Old-School Grammar School (with a Plan)

October 7, 2019
Posted in Education
October 7, 2019 Robyn Van Eck

Old-School Grammar School (with a Plan)

Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

If classical education—from the Blue Back Speller and New England Primer, to teaching history from primary sources, or even *gasp* Latin—seem very attractive to you, but completely overwhelming, then Grammar of Grace was written just for you. 

Grammar of Grace was written to be like a good friend holding your hand, showing you how, giving you a plan.  

What was the impetus of this Plan for old-school grammar school?

When I began homeschooling, I’d long heard that homeschooling gives great flexibility, allowing mom to cancel homeschool for the sake of personal events, or to take the children to the museum or park…  Those are great thoughts, and I’ve seen those ideas work beautifully in some mothers’ homeschools; but it only took me a year or two to realize that in my own homeschool, if I didn’t have a plan, I wasn’t going to get homeschooling done!

Add in that I was trying to give my children the Noah Webster sort of education that used to be standard in America (back when the nation was 98% highly literate), which was completely foreign to me.  I had to take a deep dive into researching the methodology, and then crafting a plan to make it possible for me to implement this foreign mode of education.  There is no way I can do this without some structure, I thought.

But a comment from a close Christian friend kept coming back into my mind, too…  She’s older than me, and ahead of me in the homeschool journey, so I love to learn from her.  One time she mentioned that a problem she had in her homeschool was making sure that her “middles” learned everything she meant for them to.  She and her husband have enough children to require the use of a passenger van (like us), so the first few children are in a little group, then the next few, then the youngest ones.  

So one time she’s checking the work of one of the “middles”, and she realizes he completely doesn’t know how to write a letter the right way, at age 13, or something like that.  And she’s thinking, “Hmm… I guess he never learned that!”  (By the way, today all of the middles are in college, on full scholarship, so she worked it all out!)

But that planted a seed in my mind, about my many children (total number still tbd…!).  I didn’t want to forget all the great little details that worked so well with my first children, when the younger ones started through school.  But, when the younger ones would start grammar school, I would be focused on logic and dialectic for the older ones.  I needed to make a plan that wasn’t just a simple outline I could pull off while it was all still new and fresh in my mind; I needed to make a real curriculum that would be planned out for me to use for the younger children, straight off the shelf, with no prep work. 

I outlined our overarching plans for the 12 years of school, and then zeroed in on what ought to be learned that coming year, for our eldest, and planned it all out, week by week, day by day, just like a teacher lesson plan.

Over the course of the year, it was amazing to see how effective the old-fashioned assignments were.  At first, I feared my children wouldn’t learn much, because the work each day seemed so little, and so simple.  But behind the simplicity of these assignments, each child was learning to think, just at the level where he was ready.  It was (and is) amazing to see how well the children learn and grow with this deceptively simple curriculum.  

At each year’s end, I thoroughly reviewed and evaluated the past year’s curriculum, to add tutor’s notes, so I wouldn’t forget those excellent teaching moments that had come up during the year.  I figured, if I can write it all down while it’s fresh in my mind, then I’ll have a good guide ready to use for the rest of the children.

But I also had one other motivation in writing Grammar of Grace…  I had read about classical education, and I was using the old books, and I was putting it all into practice.  And many other homeschooling friends I spoke with were excited about the same ideas, and trying to do these things in their homeschools, too; but they expressed frustration because they couldn’t understand how to put these ideas into practice.  

We went to public school.  We had modern educations.  We pick up a Blue Back Speller, and there are no instructions.  I mean, actually, no instructions.  How are we supposed to use this?!  And forget about history from primary sources, and great Christian literature; how are we supposed to find these books we’ve never even heard of?  One friend would say, straight out, “Just give me a Plan!”

So, when I was making everything for my own homeschool, I also wrote out instructions and helps along the way, that would help others learn how to give their children a Christian Trivium education, too.

The unique thing Grammar of Grace brings to the table is taking the old American classical education and planning the whole thing out, because many of us modern parents, out of our background, don’t understand how to recreate that method without a plan. 

In the end, I’ve taken the old grammar school method, planned it out into daily assignments, and added instructions and a teacher’s guide.  

The vision behind Grammar of Grace is not to add yet another approach to the homeschooling pantheon; it’s a practical plan to help Christian homeschoolers find our way back to a method that has been lost.

There’s one other thing Grammar of Grace spells out, that’s not written out in writings about American classical style education, but we’ll save that for Part 2.

When it comes to homeschool, are you a planner, or do you do better with more flexibility?  What works for you?

Thanks for dropping by; please keep us in prayer!

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