Friday, November 14, 2008

The Lost Tools Of Learning and High School

I've updated this article, originally published in 2002 in Homeschooling Today:

Living Literature: High School
The Lost Tools of Learning

Reviewed by Maureen Wittmann

In 1947 at Oxford University Dorothy Sayers, an English writer and scholar, stepped up to the lectern and presented her speech, The Lost Tools of Learning. Then in 1977 her speech was published in National Review magazine. Since that time, The Lost Tools of Learning has been republished countless times.

The “lost tools” Miss Sayers spoke of in her speech were the tools of a classical education. A classical education is based on the Trivium, which is made up of three stages.

The Grammar Stage (ages eight to eleven) builds a foundation by memorizing facts. The Dialectic, sometimes referred to as the Logic Stage (ages twelve to fourteen) develops analytical skills in students. Finally, the Rhetoric Stage (ages fourteen to sixteen) pulls the first two stages together and teaches students the art of articulation

The Trivium is not a modern approach to education, it was developed in the Middle Ages and widely used for centuries. One might even say that the Trivium is biblically supported. In Proverbs 2:6 we read: “For the Lord gives wisdom: From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom sound much like grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. The Trivium recognizes basic human development. It recognizes how God formed our intellect.

Children taught using the classical model have received the lost tools that Miss Sayers speaks of so eloquently in her speech. When students reach high school they have mastered the tools of memorizing facts and of analyzing those facts. Now they are ready to engage in the art of expression and in the science of communication. As Miss Sayers states, “The doors of the storehouse of knowledge should now be thrown open for them to browse about as they will. The things once learned by rote will be seen in new contexts.”

It is during the Rhetoric Stage that teens begin to develop their world view. Self-expression is at its peak. This is not the time to let one’s child go, but to continue helping him flower, guiding him gently. Challenge his thinking skills during this stage and make him defend his intellectual and religious positions.

The Lost Tools of Learning also tells us that “subjects” cannot be divorced from one another. It is especially during the Rhetoric Stage that we as parents and teachers should point out that all subjects are related to one another in some way.

Let us discuss briefly how a parent may apply the lost tools with a teen in the Rhetoric Stage.

High school is the perfect time to teach apologetics. Teach him to use his Bible facts and apply them to reasoned debate. Study the Early Church Fathers, how their leadership formed the way we worship today, and how the books of the Bible were determined.

In A Vote of Thanks to Cyrus, Dorothy Sayers relates that as a child she discovered the Cyrus mentioned in her Bible was the very same Cyrus found in her history text. Teens can recognize that Bible stories are not simply tales to entertain, but in fact history. Talk about Jesus Christ as a historical figure and the impact that Christianity has had in shaping world events.

Also go beyond your textbook and explore primary documents: autobiographies, documents, letters, etc. Give the high school student an opportunity to see how the turns of history occured through first-hand accounts.

Look for the historical and biblical perspectives in studying science. Study the ethical ramifications in scientific research. Relevant topics for today may include stem cell research, fetal tissue transplants, and cloning.

The more advanced math disciplines, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus, can be introduced. Study discoveries in historical perspective by reading biographies of mathematicians. Math studies can be tied into science.

This is the time for students to determine their own style. They can use Elements of Style or Chicago Manual of Style as references in writing. They should learn to prune their arguments and make their point without overdoing it.

Reading can move from narrative stories to challenging debates, critiques, and primary documents.

Latin can now be studied more deeply or dropped to make time for the modern languages.

Read The Lost Tools of Learning. Study more deeply the Trivium and learn about the Quadrivium.

Search out other writings of Dorothy Sayers. She wrote a series of popular detective novels as well as many scholarly pieces.

Go to an online concordance and enter these three words: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Look up the Scriptures that the concordance returns. How do you think that these words correspond to grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric?

Learning rests upon truth. Ask yourself: “What is truth?” Does the classical model of education lend itself to the discovery of God’s truth?

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education (Ignatius Press) by Laura Berquist

A Catholic Homeschool Treasury: Developing Children’s Love for Learning (out of print) by Rachel Mackson and Maureen Wittmann, eds. Contains an excellent essay that explains Dorothy Sayers’ speech and classical education, written by Rachel Mackson.

The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (W.W. Norton & Company) by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer

mater et magistra magazine has a regular column on classical education written by Laura Berquist.

Mail Order Companies:
Emmanuel Books
Carries The Lost Tools of Learning plus most of the resources recommended in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.

Memoria Press
Latin and classical materials.

Trivium Pursuit
Website contains much more than their catalog. Lots of articles and resources for Christian classical education.

