Though I follow a classical homeschooling approach, I do it my own way. I typically call myself a relaxed classical homeschooler. You can see what I mean by reading my series on Relaxed Classical Homeschooling.
Now I thought it would be nice to hear from other people about how they implement the classical homeschooling philosophy in their own school. This series will run every Tuesday in August, so we will visit with four homeschoolers in total.
First up this week is Christy from Unexpected Homeschool
Classical Education with Chronic Illness
Our path to choosing a classical homeschool education for our currently 13 year old daughter, Amber, started after abruptly removing our only child from parochial school in January of her fourth grade year. We knew we wanted to homeschool for fifth grade, but shocked even ourselves by pulling her out of school three weeks into the second semester of school that year. We didn't really have a method of schooling at that point except to continue her learning in a happier environment.
While using the majority of the same books our daughter's parochial school had chosen, I researched curriculum and education methods. Classical education appealed the most to me, but it seemed a little daunting to new homeschoolers who didn't actually plan on being homeschoolers. I was surprised to see that my own education, although from a public school, could be classified as a classical education. This explained much about my frustration with Amber's education to date.
We floundered during Amber's fifth grade year trying out various curricula and methods that were popular online. Amber didn't enjoy or progress as expected with many of the methods, yet thrived whenever we did finally attempt a classical style. I was pleased because the classical method met the personal standards we had set for Amber's education.
Quickly we found our daughter learning to think and reason instead of crash memorizing for tests. We had noticed while Amber was in parochial school that although she earned straight A's, she did not understand much of what she was learning and could not tell you much on a topic a month after the test. I found that instead of worksheets and quizzes, basic Socratic discussion with my daughter had an even better effect on her understanding.
We appreciate the systematic approach of a classical education. It is history and language intensive while still relating all the subjects together in a forward progression of history study. In the parochial schools Amber had such a problem figuring out where in time any given period might be. Their studies were all over the place each year and Amber could not comprehend if the American Revolution was close to the medieval or Biblical times. All she knew is everyone wore funny clothes.
However, pursing a classical education has not been without its challenges for us. Little did we know our daughter would develop dysautonomia (malfunctioning autonomic nervous system) after contracting a virus a year into our homeschool adventure. This condition means her abilities and stamina fluctuate from day to day based on how her body has decided to function. Some days the very core ideals of classical education are too rigorous for Amber.
Memorization, though key to many classical educators, is not an integral part of our school simply because we can't count on Amber's brain to recall information consistently. We try our best to avoid frustrations that trigger an even greater dysautonomia crash than what might already be occurring. We still stick with our classical history and literature emphasis and focus greatly on language, but modify the assignments and quantity of work based on Amber's daily abilities.
We've tried a variety of classical curriculum choices over the past few years, even going so far as to put some of our own lessons together using the recommendations from A Well Trained Mind. Through this experimentation we found what works best for both the teacher and student in our house. We are currently using Tapestry of Grace dialectic levels for history and much of our literature along with suggestions from Heritage History and a few fun projects from Home School in the Woods. Literature is supplemented by age appropriate study guides from Memoria Press.
We finally found a great fit for writing with Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and Amber is completing the Student Writing Intensive B this school year. She also is working through Cover Story for her creative writing lessons. Amber is a girl who loves languages and after a couple of years with Latin for Children from Classical Academic Press, she switched to Prima German last year. This German curriculum should take her all the way through high school. While we'd love to commit to both Latin and German, Amber just doesn't have the energy for everything.
For the upcoming eighth grade year we've switched from a hodgepodge of science products to Apologia Physical Science. Math has been a challenge lately and we recently moved to Life of Fred Algebra supplemented with CTC Math after using Saxon Math since first grade in parochial school. Again, we are trying to minimize the stress on Amber's body and Saxon was actually creating anxiety even though she completely understood the topics. The amount of work to properly use Saxon was more than Amber could handle. And after a year break we are adding logic back into the schedule with the Fallacy Detective.
Even though our day-to-day implementation of a classical education varies depending on Amber's abilities, we focus on history, literature and writing every day. German takes precedence over science, but we usually manage each two or three days a week. Our goal is for some math each day, but it is totally dependent on the way Amber's brain is functioning. Amber uses her daily flute practice often as a mental break between the more taxing subjects.
We do spend the majority of each week day prior to dinner on learning. Slow and steady with a willingness to alter plans on the fly gets us through. Occasionally we utilize alternate learning methods like videos or even audio dramas because Amber's brain is moving slow or not connecting visual words to their meaning. However, when her brain is firing on all cylinders, it is a wondrous thing to behold.
Despite the challenges, we still believe the classical style of learning best equips our daughter to become a lifelong learner.
Christy is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of a quirky and fun teenage daughter, who also happens to have dysautonomia. Life may not always be what we expected, but it's always perfect. You can find her blogging about their homeschooling experiences and dysautonomia at Unexpected Homeschool.