Feature Article – Back to School by Marlin Detweiler

Educational Helps - by Laurie Detweiler

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Feature Article


Back to School


In a humorous sort of way the phrase “back to school” probably evokes more varied emotions than any other phrase we might utter. Some students, enjoying the freedom of summer and contemplate with some chagrin the binding schedule of school. Some parents can’t wait for school to start and get the minute-by-minute responsibility of watching, entertaining and otherwise caring for their children into the hands of the school staff. Of course, these two extremes are not the only emotions…thankfully.


Most of our childhood experiences (assuming that most of the readers of this publication are adults) are that of having summer off from formal schooling and we, no doubt, have a very clear sense of the emotions we felt when we were faced with going back to school. A quick tally of from many of you would, almost certainly, reveal that there were many and mixed thoughts and emotions tied to the event of going back to school.


Home schools commonly have less formal divisions between when school is in session and when it is not. Such vagary can communicate to students that learning is not isolated to the classroom—a very important lesson to learn if we want our students to be life-long learners.


It might be fun to pursue a discussion on all the emotional responses with which we are familiar relating to the beginning of another school year. Unfortunately, that will have to wait for another time. What we want to encourage here is responsible planning and preparation to make beginnings (and ends) enjoyable, productive and beneficial. Because without adequate preparation and planning we have virtually no chance of being as successful as we would given proper attention to these concerns.


We talk a good game about classical Christian education and the Trivium. But, have we thought to apply the model to an overview for the student at the beginning of the year? We believe that grammar school students are quite content to memorize and drill. Helping them understand how and why we are going to do certain things does not seem particularly important. Not like it does for dialectic and rhetoric students. It would seem that setting and communicating clear expectations for what they will be doing in school over the course of the school year would be right in line with the stage in the Trivium where they are. Have your students every asked you “Why is that important?” or Why do we have to do that?” Why not answer these questions before they are answered?


Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you are going to teach the great books using our Omnibus I text. Simply throwing that heavy book at the student with the reading assignment from Genesis (which is where it starts) on the first day of school with little other background or explanation offered will hardly set the stage for maximum benefit. Now, I realize this is common sense and most of us would give some further explanation. However, I doubt many would take the time to explain to the students why we will be studying these books in this way, what we hope to accomplish over the course of the school year, how they will relate to other disciplines (subjects) we will be studying, etc.


I will never forget the opportunity I had two years ago to teach Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson to rhetoric students at Veritas Academy. Nearly all of them expressed gratitude and how much it helped them understand why we do what we do when we do it at school. The whole school now made sense! We must be very careful not to take for granted what should be very obvious. File this under the problem of “losing site of the forest for the trees.”


Another (and related) concern is our own planning. We dealt with this in the July epistula and promised more on the subject in this edition. If we don’t take the time to plan out our goals and objectives, pace and process we will be like the man who backed out of his driveway having forgotten where he was headed. There are roads for him to follow that will limit where he can go somewhat like the limitations our curricular materials provide us. But, if he doesn’t know where he was headed he will most certainly not get there. The materials we select will take us some place—the place that the author intended. Is that OK? Is it enough? Again, a catch phrase applies; “trust but verify.” I hope you trust us with the materials you obtain form us. We take our responsibility in the selection process quite seriously. But I hope that you plan the use of them well to the ends that you seek. And, more importantly, I hope you know the ends that you seek.


Planning is a very important use of time that will pay great dividends. To that end Laurie has prepared some tools (see below) that we’d like you to have to aid your planning.


Marlin Detweiler


Educational Helps


The days are longer, the grass is greener and the berries are plentiful on the vines, yet in only a few short days the air will be a bit brisker and the fireflies in the twilight will fade. Summer has almost come and gone and with that comes a new year. A new school year that is, with all the wonder and excitement that comes with it. As you ponder last year do you look back with any lament and think of things that you wish you had gotten done, but just never got around to. One of the questions that we are commonly asked is, “How do you get everything done and still have time for all these projects?” We hope that the following downloads will help.


Below you will find our daily schedule for K through 12 at Veritas Academy in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. One of the things that we have found to be true whether homeschooling or in a classroom, is having a schedule and keeping to it. Staying on task and completing your work as teachers is particularly hard when you aren’t in a position of direct accountability. Maintaining the discipline of staying on task is a particular difficulty for homeschools.


The link below will lead you to a sample weekly home school schedule for children in various grades. We are commonly asked, “How do you implement classical Christian education with multiple children?” Please realize that this is just a suggested schedule. You will need to look at your circumstances and adapt it accordingly. We trust the example will assist you in your planning.

In the homeschool example, the day begins with a memory period. This is the time when chants are reviewed—history, grammar, Latin, and linguistics. Following memory period is math, and in this scenario the children are all using separate math texts. With Saxon, in particular, you can teach two consecutive lessons to one child while the other student works on the practice problems from the two lessons he was just taught the day before. Adding a third student, in, say, Algebra, complicates matters a good bit. It can still be done. It will require the students who are able to spend time reading the material before covering it with the teacher, enabling the teacher to spend a bit less time in the “instruction phase.” You might spend a little time each day with the Algebra student and split the remainder as indicated above.

