Left Brained VS Right Brained
Traditional education - Boxed sets of home-school curriculum, and public school - are traditional models for education. There is a list of check boxes for everyday, the teacher usually lectures and there is use of a textbook for studying and rigorous testing and quizzes to make sure that it "stuck". Many online resources for homeschooling are geared this way as well.
The problem with traditional education
To put it simply: If parents wanted traditional education, their children would still be in public school. It may be a dream of every parent to see their children receiving their graduation certificates, and some might even hope to have their graduation certificates framed in diploma frames they have bought just for this purpose. It's obvious that you, as a parent have seen that the public school system leaves much to be desired in teaching your children. Some excel there because they learn the mechanisms to survive, but as parents, we all know there is a better way. Some of us wish that "better way" would have been found for us early on. Do we feel that if we, as parents just spend more time with our children, 1 on 1, using the same curriculum as the public school system, that we can just do a better job? Or does our gut instinct tell us there is better out there? We all know the answer to this. I'll tell you, there is a VERY high public school teacher following in home-school - and I've never met ONE that follows a boxed set. 99% of them understand that the classical model is the better way to go. Teachers who become homeschoolers are the indicator species - a sign that the system is BROKEN. If this is the case, then why do so many parents run to a boxed curriculum straight out of public school?
What if I told you: that the better way that you intuitively sense as a parent, exists, comes with a check-list, a schedule and daily work - and it's EASY?
How can I tell which side of the brain am I teaching on?
The traditional education model teaches children on the cognitive side of their brain. The side which performs math and reading. The left brain is associated with linear and analytical thought. Here we perform logic, math, rational thought, ordered sequencing, language perception, reading. But that is not where we HAVE to learn math and reading.
Math and reading (and every other subject) can be taught on the right side of the brain. This side is considered our more beautiful side; our creative side. Our intuitive, imaginative, artistic side. On this side of the brain, literature is beautiful, culture is history, and the things we are introduced to evoke an emotion, so as to bring those subjects close to our heart. It is close to our left temporal lobe, which is dominant in most people, where we store memories. Things like nature study, artist study, composer study, learning through song or learning through memory work, fables, classical literature, are used. These curricula are usually history and science heavy.
Side note: (The TEKS in Texas - and most other states - for history and science are a joke. I remember when I first started out, and I thought I would look up the standard in Texas. They are SO LOW compared to what I was doing, and at that time I was using a free program - I have since moved on to more valuable right brained education, but I still don't spend a ton on education, I have shared some of the cheap or free curricula choices in the pages of my website here. I laughed and never looked again.)
With a boxed curriculum, you may exceed the public school standard for your child's grade level minimally, only because they are more 1 on 1 and you'll likely get through more of the curriculum than the public school would since they are teaching to the test, but letting go of the level is the first step! Why not pass multiple levels? There is no reason your child cannot do work "rated" for a higher education level if they have the ability to do so. Who "rated" it for that level anyway? This article is about why reading levels are a sham --- But the same can be said for any subject's "level" - Let go of the level! Hear me out:
It would be a rare occurrence for a traditional, boxed set curriculum to achieve the power that can be harnessed by teaching to the right brain. We all remember that ONE teacher, whose passion inspired a love for a specific subject in us. We all remember how that teacher made us feel about what they were teaching. Chances are, they were teaching to your right brain. If they used worksheets it was because they had to show something to their higher ups, but you knew as a student, that the work they were doing with you greatly surpassed what any worksheet could ever teach you. THAT is right brained teaching. What if, as parents, we could teach to our children's right brain in EVERY subject?
I will never forget one of my first Spanish teachers - in 6th grade. He inspired me so greatly that I took Spanish every year that it was available to me, all the way to my graduation of high school. I became an adult and now I happen to know a lot about Spanish art. It never occurred to me why! Only when I started teaching my children did I remember - He showed us a famous painting every Monday morning for 3 minutes on the projector screen. We were to look at the painting and not speak. After 3 minutes, he turned off the projector and we talked about what we saw.
"Why were the clocks melting?"
"It never occurred to me that blue would be in a face!"
"If you look closely, there is a painting within a painting."
"Look at her dress, and how you can see almost every ripple."
"That was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life."
"Look at how much paint this guy used with every stroke."
It didn't matter what we noticed. He was giving us the gift of observation! This is a Charlotte Mason teaching and it is core to her education model! At the end of the conversation, he would tell us the name of the painting and the name of the painter. He did this for 5 weeks. By the 6th week we had seen and observed deeply 5 paintings and we would read about the painter in depth. I can tell you, 25 years later, about each painter, in depth. I never forgot it and I can go on and on about it. It lead to learning about other artists - then culture, then history, and then it shaped me. Like a chain link of passion. It gave me a love for Spanish culture and a knowledge of the history of the time. He repeated this all year, every monday morning. Mexican culture, history and art were forever burned into my heart. That heartstring was plucked everytime I made my selections for electives from then forward. (example: Diego Rivera was a dedicated Marxist around the time of World War 1 and the popularity of Che Guevara. He was married to militant Frida Khalo. He began with cubism and impressionism after working with Picasso. Some of his and Frida's paintings were political in nature and shocking to say the least! He and Pablo Picasso had a love/hate relationship and were always in competition with each other.) In the years to come, I found an interest in Pablo Picasso and Frida Khalo, which lead to Georgia O'Keefe, and then to other art and then to Diego de Silva Velasquez who painted La Meninas who was a habsburg, who married the Holy Roman Emperor and you can IMAGINE the history that opened up for me. Just a little here and a little there. It intrigued me. And it all linked back to art. I sought all this out on my own BEFORE beginning to educate my children and all sparked from the one flame lit by one teacher when I was 12.
