Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rethinking and Retooling Our Dialect Education

I'm planning on using this blog post as a mental clipboard of all my thoughts about the Dialectice stage of learning. Some who read this blog might not know what I'm talking about when I refer to "stages" of learning or "dialectic level."  In that case, I'm providing a link to a wonderful article by Ms. Dorothy Sayers called "The Lost Tools of Learning." It is rather long, but those who are homeschooling or considering homeschooling or who are wanting to be actively involved in their children's education and instruction should carve out the time to read this.  It may strike you as a foreign way to think about education, but it certainly has passed the test of time more than our current educational models.

Briefly the dialectic stage of learning is the logic or argumentative stage of learning (no, we don't really argue a lot).  We are learning the "If...thens" of our subjects.  We are figuring out the connections between information.  And, we are learning logic -- like formal logic:  if a is equal to b, and c is equal to b, get the picture.

This stage of learning generally begins in 5th grade through 8th grade.  Someone told me that it begins when children begin growing hair in places other than their head.  Another person said it begins when kids start arguing with you all the time.  Well, regardless of that the precursor was, I know we're in the dialectic level.

Last year was a transition year for Ben.  I assigned some dialect reading to him from our history/literature/geography/worldview program Tapestry of Grace,but we did not focus on forming the connections in our reading -- mostly we just stuck to the facts.   Honestly, my attentions were more focused on helping him with math (we encountered a fraction hiccup and spent a lot of time going over and over fractions until he got it) and helping his brother with his reading.

But somewhere around September/ October this year (Ben's 6th grade year) I realized that the dialect years aren't just "coast" years for me as a teacher -- they are very important.  My goal for my children's education has been to glorify the Lord and prepare them to serve Him however He has gifted them, but it has also been to create thinkers and learners.  To that end, I need to engage Ben in discussions, guide him in notetaking, and help him organize his ideas to answer more challenging questions -- in writing.  [side note:  Ben is a minimalist.  He's a smart guy, but puts forth the minimal amount of effort in any work that requires writing.]

Therefore I've been overhauling how we complete our studies this year.  In some ways, it resembles how school used to be when he was a 1st or 2nd grader:  a lot more cuddle on the couch time, reading and discussing together.  Then I send him off to write paragraphs for me about what we've discussed, or I send him off to finish a simple outline from a book.  I'm much more hands on this year than I was last year, and I'm happy (and exhausted) with the plan.

More to follow.....

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