The term "Classical Homeschool" might be a bit confusing, especially if you’re new to the method. I know it threw me off when I first heard about it. Like me, you might have thought "classical" meant something more closely related to regular public school, with a set schedule, books for each and every curriculum, and scheduled breaks.
Well, that's not exactly what Classical homeschooling consists of, so let's take a look:
What Is Classical Homeschooling?
The foundation of a Classical Homeschool education is known as the trivium. In a nutshell, that means that the core content of the subject matter is based on each child's own cognitive development. There are three main areas of emphasis in Classical Homeschool:
- Concrete Thinking (Grammar Stage): This is the emphasis while your child is in the grade school phase (first through fifth-grade levels). It revolves around memorizing facts for each subject matter being taught. This creates a focus that revolves around the tools necessary for perfecting a subject matter. It is specifically tailored for this age level when memorization of material is most easily introduced and accepted. This stage also makes use of repetition which can be utilized through song, poetry, and rhyme.
- Analytical Thinking (Logic Stage): The middle school phase finds this mode of thinking works best and focuses on a more analytical way of thinking. In this phase, a deeper understanding of the subject matter is the key feature as children are coming into an age where questions and argumentative thinking (think ‘debate’, not ‘argument’) are beginning to emerge. It is a stage that leads to a deeper understanding of information as a goal. In this stage, debate is often used as a means of learning, because it causes children to focus on stating the known facts, converting them into persuasive elements, discerning fact from fallacy, and learning and thinking quickly.
- Abstract Thinking: In the high school phase, we focus deeper still in thinking and articulation of the subject matter. In other words, at this point, a student should be able to understand the subject matter being taught and be able to explain it as a means of ‘proving’ a complete grasp. The shift becomes apparent as students capitalize on analyzing and synthesizing information to develop a reasoned opinion. This phase magnifies influential abilities through the furtherance of debate and cognizance. However, it is at this point that debate takes on more intelligence and capacity for civility.
Those who practice this homeschooling method believe that a return to a classical education will give children the ability to truly learn independently. This means that they will not only become life-long learners but that they will also have a better grasp and complete understanding of the material that they do learn. When learning methods have been practiced and perfected, they become a habit that remains a constant in the life of the child forever.
Additionally, most Classical homeschoolers include learning Latin as a part of the subject matter taught. The core of this foreign language training is as much about the foundation of logic used in learning how language works in general as it is about learning the language itself. Since other languages such as Spanish and French actually stem from Latin (as does our own English language), it’s much easier to learn other languages as well, should that need arise.
Why Choose Classical Homeschooling?
Many parents choose this method of homeschooling for the opportunity it provides in creating life-long learners. I've seen lots of children in public school that just wanted to scratch by and be done with it. That includes my own daughter, at one point! But learning should be fun! It should be thought of as a means to an end, not in the drudgery of learning something that doesn’t matter, but in absorbing the knowledge that expands one’s mind, abilities, and opportunities. Whereas learning should always present certain challenges at specific levels, it should never be considered harsh or be viewed as a punishment.
Learning the information that is thrown at us is one thing. However, learning the methodology with which we will continue to learn for years to come is quite another! In the Classical homeschool style, learning becomes a path to greater things rather than something to be over and done with.
Giving a child the ability to ‘learn how to learn’ is a gift that keeps on giving. It comes in handy for much more than just basic education. It can provide stability, not only in the academic setting but also in one’s home life, relationships, and even the workplace. Now THAT is an education, don't you think?
To give you an even better idea of what a Classic homeschool education can create, let’s take a look at a quick list of people who have been trained in this way.
- Saul of Tarsus
- William Shakespeare
- John Adams
- Albert Einstein
- Thomas Jefferson
- Christopher Columbus
Many others would make this list as well, and we know them to be people with a great capacity for learning, thought, and intellect. It could be argued, then, that teaching the means whereby we acquire learning rather than mere repetition opens up far more potential than other forms of education.
Pros of the Classical Homeschooling Approach
There is no doubt that we live in an age that is awash with the entitlement mindset. Humanity, in general, seems to be lazier and more immersed in ‘self’ than any other age in history. The Classical homeschool approach can help teach your child to reject this modern definition of society and, instead, reach for something with more virtue and more worth. In other words, the desire simply to ‘chill out’ can be replaced with a desire to achieve a specific worthy goal.
It should certainly be noted that Classical education is not simply about learning information, but rather about learning to love the process of learning itself and loving the truth. Nor is it simply about thinking, but rather, learning how to think. Overall, children taught through this style will be able to approach any topic, form a comprehensive opinion about it, and then project that opinion in a very intelligent, well-researched manner.
Cons of the Classical Homeschooling Approach
Most of the negatives of this particular homeschooling style relate primarily to Christian homeschools. Without a firm grasp on Biblical foundations, students could easily go down the path of pagan Greece. In the early church, these philosophies often intermingled with Christian beliefs (that were fairly new at the time) and created ‘doctrines of men’ that led to error.
