Defining Classical Education

 

Classical education seeks to

teach the tools of learning; the love of learning; and the love of truth, goodness, and beauty.

 

“Education is

the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty. It must be distinguished from training for a career, which is of eternal value but is not the same thing as education.”1

 

“The purpose of Christian education is

to have our students grow spiritually, intellectually; and socially, and we want them to foster similar growth in society. To be of any earthly good, a person must understand the world around him and recognize what it needs. He must be capable of discerning what is true and good and beautiful in society and what is not; and he must be empowered to make a difference through perpetuating the former. In short, he requires wisdom and eloquence.” 2

 

"Liberally educated people,

whose intellectual skills are transferable to the learning of any subject or craft, are increasingly important in an economy in which the average adult changes careers multiple times over the course of his life.” 2

 

"... the liberal arts...

were preparatory to higher learning and were intended to produce individuals who were skilled, lifelong, independent learners having no further need of tutelage and who, through their continued self-directed learning, would become wise and eloquent servants in their societies.” 2

 

Classical education is systematic, an organized, interconnected method of discussing subject material as it relates to humanity.

  1. As the students progress, they can then become “critical thinkers” using their reasoning skills to comprehend the way these facts fit together (Logic). They should be more inquisitive and analytical. 3
  2. Foundational elements of a Classical, liberal arts education must be committed to memory early in a child’s learning experience (taught early and rehearsed often such as math times tables, books of the Bible, learning countries and states in geography, phonograms, and verb conjugations).
  3. There is a cyclical treatments of subjects where disciplines are repeated on set schedules with the intent of getting the students familiar with the material in the beginning stage, then discussing it in depth at later stages (usually repeated multiple times as the child develops and is capable of a deeper understanding and applying it to other topics learned). Some topics such as History, Bible, and Science are repeated periodically; while others like Math and Languages are repeated much more frequently (spiraling or scaffolding approach).
  4. Every discipline should be taught as practitioners of that discipline (students should learn to think about science as scientists do by conducting experiments, gathering data, from these experiments, analyzing and synthesizing the data and providing a summary report on the topic).
  5. Classical education is literature rich (for example, reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography in Early American History in 11th grade or the Iliad while studying Ancient Greek History in 9th grade).
  6. The culmination of Classical education is Rhetoric, the development of persuasive communication. Students want to creatively and effectively express themselves and are now equipped to not only think on their feet but to articulate these thoughts clearly. They are able to engage in deep discussions and find truth.

 

Classical Methods for Instruction

  • Promote an interconnectedness of all knowledge (God at the center with a Biblical Worldview).1
  • Incorporation of sensory learning modes, including visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic learning with each of the disciplines.2
  • Academic rigor emphasizes quality of work rather than the quantity.2
  • Use Mimetic (Didactic) teaching and Socratic Questioning in Logic and Rhetoric Stages.
  • Use primary and secondary source material as much as possible (textbooks may be used as resource material to help meet curricular objectives). A syllabus will be supplied with each course in the Logic and Rhetoric levels.
  • Engage students in the Great Conversation to broaden intellect and ideas.
  • Have high teacher expectations.

 

THE LOST TOOLS CHART

Derived from The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers4 (compiled by Tom Garfield), used by permission of Logos School, Moscow, Idaho.

Student Characteristics

Beginning Grammar (Pre-Polly) Grammar (Poll-Parrot) Logic (Pert) Rhetoric (Poetic)
Grades K-2,

 

 

Approx. ages 4-8

Grades 3-6,

 

 

Approx. ages 9-11

Grades 6-9,

 

 

Approx. ages 12-14

Grades 10-12,

 

 

Approx. ages 15-18

  1. Obviously excited about learning
  2. Enjoys games, stories, songs, projects
  3. Short attention span
  4. Wants to touch, taste, feel, smell, see
  5. Imaginative, creative
  6. Likes chants, clever, repetitious word sounds (e.g. Dr. Seuss)
  1. Excited about new, interesting facts
  2. Likes to explain, figure out, talk
  3. Wants to relate own experiences to topic or just to tell a story
  4. Likes collections, organizing items
  5. Likes chants, clever, repetitious word sounds
  6. Easily memorizes
  7. Can assimilate another language well
  1. Still excitable but needs challenges
  2. Judges, critiques, debates, critical
  3. Likes to organize items, others
  4. Shows off knowledge
  5. Wants to know “behind the scenes” facts
  6. Curious about Why? for most things
  7. Thinks, acts as though more knowledgeable than adults
  1. Concerned with present events, especially in own life
  2. Interested in justice, fairness
  3. Moving toward special interests, topics
  4. Can take on responsibility, independent work
  5. Can synthesize
  6. Desires to express feelings, own ideas
  7. Generally idealistic

Teaching Methods

Beginning Grammar (Pre-Polly) Grammar (Poll-Parrot) Logic (Pert) Rhetoric (Poetic)
Grades K-2,

 

 

Approx. ages 4-8

Grades 3-6,

 

 

Approx. ages 9-11

Grades 6-9,

 

 

Approx. ages 12-14

Grades 10-12,

 

 

Approx. ages 15-18

  1. Guide discovering
  2. Explore, find things
  3. Use lots of tactile items to illustrate point
  4. Sing, play games, chant, recite, color, draw, paint, build
  5. Use body movements
  6. Short, creative projects
  7. Show and Tell, drama, hear/read/tell stories
  8. Local field trips
  1. Lots of hands-on work, projects
  2. Field trips, drama
  3. Make collections, displays, models
  4. Integrate subjects through above means
  5. Teach and assign research projects
  6. Recitations, memorization
  7. Drills, games
  8. Oral/written presentations
  1. Timelines, charts, maps (visual materials)
  2. Debates, persuasive reports
  3. Drama, reenactments, role-playing
  4. Evaluate, critique (with guidelines)
  5. Formal logic
  6. Research projects
  7. Oral/written presentations
  8. Guest speakers, trips
  1. Drama, oral presentations
  2. Guide research in major areas with goal of synthesis of ideas
  3. Many papers, speeches, debates
  4. Give responsibilities, e.g. working with younger students, organizing activities
  5. In-depth field trips, even overnight
  6. Worldview discussion / written papers

Summary of Classical Pedagogy

Love of Learning, Tools of Learning, Critical Thinking, the Whole Person, Low Student-teacher Ratio, Broad and Diverse Curriculum.5

 

Footnotes

  1. Andrew Kern (CiRCE Institute )
  2. Wisdom and Eloquence, Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans
  3. Harvey Bluedorn (Trivium Pursuit) Why Study Logic?
  4. The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy L. Sayers
  5. An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents, by Christopher A. Perrin