I have been aware of classical education for decades and always equated it with great books. Our homeschool has always been literature and history rich but my understanding of classical as a pedagogy was really expanded and broadened by reading The Well Trained Mind 15 years ago and by meeting and hearing Leigh Bortiens speak, about 9 years ago. I went home from that meeting, read The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers, along with everything else I could get my hands on about classical education, and we haven’t looked back since.
We are currently in a Classical Conversations Community and will have our youngest two kids in Challenge this year; A and 1. In the past we have relied heavily on Memoria Press, Peace Hill Press, IEW, The Lost Tools of Writing, and lately Roman Roads Media, which has recently produced Old Western Culture, re-released The Grammar of Poetry and Intro and Intermediate Logic by Jim Nance. We also test products and write reviews and because of this are exposed to some great curriculum that we wouldn’t otherwise know about- this is how we found Spelling You See and Roman Roads Media- both of which have given us amazing tools to study and learn with!
The greatest challenges of Classical Education in our own homeschool has been trying to teach subject areas that I don’t have good or adequate training in. For instance, Latin and Logic, the hard sciences such as Physics and Chemistry, Algebra II and beyond. Now, with the rise of on-line classes and quality DVD materials, life has gotten much easier because we have Master teachers available to us regardless of where we live! That being said, you often get what you pay for and most on-line classes and DVD programs are not inexpensive. I have taught, tutored, traded, bartered and promoted products and classes, along with worked from home so that our homeschooling and family life can be as rich as possible. Working and homeschooling is a whole discussion in and of itself, but for this season in our lives (no small children at home, my kids know how to study and are motivated to be homeschooled, etc) it is working for our family.
What does classical look like in our day to day lives? My husband often leaves a bit later in the morning, so he regularly has the kids look at NASA web-sites Astronomy picture of the Day and other NASA happenings and discusses them in detail, along with politics, and other news that he comes across in Biblical Archeology Review, Jerusalem and Christian Post, NPR, etc. NOAA (National Weather News) is also checked and discussed regularly and in great detail in our home.
We focus on skills in the morning and content in the afternoon. That means math, science, memory work, grammar happen in the morning. Afternoons included Bible, literature, history, writing, etc. This coming year will be a quite different schedule wise as we’ll have weekly assignments due with CC Challenge. We have been in co-ops and class-days in the past with homework due, so this won’t be a huge change, but the volume of work due will be different.
We follow a fairly standard course of study in some regards; Math, Science, English, History, Language, etc. As classical educators what we study is probably different in that we often do more than one history or science program in a year and tend to do a broader range of history and literature studies. For instance, last year we finished reading Notgrass’ American History 2 volume set, ds read The History of the Ancient World for fun and we listened to The Greeks/ Old Western Culture by Roman Roads Media, in addition to memorizing a Timeline and history sentences with Classical Conversations.
We layered English as well, memorizing charts and definitions, studying grammar and diagramming, writing 20 papers, including a research paper and a 5 minute presentation with Essentials, studied Latin rules and memorized vocabulary, declensions and conjugations, read numerous books on our own and out-loud, participated in a week long Shakespeare Camp, where the kids memorized and performed a full length Shakespeare play, as well as participated in Drama Camp and Festival of One Act plays along with the 1- day speech camp through TeenPact.
While it might seem like we are beating our kids to death with curriculum, this is hardly the case. In some ways, living in the country makes our lives easier in that when we are home, we have few distractions and have the time to get a lot of things done.
Additionally, the kids spend a fair amount of time drawing, watching DVD’s, listening and reading great books (which includes everything from Homer to Calvin and Hobbes), creating and building, cooking and cleaning, taking walks, working out, going to church and park days with friends.
Classical Education has been a great resource and blessing in our lives as it has simplified our curriculum choices and as a result, our expenditures. It has given us a practical paradigm for academically accomplishing First Things First, providing the time, inclination and freedom to enjoy both the challenging and the care-free.
Lisa Nehring classically educates her youngest two children on the Great Plains, having homeschooled for 24 years and graduating her three oldest. She and her husband frequently speak to groups about education, parenting and marriage and Lisa blogs about education, homeschooling, curriculum reviews and faith at her blog: Golden Grasses.