Book Review – The Core

The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh Bortins

Part One: The Classical Model
Like many books on classical education, the first part of this book delves into the problems and under achievements that are found in the US educational system today. Literacy statistics are included and the problem of schools focused on “careerism” over a broad, classical education are emphasized. The final chapter briefly takes you through the grammar, logic, and rhetoric phases that students move through during their studies.

Part Two: The Core of a Classical Education

Chapter 4: Reading
All children should be taught phonics and the spelling rules that govern our English language. Furthermore, students should be read to above their current reading level, work on their reading level, and enjoy reading slightly below their level during leisure time. This combination stretches their reading skills and vocabulary while increasing speed and accuracy.

Chapter 5: Writing
Young children need to learn how to sit still and develop their fine motor skills. Then, they should progress to copying words onto their own paper. At about the 3rd grade level children should learn how to write a complete sentence and then they can move on to diagramming sentences. Fifth grades should begin writing paragraphs and by the end of 6th grade they should be able to put multiple paragraphs together to form an essay or story. Grammar rules should be memorized.

Chapter 6: Math
Students should be able to quickly solve simple problems (multiplying and dividing double digit numbers) mentally and also be able to show on paper how they have arrived at their answer using the laws of math. Memorization of the multiplication tables through 20 x 20 and the common squares and cubes should be mastered before moving into algebra. Calculator use should not be permitted before trigonometry.

Chapter 7: Geography
Children should be taught how to draw the world map from memory beginning with continental blobs in kindergarten. By tracing, copying, and then drawing from memory students tackle one continent at a time until they can draw the world map by seventh grade.

Chapter 8: History
During the grammar stage children should memorize a 204 point timeline of world events and US presidents (or whatever is applicable for your country). They should also have memorized 6 short stories that summarizes a major era.

Chapter 9: Science
Young children should be taught observational skills that emphasize the use of all of the senses. A question and answer format is used to memorize science facts that cover biology, earth science, environmental science, astronomy, physical sciences, chemistry, and the origins of our universe. Science experiments do not need to line up with what students are reading about or memorizing.

Chapter 10: Fine Arts
Drawing is an important communication tool and should be practiced frequently; the other visual arts can be pursued as interests dictate. Classical music, drama, athletics, and home arts are also worthwhile pursuits.

A final chapter is devoted to discussing how to implement the above advice depending on your particular situation, whether a single parent, after-schooling, or homeschooling.

Pros: Memory work ideas abound
Cons: Few materials are suggested and I personally think that the history and fine qrts chapters were very weak.
Should I buy it? If you are committed to a classical education then I think that this is a book worth having or at least checking out from the library several times. The section on geography alone provides a lot of food for thought.


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