Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dorothy Sayers and TLTOL (part sixteen)

In this next segment of "The Lost Tools of Learning", Dorothy Sayers finishes her description of the Grammar stage and discusses the subject of theology for the student in that stage:

So far (except, of course, for the Latin), our curriculum contains nothing that departs very far from common practice. The difference will be felt rather in the attitude of the teachers, who must look upon all these activities less as "subjects" in themselves than as a gathering-together of material for use in the next part of the Trivium. What that material is, is only of secondary importance; but it is as well that anything and everything which can be usefully committed to memory should be memorized at this period, whether it is immediately intelligible or not. The modern tendency is to try and force rational explanations on a child's mind at too early an age. Intelligent questions, spontaneously asked, should, of course, receive an immediate and rational answer; but it is a great mistake to suppose that a child cannot readily enjoy and remember things that are beyond his power to analyze--particularly if those things have a strong imaginative appeal (as, for example, "Kubla Kahn"), an attractive jingle (like some of the memory-rhymes for Latin genders), or an abundance of rich, resounding polysyllables (like the Quicunque vult).
This reminds me of the grammar of Theology. I shall add it to the curriculum, because theology is the mistress-science without which the whole educational structure will necessarily lack its final synthesis. Those who disagree about this will remain content to leave their pupil's education still full of loose ends. This will matter rather less than it might, since by the time that the tools of learning have been forged the student will be able to tackle theology for himself, and will probably insist upon doing so and making sense of it. Still, it is as well to have this matter also handy and ready for the reason to work upon. At the grammatical age, therefore, we should become acquainted with the story of God and Man in outline--i.e., the Old and New testaments presented as parts of a single narrative of Creation, Rebellion, and Redemption--and also with the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. At this early stage, it does not matter nearly so much that these things should be fully understood as that they should be known and remembered.

I don't have much to add on the first paragraph. I ask very little in the way of memorization from my children. Sometimes I worry that my laziness in that realm will hurt my children, but most of the time memorization is just not on my mind at all. They already learn all sorts of facts and songs from multitudinous library books, church, part-time school, library videos, various websites, language arts textbooks, and so on, but I feel I might be missing a valuable opportunity to help them commit to memory verses and sayings that will enrich their entire lives. I hereby resolve to print out something profound and put it on the refrigerator tonight and have my children read it three times a day until they have memorized it. OK, actually, I'll be putting up "A Purple Cow". A mom has to start somewhere on the Gilbreth path.

As to theology, that's easy to teach. Every school day the children who can read are assigned a set amount from the scriptures (one page for dd8 and a half page for dd6), and I discuss with them or have them narrate what they read. Because we are LDS, "scriptures" means The Book of Mormon, The Holy Bible, The Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. I don't use secondary materials (i.e., purchased lesson plans and activity books and such), and the Bible is the King James Version. I explain archaic words and confusing situations to them as needed, and they learn both doctrine and older English. 

They also go to church on Sundays and learn in Primary (the LDS Church's program for children) from great teachers and leaders. In addition, I tell them a scripture story every night. We just started making our way through a terrific Children's Illustrated Bible that I got at a garage sale for only $1 on Saturday; the stories are paraphrased in a straightforward way, and they are accompanied on the side by related maps and pictures of historical artifacts.

We also briefly cover the beliefs of non-Christian religions and cultures as we get to them in our history and geography studies. Greek gods and goddesses are a fount of fun stories. When we were studying ancient Israel, we had our own Seder, or Passover dinner. I've also been able to introduce my children to some Hindu religious dance and music through a nearby college's Balinese Gamelan performances.

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