Homeschooling Methods: Classical Education

piano 200Homeschooling and classical education originated with the publication of the Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Bauer in 1999. There are now curriculum companies devoted to just classical education, consultants who will help you plan your curriculum, and online classical education courses.

So what is it?

The most common form of classical education is based on the Trivium. The Trivium is the first three subjects of the classical liberal arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. These are considered three stages of learning as well as the three basic subjects.

Grammar is the learning of language through reading and writing. It is also considered the first stage of learning (through age 12) of learning facts and knowledge.

Logic is for ages 13 to 15 which is training in reasoning and arguments. The knowledge learned in the grammar period is used to support abstract and critical thinking skills.

Rhetoric is debate and composition and is the third stage for ages 16 to 18. You will often see this referred to as the “Wisdom” stage. It can be thought of the application of the previous stages throughout the disciplines.

In its broadest sense, the Trivium of Classical Education can be considered an approach to learning regardless of the subject and you’ll find resources that support this broad interpretation. However, the Trivium is usually incorporated as part of the western tradition or cannon. The curriculum will emphasize the study of the Latin language and western history and literary traditions. Studying Latin will not only increase your vocabulary but also your understanding of grammar. A study of western history and literature provides a foundation for understanding the origins of our modern society.

Many homeschoolers use the Trivium as the basis for a Christian education and world view. The selection of materials to use in the curriculum is considered critical to the formation of a moral person. Most curriculum resources support the Christian aspect of the Trivium

Classical education can also simply be a study of the “great books” of history. This approach originated with the University of Chicago in the 1930’s. The concept of great books or classical literature has been expanded to include more modern works as well as a greater range of reading levels. Again, the idea is that reading the classics will develop critical thinking skills.

Depending on the application, Classical education can be as structure as traditional “school at home” curriculums. Beginning homeschoolers can find a wide range of resources that will provide a detailed curriculum plan for every grade level. Some curriculums have very demanding schedules in terms of reading ability and memorization. While most of these include the study of Latin, you can find a great deal of variation in the selected works of history and literature.


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