In classical education, children learn in three phases (grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric.) Each phase starts around a specific age. This process of classical education is known as the trivium.
Preschool plans are usually not included in the wonderful guides to classical education such as The Well Trained Mind and the Core. What do you do, if you have a child younger than five, and both of you are eager to start learning? What do you do if you have already chosen the classical homeschooling method as your favorite approach, yet your child is considered to be too young to enjoy this style of education?
I’ve been there with my eldest, and so I developed a simple system of how to prepare your preschooler for the classical education to come. This system also teaches you how to do the The Classical Preschool at home.
Preschoolers are considered to be in the early grammar phase. This phase is characterized by the desire to retain information. Memorizing is exceptionally important. Classical education is based on reading a lot, both for learning and for pleasure. Preschoolers can benefit from many books read to them. Classical education emphasizes a strong arithmetics program in the early years. Preschoolers can learn arithmetics through play. Classical education encourages the student to learn history, starting from the early years. There is a way to gently introduce history to preschoolers, through stories. Classical education involves an immersion into the world of arts. Preschoolers can learn about classical art.
Some critics of the classical education claim that children taught this way, miss on unstructured play. A classical preschool at home takes 45 minutes to an hour a day. The rest of the day can be spent playing freely.
The five pillars of the classical preschool at home are: memorization, reading, early arithmetics, early history, classical arts. Now, how can these aspects be integrated into a home-based preschool?
Songs, chants, poems and rhymes should be playfully memorized. Do not strive for the stars; start small. Memorize a little song, memorize two lines of a poem. The key is -do it regularly. Why Should Children Memorize: 8 Reasons. If you can get children in this stage to sing or chant something, they will most likely remember it for a lifetime.
Now is the time to instill the love of reading in your child. Think big. Yes, you can teach your baby all the letters at two, but will it instill the love of reading? It may or it may not. Read to your child daily, go to the library, pick books, discuss books, live in the world of books, make sure your child sees you reading. Choose solid, classical literature for the young readers, instead of the piles of garbage, frequently called “literature” today. All of this is necessary to raise a reader. And yes, you can teach your child letters and reading early. Make sure you do it because there is an interest and not because of your overblown ambition as a parent.
Most people who weren’t good at math in school ( myself included,) happened to be this way because math was taught as a dry subject, removed from their daily lives. Math is something you do on a worksheet, and then go on to live your life.
The most important mathematical lesson to teach a child is how alive math really is, how it is in everything we do and in everything you see. When working with a preschoolers, it’s easy to focus on “I must teach her numbers.” Think big instead. Focus on counting the petals on a flower, on noticing the numbers of houses while on a walk. Add and subtract everything. Make math alive, so that the real arithmetics, which your child will learn later, comes easily to them.
Children are naturally curious. They want to know about the early people and how they lived. Tell them stories about ancient Egypt and early Greece. Look at encyclopedias together for fun pictures. Tell them Bible stories. All you are trying to do is to create pegs in the child’s memory, so that the information they learn later can easily hang on these pegs. You are opening doors to curiosity and deepening their love of reading.
While Pinterest is full of “splatter paint on the paper, using your finger” kind of projects, preschoolers are very open to the classical art. Play some classical music at home. Show the kids some famous works of art. Ask them to memorize the names of the works of art they particularly liked. Ask them to maybe try and copy a Monet painting or a Rodin sculpture. Preschoolers’ minds do not need to be polluted with simplistic art images. When the children start looking at quality art early, their minds become filled with classical beauty.
Of course, there is more for the classical preschool at home. The possibilities are endless. As long as you keep the five aforementioned pillars intact, you can easily modify and add on information to fit the particular preschooler you are working with.