The 3rd and 5th graders are using the Veritas Press New Testament Greece and Rome for history. The 7th grader will be doing Omnibus I which will allow all him to be in the same historical time period as his siblings. We recommend trying to keep everyone in the same time period wherever possible. You would want to have different expectations for each level (higher expectations for older students) as the curriculum was designed to be used this way. Allow roughly 15 minutes with the two younger students going over the card. Remaining time can be spent reading historical fiction and/or references and doing worksheets and projects. While the younger students are working independently, you can discuss the material being covered by the older student. Bible can be covered similarly.

The Phonetic Zoo can be used by the 3rd and 5th grader for spelling and linguistics almost entirely independently, which will allow you to devote time to teaching another child in another discipline. Teaching Logic to the 7th grader works well at this time. Or, with videos, you can have Logic taught by video freeing a bit of time for your own preparation or some ironing or meal prep. Having both parents involved in some of the educational process is quite a help too—not to mention that it demonstrates to the children that both parents think education is important.

Use your imagination to make other disciplines and time frames work. It’s a lot of work. But it’s worth it.


We have also included a form that will allow you to plan weekly lessons. We encourage you to plan out your entire year in advance, but for today we will be dealing with weekly lessons. Our teachers are required to turn lesson plans for the coming week on the preceding Wednesday. Once you have decided what you are doing for each week in each discipline you must then decide the specifics. Let’s take grammar school history as an example. Decide what card you will be working on for the week. We like to start a new history card on Monday and read over it with the students. Most of this day is devoted to reading the card and answering questions on the worksheet that goes along with it. Also we sing the song to aid memorization. Tuesday will be devoted to a project, so we look at the manual and decide which one it will be. Estimating how many days the project will take, and better yet collect all the supplies, will assure that class time is not wasted with this task. This is true in for Homeschool, too. It is surprising how much time can be lost looking around the house for paper towel rolls and glue. Now we know my project will take two days so we decide to do the project on Tuesday and Thursday, with Wednesday being used to look up additional resources and Friday being test day. Once you get the routine of it, it becomes second nature and you feel lost without it. You may ask the question, why do I need to write it down, I know what I am doing? Well its easy to keep pushing things off and off, but if they are written down with a check list it keeps you more on task.


You just continue this with all the disciplines you need to teach. Another tidbit, it’s amazing how easy integrating things becomes when you get your week on paper. For instance you see that you are doing a two point paragraph in Shurley Grammar for the week and you also want the children to write an essay in history. Why not combine the two and work really hard to have one dynamite essay?


With only a few weeks left till the new year we hope this helps you to have an even better year.


Click here to obtain the lesson plans and schedule.


Laurie Detweiler


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Free Audio CD

Free with orders in August (while supplies last), we'll include a special CD that Doug Wilson and the folks at Canon Press did just for you, our customer.  The Importance of Classical and Christian Education will inspire and motivate you giving you a further sense of why this education is so critical to raising a godly generation.




Q. Some of the reading seems very challenging given the grade level recommendation. Is it really realistic?

A. One of the great difficulties in life is measuring ourselves. We need an independent standard. We believe there are two independent standards that are readily applied; standards from other countries and standards from other periods in history. A quick assessment of these standards assures us that the reading schedule we recommend is quite reasonable for average students.


Q. Like the reading your math schedule is ahead of most recommendations. Why?

A. Again, as mentioned above independent standards tell us that what we have grown to accept—the status quo that we are challenging—were not standards based on the abilities that God has given the typical student. Studies have indicated that typical American math students were at the bottom of the pack even though they felt they were among the best when compared with students from other countries. In all disciplines we aught to work to the glory of God developing our gifts in a way that meets the command to “love the Lord your God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength.”





Think Early or Late

August is our busiest month. Sometimes getting through to our customer service staff on the telephone can be difficult. Here’s a tip. Call early or late. Morning hours (particularly 8:00 AM9:30 AM) and evening hours (particularly 5:00 PM6:00 PM) tend to be the easiest times to get though quickly.


Teachers Needed at Veritas Academy in Lancaster, PA

As Veritas Academy grows it has a healthy appetite for teachers in many grades. In addition to a fair salary benefits include free tuition for children of teachers, health insurance, publishing opportunities through Veritas Press and annual trips to sun bath in the south of France. (Just kidding about the last one.)  To find out about current needs or to begin discussions for future years contact the school at www.veritasacademy.com or 717-556-0690.


2005 Trinity Festival and History Conference
August 8–10, 2005 in Moscow, Idaho. This summer in Moscow, Idaho, Credenda/Agenda magazine is hosting the First Annual Trinity Festival, which will include its Tenth Annual History Conference: AMERICAN WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE: MEN AND BATTLES.
Speakers are Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church, author, Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College, and long time leader of the Classical and Christian education movement; Steve Wilkins, pastor of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and author; Dr. Peter Lillback, pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church, author, and Executive Director of The Providence Forum, an organization which educates Americans on the faith and values of our Founding Fathers.
In addition to the history talks, festival registration includes access to afternoon lectures by instructors from New St. Andrews College, film screenings, the first annual St. Brigid's Feast, open air theater (Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream), art displays and workshops, and a performance by Cherish the Ladies, an all female Celtic group with Irish dancers coming off a recent performance at the White House for the Bush family and friends. To register or for more information click the link to go to www.christkirk.com/trinityfest/ or call


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