When I made the decision to homeschool a few months before
my oldest son began Kindergarten, I knew nothing of the Classical Method,
Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Unschooling, or any other educational philosophy. Nor did I care. I’ve never been the type of person to
subscribe to any one philosophy.
When my children were babies I can remember other moms asking me, “Oh,
do you do Babywise or Dr. Sears or this or that?” The idea of parenting according to the ideas from a book
seemed absurd. I felt the same
about home education. It seemed
pretty simple, choose quality curriculum, make fun activities, and viola!, the
I was on track to proceed with my “no philosophy”
educational philosophy when my friend told me about Classical
Conversations. Out of curiosity, I
began to research the program.
That led me to researching what a classical education meant, which led
me to The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie
Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer--which I HIGHLY recommend. It didn’t take long into my research about Classical
Education to realize that 1) this is most definitely the kind of education I
want for my children and 2) this is exactly the type of education I wish I had
received. Below I will explain why
I feel a Classical Education is such a good fit for our family.
I will be the first to agree that some of the reasons I have
listed below sound dull/dry/boring.
Why would I want to subject my kids to that type of education? Well, the short answer is, they love
it. Why do they love it? I believe it’s because that is how they
were designed to learn.
1. Modeled Around the Way our Brains Learn
If you think about how we learn anything new, from playing
piano to car mechanics to cooking, first we have to learn the
basics--vocabulary and rules. You
can’t bake an apple pie if you don’t even know what flour is or if you don’t
know the basics of measuring. Next
we figure out how to organize and manipulate the basic information we have
gathered up. We start asking
questions. Using our apple pie
example, we can now start manipulating the recipe to better understand why and
how. Why is the temperature of the
water important in making the pastry?
How does the sweetness of the apples I use affect the flavor of the
pie? Finally, we have mastered a
topic well enough to teach/create.
We can teach others how to make apple pie, explaining to them what might
happen if we use Fuji apples instead of Granny Smith. Or we can create our own recipes.
This same process of learning is the basis of Classical
Education, called the Trivium, or three stages of learning. The trivium consists of the Grammar,
Logic, and Rhetoric stages.
Grammar, in this case, does not refer to English grammar, but rather to
the foundation of any subject. The
grammar stage for learning correlates with the elementary school years. Children at this stage love to gather
facts and information, and their brains are ripe for memorizing. Children are sponges, and they have an
amazing ability and desire to absorb massive amounts of information, facts, and
stories. It makes sense to feed
their hungry little appetites for learning with as much quality input as possible.
The logic stage coincides with middle-school age
children. During this stage
children take all the facts and information they have soaked up during the
grammar stage and begin to organize it.
They start asking questions like how and why. They begin to think through problems logically. They examine texts, literature, art,
music, and the world critically.
The final stage is the rhetoric stage, which occurs during
jr. high and high school. During
this stage students have a strong command for the topics they are
studying. They begin mastering the
art of communicating that which they have learned in both written and oral
History is Taught in Chronological Order
The first-grade history
class is renamed Social Studies and begins with what the child knows: first,
himself and his family, followed by his community, his state, his country, and
only then the rest of the world.
This intensely self-focused pattern of study encourages the student of
history to relate everything he studies to himself, to measure the cultures and
customs of other peoples against his own experience. History learned this way makes our needs and wants the center of the human endeavor. . . . The
goal of the classical curriculum is multicultural in the true sense of the
word: the student learns the proper place of his community, his state and his
country by seeing the broad sweep of history from its beginning and then
fitting his own time and place into that great landscape.
Well Trained Mind, p. 108
I believe history is just as it’s name implies--a
story. For a story to be fully
understood, it must be told in order.
As a young, high-school student, I always wanted my parents to buy me a
complete history of the world because I always wondered what was happening in
various parts of the world during major events. For example, what was happing in Africa or Japan during the
American Revolution? If you study
history by region, you miss out on seeing how our big world has been
intertwined from the beginning. How can you study the French Revolution without
understanding the influence from the American Revolution? How can you study South American
history without simultaneously studying the events in Europe that led to
3. All Subjects
Just as history should not be taught in isolation by region,
subjects should not be taught in isolation from each other. Math, Reading, and History
provide the spine which binds all other subjects together in a sort of
web. After all, how can one
understand music or art without understanding math, physics, and geometry? How can one understand biology without
understanding biochemistry or geography?
DaVinci studied art alongside anatomy (drawing the human body in correct
proportion) and chemistry (learning how to make different types of paint and colors), engineering alongside military history (designing various
4. Educates the “Whole” Person, Fostering an Appreciation
for Beauty and Virtue
The idea is that as students dedicate themselves to the
study of our world from the beginning to present, see the relationship between
all areas of study, and delve into amazing discoveries and accomplishments throughout time, they
will recognize beauty and virtue in many different forms. This is in direct opposition to the end
goal of modern public education, which seeks to train a child to be college and
career ready. Don’t get me wrong,
I think it is priority #1 for young people to be college and career ready, but I
think it’s a disservice to the human spirit for that to be the ultimate goal of
Students to How to Learn
The goal of a classical education is not to teach a child
what he needs to know to be successful in the adult world. Rather, the goal is to teach a child how to gather the knowledge he needs to
know to be successful in the adult world.
As the child ages and becomes more familiar with the process of
learning, the parent becomes less of a teacher and more of a facilitator to
his child’s education.
6. Instills a Love
Because one outcome of a classical education is for students
to learn how to learn, students are able to take ownership of their
education. In doing so, they
develop a life-long love for learning.
7. Teaches Students Discipline and Hard Work
Through a classical education, a child experiences how
hard work and discipline can bear fruit.
He sees that through focus and effort, he can accomplish
understanding. It is the same
sense of accomplishment that comes from anything which requires hard work and discipline,
such as running a marathon or climbing a mountain. It is the sense that despite the desire to give up in the
face of difficulty, you pressed on, you continued to work hard, and in the end
you succeeded. At a very young
age, a child may experience this by memorizing and reciting the US Presidents
or 7 continents, or a favorite poem.
At an older age a child may experience this by reading Virgil’s Aeneid for the first time in Latin after
years dedicated to the study of Latin.
8. Teaches Focus, Concentration, and Attention to Detail
Three areas of focus for students during the grammar stage are
copywork, memorywork, and recitation.
In practicing these skills, students learn from a very young age to
focus on the task at hand and to be deliberate in their work, paying close
attention to detail.
One of the main goals of a classical education is to
produce excellent communicators, in both written and verbal forms. Classical students are exposed to a
variety of original writing and literature, which fills their minds with
excellent examples of writing.
Through a diligent study of English grammar and logic, students learn to
tackle speaking and writing on any topic.
Success Lies in the History
Most US Presidents received a classical education; all the
Founding Fathers did. All
education was classical education up until the past 75 years or so. How do you perceive the US educational
system is performing today? Most
of Western Civilization’s great thinkers were educated classically, Martin
Luther, Einstein, Galileo, and Newton to name a few.
Education I Wish I Had Received
I am learning all these wonderful things right along with
my children, and I love it. I love
the stories from history. I love
the fine arts and music. I love
the Latin (I never thought I would say that.). I love being excited about learning right alongside my kids.
For questions on
Classical Homeschooling, please feel free to contact me or comment below. I feel like it has taken me a couple of
years to fully understand what it means to classically educate my children, but I finally have a grasp on it.