Why classical education appeals to me

by gidget on February 12, 2014

in learning & lit,our homeschool

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Last April, I went to a seminar with Andrew Kern from the CiRCE Institute.

It was an inspiring, eye-opening day where I learned, on a deeper level, what classical Christian education is and entails, what its benefits are and how it differs from conventional schooling.

That seminar strongly confirmed that this is not only the path I want to take our family’s “school” down, but also that it’s the education that I would love to have myself (can I tell you how excited I am to learn Latin with Gigi in a few years?! #nerdalert). I’m not saying I won’t incorporate other philosophies into our schooling, but I see the classical model as my foundation.

For several months now I’ve wanted to write up a few of the main takeaways from the seminar that really spoke to me in case they might inspire you as well.

If you don’t homeschool, I hope you’ll bear with me as my hope is that you might glean something valuable from this series as well.

So first, what is a classical education?

From the CiRCE website,

First, one way or another, classical schools and educators are committed to cultivating wisdom and virtue in their students.

Second, classical education believes in and pursues a logos, or a unifying principle, for all knowledge and action.

In essence, then, it seems fair to say that classical education is the logo-centric quest for the ideals of wisdom and virtue.

Other common features of classical education include:

~~the use of classical books and art,
~~a general preference for great art, music, and literature,
~~an integrated curriculum,
~~and idea-focused teaching.

Rather than give a description of the components, I want to share the list compiled by the seminar attendees of why classical education draws those of us who are so intrigued by it. I hope it will in turn also give a glimpse of its attributes as an educational philosophy and pedagogical method. I’ll also share some principles that Andrew shared with us.

Classical Education appeals to me because it:

~ educates the whole person to full development
~ gives students the freedom to know what to do
~ seeks and points out truth, light, beauty & goodness
~ fosters discussion and questions
~ promotes “soulishness”
~ focuses on wisdom, virtue, a nurturing environment
~ keeps a historical perspective
~ creates a life-long learner
~ creates opportunities and preparation
~ is Biblical, promotes confidence and dependence on God
~ is outside the (conventional) box
~ teaches students to dig deeper & find core beliefs

Classical Christian Education Principles:

1. Truth is.
2. Truth can be known.
3. Known Truth can be communicated from one soul to another.

Practical application: The essence of education is to equip/teach/train the human being to perceive truth. 

“Much worse than uselessly he leaves the shore

More full of error than he was before

Who fishes for truth but lacks the art.”

~ Dante’s Divine Comedy

Classical Education teaches the art of truth-fishing, and as a mom and educator, I can’t think of a much loftier goal.

If you want to better understand or learn about the actual components of a classical education, I recommend my friend Mandi’s explanatory post and for a deeper and even more practical understanding, be sure to read The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (it’s currently my own personal guidebook/handbook for homeschooling).

It’s fascinating how many ways there are to educate a child and I’m always wanting to learn more. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the classical model if you have experience with it, or what other methods you use in your schooling. 



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Liz February 12, 2014 at 6:34 am

It’s a good day when you wake up hearing Plato, St.Thomas Aquinas and Balthasar’s ideals before breakfast! What a world it would be to have more kids being formed to the transcendentals. Beauty first, since she always reveals her sisters, truth and goodness!


gidget February 12, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Right?! I have so much to learn myself but I just love how it all fits together.


Libby H February 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I have been considering Classical Conversations for my son next year instead of public school…such a big decision!

I had the good fortune to have Susan Wise Bauer as one of my college professors. I so wish I remembered better what it was like to be a student in her class!


gidget February 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Have you been able to visit a CC community? We just went to an open house this week and it was really great to see how it all works. It is definitely a huge decision! May the Lord grant you loads of wisdom on that one.
How neat that you got to have SWB as a professor! I can imagine she’d be great.


Claire February 28, 2014 at 6:09 am

Hi! Our family has been classically homeschooling for 7 years now. My kids are 6th, 5th, 3rd, and 1st grades. It clicked with me after I started reading WTM. I call Susan “my good friend”, even though I’ve never met her! We have also been in Classical Conversations for the last 6 years. I know its hard to really get how the community works after seeing it just once, but our family loves it! The community is one of the best things about it. It provides friendships for the kids, support for the moms, like-minded families who are all kind-of going in the same direction, all while being challenging, and above all committed to a Biblical world view. We use WTM and CC as our “core” and have been very happy with how they fit together.


Libby H February 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I have — we have many C co-ops in Columbus. It was awesome and overwhelming at the same time. I am taking comfort though in the realization that whatever we choose for this coming year (it’s only kindergarten!) does not mean we are locked in to that for the long run. Thanks for your perspective on the issue too, Nicole!


Sarah G February 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

We are also planning to follow the classical model in our homeschool. I think I was hooked a few chapters into WTM. I was feeling so overwhelmed at the prospect of homeschooling, but knew I wanted to do it. Reading that book felt like Susan was there giving me a big hug and saying, “You can do this, and you can do it well!” I’ll definitely be looking forward to more posts on how your journey is going!
Sarah G recently posted..Comparison, Guilt and the Grocery Budget


Joyce March 8, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Love this! And I am so glad there will be a CC in your area. We love it, and it is amazing how much my kiddos have learned in the past 3 years at age 7 and age 4. I think it will be that much easier to teach them because they already have those “pegs”. I mean, when else do you hear 3 or 4yos talking about military force, French Revolution, Charlamagne, or the Louisana Purchase? :p
Joyce recently posted..Closed on Mondays {February Date Night}


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