The process of incubating thoughts and ideas and how it differs when teaching to the right brain rather than the left
In order to process, our brains need time and we must use our entire brain to incubate the thoughts and ideas. This is why most traditional educators, or public school educators know that children in these programs need art, music, theater, etc. This way, the brain gets a chance to flip over to the other side and rest the left, cognitive side of the brain. In younger years, these teachers offer "brain breaks" - sensory items are popular during this time. Anything to flip the brain over to the opposite, creative side of the brain.
Check out this posting by Stanford University regarding the brain, its hemispheres and the learning patterns associated with each side of the brain. In it, it is explained that both sides of the brain have identical capacity for learning all things. And that the retaining of information is VERY different when you throw out the textbook and teach using culture and beauty! (emphasis mine) And it pretty much is corroborating evidence to my claims here.
Ok, so you're interested:
If you're intrigued, know that I was too! There IS a better way. Most of us have a public school education and are trying to educate our children on the right hemisphere of their brains. It is out of our comfort zone, but it is easier than you think! Your perspective will change with theirs.
How incubation of thoughts is different with right brained education
Children who are educated in this way still have to use their whole brains. So when we flip over after taking in lessons, we flip to the analytical side. This is where handicrafts and life skills come in. On this page you can find a long list of occupations that I use to flip my children's brains over to the analytical, list making, logical side of their brain. Whereas, in the traditional model, art, acting, singing, instrumentals, etc. would be solely based on the natural artistic ability of the individual, and the crafts would feel - well, silly and older children may lose interest. In the right brained, classical or charlotte mason model, art and singing and acting and playing instruments take on a whole new perspective! EVERYONE can create beautiful art, your vocal and instrumental talent is multiplied as well as your understanding of theater. You aren't basing acting on television - you are basing your acting on the history of the theater - Shakespeare and greek playwrights. Paired with the deep observation of nature study (which is a WHOLE OTHER THING) composer and artist study, classic literature - you are able to view and hear what the greats have already created. It's not so much that you are inspired by their work to create something just like it - it is that there are so many new thoughts and ideas firing in your synapsis that you cannot stop the free flow of your own ideas! I cannot explain to you appropriately in words what it has done to my own brain. The way that I see the world has changed exponentially. I am a public school graduate. It opened up a world for me that I cannot explain. I have always been a stick figure artist extraordinaire. I drew a picture in a nature study, and I shared it on facebook like I was so proud of it! A year later, a couple trips to the art museum in and a year into right brained educating my children... and I find that I can draw! Not just a little bit. I can draw REALLY well. It amazed me so much that I just drew over and over for a week straight. I couldn't draw enough. If it will do that to ME... imagine what it is doing to my children. Now, my original picture I shared a year before is embarrassing - and at the time it was my best work. I cannot wait to wake up and educate my children because we are in this together. Nature study leads to artist study, leads to a history lesson or science lesson. It has totally changed education for me. I started out trying to traditionally educate at home too. Once you know better you do better.
More resources explaining flipping to the left brain after a right brain education
In this article, the author is explaining how working with your hands makes you smarter and the specific skills it harnesses. They are speaking specifically of sloyd, but the same times are true with any craft/hobby/skill that flips you to that side of your brain. Check out his ten goals for Sloyd. Here is a list from Simply Charlotte Mason's Blog where she explains briefly her "why". Most moms who recently have pulled their children out of public school want to teach some kind of life skill to their children. Cooking, horseback riding, sewing, Home Economics, typing, knitting, computer programming... the list is different for every family. Mostly, they strive to teach the children independence and a love for a work of their own hand. Read here on Ambleside online, why handicrafts are different from arts and crafts.
Scheduling a right brained education can be as simple as choosing the right curriculum, reading the right books.
If you are interested in a right brained education, then here are a list of free materials for you to look into:
Charlotte Mason Volume 1 - Home Education - Free on Librivox on audio
All 6 Charlotte Mason Volumes online free on Ambleside Online
Well trained mind can be found in interlibrary loan at your local library. Ask your librarian to help you figure out interlibrary loan. (This is the Well Trained Mind Website, the book itself can be found cheaper on Thriftbooks, Abesbooks, or amazon)
Read my input on Classical education model on my homeschool resource list. There are options for Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum sites with full curriculum for FREE.
Are you secular?
Charlotte Mason was Christian and Classical Conversations holds a biblical world-view as do many other classical curricula. There are MANY, MANY classical educators who are not Christian. The Well Trained Mind is a great starting place. It is not wrapped in Christianity. Susan Wise Bauer does a great job teaching a complete subject without warping it toward Christianity. If I were not a Christian educator, I find that I would still be able to offer her materials in good conscience, as many others do as well. Here is some information for implementing a secular education with a classical education model.
There are also facebook groups specifically geared toward secular homeschoolers seeking to classically educate: