Equipping Parents to Teach
Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding.Proverbs 4:7
“For the tools of learning are the same, in any and every subject; and the person who knows how to use them will, at any age, get the mastery of a new subject in half of the time with a quarter of the effort expended by the person who has not the tools at his command.”Dorothy Sayers – The Lost Tools of Learning
From the beginning, the Bible has been the foundation of our homeschool. I believe the Truth unfolded in the pages of His love letter to us gives us all the wisdom we need to run this race with diligence and victory. Romans 10:17 tells us that, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” I also believe He has shown us in his word how to build that foundation of learning and how to equip our homes with the proper tools. Let’s look at Proverbs 24:3-4 for this model. “Through wisdom is a house built; and by understanding it is established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” His Word shows us a clear view of how we learn. Look at education as building a house and see how it is framed. Take time to pray about this concept and ask the Lord to bring revelation through His Word. Seek His insight on this alone for some time, and prepare that foundation that is the cornerstone of your homeschooling oasis.
The Trivium is Latin for “Three Roads”. These roads are translated as the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages of the classical model. Grammar is the knowledge portion; dialectic is the understanding; and rhetoric is the wisdom stage. In the classical model of education, a student is learning through a process. The subject is not just introducing once and we move on, but it is revisit over and over. Think of how much we take out of the Word of God when we go back and read it over and over. We can pull this into our teaching and curriculum, also.
The Grammar Stage= Knowledge Stage
In the grammar stage, we introduce our children to topics by relating facts to them, or filling them with knowledge about whatever we are learning. This can be in the form of math facts, phonics, music and the names of the composers, historical timelines, famous people, locations, events, etc. When we read aloud to our children, we give them a gentle but thorough introduction to the various subjects we schedule into our school day. Grammar, aka…knowledge, builds through repetition, intensity and duration. This is why I can say that expecting them to be able to parrot back everything the first time is not necessary. What we want to do is excite them, show them how to learn, and give them the tools to process and ask why. Then, we lead them as they take the reins of learning themselves.
The Dialectic Stage = The Understanding Stage
In the dialectic stage, we are helping them to process, in essence we are teaching them to think. Is that possible? To teach them to think? Absolutely, model…model…model. Do you wonder why some students think they hate math or science? Is it because they don’t like it or maybe it just wasn’t presented in a way that was fun, enjoyable and learnable? I find it easy to squash my children’s own attitude about a subject when I myself have a poor attitude about it. Why do we do that? Why do we decide because we don’t like a subject it is not worth the time to invest in it? I wonder if it is because we never had the tools to learn it properly. I have encountered numerous adults who share how much they disliked subject, yet when it was presented differently, more approachable, fun and even enjoyable, they began to change their opinion. Our kids will love a subject that involves learning with us.
So how do we teach them to think? Socrates, a great philosopher from Ancient Greece, was a master of the method of using dialogue to teach his students. He is suitably named, “The Father of Dialectic Discourse”. Dialectic, like dialogue, is the process of asking questions. Socrates often used the art of discourse in his teaching to pave a road for his student’s ability to process and comprehend what they were learning. By weaving a series of questions, you can help your students to think through each concept they are learning. We can also see this pattern in Deuteronomy Chapter 6, the pattern of discussion. By talking with them at every turn, we are encouraging them to open new doors, paving untamed roads and showing them how to ask thought-provoking questions.
At some point in our children’s lives, usually after (but not necessarily limited to) 5th or 6th grade, they begin to engage their detective skills. They are ready to ask the questions: What? Where? Who? When? Why? And How?
“What is it? Why does it do this? Where is the origin? Who found it? When did it happen? How do we know?”
The desire to know why things do what they do, how they work and what creates the unique differences we see in creation are the most natural part inherent in our children’s make-up. I find it is my own lack of awe for simplicity that can stem the tide of creativity in their treasure hunting endeavors. It is here; however, we can learn to begin to give them the skills of research, which ultimately prepares them to how find the answers they are seeking.
The Rhetoric Stage= The Wisdom Stage
The rhetoric stage is often called the stage of wisdom. Aristotle called this the ability to be persuasive. I would present to you that it is so much more. It is the stage where our students become teachers themselves. When our children are able to relate what they have learned, it is the highest form of understanding. Teaching a concept back to you gives you the standard with which to measure their absorption of the material that is being taught.
The rhetorical stage usually appears in or past the sophomore year in high school and college level. I have found in my own limited experience teaching both my own children and having the privilege to share with young adults in our community that the maturity needed to grasp ideas rhetorically truly comes with age. It is however, a rewarding time for both student and teacher to plan towards. We need to instill in our children a passion to pursue excellence, but only for his Glory. I have heard this said, “When you can explain a hard concept to a 10 year old, then you get it.” Likewise, when your students can process what they have learned and teach it to someone else we can know, they got it!
Apply the tools….
These tools are universal in nature, simplistic in application, yet profound in results. The aspect of support by means of equipping the parent not only gives us the tools we need to be successful but it is a method which can redeem the education of multiple generations. Not only are we directing our children’s education, but circumspectly we are redeeming our own.
(continue to Part 4 – Serve One Another)