Friday, January 31, 2014

What is the Trivium? Teaching the Trivium Ch. 4

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This post contains an affiliate link to the book that we are going through.

Welcome to another week of the Teaching the Trivium book club!  I am so excited to read and discuss this book along with you.  I loved the discussion last week and would love to hear from more of you!  Today we talk about the trivium.

Chapter 4 - What is the Trivium?

I always love to read a good defense of classical education.  I'm not always so good at giving a coherent defense, but I love hearing one =)  Besides defining exactly what the trivium is, this chapter also aims to show how "modern education does not measure up to classical standards." (pg. 83)

Before we get too far, I should say that I underlined/circled/bracketed a lot in this chapter.  Some of it was new information, some of it was not, but all of it was so good and worthy of remembering!  I'll do my best to not make this post too long, but restrain myself and let you add to it with your own favorite parts!

The Classical Trivium

  • Grammar - learning to accurately receive konwledge
  • Logic - learning to critically analyze and understand
  • Rhetoric - learning to wisely and effectively express information

The Applied Trivium

The modern classical movement has its beginnings in The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorthy Sayers.  She took the classical ideas of the trivium and applied them to the development and education of children.  I have not read The Lost Tools of Learning.  Have you?  We should discuss that at some point too!

I think the key point to take away here is that each subject has it's own Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

The Scriptural Trivium

The Bluedorns, keeping with their theme of Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style, look to the Bible in defense of the trivium.  They see the words knowledge, wisdom, and understanding throughout the Scriptures and liken them to the stages of the trivium:

  • Grammar Stage - Knowledge
  • Logic Stage - Understanding
  • Rhetoric Stage - Wisdom

They site lots of verses that use these words, and it makes sense to me!  What do you think?  Do you use the Bible as a defense of the classical model of homeschooling?

Modern Education is Dysfunctional

The next section goes over a number of ways why teaching through the model of the trivium is superior to the methods used in modern education.  I honestly don't care to argue about the methods being used by anyone else, but I do love to learn more about why the method that I'm choosing to use to educate my children is so effective.  I underlined a lot of things to think about in this section and I'll share a few of them.  First a quote:

The student who masters the Trivium can teach himself anything.  But many products of modern schools need to be spoon-fed everything.  The Trivium is lifelong self-learning. Modern education is lifelong task-learning. (page 94)

That concept is so interesting to me as I look back upon my education.  I did very well in my schooling.  I also got to be a very good piano player.  You know what, though?  I never felt like understood what I was doing!

I could solve complex long as I had the formulas.  

I could excel in the science long as I had step-by-step instructions.  

I could play a piece of classical music long as I had the music to follow.  

The grades I got told me that I was smart, but I felt inadequate if ever a professor asked me to explain why an experiment turned out the way it did, or my math teacher gave me a real-life problem to apply my calculus knowledge to, or my piano teacher asked me to turn a simple melody into full arrangement.  I just didn't have to tools that I needed to succeed in those situations!  Now I understand what was lacking.

Ok, back to the book =)

  • "Formal education is begun too early...we should be filling our child's mind with useful facts and training his spirit in self-discipline." (pgs. 94-95)

    •  I feel like I need a little help with this one.  I think I agree, and maybe I even do this with my own children, but I'm not sure.  Hopefully the rest of the book will help me understand if I'm doing the right things with my young children!

How would you define 'formal education' and what age do you start it with your children?

  • Page 97 talks about self-expression and how children are encouraged to express themselves freely from birth on up...but without training in self-discipline.    The Bluedorns link this to the destructive ways that teenagers express themselves, because they have never been taught to express themselves creatively and effectively.  I thought that was an interesting concept.

  • Page 98 gives the example of learning to play a song on the piano by using the Trivium method and then also by the "whole music" method.  I completely agree with what they are saying, but had a question come up in my mind.  My daughter is very interested in learning to play the violin right now.  She is 3 years old.  I've heard lots of great things about the Suzuki method for teaching little kids to play instruments.  On one hand it sounds great.  On the other hand it seems to go against everything I think about education!

Are you familiar with the Suzuki method?  Do you think it is a wise method or does it go against what we think is so great about the trivium?

