Monday, September 08, 2008

Half of a post

For those of you who are getting tired of all the homeschooling chitchat, I'm sorry, as things settle out I'm sure I'll be able to think about many other things. Its just been on my mind for the last few weeks to comment on the strange juxtaposition or intersection (its Monday morning, I don't know what word I'm casting about for) between something like the Trivium and something like Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Catechesis is essentially Montessori based. Sophia Cavaletti, is inventor and founder, was friends with Maria Montessori and set out to fill out and provide the spiritual/religious element that Montessori herself never had time to. In other words, its all about 'Experience' and 'Prepared Environment' (I'm not being snarky with the scare quotes). The environment is key to the experience of the child as they meet God. The underlying most basic assumption of Catechsis is that the child already has an understanding of God, that God has already revealed himself to the child in creation, in love, in care. And that the child, especially at age 3 to 6, responds naturally and openly to God in prayer, thanksgiving and worship. Obviously, many things can happen before the age of three to interrupt or destroy a child's vision and experience of God, not least of them not being brought to church.

The prepared environment, or Atrium (entry way into full life in the church), sets the stage for the child to experience God and begin to gain vocabulary and meat and potatoes knowledge around that information. This is where it's so interesting, for me. There's no memorizing. There's no coloring of worksheets. There's no 'teaching' per say. The Catechists tells the stories of scripture (all carefully chosen) and uses various handmade materials to tell and retell the story and talk about, particularly 'wonder' about what God is doing, how the people in the story feel etc. The repetition naturally produces real knowledge of the scripture, and the use of the materials makes the connection between hands, heart, mind, and body. There's nothing more restful than watching a child speaking quietly to herself, moving little wooden sheep in and out of a green pasture, moving the Good Shepherd, opening and closing the gate.

Then I flip over to Classical Education, where I am not at all concerned (well, not too concerned) about the Religious Potential of the Child or their Experience of anything, my Main Concern is knowledge. So we are memorizing Everything-the Catechism, the times tables, the systems of the body, the Time Line, history dates and facts, Latin, language arts. They Are like Sponges. In three days of minimal repetition, they basically have the first week down.

About a year ago I mentioned to someone that we were thinking about Classical Education. The person I was talking to was a Montessori teacher, in a Montessori school. She was appalled, practically sick to her stomach. 'How can you do that? What about the Child? You're going to wreck the three year cycle!'

Well, we are on the three year cycle, the CC three year cycle.


Perpetua said...

This "Catechesis" sounds a little like "Godly Play". Have you looked at "Godly Play"? My concern with "Godly Play" was that the adult in charge pretended to be asking open ended questions but actually had a directed agenda. So it seemed deceitful and manipulative, kind of like the "Delphi Technique" for kids.

Anne Kennedy said...

Godly Play is a spin off of Catechesis. Berryman (I don't know how to spell his name) studied with Cavaletti, as far as I understand it, but felt that the amount of work involved in Catechesis was prohibitive, which it is, and wanted to make it more accessible. I don't really like Godly Play. Catechesis is much more careful, I think, and Catechists are not to present material they don't believe or cannot be honest with. Everything is checked and rechecked for doctrine. It IS a lot of work, which is the trouble we're having. We aren't able to get new Catechists trained because of the expense and the unavailability of training.

Anonymous said...

Which is exactly why we went with Godly Play. It's less expensive, less labor-intensive, uses less space, more adaptable to the space you have to work with and so much more practical on so many level. One of our teachers said that "Godly Play" was like drinking champagne on a beer budget. Even so, we am very, very happy with it. I understand, however, that having made the investment in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, you may be less than enthusiastic to make the switch.

At A Hen's Pace said...

We just started Godly Play last week at our church. We liked what we had heard about Catchesis of the GS, but this seemed comparable and much more accessible on an immediate basis. One of our mom had used it at another church before--that's how we heard of it.

Re: your question, I think you should make hay while the sun shines, if they're enjoying all the memorizing!

Our experience with classical education was that they burned out on it and didn't retain much of it. We weren't strongly into it on a daily basis, just went to a once-a-week program.

But my kids seem to be inordinately kinesthetic and hands-on learners, not "word" people like me and my husband and our oldest, autistic son. It's frustrating to me. CC appeals to me, but it wouldn't to my kids.

I think it's great to try different approaches regularly!