Jump to content

Welcome! 


Where classical school and homeschool teachers talk.

 

 

Discussion Starts Here.

For the Children's Sake.

Learn from Others.

Add Your Voice to the Conversation.

Glad You Are Here.

Give Us Your Question.

Alexandra Gonzalez

Seven Liberal Arts vs. The Humanities

Recommended Posts

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

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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". 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When communicating educational philosophy I often discuss the value of focused learning over volume learning.  In typical school settings children are expected to memorize large volumes of information over short periods of time and take multiple choice tests to demonstrate their memorization of the information.  The only skill learned is memorization.  With focused learning students are permitted the freedom to study topics for extended periods of time.  They are encouraged to research, review primary documents, and formulate their own unique theories.  Focused based learning allows students to remain on a topic for as long as they need.  For example, when it is time to study the civil war, don't have children memorize three weeks of information from a textbook,   Allow them the freedom  to read the original writings of the people involved.  What did Grant write to Lincoln in their personal communications?  How did Stonewall Jackson describe the causes of the war? 

Some differences are obvious.  With textbook learning children learn the skill of memorization.  They also associate the work they should do with the orders of those in positions of perceived authority.  Learning takes the form of chore over the form of pursuit.  Focused long formed learning allows students to pursue their own interest and formulate their own ideas within a topic of study.  Students get into the habit of determining the direction and pursuit of their learning and judge their own work in review of the theories they develop. Children are able to follow and explore their logical and creative minds simultaneously.  The difference is that of memorization vs. critical thinking.  The latter being a defining characteristic of those who are independently successful. 

An additional benefit of long formed focused learning is it is conducive to the blending of subject areas (History, English, Philosophy, Public Speaking, etc).  Students are challenged to document their historical theories and formulate arguments in writing. Each write-up providers the opportunity to examine, discuss, and improve upon children's grammatical skills, logical progression, and rhetorical effectiveness.  History becomes english, english becomes philosophy, philosophy becomes public speaking.   Intrinsic motivation takes over as students are permitted the time to pursue their own interests and understand that it is their responsibility to grow as a person.  Extrinsic motivation can be added in the submission of findings to historical journals, newspapers, and other third party mediums.  Social media opportunities can be pursued creating the chance of monetization.  Original history on Youtube.  Creative writing, video production, video editing, and social media marketing all come in to play.  Use your imagination as to what else can be done.  Focused long form learning is superior to volume learning in every way and opens the door to infinite learning possibilities through multi-subject cohesion. 

 

Follow me at:

FFRnews:

 

Classical Learner on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCziZ851qwRmQS0JdBgFretw?view_as=subscriber

Classical Learner on Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/Classical-Learner-2320151104976562/?modal=admin_todo_tour

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are God-given the faculty of memorization. It has a place and a purpose within the education of the young. Memorization creates a foundation for later critical thinking as you say. It is so helpful to already know a "name, date, and place" when considering history later. To have several events memorized in chronological order frees up "thinking" space in the mind and the heart to contemplate should questions, cause and effect, comparisons and contrasts, and finally critiques.

Catechisms have been a part of Christendom and Judaism since their inceptions. Priests memorized the canon of the Psalms and I think the first five books of the Old Testament. We memorize scripture so that it comes back to us when we need encouragement, hope, guidance, resistance to temptation. This is true of science, history, math, and english foundational facts that will assist us in later stages of learning. I am not an "ages and stages" classical educator, so that is not the definition I am using when I say "stage". But "precept upon precept" is a biblical concept because it is a human way of learning. So is memorizing. Certainly it can be overdone, or cut short by leaning on it alone without developing the ideas associated with the information. These are not reasons to abandon the great aid memorizing can bring to one's education. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I really love the title of this thread, Seven Liberal Arts vs. Humanities. I need to contemplate it more, but I think what @Chris Perrin describes in his introduction to a classical education covers the ideas surrounding the Seven Liberal Arts. I think the Humanities are areas of human learning in which we can practice and perceive the liberal arts, skills, ideas, and knowledge. An "art" is a skill set used by an "artist" to the point of excellence, or "expertise" we would say in modern terms. In a classical sense it's the idea of someone like a woodworker starting as an apprentice, then becoming a journeyman, then a craftsman, then a master. The master would not only have obsorbed all of the skills at every previous level, he would begin to be able to create from his own place of wisdom and discernment based on that knowledge and understanding. He would also be able to express his knowledge through explanation and not just artifact.

The Humanities is a set of content right? History, Literature, Economics, Fine Arts, as opposed to the sciences? Math, life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences. 

But they are not mutually exclusive. How do we take the Liberal Arts and apply them to content areas? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...