The Classical Education
In a letter written in 1814, Thomas Jefferson laments to John Adams: “Our post-revolutionary youth are born under happier stars than you and I were. They acquire all learning in their mother’s womb, and bring it into the world ready made. The information of books is no longer necessary, and all knowledge, which is not innate, is in contempt, or neglect at least.” However, while we see youth that fit this description in modern culture, there are glimpses of hope in small educational pockets throughout our community, state and nation.
The “classical education” movement is on the rise and parents are seeing the value in this model of education. Young, Christian men and women at Christiana Homeschool Academy are learning in the ways of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and are reading and studying from the great teachers, whose voices echo in hundreds of great classic books.
A classical education is based on the original 7 Liberal Arts passed to us from Plato’s Republic through the mouth of Socrates. Those “liberal arts” include Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Music, Astronomy, Arithmetic and Geometry. These areas of study were not offered as seven separate subjects, but as disciplines integrated with culture which instilled core values and educated the whole person.
The founding fathers of America were educated within the realm of the “classical model”, read great books, learned Latin and Greek, and knew how to debate emphatically and eloquently. And while this type of education lost its appeal in the 1800’s, the mid 1900’s saw resurgence in the desire to seek an education from the great classics.
Dorothy Sayers, in “The Lost Tools of Learning” (printed in 1947) explains the three stages of learning. The first stage is the “grammar stage,” which is comprised of the first three of the liberal arts (grammar, logic and rhetoric). Young children learn chants, poetry, and basic tools of learning. In the second stage, the “logic” stage, the child begins to ask questions and seeks to make sense of ideas and thoughts. Finally, in the “rhetoric” stage, the child begins to communicate his own thoughts and ideas effectively in speech and writing. We strive to keep our texts and resources as classically based as possible and are also striving to keep our tutors informed in the classical model of education.
The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise-Bauer, has further defined the classical model of education by encouraging a chronological study of history. In addition, the various subjects and disciplines are integrated and overlapped to create an interdisciplinary learning. Wise-Bauer has also provided a much needed “road map” for home schoolers who desire to use this model of education. And today, small co-ops, families, private schools and educators are grasping hold of this model to train young minds.
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Additional articles for further reading