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Classical Composition

Rather than assigning research papers and book reports across all subjects, I chose to keep composition instruction very structured. Emma has been exposed to research papers and book reports and projects throughout her public and private school career and the focus ticking boxes in a rubric regarding a certain number of facts or sources hadn't improved her skills in actually writing a cohesive and pleasant document. Classical composition begins with having a student emulate well written work and learn descriptive language by presenting them with one of Aesop's Fables and having them retell and vary the story by adding details, change the perspective, or reverse the order of events. It then progresses to taking brief accounts and adding dialog or character interactions to flesh out the story, all while maintaining the descriptive skills from the first level. We completed these first two levels last year, in our attempt to get caught up to grade level in this curriculum.

This year, we are in a new stage where the student is given a famous quote and asked to write an essay about it according to a fairly strict formula. We had a rough start with Lesson One but jumping ahead to Lesson Ten, where there was a sample completed essay to look at, helped both of us get past our initial disorientation in this new style. Most of Emma's commentary about the work this week was that she thought the sample language was old fashioned and formal and that she thought the essay writer had missed the whole point of the quote. I may not love hearing her heckle the curriculum all week but at least she was ploughing through the writing process while she complained!

While her essay could use more polish, she has done a good job of meeting the qualifications of this style of essay - praise the author, define the meaning of the quote, provide positive and negative illustrations, an analogy, and another similar quote. Now that the mechanics of the style have been hammered out, we can focus more in future essays on finessing the style, tone, comma usage (shades of me as a middle schooler are back to haunt me), and cohesion.

"No race can prosper until it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem." (Booker T. Washington)

We can all learn a thing or two from Booker T. Washington. He was a very well educated black speaker who worked for multiple presidents and helped found a college. His saying teaches us that we are not what we do.

There is no more honour in creating a poem than in tilling a meadow and people do not understand that, which is why they cannot do well.

Picture a class, and it’s divided, the athletes vs the scholars. One day, their teacher decided to give them a speech that made them recognize how inconsiderate they were. Their teacher did this in hopes that they would become humbler and there would be less fighting amongst the students. Later that year, when the children went home for the summer, they finally reviewed this speech and had a period of self-reflection. They became ashamed of their prior actions and realized that no matter what you are most skilled at, it does not define your value.

There was another class that was also divided. But when their teacher gave them the same speech that the other class was given, they did not act upon it immediately. Instead, when they went home, they thought about it but ultimately decided to ignore it. These students took much longer to realize this and after many more lectures and fighting, they finally came to the realization that your job does not define you.

Almost all artists will paint multiple failed attempts before they create their finished piece. This shows that even the things we consider lesser are just as valuable as the things we consider greater.

Thinking back to the Civil War, in the South, the people, specifically the plantation owners, thought that they were better than their slaves. Eventually, the North grew tired of the plantation owner’s ignorance and then the Civil War started. Now the reason that the North started a war was to try to convince the plantation owners that everybody is equal, no matter what they did.

This statement has been confirmed by many people, one of which is Martin Luther King, Jr., who said: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” This is telling the same message that Booker T. Washington did which is that we must all be equal before we can be successful.

We should all remember the wise words of Booker T. Washington and strive to treat others equally.

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