Home Study Schools
Angelicum Academy
Online Catholic academy – liberal arts education based on the classic great books of Western civilization.

Kolbe Academy
Classical education – Ignation method.

Mother of Divine Grace
Catholic classical home study founded by Laura Berquist.

Regina Coeli Academy
An online college preparatory program using a Catholic classical curriculum.

Discussion Group
Catholic Classical Education

Classical Christian Homeschooling

Thursday, November 13, 2008

High School and The World's Great Speeches

The World's Great Speeches
Great speeches stir the heart. Throughout history distinguished orators have mobilized nations toward grand actions — noble, as well as evil — through their words. Think of Cicero foiling conspirators against Rome, Robispeare advocating the Reign of Terror, Abraham Lincoln bringing healing to a divided nation, Winston Churchill rousing the British to war, Fidel Castro inspiring the Cubans to revolution, and Ronald Reagan urging a foreign leader to tear down a wall of oppression. Also think of Jesus moving the masses with His Sermon on the Mount or Peter inspiring the faithful on Pentecost Day.

These great speakers began with an objective in mind and then used their oratory skills to help reach that objective. In teaching our high school students such skills, we give them the tools necessary to inspire others with their words, thus putting them in better reach of their goals. Whether our children grow up to lead nations or not, the art of oral communication is important to their education.

Consider a businessman interacting with his partners, a pastor preaching to his parish, an attorney representing a client in court, or a fundraiser persuading an audience to donate money to his cause. Though we may not realize it, debate is an integral part of our everyday lives. From the homeschooling mother encouraging her children to listen and learn to the politician moving his constituents to his side of the political fence, oratory skills are being used.

Language Arts through Great Speeches
Benjamin Franklin trained himself as a writer by imitating other authors. You can use Franklin's method to successfully teach your student excellence in writing. First, find a good resource that contains transcripts of famous speeches. Laura Berquist recommends The World's Great Speeches: 292 Speeches from Pericles to Nelson Mandela, edited by Lewis Copeland, Lawrence W. Lamm, and Stephen J. McKenna (published by Dover and available from Emmanuel Books) in her high school curriculum.

Next, choose a speech that fits into your history studies and have your student outline it and make notes of the speech's sentiment. Lay the outline aside for a few days and then, without looking at the speech, have the student try to reproduce it. The student should then compare his work to the original, looking for faults and making corrections. (Check out for an in-depth program using Franklin's method.)

Leonardo da Vinci had his apprentices copy the Mona Lisa to build a solid foundation of artistic skill. Similarly, copying great speeches will aid your student in building writing skills. Once he has developed skill through imitation, he can then work on creativity.

Look for these techniques often found in great speeches:
— The use of broad themes. Great speeches are not weighed down by details.
— Keeping on topic. Focus remains on the primary goal.
— A clear opening and conclusion. Starts with an effective grabber and ends with a summary.
— A relaxed manner, as one would use in personal discussion rather than in formal writing.

Delivering a Great Speech
It is not enough to write a good speech; one must also develop skill in delivery. Again imitation is helpful here. Watch televised or live speeches and have your student analyze the techniques that make a successful speech.

Some simple tips for public speaking:
— Know your audience.
— Know your subject matter well.
— Relax and visualize yourself speaking.
— Gain experience.
Visit a Toastmasters Club. From the website: "At Toastmasters, members learn by speaking to groups and working with others in a supportive environment. A typical Toastmasters club is made up of 20 to 30 people who meet once a week for about an hour. Each meeting gives everyone an opportunity to practice."

Though Toastmaster's international organization asks that members be eighteen years or older, there are local clubs that will allow homeschooled students to participate.

Consider also looking for, or taking the initiative to start, a homeschool speech club. Find opportunities for your student to present his speeches in front of an audience.

History through Great Speeches
I do not urge my children to believe historians out right, or to trust history textbooks blindly. I am especially cautious of the historian who bases his conclusions on the research of another historian. High school students can dig deep and delve into original sources and draw their own conclusions.

In comparing primary documents, such as speeches, students discover firsthand the reasons for the turns and events of history. They can then compare their understanding of history to their history textbook's understanding. The best lesson may be that there is never a single reason for anything — there are a multitude of reasons.

In studying World War II we can gain several historical perspectives using The World's Great Speeches, as it contains speeches given by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. All of these leaders present a different outlook of the same world events.

I encourage you to supplement The World's Great Speeches, or other speech resource, by reading biographies, especially autobiographies, of the speechwriters. Seek out actual documents, such as personal and official letters, government documents, and archival records (many can be found by searching the Internet). An illustration in applying this approach would be the study of the Revolutionary War. The World's Great Speeches includes many of the Founding Fathers. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution are primary documents that are easily available. The study can then be further enhanced by reading books such as The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and The Federalist Papers.