  • I feel like the Bluedorns place their ages for the different stages a little differently than I'm used to.  Unless I'm reading it wrong, they seem to put the grammar stage from about age 9-12 when many other classical educators have it from about age 6-9.  That would put the Bluedorn's grammar stage at other people's logic stage.  

How old have your children been in the different stages of the Trivium? (as you have observed their growth)

  • The last point I'll make is that I'm always convicted when I'm admonished to put to rest the entertainment-driven mindset and to read more.  I often feel that my family is radical compared to most people around us, yet I still think that we could strive to be better.  I would love to be more purposeful with my time and more diligent with my studies, but honestly I'm often just tired.  

What about you?  Do you wish you read more?  Do you get too consumed with being entertained?  Do you have any tips for leading your family in a more purposeful direction?  Let us encourage one another!

Leave comments here on the blog post, or share about it on social media (#ClassicalMamasRead).  I'll be sharing too, so follow me on facebook, twitter, or google+ and we can chat about it there as well!  Don't forget, if you want to share your thoughts about Teaching the Trivium on your own blog, link it up below so we can all come and visit!

Next week we will be talking about chapter five of Teaching the Trivium.  If you haven't gotten your own copy yet, make sure you check your library or order one soon so you can be ready for next time!  Also, this is a 600+ page book, so I am only touching on certain points of each chapter.  There is so much great information that I am not covering, so if this discussion interests you, you are going to want to make sure to pick up your own copy so you can read more!

Classical Mamas Read Link-Up

Did you write about Teaching the Trivium on your blog?  Have you been reading and blogging about another book (for you, not a children's book)?  Do you have a book club going on at your blog (once again, not for a children's book)?  I'd love for you link up here so we can all be encouraged by each other and maybe find another great book to read!

I think I'm going to keep this link-up ongoing since there aren't going to be a huge number of posts and then anyone new will be able to be encouraged by the other book reading ideas and discussions.  If the number of posts gets too large, I will fix it.

Please note, all posts must be on topic (about a book you are reading) and appropriate (think family friendly).

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  1. First of all, I have not read Dorothy Sayers book either but had the same thought about needing to read it this year. They are spot on with the dysfunction present in modern education. I completely agree with the comment that "many products of modern schools need to be spoon-fed everything". This is exactly what I see in most students at the university level. The emphasis on standardized testing as a performance measure has led to a population who can solve a given problem that has been drilled into them but has no ability to think beyond that problem and apply the fundamentals in a new way. If you change up one little thing, they are frozen. But nobody is spoon-feeding you out in the real world, you are expected to adapt and teach yourself. Sadly, this same dysfunctional education system is beginning to permeate into higher education as state and federal dollars are based on graduation rates and retention.

    I also see the point they make about starting "formal education" too early. Our children today are pushed to learn more earlier and earlier and can easily lose some of the wonder in the process. I was at a meeting this weekend where a woman asked what she should be doing to get her 2nd and 3rd grader ready for the ACT. Seriously?!?

    Finally, the point about being entertainment-driven cuts pretty hard for me too. Even though I would not say it is true of myself, it is definitely true for my kids. I am not sure what the solution is. Like you said, I am tired. The best I can say is that I have decided to "be the change" and let them see how I am moving away from that mindset.

    1. I really struggle with the idea of starting education too early. Or maybe I just don't understand yet what they mean. I've seen in my kids just how much information they are able to suck up at their little ages. Why wouldn't I take advantage of that? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the 'formal' part of the idea. I've taught both of my kids to read starting at age three and going systematically through phonics and then readers seems pretty formal to me, but not in a 'sit at a desk for hours on end' kind of way. At the same time, though, I do try to be mindful that they still get lots of time to play and explore and discover (like you mentioned about not losing the wonder in the process).

      Yes, I really struggle with the entertainment bit with my kids. Glad to know I'm not alone =)

      Thanks for sharing all your thoughts!

  2. I noticed that Amazon has Sayer's book on Kindle for only .99!

  3. I really wish I had read this book. It is very difficult to buy one as no kindle service here. Amazon order will have to wait two months to receive the book. Kobo doesn't have any. It is great that you have this posting seri. Thanks a lot Amy.

    1. Oh no! Well, hopefully this series will be helpful to you until you can get a book of your own one day. Thanks for reading along!


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