I loved my college and my Latin education. However, the education classes were not as fruitful as I had expected. I really did not learn what I needed to know about teaching techniques until I was out in the trenches. All the theory in the world does not really enable you to be competent in the practical application. The same is true for homeschooling too. You have to use trial and error to find out what works and does not.
With that being said, here are two valuable things I learned in my undergraduate education classes. Both of these have helped me to grasp the classical method and homeschooling better. Let me sum these up for you, so that you may glean quickly what I learned in two years of undergraduate education classes.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the most valuable things I learned in my education classes. Learning is much easier when a student has a full belly, is hydrated, and is in a warm house. I saw this over and over with my public school students and I see it with my own children. Children who do not have their basic needs met are less likely to focus on their work. We want our children to have balanced nutrition and plenty of sleep, but we sometimes do not think about how that is very much linked to their academic efforts. Students and parents who have stability in their finances have an easier time with school because they are able to focus better. I know when I have had to think about my mortgage getting paid, I have also had a lot harder time learning what I needed to learn for Challenge classes. Not having anxiety towards security is extremely important. Social needs being met is another very important necessity for a student attempting to learn. They have to feel love and a sense of belonging. This is where I see homeschooling trumps public school: students are living and working in a group that loves them and they have an overwhelming sense of belonging. They do not have to worry about with whom they should eat lunch or if they will have friends in their class. They know that their teacher loves them and wants the best for them. For me personally, it has been such a joy teaching my children together. My ten-year-old would not have the bond she has with her one-year-old brother if we did not homeschool. She would spend eight or nine hours a day away from her family and we would get her leftover time and energy. In homeschooling, home is her focus. And with Classical Conversations, we get the best of both worlds because we also have a sense of belonging like some might get in public school. My daughters know they are loved by people in our Classical Conversations community who are not in their biological family. They derive their self-worth from knowing they are God’s children and their sense of accomplishment from the fact that they are learning the skills needed to tackle any subject. Starting at the bottom of the pyramid of needs, each tier of this hierarchy needs to be met in order to have maximum learning and growth. Learning about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in college was almost common sense, but it was formulated in a way that I had not thought about before. Over and over, I have seen this hierarchy played out in my public school classes, Challenge classes, and homeschool life. If families are having trouble financially or are going through a divorce, even the most diligent students have had trouble learning.
The second very valuable thing I learned was Bloom’s Taxonomy. This was what we used to formulate lesson plans and discuss the types of learning. This was also the reason I grasped the idea of the classical method more easily. The bottom tier depicts the knowledge base that everyone needs in order to do deeper learning. The grammar stage happens here—we memorize our charts and facts. We have to do this in order to go any further in our studies. It does us no good to try to translate Latin if we have not learned the forms and vocabulary. The next part is comprehension. Students start to question and understand the why of things, just like they do in the dialectic stage of the trivium. In Essentials, students are learning not only the basic pieces of English language but are also applying the knowledge by writing their own original works. In Challenge, students analyze literature in their discussions and writings. As they increase in their rhetorical skills, they utilize synthesis of materials in their projects, debates, and papers. They also learn to evaluate others’ works and make judgements. Each tier requires higher order thinking skills and requires some mastery of the skill below it.
After learning those two concepts, consider yourself as educated in basic educational theory as I was when I finished my Bachelors’ degree.