Back to the Classics

To teach, to learn, to change

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Defining terms

There are a couple of things I need to clarify before I lay out the next few things on my mind. One of the big issues I’ve run into in deciding how to implement the Academy is whether or not to hold classes in real time. From my software background, I refer to this as synchronous and asynchronous (or async for short). Synchronous actions take place at the same time – a traditional classroom is a synchronous method. Async methods take place at different times; a book is the perfect example of an async teaching method, with the writing and the reading happening separately.

For teaching, there are advantages to each, especially for an online system like what I’m aiming for. Synchronous approaches, like video conferences or chat rooms, allow for personalized teaching and interaction. Teachers can answer questions, hold group discussions, or change approaches depending on how well students seem to be understanding what’s being taught. Asynch methods, such as recorded lectures or textbooks, are much more time and cost efficient. Students can pursue them at their own pace (especially if lectures have a speed control, which I loved when I was at university) and on their own schedule. Also, since the material only needs to be created once and then updated periodically, it costs a lot less to produce and maintain.

How those trade offs balance is going to be a major factor for what gets taught and how and to whom.


What should they learn, Part II

The last time I posted on this (too long ago, my apologies) I gave you the list I had made for my own children of what I wanted their education to include. Once I had that pretty well figured out, I started to develop that into something like an actual school curriculum. I broke it out into subject areas, and later categorized those into larger categories. I’ve made a lot of changes since then, even more since I decided to work toward establishing the Freeman Academy. I don’t really remember now all the changes I’ve made or how it looked when I started, so I’ll just give it to you as it stands today. These are broken down into the seven liberal arts, and then into subjects to cover, with some addenda at the end. These aren’t specific classes yet, but it’s a lot closer than the first list I made.

  • Grammar
    • Spelling
    • Vocabulary
    • Sentence Structure
    • Literature
    • Penmanship and/or Typing
  • Logic / Dialectic
    • Basic contract principles
    • Logical theory
    • Critical Thinking and Analysis
    • Philosophy
    • Law
  • Rhetoric
    • Narrative and Story
    • Composition structure (How you arrange what you’re trying to say)
    • Rhetorical forms (techniques for getting your point across)
    • Public speaking
    • History
  • Arithmetic
    • Arithmetic
    • Algebra
    • Basic personal finance and accounting
    • Statistics
    • Economics
    • Calculus
  • Geometry
    • Geometry
    • Geography
    • Trigonometry
  • Musical and Visual  Art
    • “Appreciation”/Familiarization
    • History
    • Theory
    • Composition
    • Performance
  • Science
    • Astronomy
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Physiology
    • Ecology

Notes on the list: under Grammar you may have noticed the I do not have Reading. There are a couple of related reasons for that. First of all, teaching reading takes one-on-one time. Even in a government school, a great deal of the real work must be done at home if the child is going to make any progress. In a privately operated school like the Freeman Academy, that one-on-one time becomes expensive. Second, barring some kind of disability, learning to read is not hard. We’ve been told otherwise, but it’s simply not true. “Cracking the code”, learning how sounds match up with symbols can be a little tricky at first, but it is totally doable. A friend of ours spent maybe three hours helping my oldest son crack the code, and from there he was off and running. I may consider having the Academy offer some kind of program or instructions for parents to teach their children. If not, there are numerous other programs available.

As far as music and visual art, not everyone needs to be an artist, but barring sensory disabilities (deafness, blindness, etc.) everyone should be familiar with the principles, history, and importance of the arts. Even if you never played anything more complicated than Greensleeves or Smoke on the Water, just having spent some time to understand the making of music will help you more fully appreciate what others produce.

There are a few items I wanted taught that don’t (to me) fit neatly into the seven-part framework. One is etiquette. In theory this is taught in the home and unnecessary in a school. Sadly that’s not the case. Sometimes parents don’t think it’s important, other times they just don’t know because they weren’t taught themselves, but either way a free man or woman, a citizen, should know how to behave respectfully and respectably. Another item is civics. That goes back to the objectives laid down by Jefferson – that a citizen should know his rights and responsibilities. Some of that, a lot of it even, is making sure that students know and understand what is in the governing documents of their nation, or their traditions in a nation not chartered by a constitution, and how those principles are currently applied (or not). The third thing might slide in under biology – human health. Students should understand sanitation and why it is so important, the functions of the human body and its proper maintenance, basic nutritional principles untainted by hype and pseudoscience, and even basic first aid.

I think that’s enough of an info dump for today. So what say you, readers? Does this sound like enough to prepare a person to act as an informed adult in the world? How would you improve it?

I’m still alive, and so is the dream

Just a quick note to say that:

  1. I have not been hit by a bus, though a few dump trucks tried today
  2. I have been working on and discussing the Freeman Academy, even if I haven’t been posting.
  3. Blogging will resume starting immediately (I’ll work on finishing the second part of What should they learn as soon as I’m done with this)


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