For example, without a true moral compass based on God’s version of ‘right and wrong’, this homeschool style could easily produce people who become focused on ’self’. Without God, it can tend to be solely about the goodness and good works of the person and not about understanding life and culture from a Biblical perspective.
Is Classical Homeschooling Right for Our Family?
It is my personal opinion that there is no "chiseled in stone" answer to this question. Since homeschooling is such a personal choice, and each child is so different, this is completely up to you! Of course, making sure you adhere to the basics of the Classical homeschool education, should you choose to pursue it, is the key. There are many articles that can provide great tips that you will certainly want to check out in your further research of this style; things you will want to keep in mind if you have chosen this particular homeschool method.
Some Classical homeschoolers find that a four-day school week works best for them. You can set aside the fifth day for such things as field trips, projects, social interaction, real-world learning skills and so much more. Other homeschoolers might choose to adopt a six-day school week, with each day a little less strict. They find that spreading the information out over a longer period of time often provides more freedom to peruse the subject in greater depth.
To figure out whether Classical homeschooling is right for your family, thoroughly research the style and the curriculum and consider how to work them both into your own lifestyle and homeschool goals. Forcing any method is a sure-fire way to fail, and you don’t want that, especially if you are just getting started.
Classical Homeschool Curriculum
A Classical homeschool curriculum is very conservative at its core and probably most popular among those who choose Christian-based homeschooling as their standard. You can certainly feel free to pick and choose from various types of curriculum, especially if you have already been homeschooling for a while, but there are advantages to using a solid curriculum from the start.
Some of the most popular curriculum providers include:
- Classical Conversations: This homeschool program is very popular, especially among families who put a lot of focus on the co-op aspect of homeschooling. This not only provides an excellent outlet for social interaction, but also a place to encourage intellectual debate. As a Christian-based educational platform, it is the chosen curriculum of Christian homeschoolers. They provide materials for grades K through 12 and offer accommodations for international learners and missionary families.
- Memoria Press: This curriculum actually provides books as a base for their curriculum, which will be sent out based on the attributes you’ve selected when ordering the curriculum. They focus on Classical Content, Proven Methods, and a Christian Worldview. Their packages arrive with an entire year’s worth of supplies including lesson plans and a manual. All of this is customizable to fit your specific requirements. Serving grades K through 12, there are no online components of this curriculum.
- Veritas Press: Another very popular homeschooling curriculum, Veritas Press is accessed often for virtual and internet learning. Students can reach lessons online and access teachers there as well. They can choose self-paced coursework or take part in live courses. This curriculum provider offers plans for K through 12th grades, with three plan choices per grade level.
- Classical Academic Press: This curriculum covers grades K through 12, addressing all areas from the Classical homeschool viewpoint. With a motto like, “Classical Subjects Creatively Taught,” you can expect all their materials to be clearly laid out, systematic, and creative. You’ll find both online and text courses that can be adapted for one or more children.
- Circe Institute: “CIRCE” stands for “Center for Independent Research on Classical Education” and has been serving Classical homeschooling families since 1996. They offer an academy, teacher training, school startup services, as well as plenty of materials and online resources.
Resources for the Classical Homeschool Style
It’s important to make use of extra-curricular resources in conjunction with any homeschool style, as it provides additional learning content, more interaction at various levels, and expands the learning possibilities. Even though many of the curriculum opportunities provide a great deal of information, supplemental resources help to round out the entire experience.
Some of the best resources to augment the Classical style can include books, trips to libraries, classic movies and television series’ that focus on history, art, and language. Field trip opportunities are huge, as there are many ways to incorporate a whole day of learning into field trips to places that align with this method of homeschooling.
Several books have been written on the topic of Classical homeschooling, and here are a few of my favorites:
- The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide To Classical Education At Home
- The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundation of Classical Education
- Homeschool Curricula: 56 Classical Education "Must-Have's"
Groups and Co-ops
The Classical homeschooling style makes excellent use of groups and co-ops, especially since some curriculum choices are very co-op based. Choosing to position yourself with a likeminded group of homeschoolers can be an excellent way to share resources, outings, successes, and failures, knowing that others are going through the same thing. It also helps with socialization opportunities, which can sometimes be an issue for those with a lack of outlets for such things.
In Case You Missed It!
We have already gone over two styles of homeschooling on our blog: The Unschooling Homeschool Style and The Charlotte Mason Method. Be sure to bookmark our blog and check it often, as more posts related to homeschool styles will be added very soon.
If you still have questions about the Classical homeschooling style, or homeschooling in general, one of the best decisions you can make is to attend one of our seven regional Great Homeschool Conventions. These are regional gatherings and people attend from all over the United States. To make it easier, we provide hotel discounts for attendees, so be sure to check for your nearest conference.
If you’ve already decided to attend a convention, you can register HERE.
And remember, our Great Homeschool Conventions are: Equipping… Encouraging… FUN!