Classical Education

Education is simply philosophy at work. It is the search for the ‘good life.’ Education is itself a way of living.

– George Maynard Hutchins

Our little one isn’t yet old enough to start formally homeschooling, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the road map we’ll be following as she matures. Why are we so drawn to classical homeschooling, and what is it to begin with?

Classical education focuses on the fundamentals of learning, while encouraging the development of character and virtue. Also called the Trivium, it divides education into three distinct stages based upon the natural psychology of the child’s brain.

The Trivium

  1. Grammar (birth to ages 9): Language arts and math facts will make up much of the work. Beyond that, these early years are focused on exposing children to a wide range of literature and facts in all areas of study, encouraging memorization, and overall just letting young children soak up knowledge as the sponges that they are at this age.
  2. Logic (ages 10 – 13): Students begin to ask “why”, and learn about cause and effect, how different subjects and events relate to each other, and begin to learn logic and how to approach subjects more analytically.
  3. Rhetoric (ages 14 – 18): The final stage is combines the knowledge of the Grammar stage with the logic and abstract thinking of the Logic stage, and they begin to write and speak effectively, creatively and persuasively. It is also the time of more specialized study and training, as the student moves into adulthood.
For a much more detailed look at what Classical education is, read this article.

What I Love About Classical Education

  • It continues a tradition of education that has been imparted on young minds for centuries, including people like Thomas Jefferson.
  • It gives structure and long-term academic goals.
  • Classical education goes to great lengths to really convey the story of Western civilization. The importance of children knowing their history cannot be understated.
  • A literature-based curriculum is the best kind of teacher, in my opinion.
  • Self-discipline and character are taught alongside math and reading.
  • It employs a spiral approach to learning.

Enough theory, what will this look like in practice?

As I said, it will be a long while until we start formally homeschooling, so for us everything is theory right now. But here are some of the curricula we’re looking at using for the early years, based on the definitive guide to classical education, The Well-Trained Mind.

aar-pre-reading-category-headerPhonics:  All About Reading Pre-Level One A hand puppet. Vintage-inspired reading primers. Games. What’s not to love?

RS2MSKit.2Math: Right Start Level A  It uses an abacus, for crying out loud.

That’s probably all we’ll do for the early years, aside from fun read-alouds. Despite classical education’s reputation for being rigorous, I love that Susan Wise Bauer is a huge proponent of not foisting formalized education on young kids. Starting in first grade, I think we’ll add grammar, copywork, history, geography and science. In the meantime, it’s good to internalize the concept of education as an entire way of life. In a way, all parents are homeschoolers from the time their child is born. They teach them what they can and can’t touch, how to use the potty, how to speak, how to say please and thank you. Education does not start with learning to add or subtract, it starts from birth. I find that to be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. What behavior am I modeling to my child? To use Hutchins’ quote, what philosophy is truly at work in my life?


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