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Classical Education

I am living proof that you can get something similar to what homeschoolers would consider a Classical Education in the public school system too.

As part of the San Diego School District’s Seminar Program for HG and PG children, I had quality instruction in six of the seven Liberal Arts:

  1. Grammar
  2. Rhetoric
  3. Arithmetic
  4. Geometry
  5. Music
  6. Astronomy

From a Medieval History perspective, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric make up the Trivium. 

Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy compose the Quadrivium.

There were many aspects of my public school education that were Classical in nature. Starting in third or fourth grade, the reading program we studied was Junior Great Books. Our teacher, Mrs. McClintock, contracted with NASA to acquire Moon Rocks for our classroom, for a limited time. She carted them around 24/7 in a locked briefcase. We even took a special field trip to JPL.

Our fifth and sixth grade teacher, Mr. Gray, was obsessed with the Socratic Method. Our desks were lined up in a giant arc, and everything we read, learned or studied was rigorously questioned. For back to school night, our entire class (parents included) read Antigone, and had a Socratic discussion that was quite engaging.

We also learned to diagram sentences, the old fashioned way. In the sixth grade, we spent an entire month doing nothing but staging and performing Macbeth and doing embroidery in the off hours. I cannot say that my math skills benefited from this arrangement, but I still love Shakespeare!

In middle school I took two years of Latin, and then moved on to Spanish which I found to be more helpful both in terms of learning grammar and conquering the SAT. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t wasted those two years learning Latin, because maybe my Spanish would be better.  I later went on to minor in Spanish in college, and found Spanish to be essential in my first two years of teaching.  Not so with Latin!

The Seminar students also participated in Junior Model United Nations, which taught persuasive arguing along with research, writing, world history, and current events.

My high school experience was heavily based in poetry, writing, language, and history as well.  By my senior year I was studying Asian History and Asian American Literature at the University of California San Diego in addition to taking Political Science and Calculus through our local community college.

All of this was offered to me, shaped, and encouraged by the traditional public school system.     

In college I spent my first year at Stanford in the Structured Liberal Education program, which is perhaps the most rigorous curriculum in Classical Education a freshman can take.  SLE is a 9 units a quarter, year-long course where students immerse themselves in literature, philosophy, art, and the humanities.  Ninety freshman students live in the same residence hall, eat dinner three times a week with their professors, write a ten page paper a week, and have a private SLE writing tutor to critique their work.  There is even a resident SLE tutor to assist in the evening hours.

I think my Classical Education credentials are pretty good. 

I am a big fan of The Well Trained Mind message board, which is a wonderful resource for parents, but I would like to respectfully point out that there are other avenues to achieving a Classical Education besides just homeschooling.   Traditional public schooling served me well in this area.

I also take issue with the theory that you should use language to be the driving force of education instead of images, picture or video. 

For some people (including me), language is the best way to instruct, because that’s how they learn best.  But for mathematically aligned people, language can be a roadblock to learning.  I have seen this in students, and in my own extended family.

I once attended a teaching seminar where the most brilliant experiment occurred. 

The facilitator asked us to write down directions to our house.  I of course, wrote out: “Take 163 south to exit bla-bla-bla.”  Isn’t that how everyone writes directions?  Um…no.  It turns out half of the room drew a map!  If you ask my husband or mother in law to give you directions, they will draw a map too.  Images are how they learn best.

My husband and I both believe that one of the best things we can do for our children is to ensure and encourage their strengths in the so called “STEM” areas of academics; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  The Humanities are, and will always be important.  Realistically however, our children will have a much more lucrative and secured future if they choose STEM careers.  So even though that is not my area of expertise, I need to make sure that the STEM curriculum is a focus in our household.

That being said, I am still passionate about writing, history, philosophy and reading. For more on this, please check out the rest of my blog!

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