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Alexandra Gonzalez

Seven Liberal Arts vs. The Humanities

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Dear friends,

It's been a long time since I have posted.  Three years ago I started a classical co-op which aspires to be schole / restful. I guess I've been a little busy!  Now I have finally registered our co-op as a schole group here on ClassicalU. We are the only one in Massachusetts. (the other one listed is actually from Maine)

Currently we have 35 students from pre-K to 9th grade.  Next year, I hope to create a two-day program for middle school and high school, which is the age group I teach.

I strive to teach in a way where we make connections across disciplines, instead of teaching by subject in a fragmented way.  So I teach the humanities with literature at one bookend, and history at the other bookend, and everything else in between.  I try to go deep rather than wide.  So this year we spent a lot of time on the American Revolution (half the year) and we are relating what we are learning to Shakespeare, the government, religion, geography, and even art and music thrown in.  I would say we do incorporate the Trivium fairly well.  And I am knee deep in dialectic and preparing the students for rhetoric.

It's very exciting.  But when I look at the example schedules in the director's guide here at ClassicalU, it doesn't look very restful.  It looks like a lot to cram in, which is what I am trying to get away from.  I am sure that it appears this way to me because I am still new to Schole.  The seven liberal arts also seem daunting to me.  To fit them in at a co-op which only meets once a week currently seems too ambitious.  We tried Science this year since one of the Moms is a biologist.  It was a disaster. The approach was wrong (trial and error), way over the kids' heads.  But what I find with math and science is that the kids are all over the place knowledge and skill-wise.  

I want our group to find it's niche and not be everything.  For this reason, I am settling on the humanities and even though we may sometimes discuss math and science as part of the humanities, I tell parents to arrange for their children to get their core math and science elsewhere. 

Parents are still the chief educators of their children.  For my students, co-op work takes up about 50% of their total schoolwork. 

I welcome your feedback.  Please offer your insight as to why I should pursue a full curriculum using the seven liberal arts.  Could it be that I just need to grow with my students?  Is the Quadrivium something that you start in high school?  

Thank you!

Alex Gonzalez

 

 

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fwiw, I think your approach to the humanities in your co-op makes sense, especially if you meet once per week. Math needs more input than that, and homeschooling parents need to keep an eye on their own students' progress and needs.

I think it's a good idea for today's classical educators to remember that the formal study of the seven liberal arts was a university course. Have you read The Liberal Arts Tradition by Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark? I really like their reminder that "Music (ie, the humanities) and Gymnastic" (ala Plato) are the starting places for a classical education.

That said, I also think a humanistic approach to science (rather than a technical or analytic one) can be accomplished at this level--an approach to scientific ideas as a matter of wonder and delight, rather than gathering evidence, trial and error, etc. So, you could plant seeds, go on nature walks--that sort of thing--in your co-op as well, if you had the time.

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On 2/27/2019 at 11:43 PM, Alexandra Gonzalez said:

pre-K to 9th grade.  Next year, I hope to create a two-day program for middle school and high school, which is the age group I teach.

I strive to teach in a way where we make connections across disciplines, instead of teaching by subject in a fragmented way. 

 I would say we do incorporate the Trivium fairly well.  

It's very exciting.  But when I look at the example schedules in the director's guide here at ClassicalU, it doesn't look very restful.  It looks like a lot to cram in, which is what I am trying to get away from.  I am sure that it appears this way to me because I am still new to Schole.  The seven liberal arts also seem daunting to me.  To fit them in at a co-op which only meets once a week currently seems too ambitious.  We tried Science this year since one of the Moms is a biologist.     

I welcome your feedback.  Please offer your insight as to why I should pursue a full curriculum using the seven liberal arts.  Could it be that I just need to grow with my students?  Is the Quadrivium something that you start in high school?  

Thank you!

Alex Gonzalez

 

 

Dear Alex,

Congratulations on starting up a successful co-op! Gathering a group of parents and uniting behind a common end sounds easy, but is often very difficult! You've already described some of the ups and downs. I edited your post in my quote to address the ideas that stood out to me: You recognize the need to not separate content and ideas into "subjects" but maybe that is how you are viewing the trivium and the seven liberal arts? "Art" is a skill honed to a level of excellence. So the seven liberal arts are skills that can be focused on in themselves, but should ultimately be "how" you approach every content area.

Geometry is a "concentration" but it is also the skill of perceiving invisible forms, patterns, reasons why things "are" the way they "are". Reality. Greg Wilbur says, "Music is heard harmony." Because harmony is a skill set, not a subject. Cosmology is relating all things together - sort of like the reduced idea of "worldview". So you don't have to teach the seven liberal arts separately as concentrations, but as a teacher one would have to be well versed in them in order to just "incorporate them" organically. Take spelling: If I was a fantastic speller, all the spelling complexities formed deeply in me, I could "naturally" teach spelling as the opportunities came up in classes. But I am not. So, I have to be being informed as I am informing my students. 

The Trivium encompasses the skills of grammar - naming, ordering, observing, perceiving and making patterns, etc... logic/dialectic - also perceiving and making patterns, questioning, inference, deduction, etc... rhetoric - expression of these observations, inferences, deductions in poetic and or persuasive forms - the study of these forms. As you already know "grammar" is not just how a language is structured, that is "written or oral grammar." So it is the same for all the seven liberal arts. 

As Karen suggested, science can be approached through these skills, and for these skills - it can be the content area used to practice these skills. What has happened to science is it has been reduced to only a few skills such as experimentation, statistics, and theorems and analysis. This has spilled over into literature and history so that everything is a frog and nothing is alive. 

Get a fun book of mathematical puzzles and patterns and have a class dedicated to the "mysteries" of math, or geometry - not just an analytical approach to algorithms.  

A science class could be a timeline and biographies of famous scientists and advancements, or a quarter each of astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics - but like "unit studies". 

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Hi Alexandra,

The struggles and dynamics you describe are two main reasons why our Schole Groups community chose not to include math or science on community day.  We plan to include a two hour Humanities block (classic literature rooted in a specific era and also English Studies/Composition), an "elective" hour (Latin or a non-Latin option) and an oratory hour.  This means some aspects are left to each family but most of us are coming from a rigid, highly structured program with no flexibility and we are really desiring some structure but also an element of freedom to account for our unique family's needs.  Most of our mom's and several students are a little to a lot burnt out and just barely holding onto their desire /ability to keep homeschooling.  So thankful for the concept of Schole Groups!

Karissa

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