory work. Just read anything that your children enjoy!
  • Paper and pencil.

I will mention now what I learned last year, partly as a reminder to myself. Do not cram your schedule so full that you have no room for teachable moments. Make your plans and goals, but do not hold yourself or your family to hard-set expectations. Choose enjoying your children over trying to make everything fun. Do not compare yourself to others. Do what is best for your family, your teaching style, and your circumstances no matter what you see someone else doing. And, most of all, remain flexible [and be still] as you trust the Lord in all things.

There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.   --Proverbs 19:21, KJV

CATEGORIES: Articles, Classical Christian Education, Grammar Stage (ages 4 to 11)

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