Episode 7: The One About The History of Classical Ed and Oak Meadow

“Welcome, listeners, to the Good Enough Homeschool podcast, where we cheerfully eviscerate popular homeschool curricula. In today’s show, AJ will give us a classical education history lesson. Finally, we’ll talk about Oak Meadow and what we love and what we don’t love.

From A.J.: Dorothy Sayers, Douglas Wilson, SWB, and the redefinition of “classical education”

Last time around, I talked a bit about the idea of “the grammar stage,” “the logic stage,” and “the rhetoric stage” that was popularized by Susan Wise Bauer’s excellent homeschooling guide, The Well-Trained Mind. I’d like to dig a little deeper into that history because I think it helps explain why there are several different definitions of classical education out there and why the modern classical education revival has been so closely tied with conservative Christianity and politics.

First, a couple of definitions. The Trivium refers to the study of grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric, which were the three language arts disciplines established by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were taught, in various forms, all the way through the European Middle Ages and Renaissance until at least the Enlightenment. 

Grammar referred specifically to training in Latin and Greek grammar and literature. Logic meant how to structure arguments correctly and dialectic is how to engage in debate. Rhetoric covers the art of persuasion, especially in public speaking.

So how did we get from those arcane subjects to the idea that young children are good at memorization and middle school kids are sassy?

Part 2: Oak Meadow

Courtney: First, let me start by saying I really like the concept of Oak Meadow. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I dearly love the idea of a bunch of hippies on a commune in Vermont sitting around and coming up with their own progressive, nature-oriented low-key curriculum. But, I never really messed with it much when my kids were younger because they tend to have integrated programs and my oldest child was so wildly asynchronous in her academic development. At one point she was on six different grade levels in six different subjects. 

When she hit middle school, I decided to look into their Ancient Civilizations, Grade 6. Keep in mind that I have a current teaching certification in social studies, grades 5-12, a B.A. in history with a specialization in Middle Eastern history, and I’ve professionally taught WTM-style history at both the middle school and high school level. When I review a history curriculum, I’m using that perspective.

Jenn:

 Reading and talking with Courtney really helped me to clarify my OM feelings.HEre’s a list of the grade levels and results that I’ve purchased:

Kindergarten- I wanted to love this, only it went so slooow. A letter a week? Nope. 

4th grade- We used the whole thing as is after coming off of a few years of MP and just wanting to slow down.

6th grade- bought and returned- the writing was way too hard

High school we used their art and photography and that kid is now getting her BFA in studio arts Photography so I guess that part worked? 

I just purchased a bunch of OM high school books as an insurance policy for having most of a high school curriculum here at home in case of apocalypse. I had the old American history from 2007? And then bought the 2018 version.

Lesson 4: Read about the American Revolution. This course doesn’t require a specific textbook. 

Students can research this on their own. They are told to make sure they read about 

The French and Indian War

British taxation and restrictive policies in the colonies

Significant events leading up to the American Revolution

Declaration of Independence

Articles of Confederation

Their assignment is to then write a newspaper article from the POV of either the Americans or British about another list of events like the Treaty of Paris.

All of this is creative and interesting, I like that you can tweak it for different students’ strengths- like you could make a newscast or something. But— this is what I think of as extra stuff. If students don’t have those pegs from earlier years none of this will stick either- no matter how engaged they are this week.

Further reading:

The Pandemic Created A Surge in Homeschooling: and Concerns about the Movement’s Christian Culture

Why I an (not) an Evangelical

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