A couple of months ago, I answered common questions on the biblical Trivium method of homeschooling and presented a simple way to understand it. One of my friends left the following comment, quoting from my post:
“Subjects are studied on a literal level and applied to how we live, behave, and believe today, making no subject a dead or boring subject.”
I would really like to hear you expound on this a bit more. I haven’t been able to get the Bluedorn’s book yet, but have been intrigued by what you have shared. However, I must admit that I am a bit confused as to how the above statement is actually “walked out”.
One of the criticisms of classical education is the dry, rote memorization in the early “grammar” stage. One of the main differences between humanist classical educators and biblical classicists is application of Scriptural truth throughout all three stages of learning. Indeed, every subject the child studies should conform to biblical truth and impact his life for eternity.
This subject is most important and should remain central in family life. From toddlerhood on, the child should be regularly memorizing Scripture and examining its application to his life. Parents should invite the child to comment on morning and evening Bible reading, and understanding-aged children should offer appropriate comments integrating previously-learned truths.
Classic and children’s literature, ancient and modern, should be read aloud regularly in the home educating family. Indeed, hours must be set aside for reading both together and in private. Vigorous discussions should take place around the reading to stimulate the learning process: What is the character’s motivation? What is the author’s message? What are the presuppositions? Why is this humorous? How is this inaccurate? What does the Bible say? The parent uses this time to develop discernment; I have had numerous classics handed back to me by my children, who gave me excellent reasons why they felt they should not finish reading them.
Nothing is more useless than memorizing lists of prepositions – or diagramming sentences – for no reason. Lest you think I am against diagramming (I’m not), remember the purpose: the child must be taught biblical truth and how it changes his life. Why study English grammar, or that of any language, for that matter? The child must communicate effectively God’s truth in his mother tongue, at the very least. Additionally, we may aspire to see him conquer an additional language, as well, to understand God’s teachings as recorded in that language and communicate the gospel to others. Finally, he should seek to appreciate and reflect God’s beauty and order with well-chosen words.
No matter what methods, texts, or worksheets used, the child should be encouraged to do his best with his ability. At the beginning knowledge level, that should begin with speaking clearly and correctly (amassing vocabulary and syntax), then later learning reading and writing. During the late knowledge level and understanding level he will conquer the complexities of the language grammar (here is where diagramming comes in!). He will learn the rules – or, better, how to look up the rapidly-changing rules of punctuation and style and begin studying composition. His written and oral communication will evidence polish and grace in the wisdom stage.
When my middle son becomes frustrated with grammar, it is usually because his workbook is reaching beyond his knowledge stage ability; he needs to put aside the worksheets and concentrate on his oral communication skills and enjoy reading real books. When my oldest, understanding-stage, son is discouraged, I remind him why he is studying – so that he can effectively communicate God’s truth to others, no matter his vocation.
Is anything so practical as the study and application of math? We use it every day, all day! The homeschooling child needs to recognize math as the expression of God’s unchanging presence in His creation. There really is nothing more exciting!
Particularly for the knowledge-stage child, every math concept should be examined, when possible, in real-world application. Difficult concepts should be worked in multiple applications and expressions to further solidify the truth. Most importantly, God must always be given the glory for the expression and continuation of each mathematical truth He created and sustains. Modern textbooks – even Christian texts – omit this important aspect, making it easy to assume that man developed math.
Here is an example: My 7-year old is just learning multiplication. He is a wiz with addition and subtraction, but multiplying large numbers makes no sense to him. It was time for him to learn “groups of 7” according to his math text, so I pointed out to him that there are 7 days in a week. How many days are in 2 weeks? I let him count on the calendar. How many are in 3 weeks? We kept that up for a while. Who created the weeks? When did that happen? Did the length of weeks ever change? Will they never change? Should I worry about that when I go to bed? Why not? Why can I memorize how many days are in 7 weeks? It is all because of Who my God is.
But “Days of the Week” is only one application of groups of 7. I had him group 7 blocks, and count different groups of 7 blocks. I had him draw groups of 7 things on a papers. I had him count by 7s while walking down the sidewalk, a group of 7 for each sidewalk-square, forwards and backwards. He has made rows of 7 soldiers, eaten piles of 7 raisins, gathered stacks of 7 cards. Each time, the 7s counted the same. Why? Because God ordained them to remain so (Heb. 1:3).
Many homeschooling parents feel intimidated by math, and feel confused about how to teach it from a biblical perspective. Katherine Loop has written an excellent resource, Revealing Arithmetic: Math Concepts from a Biblical Worldview. It truly is a must-have for the homeschool bookshelf.
We are just beginning to scratch the surface of this highly-necessary subject, so I’ll be brief here. Let’s just say that by understanding stage, children should be trained regularly and carefully to think and communicate in disciplined yet graceful means. Logic training must be carefully guided by Scriptural principles, no matter what materials are used.
Like math, few things are so practical, useful, or timely as logic. We use it every day. My son even prevented crime with it. Teaching our children to reason with shapes, symbols, ideas, and words and then communicate their answers simply will enable them to solve a multitude of problems and disagreements effectively. We are commanded to “cast down imaginations [logical arguments] and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and [to bring] into captivity every thought [logic] to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). That requires a fairly rigorous study.
Science is applicable to life today; nothing is changing faster nor debated so hotly. Few subjects are loved more my boys, either. As we learn more about different aspects of God’s creation, we are better able to recognize the subtle – and blatant – ways God’s truth is attacked by rebellious man.
The study of science is also the study of our responsibility before God. When God created man, he commanded him to sort and name the animals – zoology (Gen. 2:19-20) and tend to the Garden of Eden – botony (Gen. 1:15). Using God’s resources to care for God’s creation requires the study of God’s principles for life, health, nature, structure, and energy.
History is fun. Repeat after me, “History is fun!” Seriously, it is. If you don’t believe me, read aloud stories of the Middle Ages while a three-year-old re-enacts the battles with his soldiers in front of you. The maps are always changing – can you find the boundaries now? – and the ancestors are on the move. These are our ancestors moving ever toward us on the plain of time, across the ocean and across the years, searching for the gold, the land, the Church, the Truth, the freedom. Stories don’t get better than this.
And the lessons don’t get more real. Women change history with wise advice to their husbands. Men laid down their lives for the Scriptures. Countries went to battle for truth or folly. Individuals stood alone or together, were despised or respected, and are remembered today by who they were more than what they said.
8. Fine Arts
The fine arts – visual arts, architecture, music, and dance, are an outgrowth of the history, culture, and beliefs of a people. It is helpful to study the fine arts of a time and place your chid is studying in history; the paintings are a visual representation of how the people felt about their own culture and their relationship with one another and with God.
Children should also grow to appreciate beauty and order in the fine arts in general. Within his favorite paintings, architecture, music, etc., he should grow to appreciate what is good, wholesome, beautiful, godly, excellent, virtuous, seemly, etc. Increased exposure to classic works in every discipline will enable him to develop good taste naturally, according to the principles set forth in Phil. 4:8.
In general, every subject must be brought into conformity with Scripture. The child should clearly know why he is studying each lesson, so that necessitates I must know why he is studying each lesson. If there is not a purpose, why study it?