Sunday, August 28, 2016

My approach to The Trivium - Into the nitty gritty

Morning Study Mode
3 days ago my first shipment of homeschooling materials arrived from Memoria Press - Traditional Logic 1 and the first 3 lessons of the Progymnasmata (Pro-gym-NOZZ-muh-tuh), which is the classical Composition course (writing). It was a twofold test - first to see how worthy I deem Memoria's materials for my purposes of self-education, and second to see if my obsession for this stuff holds fast when it comes to actual study rather than just reading about it. Passed with flying colors on both counts!

Let me back up a little and explain the purpose of this post - what I hope to do is clarify the nitty gritty  details on exactly how I'm approaching this and why.

This all began when I discovered the book The Trivium by Sister Miriam Joseph. Instantly my imagination and my undying interest were captivated - I knew in a flash this is something I need to pursue and it immediately takes first precedence in my life, at least until it's become a settled routine. I believe in a previous post I mentioned that - excellent as the book is, it doesn't work for me as educational material, which I was hoping it would. It reads more like a fast moving and very stern lecture on what the Trivium is, but isn't laid out well for study. While she actually does explain in great detail essentially every aspect of the curriculum, and even gets into loads of specifics, it all moves too fast, while at the same time being way too densely packed with information.

I could possibly have used it as study material, but it would have meant breaking it down into proper form for daily studies -- summaries, review questions, quizzes, tests. That's the stuff that makes you remember it all. So I would have had to turn it into a workbook and a lesson plan. And I actually considered doing that, but it just felt like an insanely difficult task, especially the finding more complete explanations for everything part. I'd much rather spend the time learning than creating an educational program.

About that time I started running across homeschooling courses like Memoria Press, and realized this is exactly what I need - already broken down neatly into digestible form. I decided to lay out some cash - an investment in my own education.

Which brought up the inevitable next question - how much cash?

This is where I started making some quick intuitive decisions. If I were still in my 20s, maybe even my 30s, I might go whole hog and immerse myself into many years of training. But it's well past that point now - that would be unnecessary and even ridiculous, considering I already have the basics of grammar and rhetoric. What exactly should my criteria be then?

Well, I know I want the whole Logic course. That's the part that's been entirely expunged from modern public schooling, and is the vital core of it all really. And since I'd be learning it from scratch, having no background in it (aside from the reading I've since done - more on that in a bit), then I felt I should buy what Memoria calls the Basic Set, which includes the student guide, the textbook, and the teacher's guide. One of my earliest decisions was not to get any DVDs - I believe they're mainly just spoken introductions, like "Hi kids, what we're going to be covering today.. " as well as probably some duplication of material in the books. And not surprisingly, the DVDs are the most expensive part.

I do want the teacher's guides for Logic, because I feel it's essential that I learn this correctly. It's different when it comes to grammar and rhetoric and composition - that stuff has more leeway and nobody expects them to be precise anymore. They're more about artistic expression, and Logic is more about precision in thinking, so I consider the teacher's guides for Logic necessary.

I've placed my second order now, much larger than the first, rounding out the entire Logic course (Traditional Logic I & II and Material Logic), the single-book Aristotle's Rhetoric course (which is a guided stroll through Aristotle's own book on the subject, with those better explanations I'm looking for, along with the all-important summaries, review questions, quizzes and tests), and the 4 volume set of Grammar lessons. No teacher's guides for any of these. The teacher's guides are more expensive than the student workbooks, so this represents a substantial savings.

Besides these, I've also opted for a few literature and poetry lessons. For these there is generally a text (a Shakespeare play, or Treasure Island for example), as well as a student workbook and teacher's guide/answer key. In many cases I've been able to locate the texts on Project Gutenberg for free and downloaded them, saving a few more Drachma. In the case of Shakespeare I am getting teacher's guides, because I don't trust that just by studying the material I can always find the correct answers. And rather than download Shakespeare from Gutenberg, I'm getting it from No Fear Shakespeare on Sparknotes, which thankfully supplies a modern translation beside the original tongue-and-brain-twisting text.

I've always wanted to be able to understand Shakespeare - to the extent that I bought 2 Complete Works (the first was printed in such fine text on such tissue-thin paper it was completely impossible to read) and an Asimov's Guide, which is probably excellent, but unfortunately does not guide how I need guided - through just what the heck it all MEANS! So now, between Sparknotes and Memoria Press, my dream of understanding The Bard is approaching realization at long last.

And finally - the Pre-Soak.

While exploring the Memoria Press site and gradually developing the plan for what I need to order, and then while waiting for it to arrive, I sought out and devoured many PDFs, web articles, and books about traditional logic and rhetoric. Including many of the original sources -- translations of Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian among others. I didn't try to understand it all on these initial read-throughs, rather I considered it all a mental pre-soak, just immersing my mind deeply into the subjects and letting it simmer in the stew for a while. Now I find as I burn through the lessons (often 2 or 3 days' worth in a single sitting) comprehension dawns more easily because of it. All in all I'd say a very excellent approach to this arcane and yet essential curriculum.

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