Most importantly, talk about how your students, as children of God, personally have an impact on history. Ask how they can use their oratory skills to better our society, and bring Christ and His Church into the hearts and minds of others.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Logic or Dialectic Stage

The Dialectic, sometimes referred to as the Logic Stage, develops analytical skills in students. This stage hits about middle school, or approx. twelve to fourteen years old. Each child is different, but you will notice a change in the way that your child thinks and approaches his schoolwork.

This is the age that children really start to ask questions and explore. Memorization takes a back door to reason. I call this the "lawyer stage" as my children all seem to turn into little lawyers at this age, reasoning me to death and questioning every little thing that I do! As frustrating as that may seem, I remind myself that all this reasoning applied to academics is a great thing.

You can encourage the logic stage in your children by providing them with the resources to answer their questions. Be willing to drive them to the library to find the right book, surf the Internet alongside them, and encourage them to keep asking questions.

And don't be afraid when they question the Truths that you have taught them. This is your opportunity to teach the whys of what you believe. Truth will hold up to scrutiny.

One thing that you can do during this stage is introduce literary analysis. When your child is assigned a book, do a search on the Internet with the book's title. Or check out such sites such as NovelGuide - Novel Resource Guide and Literary Analysis (see Literature Helps for Parent Teachers for more sites). Use the information that you find at these websites to help your child analyze their reading material.

In mathematics, your child will move from simple arithmetic to pre-algebra. From the memorization of math facts to analyzing math concepts. They are preparing for the higher mathematics of geometry, algebra, and calculus.

For more on teaching individual subjects in this stage see Classical Christian Homeschooling: The Dialectic Stage: Grades 7-9 .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Classical Education and Memorization

In previous posts I have talked about the thriftiness of a Charlotte Mason education. Can a classical education be equally thrifty? Sure!

A classical education is based on the Trivium, which is made up of three stages. The Grammar Stage (approx. up to age eleven) builds a foundation by memorizing facts. Most little children love to memorize poems, songs, and Scripture.

It doesn't cost any money to open your Bible, pick out Scripture, and help your child memorize it. Just like memorizing the ABC's before one learns to read, it is beneficial to have Scripture memorized before one learns to understand, put it into context, and defend it.

Laura Berquist, in her book Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum, suggests having wee ones memorize poems from Robert Louis Stevenson's book A Child's Garden of Verses. The book can be borrowed from the library or you can go to this website for the complete collection:
Poets' Corner - Robert
Louis Stevenson - A Child's Garden of Verses

The grammar stage is a good time to memorize historical dates, geography facts, multiplication tables, phonetic rules & exceptions, and so on.

I've been reading Joyce Herzog's book Timeless Teaching Tips and she has several tips in there on memorization skills. See if your library carries it.

Here is a website that I found with some tips on memorization:
Homeschool Memorization

Monday, November 10, 2008

2008 Homeschool Blog Awards

Voting has begun for the 2008 Homeschool Blog Awards. Go check out all of the nominees -- you may find a new favorite. Of course, I hope you'll vote for The Thrifty Homeschooler while you're at it.

What to Do with Old Toothbrushes

Should you just throw those old used toothbrushes away. Gee, no!

They make great little cleaning brushes for hard-to-reach and tiny places.

I mark mine with a little paint or permanent marker though, to keep wee ones from thinking it is okay to put in their mouth .

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saving Pennies

Some time back my neighbor brought over buckets of change for my children to roll in exchange for a percentage of the total. You won't believe how much change they rolled. Almost $1,000!!

All this gentleman does is throw his change into a bucket every night when he comes home from work at night. He averages about $1,000 saved every three years.

So, if you are having a hard time saving any money perhaps you should consider starting with a little change each day. It does add up!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Teaching Sight Words

How do you teach sight words, words that are not phonetic?

Charlotte Mason suggested having children look at the word on a card, flip it over, and then write it.

With my dyslexic children, we called sight words "red letter words." I wrote them in red marker on index cards. They would then trace them with their fingers, spelling them out loud. They would also "put the words on their shoulders." That is, they put their right hand on their left shoulder, said the word, then tapped down their arm as they spelled it out. Amazingly enough, this worked wonders in helping them remember their sight words. In fact, after my son learned to read well, he would still occasionally put his hand on his shoulder when trying to remember how to spell a sight word. It helped him pull it from his "mental filing cabinet."

