In Classical Conversations, we often speak of the wonderful fruit of restoring the education of two generations of students—the education of the students who are in Classical Conversations and also the education of their parents. What does this mean? If we want our children to receive a thoroughly classical, Christian education, it means that we must be willing to pursue a new education for ourselves. We must be willing to tackle some new subjects and ideas that we never learned, and we must be willing to re-learn some that we encountered in school.
Does this seem daunting? Perhaps, but not if we take it in small bites. When I served as State Manager of Oklahoma, I challenged directors and parents to read three kinds of books each year: 1. a book on parenting or leadership, 2. a book on classical education, and 3. a book for self-education. In this article, I want to draw your attention to the last two. However, I do not wish to completely ignore the first, so my top three recommendations are:A Mother’s Heart by Jean Fleming (my apologies to the dads), Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp, and Hints for Child Training by Henry Clay Trumbull.
Learning More about Classical, Christian Education
When my son was born, I received a book on classical home education from a friend. I read it cover-to-cover, including the specific discussions of texts to use in high school. I was immediately relieved that I had so many years to unpack this important idea and do more research.
There are currently a number of books on classical education, so where should one begin? If you are new to classical education, hopefully you have attended a Classical Conversations Parent Practicum. At this event you were exposed to the differences between a modern education, a poor Christian education, and a classical, Christian education. You may have grasped the ideas and been excited only to go home and struggle to remember the details of these ideas or share them with a friend or family member. If this describes your experience, begin your reading about classical, Christian education with Classical Christian Education Made Approachable. Then, read The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education which explains how we implement classical, Christian education in the Foundations program.
Like any other subject you will study, classical education has many layers. After you gain a basic understanding of the method and model of classical education through the aforementioned books, it is time to explore the mission and vision of classical education. My favorite book for articulating the vision is Norms & Nobility: A Treatise on Education. Here, David Hicks articulates the big picture of training children to seek and to love truth, goodness and beauty. Further, in light of our students’ understanding and wisdom, he discusses how we must give our students a deep sense of responsibility to others. Students can be inspired to live virtuously. Norms & Nobility is a beautiful and worthy read; however, it is also a difficult read. Because of this, I recommend that you commit to read it with a small group of your friends. Keep each other accountable to read and digest just a chapter at a time. (Even the Prologue is meaty). Meet for coffee and wrestle down some new ideas.
Learning a New Subject
I have been so grateful for a second chance at my own education. When my firstborn was an infant, I supplemented our income by tutoring geometry. This time, I progressed beyond being able to setup the problems and solve them to truly understanding geometric theorems and proofs. I experienced a similar revelation in chemistry while preparing to tutor Challenge III.
Every year, I commit to studying a subject (or sometimes two) in depth. This year, I am tackling Latin. Over the past few years, I have taught Latin at home without really knowing Latin. How can this be, you ask? I learned the Foundations memory work and vocabulary as a start. I also knew a lot about grammar and the structure of languages from attending and teaching Essentials. In my son’s third-grade year, I realized that I could not keep up with his acquisition of Latin vocabulary and tend to my three younger children, one of whom was a newborn. So, I let him zoom ahead in vocabulary. Over the next few years, he continued to come to me with translation questions. I helped him with grammar and he taught me the meanings of the words. It was a good partnership.
Now, he is going into Challenge B which means he will study Henle I this year. My Challenge students will start Henle. Challenge directors and parents in my community agree that we need some accountability for this project. We are meeting every two weeks to stay on target with our lessons and to share our questions and revelations with one another. Latin is much more fun to learn with a friend.
How to Choose a Subject
Each of you will have a different need based on your own educational background and the needs of your children. If your children are small, read through the Challenge literature, starting with Challenge A literature and moving ahead. Not only is this an enjoyable project, but it will prepare you for great discussions with your children down the road. Read some of these aloud to your small ones or meet for coffee to discuss with friends, or both. If you are entering Essentials, work through Our Mother Tongue while the kids are swimming. I did this the first year we offered Essentials in Oklahoma, and it proved invaluable. If your kids are struggling in math, use the Teaching Tapes to learn Saxon 8/7 or Algebra I. Start a community library for expensive resources so that you can share the cost.
Finding the Time
I am a morning person, so I like to rise before the children to read Scripture, pray, and study. Many of my friends prefer to study during afternoon naps or after their children’s bedtime. Aim for one hour a day at first. I believe you will be amazed by what you can accomplish in one uninterrupted hour.