Thursday, June 3, 2010

Classical Education & Age

It wasn't until I started homeschooling that I've learned how many people don't understand this - including myself at one time.  The public school system has set a certain age and a deadline of which the child must be at that age before being placed in a specific grade.  A lot of parents, especially homeschoolers, don't understand the importance of age vs. grade level but it needs to be understood fully in order to ensure your child's learning is not hindered now or in the future.  Most parents also do not realize they can HOLD their child back a year if they choose to do so - which has proved in many to be better for the child.

I've been reading research, studies and also how curriculum is made and why it is important that age be taken into consideration with grade level.  What I have learned is this - most curriculum/textbooks are written and made for a certain age and mental level.  Although with history and science - some can be taught at different levels but not traditional textbooks.  With grammar and writing - it is crucial these subjects are taught at the child's level or ability.  Reading is reading - it only BENEFITS your child to advance in reading - there are no hindrances in a child who can read on a higher level!  Actually, the sooner you get your child reading, the better but ONLY when the child shows "readiness".

Giving a child advanced material to which the child is NOT ready for - will only frustrate the child and actually hinder their learning.  If your child is gifted, you will know - trust me!  I've read about other moms whose child started talking before 2 and reading by 3. For the rest of us - children are either average, above average or below average.

So what grade should your child be in or what curriculum should you use to match their mental ability?  It varies but the average ages are below:
  • Kindergarten - turn 6 within the school year and be 6 for most of the year
  • 1st Grade - turn 7 within the school year and be 7 for most of the year
  • 2nd Grade - turn 8 within the school year and be 8 for most of the year
  • 3rd Grade - turn 9 within the school year and be 9 for most of the year
  • 4th Grade - turn 10 within the school year and be 10 for most of the year
And the list goes on.......ending with 12th grade were the child will turn 18 during the school year.  Ask yourself this question - Who is better equipped and would score better on the SAT?  A child who was pushed ahead or a child who was held back and had an extra year of learning?  I think you can easily see the answer.

Asking a 1st grader, who is 6/7, to do the writing of a 2nd grader, who is 7/8 - is only going to frustrate the average child and hinder them.  If you were to push your child 1 or 2 grade levels ahead in writing and they are just average, what happens when they are doing 5th grade writing and are only 3rd grade age?  Will they be able to use logic and come up with proper creative writing?  Or would not they be better suited to excel at 3rd grade writing and spend more years perfecting their writing abilities?

If only the parents would realize this - they might actually have honor roll children if they were placed in their proper grade level!  Instead, they have below average, struggling, frustrated children trying to be on the mental level to which their minds can't grasp just yet.  If the child turns 5 on Sept. 6th - you should wait till the next Sept to start Kindergarten.  Why put them at a disadvantage to the other children who will be turning 6?  Not only then but you MUST look at the future as well.  Unless they are gifted, most children hit a "wall" around 3-4th grade who were pushed ahead.  It is better to catch it now then regret it later.

A lot of the research I've read proves that even just a few months in age makes a HUGE difference and I have witnessed that with my own daughter.  I look back on K 6 months ago and she was struggling on a 1st grade reading level and now - 6 months later she is on a 3rd grade reading level.  So yes - 6 months makes a HUGE difference in learning!

With homeschooling, even in my local area - I hear moms bragging about how their child is this far ahead and doing this grade, etc.  It is the spirit of elitism that even Susan Wise Bauer has spoken about in her articles - of which convicted me a few months ago because I had succumbed to its allures. Here are some quotes from one of her articles:

One thing classical homeschoolers really need to guard against is a devastating level of elitism: “We are doing the best homeschooling because our young children are doing such advanced work.” This kind of elitism is non-Christian, it is unloving, and it is unproductive. I was recently asked, “What do you think of third-graders doing Saxon 5/4?” I said, “I can’t think of a single thing you would gain by that. Some of them will be able to do it, but a lot of them aren’t developmentally ready for it. You are going to finish advanced mathematics by the end of high school if you keep them on the normal schedule. What’s the rush?” What do you gain by asking a seventh-grader to read the Iliad if that seventh-grader hasn’t developed the maturity to understand and appreciate what he’s reading? Nothing at all. You gain nothing in the way of emotional and mental development by pushing difficult tasks down to earlier grades.

I am not talking about the lowering of academic standards. I don’t want them lowered; I am just talking about extending the time needed for children to meet those standards. Children move from grammar to logic stage thinking, and from logic to rhetoric stage thinking, at different times in different subjects. We should focus on this, rather than focusing on age or grade level. And I hope that classical schools will also begin to think seriously about what is being gained in the classroom if immature students are being asked to do work that continually frustrates them. Is our goal to educate as many students as possible, or to identify a small, advanced, elite core of classical scholars? I hope it’s the first, and not the second. I think there is a very high level of achievement that all children can reach, given the appropriate amount of time. Keep the standards high, but give each child the appropriate amount of time for those achievements.
That is why I believe in the classical education model - it does coincide with age but in the best way - the grammar years, the logic years and then the rhetoric years.  This aligns curriculum and expectations with the mental period the child is in.  I encourage all to read about why these 3 tiers of classical education are so crucial.  Once you have placed your child in the proper age grade level - then place them in the proper trivium level:
  • Grammar Stage - grades 1-4 (age 7-10)
  • Logic Stage - grades 5-8 (age 11-14)
  • Rhetoric Stage - grades 9-12 (age 15-18)
Then you buy curriculum that is suited for a child in that stage.  It can't just be any curriculum - some curriculum is so childish, it is not even "on-level" to begin with.  However, with true Classical Educational curriculum - you will find it is not only on-level but very rigorous and gentle at the same time for the child at his/her proper age.  Curriculum designed for the trivium - is systematic, organized and fits the child's mental abilities as well.  Basically, you could summarize the 3 stages as this as shown in the article above - "the mind must be first supplied with facts and images (grammar stage), then given the logical tools for organization of facts (logic stage), and finally equipped to express conclusions (rhetoric stage)."

1 comment:

  1. yeah some people push their kids too hard just to boast but their kid may not be ready for it, very sad for the kid and prideful for the parent to behave that way.

    were not a big fan of 'education'. we rather have our child know the Bible inside out than be ahead of everyone else academically. as long as he knows the basics and does the requirements, thats good enough for us because we want to focus on Biblical training, studying, and character. i wish more parents would focus on that instead of competing and pushing their kid to be something he isnt just for prideful reasons. so lame.

    i agree with you!