However you go about it, you may be interested in these websites:
Author Jan Brett's Home Page - A Great Place for Ideas
Free Sight Word Helpers
Word Search Puzzles: Find Dolch Sight Words

Thanks to Beate, from the Literature Alive Yahoo Group, for bringing these to my attention! Beate's daughter is a late reader and uses the sight words cards to help build confidence. She writes in the air, traces on the carpet, etc.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

More Free Stuff on Election Day

Krispy Kreme is giving out free doughnuts
Wear your "I Voted" sticker and get a free star-shaped, sprinkle-filled doughnut

Ben & Jerry ice cream stores will give out a free scoop of ice cream from 5 to 8 pm today.

Free Starbucks Coffee for Voting

Starbucks is giving out free coffee to those who vote today. So, if you're planning on staying up late watching the pundits tonight you may want to grab a tall cup of Starbuck fresh brewed coffee on the way home from the polls. Though I'd rather have it on the way to the polls so I can stay awake in the long line!

Here are the details:
On November 4, 2008, Starbucks will give voters a free tall brewed coffee at participating U.S. stores.

After voting, voters must go to a Starbucks store, where they’ll be given a tall (12 oz) cup of brewed coffee at no charge (limit one per customer).

This is an extension of Starbucks commitment to community through Starbucks™ Shared Planet™. It lets us immediately support customers who care about the same things we do and who want to make a difference. This idea has also come up a number of times on our on-line forum for sharing customer and partner (employee) ideas.

Apparently all you have to do is tell them you voted. I don't see anything about providing proof of voting.

Just remember to get out there and vote. Don't let predictions by the media keep you away from the polls. Your vote counts.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Sneaky Chef Part Two

Not everyone agrees that The Sneaky Chef works or that it is anywhere near a good thing. Gosh, I didn't agree with it at one time.

I did everything right. Everything the experts, even Dr. Phil, says you should do in developing good eating habits. And it worked wonderfully with five out of my seven kids. It worked somewhat with one of them and not at all with the last.

Mr. Super Picky Eater is six-years old and a tough nut to crack. I'm not a short order cook and so if he doesn't eat what I make then he doesn't eat all. He chooses not to eat at all. He just isn't that interested in eating period. Even with foods he likes, he doesn't eat much.

If he doesn't like something, well, let's just say that he has an overactive gag reaction. And that's not appetizing to anyone.

Rob and I have incredibly healthy eating habits ourselves, so we're modeling correct behavior. We rarely eat fast food or junk food. I offer foods multiple times, patiently. I breastfed forever and introduced good food from the beginning. I offer a wide variety. None of it worked with this one child. Part of the problem I think is that textures bother him in addition to the taste and color. Yes, I know, it's probably in his head. But the kid has got to eat. He's on the small side and I'm concerned. The doctor only recommends what I've already done. That and a multi-vitamin.

So, The Sneaky Chef is a final option for me. No, I'm not going to make chocolate chip cookies for him everyday because it has bean puree in it. But, if I'm making cookies for the family anyway, why not add something healthy to it. Especially if it makes the food taste as good if not better (as with the lasagna and mac 'n cheese).

I'll still have salads, fruits, and vegetables for dinner. But when the menu calls for a dish that hides the purees well, I'm going to add it. Just as I substitute whole wheat flour in bread recipes, brown rice in casseroles, and applesauce in brownies.

Tonight was taco night. I do a whole taco bar -- ground sirloin, black beans, colby/jack cheese, avocados, brown rice, lettuce, sweet peppers, homemade salsa, taco shells, and tortillas. It's a feast and it's one meal Mr. Super Picky Eater looks forward too. He'll eat a tortilla with meat, cheese, and sour cream.

The Sneaky Chef has a recipe for tacos that calls for purple puree (blueberries and spinach) mixed in with the taco meat. Now, this one was a challenge for me. I normally just brown the meat and season it with cumin, garlic, sea salt, and pepper. To hide the purple puree, I would have to add tomato paste.

I served it reluctantly, worried the kids would reject it because it was so different. And it wasn't a pretty color. Not red as one would expect from taco meat but brown. The kids all commented on the color but they tried it without me having to coax them (probably because I do offer such a wide variety of foods to them). The reviews were mixed from, "It's sooooo good!" to "It's not too bad." Mr. Super Picky Eater was in the "It's soooooo good" camp so I considered it a resounding success.

Do I like being sneaky? No. Not at all. But Rob and the older kids all know what I'm doing. The littles are off playing while I'm cooking so they don't notice what's going on and I'm not going to go out of my way to tell them. Once Mr. Super Picky Eater is a little older and has been eating this way for a while, I'll casually mention to him that his favorite dishes are filled with yumcious vegetables and fruits. It's my hope he'll then be more willing to try them on his own at that time.