A Classic Education
Whether you’re thinking about homeschooling or you’ve been homeschooling for a while, chances are you’re trying to figure the best method for homeschooling your child. Classical Christian Homeschool curriculum focuses on a specific set of practices, grouped by developmental stage, for homeschooling your child.
At the heart of the classical education is what’s known as the “trivium.” History is taught chronologically, and generally one discipline of science is taught each year. Rather than focusing on workbooks, classical education focuses upon the “great books tradition,” classics that have stood the test of time. As with any Christian curriculum, The Bible takes center stage. Most classical curriculum choices also incorporate the study of Latin into the program of courses. A classical Christian homeschool curriculum is not easy to implement. It requires planning on the part of the teacher, and it is rigorous in terms of reading and writing skills.
What’s This “Trivium” All About?
Classical education centers around the trivium. "Trivium" refers to the tripartite division for the cognitive development of children. In the classical tradition, it is divided into:
- Grammar stage – or the memorization of facts and mastering of academic abilities,
- Logic stage – the organization of facts, and
- Rhetoric stage – the expression of facts and opinions
Practitioners of the classical method of homeschooling believe that these three stages of academic development correspond to a child's cognitive development. Thus, in first through fourth grade equivalents, the focus for the student is on the mastery of basic skills in reading, writing, and math. The grammar stage student will do copywork and dictation for writing to perfect his or her skills, narrate back (and write down) summaries of reading material, and learn the basics of arithmetic. He or she will encounter scientific data and historical dates and people for the first time, and will focus on memorizing lists, dates, and documents.
The logic stage student, roughly 5th through 8th grade, will once again go through the annals of history and the classics of literature, grouped into specific date ranges. He or she will also perform experiments, encounter Latin, and learn logic for the first time. The focus of the logic stage is on the organization of information. Thus, common activities during this stage include creating timelines, performing experiments according to the scientific method, and learn about syllogisms (if a then b; if b then c; therefore, if a then c).
The rhetoric stage student, equivalent to American high school grades 9 through 12, has learned the basics. He or she has been through literary classics twice, albeit often at the appropriate reading level; has covered world history from Biblical times until present; and has covered biology, astronomy and earth science, chemistry, and physics twice before. At this stage, the focus is on expression. He or she will write reports based upon primary source material, often arguing a point of view associated with that source. At this stage, the focus shifts from the study of logic and how facts fit together to the study of rhetoric and artful debate.
Do I Have to Teach Latin?
Most parents employing the classical homeschooling method employ the teaching of Latin their curriculum. While not necessary, traditionally, Latin and Greek have both been a key part of classical education. As the student gains prowess in using Latin, he or she not only reads primary source material including Virgil's Aeneid in the original Latin, but also students who study Latin tend to score higher on standardized college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT. If the thought of teaching Latin scares you, you may wish to hire a tutor specializing in the language or join a homeschooling co-op.
What Should I do for the “Christian” Part?
For homeschoolers using this method, the tenants of Christianity often become part of the student’s studies. In addition to choosing resource material for history and science that incorporate Biblical teachings into the curriculum, homeschool parents employing this method often speak to their religious leaders about recommendations for Bible studies.
What are the Best Materials and Where Can I Find Them?
There are many great resources for the classical Christian homeschool curriculum. One of the most well-known books on employing a classical education at home is Susan Wise Bauer's and Jessie Wise's The Well Trained Mind. This book contains many resources for implementing a classical education at home. Sonlight is a company that creates Christian classical education resource material kits. Finally, Memoria Press, Veritas Press, and Tapestry of Grace are well-known companies that focus on classical Christian homeschool materials.
One final note: implementing a classical education in your homeschool need not be expensive. Because classical education follows great books, often you will find that your local library meets a lot of your needs when it comes to curriculum choices.
Wise, J. & Bauer, S. W. (2004) The Well Trained Mind. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
"Classical Christian Homeschooling" https://www.classical-homeschooling.com
Veritas Press https://www.veritaspress.com
Memoria Press https://www.memoriapress.com
Tapestry of Grace https://www.tapestryofgrace.com