The "Why" of the Classical Method


In my last post, I explained what the classical method is. In a nutshell, it's memorizing, understanding, and finally doing or explaining. We use this method every time we want to study something, although nowadays we often leave off the memorization stage. We have dictionaries, spell check, or we just happen to be rather clever and can guess well. (I'm one of those.) The problem with forgetting the memory work is that we... forget.

We forget our language, or rather, we are dependent on something else to keep the knowledge for us. If we can't memorize the language, we can't use it. Or at least not properly. This leads to a simplified language that can't communicate everything a human needs to express.

I'm always awed when I study Greek or Latin. Such old languages that can communicate so much more than English can. This is the reason I don't believe in evolution, well, one of the reasons. If we were evolving into better, and better humans, our language would be more intricate and developed than it was 2000 years ago. But that's not the case. We can't properly translate all the nuances, hints, and meanings of Greek simply because English can't communicate like that.

Memorizing is also not popular these days because, of the three stages of learning, memory work is the least "fun." It's the stage of the most grunt work. The work that just takes setting your face like a flint and bearing down and determining to get it done. It's like picking up a log that is too heavy for you.

I think God sets up His tasks like this. The hard part comes first, and after you've done the hard part, the easy part comes. If the easy part comes first, it gets harder. (I use the following analogy knowing that not everyone has a choice in the matter, so bear with me.) It's like breast feeding versus bottle feeding. In the beginning, breast feeding is so HARD! No one else can help you at night, it hurts, it takes a lot of time, it really, really hurts! Bottle feeding is so easy in the beginning. Some one else can help with feedings, it doesn't hurt, and goes a lot quicker. Plus the baby thinks it's easier too and will gladly give up the breast for it. But later, breast feeding is so simple. No packing bottles, no getting up to fix bottles, it only takes a few minutes, and babies really prefer it (if they haven't had bottles). What started out as almost impossible, becomes easy. What started out as easy, becomes difficult.

That's how it is with learning as well using the classical method. Thankfully, children most likely won't see the memory work as the hard work. It's what they are naturally doing anyway. They are learning, from the time they are babies, language. They naturally want to learn to communicate and to explain themselves. In the beginning, a baby only has a few needs, and those are easily brought to attention by crying out. As their needs become more complicated, babies and toddlers need to figure out how to communicate those needs because the crying doesn't work so well. When Esmond cries for his shoes to be tied, or his jacket zipped, I can't automatically interpret that cry. He has to learn to say, to speak, to explain.

Since kids are naturally inclined to this study, the classical method makes sense to me. This is why we are using it. We're using this method in order to redeem the language we have lost. In order to get the hard work done first. And in order to give the kids a way to communicate, so that when they meet the bigger problems they will face in higher grades and college, they have the means to communicate those problems.

For the rest of this series:
The What of the Classical Method
The How of the Classical Method


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