By Dinah Whitton

During our last exploration we examined Charlotte Mason’s turn of the century philosophy that continues to be popular within the homeschool community. This week it’s time to take a look at another well known and similar method: Classical Education.

In the classical education approach younger children spend time learning the 3 R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic before beginning the “Trivium”. This phase of teaching includes three stages: Grammar Stage (6-10 years old); Dialectic Stage (10-12 years old); and, Rhetoric Stage (13-18 years old). Here are some of the highlights of each stage:

  • Grammar Stage (6-10 years old)
    This stage includes an emphasis on absorbing information and memorizing the rules of phonics, spelling, grammar, foreign language, history, science, and math.
  • Dialectic Stage (10-12 years old)
    Students are engaged in logical discussions, debates, research, algebra, and thesis writing is introduced.
  • Rhetoric Stage (13-18 years old)
    Systematic, rigorous studies continue as the student seeks to develop a clear, persuasive use of language.

Many parents find this method quite similar to Charlotte Mason since there is also a focus on “great books” or “living books”. Reading is done in chronological order in addition to completing a history notebook so the students can see how it all connects. Foreign language studies are also a part of this method and often include Latin or Greek studies.

What Home Educators Are Saying

As a new homeschooler I’m often intrigued by homeschool graduates who are now homeschool parents. Lauren M. was not only homeschooled, but she is now a proud homeschooling mama of 5 children (12, 11, 8, 5, and 1 years old). Even with her experience there have been changes in their home education methods. About two years ago they were using the eclectic method when she started learning more about Classical Education, “I just felt like something was missing and we were missing each other.” Lauren said. “With Classical it isn’t just about doing a subject, but everything is intertwined.” With 5 children Lauren also appreciates the ability to work on the same material with her family, but on varying levels. This is an interesting concept that has helped many parents like Lauren feel connected in their homeschool. Continuity within the various stages definitely seems to be helpful for parents with multiple children. While Lauren enjoys the involvement she has with her children, they are also becoming efficient independent learners, “this method empowers me to be involved, but a lot of the learning is done on their own,” said Lauren. “Classical Education has empowered me to become a better teacher.”

Another intriguing aspect to the Classical approach is their community. Similar to co-op, Classical communities meet weekly, but they continue their studies with like-minded families using this method. Trained parent-tutors typically facilitate the classes that build upon what the children have been learning at home. Lauren also says this type of group setting is not only great for the children, but also ideal for parents. Children enjoy the camaraderie while learning through songs and other fun activities based on their stages. “It’s amazing how quickly they can recall [what they’ve learned] and in the later years the foundation is there when it’s time to dig deeper into the topic.” said Lauren.

You’re not alone if you’ve questioned whether or not this method is modern enough for the 21st century. Home educators continue to praise the effectiveness of this ‘tried and true’ method, “originally I thought it was too rigid or too old fashioned, but the more I homeschool the more I realized how I lean toward this method,” Lauren said. “The classics and history are what shaped us.” With such a strong focus on linking the past with the present, it’s no wonder this method continues to be a vital necessity for homeschooling families.

What Homeschool Students Are Saying

After hearing rave reviews from parents, it was equally interesting to see the responses from children currently receiving a Classical Education. Here are some responses from three of Lauren’s children who graciously shared their thoughts on their experience:

I really like doing presentations and the history timeline. Then when I’m older and my kids ask me: ‘Was this person born before this person?’ I can sing the timeline song.”
-Naomi (8 years old)

In the classes we get to play games to help us learn the memory work. It helps me to learn more when we’re doing little sections of the subjects instead of learning everything all at once. And the songs really help me to remember.
– Jeremiah (11 years old)

It’s more challenging than the way we were doing things before. I like researching about science and doing reports and illustrations each week.
– William (12 years old)

Out of the mouth of babes indeed! Classical Education is a proven home education method that builds on the rich opportunity to connect parents and their children by successfully bridging the gap between the past and the present. To learn more about Classical Education, check out the CCHE Home Education Resource page. Whether you’re just curious about this method or simply interested in exploring other methodologies, this is a great place to start!

Is your family using the Classical Education method or considering it? Either way, HSLDA would love to hear from you! Send us an email with your thoughts, questions and suggestions to: info@hslda.ca.