Review: Writing and Rhetoric by Classical Academic Press

by Lynne

There’s always one subject that is difficult for a homeschool family to accomplish. That subject varies from family to family and from child to child. Sometimes, the parent doesn’t feel completely confident in her ability to convey mastery of the subject. Sometimes, it’s just a subject that a particular student does not find interesting. In our house, the whole subject of writing has been the most challenging aspect of our curriculum.

Both of my boys struggle with the physical act of handwriting. My focus up until now has been maneuvering them through learning how to hold their pencils correctly and how to form letters in both manuscript and cursive. We’ve also learned about sentence structure and the mechanics of writing, such as capitalization and punctuation rules. Quite frankly, it felt like drudgery to all of us.

I do try not to compare my children with other kids, but I must admit that it was difficult for me to see homeschool blog posts with gorgeous handwriting and young children writing beautiful poetry and short stories. My kids have trouble writing a five sentence paragraph. I never had expectations for them to be doing a whole lot of writing in elementary school, and I’m of the opinion that current educational trends push students toward writing before they have the necessary skills. However, since my boys are approaching middle school age, I felt I really needed to do something about their writing skills.

I’ve been to the homeschool conventions. I’ve looked at many writing programs. I’ve gathered thoughts and opinions from my homeschool community, both in real life and online. I never found a program that just resonated with me. I liked pieces and parts from many different programs. For some programs, I just opened up one page of the book and knew that it wouldn’t work for my kids. I was very discouraged about writing and was planning to piece together a writing curriculum on my own.

Then, I discovered a new product from our 2014 sponsor’s website. Classical Academic Press has a program called Writing and Rhetoric. It is based on the ancient Greek progymnasmata exercises, through which a student learned to gradually increase his communication and writing skills. By the end of progymnasmata study, the student was able to start producing his own erudite speeches. So far, Classical Academic Press has available the first two books in the series. I purchased the first book, Fable, which is geared toward third and fourth graders. My sons are fourth and fifth graders this year, but with their writing difficulties this level is perfect for them. A younger student who has a good grasp of language and who is already writing independently might even enjoy this program.

The first phase of this program is all about learning to retell a fable. So far, we’ve completed four chapters in the first book. I take each chapter slowly and have the boys work through it in three to four days. They take turns reading each fable out loud to me. Some of them we’ve already encountered, so this gives them a new way to look at a familiar fable. The amount of writing they have to do at one time is minimal, but gradually builds up. They have learned about summarizing and amplifying stories. For each fable, they answer questions that are designed to illuminate the moral of the story, or to emphasize the purpose of the lesson. The questions are simple and not overwhelming. There are very nice illustrations for each story as well. All in all, each chapter is well thought out and easy to follow. You can see sample pages of the books on the Classical Academic Press website.

The only thing that didn’t work for us was the binding. I left my teacher’s manual as is, but since the boys needed to write in their books, I had their workbooks spiral bound at the local copy store. My boys have sensory issues, and trying to hold a workbook flat while writing is just too difficult for them. The spiral binding is easier for them to manipulate. Maybe in the future, the books will be offered with a different binding.

I like that my kids are learning skills one at a time and have those skills modeled for them in an easy and interesting way. For the first time in our homeschool career, we are all actually enjoying writing time. Now, I won’t say that my boys love writing just yet, but they no longer give me a hard time when I tell them it’s time for writing lessons. And that is a beautiful thing. I’m looking forward to continuing with this series.

Lynlynnene–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

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Creative Classical Education: Is It Possible? by Sheryl

 

There is no dichotomy between logic and creativity. None. We have falsely mystified the idea of imagination, causing many people to believe that they don’t have the ability to be creative or, conversely, that they are too artistic to be constrained by logic! What a shame.

Don’t believe that creativity and logic are intricately entwined?

Notice how many classroom “subjects” are involved in artist Janet Echelman’s work.

Creativity isn’t just having the freedom to discover beauty, it is combining ideas and materials in a new way. We live in an interconnected world, and creativity is one part of the whole. It is intentional and it can, in fact, be fostered. Classical education offers a wonderful springboard for creating such an environment.

Creativity in Math and Science

It has been stated by many that “Research is organized purposeful creativity.” I love this line of thinking. Research requires thinking about things in a new way, experimenting, observing, trying diligently, and often getting things wrong.

One of the wonderful parts of Classical Education is that it values time spent in thought. It cultivates the art of awareness, teaching students to articulate their observations clearly. Children aren’t afraid of being wrong and their capacity for innovation is infinite. Classical Education allows them the freedom to question, and to discover answers through their studies in an orderly way.

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Creativity in History and the Social Sciences

Creativity is empowering. It creates change. It is how generals develop new battle plans, and how new systems of government are formed. Spending time observing the interconnectedness of our world teaches our children to build an awareness of the activities around them and to begin to analyze what they see.

(Oh, and as a bonus, the study of stories has been proven to help with retention in other fields as well! Consider it homeschool multi-tasking.)

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Creativity in Debate and Writing

The purpose of Classical Education is not to produce fact memorizers (although the youngest children are encouraged to do a significant amount of memorizing).  The goal is to create students who understand how to learn. Maybe more importantly, the goal is to bring up children who are excited to learn on their own and share their discoveries with others.

