Classical home educators are united by their desire to cultivate a life of virtue in themselves and their children. They are devoted to teaching their children from the best of what Western Civilization has to offer.
Many classical home educators follow the neoclassical approach outlined by Dorothy Sayers in her essay, “Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning.” In it, she advocates for a three-part approach to education called the trivium. The first stage is called the grammar stage and emphasizes building a foundation of knowledge through memorization of concrete facts. The second stage is the logic stage where children build on this foundation by asking questions and analyzing information using logic. In the final stage, the rhetoric stage, students combine the knowledge and the analytical skills they attained in the first two stages to express themselves through speaking and writing.
Not all classical homeschoolers structure their system according to these three distinct stages, and some focus far less on rote memorization than what Dorothy Sayers described, but all classical educators tend devote considerable time to subjects like logic, Greek, Latin, and ancient history.
Is the Classical Approach right for you?
The Classical style may be a good fit for you if you resonate with the following statements:
- You’re excited that homeschooling will give you the opportunity to instill wisdom and virtue in your children.
- You value an approach to education that is orderly and systematic.
- You prefer teaching through classic works of literature and history rather than workbooks or textbooks.
- You’re willing to engage with your children in subjects like Latin and logic and wrestle with great thinkers like Aristotle, Plutarch, Shakespeare.
- You would rather your children do the bulk of their learning through reading, writing, and speaking, not videos and screens.
Does that sound like you? If so, it sounds like you will align well with the Classical approach.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Classical Approach
Rather than preparing students for a particular career path, the classical approach seeks to produce virtuous men and women who continue to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty long after their formal education is over. Classically trained students often excel in clear thinking, writing, and speaking, skills they can take with them into any job or academic pursuit.
On the other hand, some feel that the Classical approach, especially in the form put forward by Dorothy Sayers, relies too heavily on rote memorization without any real understanding. Others find the Classical method overemphasizes the contributions of white, male, European voices to the exclusion of women and people of color. Finally, those who appreciate our current educational system’s emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning may struggle with the heavy focus on the humanities and languages that often comes with the Classical method.
The Classical approach tends to be quite rigorous by most homeschool standards. It can take up more hours in the day or week than other methods, and it may provide less space and time for student’s to pursue their own interests. But in the end, the classically educated student will have a heart and mind stocked full of great ideas and virtuous role models to follow.
Resources and Curriculum to Explore
If you’re interested in learning more about the Classical method, here are some opportunities to dig deeper.
Books for Further Reading:
- The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
- The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
- Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
- The Case for Classical Christian Education by Doug Wilson
- Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
Curriculum to Consider:
- Canon Press Logic
- Classical Conversations
- Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind
- Hey Andrew!
- Memoria Press
- Novare Science
- The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading
- Story of the World
- Veritas Press
- Writing & Rhetoric
Articles to Explore:
What Is Classical Christian Education? A Sailing Ship by Dr. Christopher Perrin
Simplifying Classical Education by Andrew Newitt
Our Classical Homeschool Day Throughout the Years by Kirsten West
Homeschoolers to Follow:
Elsie Iudicello at Farmhouse Schoolhouse
Mystie Winckler at Simply Convivial
Amy Sloan at Humility & Doxology
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