Questions About a Classical Education

I received a thoughtful email from Krissy regarding questions she and her husband have about classical home education.  My replies are in Italics.  As always, take what works for your family and toss the rest.


Thank you so much for sharing you wisdom and life adventures. I listened to your workshop and found it very helpful. I was wondering if I [could] ask a few questions?

1. It seems like you brought up the fear parents have about teaching Latin or Greek without knowing it (and maybe I missed your answer) but that would be my situation and I would love to hear your response to those fears and if/how it can be done.

Neither my husband nor I studied Latin or Greek in school.  I did four years of high school Spanish and passed the AP Exam, plus took a year of high school French because I knew I wanted to major in vocal performance in college.  For my major, I also had to study French at the college level, Italian, and German.

Because of my background in modern languages and my husband's dental degree (many Latin terms in the medical and scientific fields), we both felt strongly about giving our kids a foundation in Latin for their eventual study of a Romance language, and Greek so that they could eventually read their Bibles in the original Greek.

Still, despite my high comfort level teaching a foreign language, I did not have Latin or Greek knowledge.  There's good news for all of us though; this is a wonderful time to be educating our children at home.  There are numerous programs on the market that allow us to either study Greek and Latin alongside our children, or have them taught via DVDs, online courses, or CDs.

Our favorites at the moment are Latin for Children, Latin's Not So Tough, and Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek. But the list certainly doesn't end there.Veritas Press offers Latin online, as does Memoria Press.Classical Academic Press has a great DVD curriculum for junior high and high school students.

2. My husband and I have very different educational backgrounds. He grew up on the mission field in Africa/Haiti and went to ex-pat schools. I went to public school. We never thought we would home school but the Classical Education School here (Boise Idaho), if I understand correctly, is pricey. So we opened up the “Classical Education at Home” discussion again. Do you have pros and cons you could share about homeschooling classical verses a formal school?

My husband and I are also products of 13 years of public education and 4 years of private university, plus 3 more year-around years of dental school for him.  We know for a fact we're not alone in saying we received rather pathetic educations, even at that expensive private university.  Even in GATE ("gifted") classes from kindergarten through high school.  Even walking into college with college credit.  What we did learn was how to figure out what the class/teacher required, and then jump through the hoops to get the grades we wanted.  That's not education.

Still, homeschooling was not in the picture when we started having children.  It was in the picture for other people, but not for us.  You know where this is going, right?  God began tugging at me, telling me I couldn't close that door, and when our firstborn was four years old, we began to educate him at home.  Shortly after, we discovered classical education through the writings of Dorothy Sayers, Wes Calihan, Douglas Wilson, Douglas Jones,Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, and eventually Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.

We don't personally have experience sending our children to classical schools, but one of our dear friends has been the principal of four classical Christian schools across the country and in different settings.  Several things come to mind, and you can take them for whatever they mean to you (which might be absolutely nothing):

1. Our friend the classical school principal was my number two fan when we began considering homeschooling (my husband was number one :) ).  He had been a classroom teacher before becoming a principal, and when I voiced my concerns about not being qualified to teach my children at home, he about spit out his drink.  He emphatically reminded me that what teachers learn in school is crowd control and public school standards, neither of which are required to educate one's own children at home.

2. That same principal refuses to hire credentialed teachers.  He doesn't want to have to un-train them.

3. And again, our friend the classical school principal is currently working on a specialized model in his own classical school in which the learning environment will be more independent and Socratic in form.  The classroom, in fact, will be more like a home and less like a school.  What does that tell you?

You asked about pros and cons and while I am undoubtedly biased toward a home education in which the parents take the education of their children seriously, there are benefits to being in a school setting as well.  Occasionally, some of our children could use the fear of a teacher other than their mom.  That could be a really good motivator.  Some of our children would benefit from a little peer pressure now and again, particularly when it comes to brushing their teeth and combing their hair.  There are days when having a quiet, child-free home really appeals to me.  But really, none of those reasons warrant giving the best hours of the day with my children to strangers, nor do they justify the exorbitant cost of a private education.  However, if there were a classical school nearby that offered the opportunity for my high schoolers to take a class now and then, I would certainly consider that.

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3. My son turns two in a few weeks. He is our first and only until our adoption (infant) from Ethiopia goes through. We’ve really just enjoyed our time together, played, watched Signing Time, read, etc. What are some things I could be doing with him now to prepare him for a Classical Education?

I can give you no better direction than the Bluedorn's classic Ten Things to Do With Your Child Before Age Ten.  I would also encourage you to spend these early years teaching that sweet boy to trust and obey you.

4. How do you address the area of sports with your children? My husband really believes in some of the concepts of teams and is afraid our children could miss out.

My husband and I are writing a post on the subject of sports that will hopefully appear here in the next week.  A little preview though: we don't feel our kids have missed out at all by starting sports at older-than-typical-in-America ages.

5. What can I do now to have a well-trained mind and be better prepared to help my son? Are there any adult classes or helps?

Again, some great helps out on the homeschool market for moms.  Susan Wise Bauer wrote The Well-Educated Mind for moms like us.  There are wonderful conferences around like CIRCE Institute and Veritas Teacher Training, both of which offer complete conference recordings.  If you have a homeschool convention in your area, I'd say go to it next time around and get comfy with the format, listening to speakers that interest you and browsing the vendor hall.  Hopefully then when it comes time to actually jump in, you won't be overwhelmed.  Or as overwhelmed.

6. I may have missed it on the website but do you have devotional suggestions for different age groups? Do you do the Westminster Catechism?

I don't have a list compiled for different age groups, but that's a great idea for another post.  For your little guy, though, I'd start with the classic, The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes.  My mom read it to me when I was a wee one :)

Thank you so much for your time and your willingness to share!

You are always welcome.  I love sharing!