By the time students have completed the Rhetoric stage, they have gained enough skills to be express their point clearly. It is only through this expression, rather than mere thought, that they will be able to impact the world around them with their discoveries.

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The opposite side of the coin…

Have you noticed that the arts are analytical?  Music and dance follow patterns, there is history in drama, and psychology in colors. Intelligence is diverse. More diverse than we generally acknowledge.

In the words of Picasso, “All children are born artists.” It is our duty to foster their passions and teach them how to utilize their creativity whether they choose to become painters like Picasso or not.

Do you think Classical Education takes imagination seriously enough?

Sheryl is living her dream in the house on Liberty Hill where she is a full time wife, mother, and teacher. She is passionate about turning children’s natural curiosity into activities that will inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Learn more about her adventures at LibertyHillHouse.com

Cover photo: By Janet Echelman (1.26 Sculpture) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Injury, Recovery, and Homeschooling, by Sarah R

in the rehab hospital

 

My first year homeschooling looked nothing like I’d planned – and it wasn’t just because it never looks like the plan.  My dreams of my son happily learning Math, Reading, Latin, Greek, Hindi, and Hebrew, while memorizing poems and stories and cheerfully doing copywork in kindergarten weren’t very realistic anyway, but there was a far more important reason our first year of homeschooling didn’t look like I expected.

My son was recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

A month after his fifth birthday, he fell head first out a window and three stories onto concrete.  We are thankful every day that my then three-year-old daughter, the only other person upstairs, knew to come get us right away.  We are also thankful that he did not have any major permanent damage.  However our lives changed with his accident.  He was in the PICU for almost two weeks, spent five days in a regular room at the hospital and then spent another three and a half weeks at a pediatric rehab hospital. It was a life-altering time for all of us.

When his plethora of therapists – physical , occupational, speech – and doctors asked our plans for kindergarten, we said we’d always planned to homeschool and those plans had not changed.  Each of them had the same response: “That is a very good choice for him at this time.”

He came home from the hospital in the last week of June. We started homeschooling a day or two later.  Our homeschool routine for the first six months was frequently interrupted by doctor and therapy appointments. We were fortunate in that he and his sister had been attending a wonderful preschool that took both our daughter and our younger son full-time for the summer and kept our youngest full-time until December, while my daughter went back to the part-day program that fall.  Having both the younger children with caregivers when their brother had doctor and therapy appointments 30-45 minutes away made it easier.  In the beginning, he had PT once a week and OT twice a week. Weekly speech transitioned to twice a week when the school year started.  He also had a weekly talk therapy appointment and numerous doctor appointments for check-ups.   We spent three to four days a week at various therapies and doctor appointments during those early months.  This greatly cut into the time we spent on formal education.
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doing math

One of the most noticeable new issues resulting from his injury was hyperactivity.  My son could no longer sit for more than ten seconds at a time.  Before the accident, he was able to sit and attend for ten minutes, which would have been enough time for schoolwork.  Ten seconds, on the other hand, made it hard to get him to attend to his work.  We had to come up with alternative strategies.  He often did his math while running around the living room or jumping on the trampoline.  His reading instruction was haphazard. We would often break a ten minute reading lesson into three days, only working for three or four minutes per day.  We also streamlined what we were studying.  I had dreamed of teaching my son all about history and science.  In reality, between his various appointments, focusing issues, and general healing from concussion, if we read two or three science and history picture books at random times during the week we counted it a win.

Eight months after the accident, my son moved to once a week OT, finished PT, and his doctor appointments slowed down to every six months.  Even then, we still had days when we got nothing done except his therapy. Many times through our first year, homeschooling was a lifesaver.  Because doctor appointments consumed our days, taking three weeks off would not have been possible in a regular school environment. With homeschooling we were able to work in a break when we had many appointment and were still able to finish off his kindergarten year with him advancing enough to move to first grade on a normal schedule. That type of flexibility would not have been possible in a public school setting.  We also did not have to deal with IEPs and making sure it was followed while he was in a large class, which could have easily overwhelmed him at that point in his recovery.  We were able to focus on him and his needs thanks to homeschooling and the wonderful preschool our other children attended.

Fast forward twenty-one months after his accident: you’d never know that my son fell out a window nor would you notice the issues we dealt with last year. There were still some issues that appeared as he healed that needed to be addressed, but most of them were not on our radar during his recovery period.  Once the main portion of his healing and therapy had ended, those issues were far easier to address.  He is still in OT, speech, and behavioral therapy to address a few lingering effects of his accident; however it is far easier to handle a handful of weekly appointment than a wide variety of daily appointments. He’s on track to finish first grade even though he isn’t able to sit for three hours of schoolwork. My dreams have been a bit modified from having him happily learn Latin, Hindi, and Greek, but he is doing well, learning, and having fun.

 

Sarah–Sarah is the wife of Dan and mom to Desmond, Eloise and Sullivan (Sully).  She enjoys sarahreading,  board games, D&D, computer and console games, the Oxford comma, and organizing fun trips. Sarah and Dan decided years before they had children that they would be homeschooling and now they are. Their family has enjoyed beginning their homeschooling journey and the early elementary years. There are a lot of fun opportunities upcoming in the next year as well, including Eloise starting Kindergarten at home, numerous trips to Atlanta, and a month long trip to India. They currently reside in a suburb of Washington DC and enjoy all the local attractions available for day trips.