16 February 2014

Why a Classical Education is important to us

I will confess, when we first started our homeschooling journey, I was not sold on the idea of Classical Education. I'm a self-confessed snob/ nerd/ dork, but Classical Education seemed way too pretentious to me. In fact, it just seemed to be too much. Too much repetition, too much memorizing, too much study of things like Latin (that, at first glance, could be perceived as a massive waste of time), not to mention too much time, too much effort, and too much organization for me, a very unorganized person.

Kids "playing chess" in the winter sun
As I said in a previous post, I was not a good homeschooler the first time we did it. I was overwhelmed by the choices of curricula; I could see something redeeming in every program and method! I tried to incorporate everything and ended up so overwhelmed that we did nothing. I managed to teach my daughter to read and write and how to do a little bit of math by the time she was a first grader. But that was it.

When we decided to attend what shall henceforth be known as The Classical-school-that-saved-us, I began reading more about Classical education. Through the course of researching I found The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Dorothy Sayers' excellent and provocative essay,  The Lost Tools of LearningAfter reading these and other persuasive arguments for Classical Education, I was convinced.

At The-Classical-school-that-saved-us (Ok, that's too long to type. It shall henceforth be known as Aletheia), I was able to observe Classical education in process. The curriculum was not super-exciting, but was manageable and masterable and fit very well with the goals of Classical education.  I saw how the tools of memorization and rote could work (and even be creatively used!) in the Grammar stage.  I discovered how the study of Latin forms a basis for understanding language that is simply irreplaceable.

Most thrilling was that I witnessed how my children and other children were empowered by their mastery and understanding of the skills and ideas presented to them in this model of education. Classical education focuses on providing a foundation that is strong and reliable in the beginning stages of education.  Repetition provides permanence and rote provides mastery. I've seen students with learning difficulties, whether innate or self-imposed, experience the joy that comes from conquering a formerly unreachable height through constant repetition and remembering.  My own children have found security in the firmness of their knowledge.

For the teacher, where I once thought that Classical education was binding and boring, I now see the freedom offered in teaching fundamentals in an ordered, understandable, age-appropriate way. The teacher does not need to ask children to experience that which their brains are not cognitively ready to experience. Because the education is age-appropriate, it can also be rigorous. It can have an emphasis on sturdy fundamentals, but can leave room for imagination and a child's innate need for "knowing" and discovery.

Because of these reasons, we have decided to have a Classical homeschool. We have found that in addition to the above positives, a Classical education is also very adaptable. Memory work can be done in the car or at the dinner table; chanting can be done just as easily to the rhythm of a jump rope. I also love that it is often inter-disciplinary and that a subject can speak to another subject with ease.

Essentially, for our family, a Classical education provides the framework necessary for the exploration of knowledge as we have determined we want our children to be able to explore knowledge. I put that part in italics because I am sure it's not for everyone.  And if you feel that God has asked you to do homeschooling a different way, be encouraged to do it that way.

But for those who find Classical education to be enticing, it's ok to find the idea of beginning to educate one's child in this manner a tad intimidating. I have been there.  The allure is easy to recognize; how to move into a Classical education can be daunting.

So- are you interested in a Classical education for your kids? Look for more posts in the future as I break down what we do to make the dream of a Classical education a reality here at Schola McStewium. Maybe it will inspire you to make your Classical dream a reality, too.