Classical Education: The Pre-Grammar Stage (reprise) - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

Semper discentes—always learning together.
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Classical Education: The Pre-Grammar Stage (reprise)

Welcome to our last post in our Classical Education (with a twist) blog series! We’ve been taking a look at how SLOCA approaches Classical Education at each level. We began our series with the Rhetoric Stage to get a big picture view of where Classical Education leads, then we moved on to the Logic Stage and the Grammar Stage. Today we have the pleasure of learning about the fun and play-filled Pre-Grammar Stage, which encompasses our Little Wonders program: Preschool and Kindergarten. Our Little Wonders Director, Merideth Eades, will share about this very exciting foundational phase of life and education with us today:

The early years of a child’s life are magical. Children are blossoming in their awareness of the world and acquiring language, building their vocabulary and filling up their basic knowledge. This is achieved in our Little Wonders program through exposing children to highly distinguished children’s literature, memorizing and reciting poetry and nursery rhymes, building fine motor abilities, and engaging in purposeful, high level and meaningful play. It is through this process that the foundation is built for further learning.

Memorization and recitation are woven throughout all the stages of Classical Education. In Little Wonders we start with easy-to-memorize poems and nursery rhymes, giving the children plenty of time to commit them to memory and practice first in front of their peers and then at a culmination event in front of a larger audience. Through memorization children add beautiful language to their vocabulary store. This vocabulary will be at their fingertips for later use in reading and writing. Children who memorize also build into their store the beautiful patterns of the English language. Recitation teaches the children to speak pieces out loud with fluency and expression and helps to set those memorized pieces into the child’s memory. It also builds confidence and poise under observation, which will serve them in social situations for the rest of their lives.

Fine motor abilities combined with increasing hand-eye coordination open new doors to exploration, learning, and creative expression. These skills lay the foundation for academic learning in later years. In order to learn to write or draw, for example, a child’s hand must be strong and coordinated enough to hold a pencil steady for a long period of time. The handwriting program that was adopted for Kindergarten a number of years ago engages the whole body and mind moving from gross motor to fine motor practice. In Little Wonders children are exposed to a variety of activities that encourage motor development, and they are actively involved in activities that strengthen hand muscles and develop hand-eye coordination. Some of these include threading beads, painting with Q-tips, poking straws into holes, stringing pasta necklaces, squeezing play-dough, coloring and tracing. Special attention is paid toward moving children forward and teaching them the correct pencil grip, as they are ready.

“Children… are actively involved in activities that strengthen hand muscles and develop hand-eye coordination.”

Reading and enjoying distinguished children’s literature trains the young child to listen well. They learn to discern the difference between living books, or books that are well-written and engaging, and “twaddle,”  which is dumbed down literature absent of meaning. As Charlotte Mason reminds us, “To introduce children to literature is to instill them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find.”

“To introduce children to literature is to instill them in a very rich and glorious kingdom…”

Children are not only encouraged to listen to these whole books but to engage in a discussion on them. Through Socratic questioning, children are prompted to think deeply about what they are reading and to share with others. “The basis for emerging literacy is that children have heard and listened, they have been heard, they have spoken and been spoken to, people have discussed things with them, and they have asked questions and received answers,” states Erika Christakis in her book, The Importance of Being Little.  This sharing of ideas builds awareness and confidence for future stages.

Finally, play is a vital building block in the development of a child’s early years of learning. “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning” (Fred Rogers). It is through play that a child acquires language, builds their vocabulary and learns to self-regulate their emotions. “Playing grocery store is actually better for brain development than a math worksheet with cartoon shopping carts? It has to be some kind of trick. Yet after decades of research, the benefits of play are so thoroughgoing, so dispositive, so well described that the only remaining question is how so many sensible adults sat by and allowed the building blocks of development to become so diminished” (Erika Christakis). In a time when play is increasingly becoming diminished in our schools, the teachers in Little Wonders are committed to giving children the space and freedom to practice play. For play is serious work to a child and crucial to their development.

“…play is serious work to a child and crucial to their development.”

We hope you have been enlightened and encouraged by this series, and that these posts have been (and will continue to be) valuable resources to help you better understand each stage of our classical model. SLO Classical Academy is honored to partner with you in the mission of forging character, fostering wisdom, and nurturing a lifelong passion for learning in your family!

Here are links to the other posts in this series:


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