Have you ever read a book about classical education and been confused about what the classical model really is? Have you attended a workshop about classical education and decided it would be impossible to implement this model at home? Have you gone to a Classical Conversations 3-Day Parent Practicum and wanted to remember every word of the new ideas, only to get home and forget what you just learned?
Classical Christian Education Made Approachable is designed to help parents with all of these questions. This brief booklet is an easy read for busy parents who desire to give their children a solid classical, Christian education. Classical Christian Education Made Approachable will also help you explain this model to spouses, friends, and extended family.
The first section of the book examines a wide spectrum of educational models from the modern public educational paradigm to the classical, Christian model. The comparison brings out the distinctive features of classical, Christian education, such as the emphasis on students making connections between various subjects. The authors point out that “a principal problem with modern educational models is that they place the student at the center of the learning experience and introduce him to math, science, fine arts, and history in discrete bubbles as if his thoughts about all of these subjects have no relation to one another” (17). In contrast, a classical, Christian education “places God at the center and teaches students to see all knowledge as governed by Him and, therefore, as related” (17). This distinction is critical to giving our children a truly classical, Christian education.
In the next section, the authors delineate the Trivium, or the three stages, of a classical education: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Building on the ideas found in Dorothy Sayers’ speech “The Lost Tools of Learning,” this section considers the developmental stages of children and explains how their educational paths can be matched to their strengths at each of these stages. Drawing from a wide range of educational resources, this section considers the fundamental question “How Then Shall We Study?”
Logically following the question of how to study, the book presents an examination of the question, “What Then Shall We Study?” One of the problems with modern education today is a lack of consensus about what children should learn: “Unfortunately, in our contemporary schools, the question of ‘What shall we study?’ often changes from year to year and from textbook to textbook” (34). Classical, Christian education provides “an alternative to this thoughtless passion for change by considering content that has been worthy of study throughout the ages” (34). The resulting chapter outlines the core content of a solid education in nine subject areas: Scripture, literature, writing, math, geography, history, science, Latin, and the fine arts.
The book concludes with a consideration of the goals of a classical, Christian education—a discussion of parents as the “Divinely-Appointed Architects” of their children’s education, and a brief peek at the successful methodologies of the one-room schoolhouse. Contemplating the educational goals of other centuries gives fresh inspiration to the effort of reclaiming a quality education for children today.
The Appendices combine to give parents a toolkit for pursuing classical, Christian education at home. The first section demonstrates how Classical Conversations programs and communities make classical education approachable by offering accountability and support to parents and students. Additional resources include sample schedules from three homeschool families, a resource list for parents including books about classical education and each of the core subjects, an essay explaining the importance of studying Latin, and the complete text of Dorothy Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.” The educational goal grid applies the skills of the Trivium to each of the core subjects.
In addition to these practical tips, Classical Christian Education Made Approachable continually renews the lofty vision of a classical, Christian education. The end goal is for students to achieve wisdom and to act according to that knowledge. By nurturing the whole person—body, mind, and soul—classical, Christian education prepares children for mature Christian service: “That deep, abiding knowledge of God as manifested in literature, mathematics, geography, science, and the fine arts, inspires students to pour forth praise . . . They fulfill the call to worship God not just with their hearts and souls but with their minds” (57).