Saturday, January 14, 2012


This week, the word "progym" kept coming up in a thread on the LTW board.  It appeared to be a classical plan for teaching basic composition.  As I read digest this morning I thought, "I am going to have to ask about that, because I keep wanting to start LittleLa (5th grade) in LTW, but something is holding me back.  Maybe she needs progym...?"  Then another member of the group asked the question first.  Yay!  Other members explained and gave a link.

I am enjoying my foray into the classical education world.  I'm sure it is because I am following the excellent folks at the Circe Institute.  I appreciate their care and respect for children, as well as their commitment to virtuous ideas and careful habits.  I am just wading in the shallow end of the pool curently, but that is my impression.

I also enjoy the classical education discussions because of the words they use-- words like "exordium" and "trope" and "nominalization".  I relish five-dollar words.  Jargon can be fun.  It feels like secret code.  I am slowly learning these terms and will soon have enough to participate in the conversation.

Today I learned what I think must be the fanciest word in the classical lexicon:  progymnasmata.

It sounds like gymnastics, but from what I can tell, it means learning the basics of writing in a classical way. Lost Tools of Writing appears to be the next step after progym.  (They call it "progym" for short.  Like a nickname.  I suspect few people can actually spell the entire word without looking it up, lol.)  You can read more about it at the link above.

Anyway, I found the scope and sequence for the different parts of the progym, and guess what?  It looks a lot like what we do in our CM language arts studies!  (Go Charlotte...)  I won't detail the similarities here.  You can see those at the links.  The differences include:

1.  Classical folks use translations of ancient Greek and Roman texts to teach reading and writing, and, while CM advocated the teaching and reading of Latin for other reasons, she strongly argued for the use of texts originally written in English in order to broaden the base of ideas we may share with others regarding character and conduct.  It has to do with making education/discussion of ideas available to everyone rather than an elite few.  I don't explain it very well.  See CM Volume 6 Page 265 for more insight.  I suspect the folks at Circe already get this.  In LTW, the example issue is a book originally written in English.  The progym is from a group called "Classical Writing", which may or may not be affiliated with Circe, and all the texts they use were originally written in Latin or Greek.  The classical education world is a maze to "wonder" through...

2.  Although we do narration, copywork, and dictation, including specific narrations in which I ask the children to write a poem, compare and contrast two things, condemn or praise a character, etc.-- all things included in the progym-- I have NOT been satisfied with my efforts in this direction.  I get CM's ideas, but have a hard time putting shoes on them and walking them down the street.  I cannot believe my lack of skill in teaching writing.  My oldest is a junior in high school and a very talented writer, but needs more help with formatting, argument, style.  That's why we purchased LTW.  I need advice on how to structure the teaching.  I suspect that in Charlotte's day, most educated people had more basic knowledge of writing than me, so she didn't need to give detailed how-to instructions.  Sad to say, I cannot call myself educated in this area, although I do a pretty good imitation of a person educated in writing.

Because of these two differences, I plan to use Classical Writing's scope and sequence the rest of this year to analyze my teaching.  I want to see how far I have gotten in teaching the progym using just my own knowledge and CM's principles, where I disagree with Classical Writing's ideas, and where exactly I lack practical knowledge, before I decide to purchase something.  Then next year I will purchase exactly what I need.

Also, please note that although I am not satisfied with my efforts to teach writing, BOTH my middle school and high school children are thriving with LTW.  It is a challenge, but not to the point of discouragement.  So.  I couldn't have gone far wrong.  It's just that LittleLa wanders around the house needing something to do.  She is very quick to finish her schoolwork and wants to have the subjects her sisters have.  So I want to give her more writing assignments.

This rambling post has been brought to you by Pooh's Thotful Spot, lol.  Thanks for bearing with me as I figure things out.

No comments: