This is my 3rd year homeschooling my sons. They are in 2nd, 5th, and 6th grades. I have been slowly trying to incorporate some of the principles of classical education into our homeschool effort. For example, we have begun the study of Latin this year. I am increasingly concerned that I have missed doing the grammar stage properly with my two oldest sons. Is there any way to assess gaps they might have, and catch up? E.C.
I’ve heard people discuss this topic, but could never quite understand what people meant by gaps. Do they mean that they are worried because their children didn’t study rocks in the 3rd grade like most public and private school children do, or that they didn’t study the planets in 4th grade? We’re talking here about children not learning the facts in a certain area of study by a certain age level. I think lots of people worry about this. One person I once talked to was quite concerned because her ten year old child knew nothing about the Depression of the ’30’s, and another mother felt like a failure because her son couldn’t recite all the states and capitals by age twelve. These types of worries could drive parents crazy, especially if they stop and think about all the minute facts their child probably doesn’t know, and the even greater number of facts he learned but immediately forgot.
Now, I have a confession to make. We never studied rocks. Never. In fact, we never studied earth science at all. But that’s OK, because I plan on studying the subject with my grandchildren when I have more time. I’m actually looking forward to it.
Classical education is not like the education we parents got in the public school, where we memorized a bunch of facts, took a test, and then went on to the next subject. Classical education is about training minds and developing proper appetites. It’s developing the imagination and creativity. It’s having time to play and explore in the old fashioned way. It’s encouraging a love for learning. It’s building a firm foundation in the child’s mind with memorization and narration. And it’s about learning to obey and serve our heavenly Father. It’s a way of life.
But perhaps the gaps you are worried about are the skill type gaps and foundational knowledge that are important to learn in the early years — things such as basic formal English (and other language) grammar — knowledge which could be started at age ten; the basics of formal mathematics which also could begin at age ten (and informal math at earlier ages); and intensive phonics instruction which should begin as soon as the child is ready. These all are foundational stones to the building you are constructing, and any gaps here would need to be repaired.