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What Is A Classical Education Method of Schooling?

Classical education began in ancient Rome & Greece with philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, & St. Augustine. As a result, a classical education method of schooling utilizes the Socratic Method.

While this method of education has ancient roots, it still has value as an educational philosophy today.

Just like there is a homeschooling movement happening throughout the world, there is also a classic education movement brewing amongst our society.

“Classical schooling insists that the purpose of education is to cultivate a mind pursuant of truth.

Classical schools often require coursework in Latin or Greek, music composition and practice, debate, and the visual arts.”

Brandon McCoy. Classical Education: An Attractive School Choice for Parents. July 29, 2021. Manhattan Institute. Accessed November 14, 2021.

The Seven Liberal Arts & The Great Books

Overall, a classical education model focuses on two main components.

  1. First, students of this method will learn the Seven Liberal Arts.
  2. Second, students will learn about many ideas, including virtue, using the Great Books of the Western World.

The HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast

Listen to this episode about a classical education method of homeschooling on the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast.

You can also listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or nearly anywhere you can find podcasts. Look for episode #130.

Click Play & Search This Podcast Episode

What Are The Seven Liberal Arts?

The seven liberal arts are made up of grammar, logic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy.

The Trivium

  1. Grammar: The rules of a language.
  2. Logic. A proper or reasonable way of thinking that is based in truth.
  3. Rhetoric. The ability to communicate well through the written or spoken word.

The Quadrivium

  1. Geometry. Oldest branch of mathematics that deals with: distance, shape, size, and space around objects.
  2. Arithmetic. Deals with the basics of math like adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, raising to powers, and extraction of roots.
  3. Music. Understanding of rhythm, melody, and harmony to appreciate or create vocal or instrumental sound.
  4. Astronomy. The study of the sun, moon, stars, planets, and galaxies.

For more in depth information about the Seven Liberal Arts and the definitions of each of the arts, visit Britannica.

Varying Definitions of The Great Books

Please note that the terminology, Great Books, can be used in two different ways.

  1. The Great Books can be used to reference a very specific collection that Encyclopedia Britannica produced.
  2. Great Books can also be used to refer to a variety of books that modern day scholars agree are the essential foundation of literature in Western culture.

Either way, the books must be important to Western culture to be considered one of The Great Books.

Classical Education Method of Homeschooling

Definition One: What Are The Great Books Of The Western World?

Great Books of the Western World is a series of books originally published in the United States in 1952, by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., to present the great books in a 54-volume set.

The original editors had three criteria for including a book in the series drawn from Western Civilization:

1. The book must have been relevant to contemporary matters, and not only important in its historical context.

2. The book must be rewarding to re-read repeatedly with respect to liberal education.

3. The book must be a part of “the great conversation about the great ideas”, relevant to at least 25 of the 102 “Great Ideas” as identified by the editor of the series’ comprehensive index, what they dubbed the “Syntopicon”, to which they belonged.

The books were not chosen on the basis of ethnic and cultural inclusiveness, (historical influence being seen as sufficient by itself to be included), nor on whether the editors agreed with the views expressed by the authors.[1]

A second edition was published in 1990 in 60 volumes. Some translations were updated, some works were removed, and there were significant additions from the 20th century located in six new, separate volumes.”

Paraphrased for ease of reading. Great Books of the Western World. September 20, 2021. Wikipedia. Accessed November 16, 2021.

Definition Two: What Are The Great Books?

Great books are written publications that have been accepted by modern day scholars as the essential foundation of literature in Western culture. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines them as certain classics of literature, philosophy, history, and science that are believed to contain the basic ideas of western culture.”

Great Books. October 5, 2021. Wikipedia. Accessed November 14, 2021.

Great Books Lists

Following are a few book lists for you to review. They are each a bit different.

The Great Books & The Great Conversation

Reading The Great Books & Joining The Great Conversation

When you or your children begin reading The Great Books, then you are better able to join in The Great Conversation and discuss the ideas and topics that are important to humankind.

The Great Conversation is the ongoing process of writers and thinkers referencing, building on, and refining the work of their predecessors. …

According to Hutchins, “The tradition of the West is embodied in the Great Conversation that began in the dawn of history and that continues to the present day“.[3]

 Adler said, ‘What binds the authors together in an intellectual community is the great conversation in which they are engaged. In the works that come later in the sequence of years, we find authors listening to what their predecessors have had to say about this idea or that, this topic or that. They not only harken to the thought of their predecessors, they also respond to it by commenting on it in a variety of ways.[4]‘”

Great Conversation. November 5, 2021. Wikipedia. Accessed November 16, 2021.

What Is The Socratic Method?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the Socratic Method in the following way.

“The method of inquiry and instruction employed by Socrates especially as represented in the dialogues of Plato and consisting of a series of questionings the object of which is to elicit a clear and consistent expression of something supposed to be implicitly known by all rational beings.”

In essence, when you use the Socratic Method with a child, you rarely give the child an answer. Instead, you would ask questions to allow the child the space to think and come up with their own answers.

When reading books with your children, ask questions that encourage your children to think.

A Classical Education Model: Forming Wise & Virtuous Students

“That’s what all schools did.

They did classical education up until the early 20th century.

Schools were trying to form wise & virtuous students.

They were trying to teach them how to think and what to do.”

Martin Cothran. What Is A Classical Education. August 21, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2021. Memoria Press (YouTube video).

Trivium vs. Trivium?!?!

Let’s see if we can clear up the confusion before you’re confused. We’re talking The Trivium in two different ways in this article.

  1. There is “The Trivium” that is part of the Seven Liberal Arts as we described above.
  2. Then there is “The Trivium” as we’re about to describe below. “The Trivium” below equates to three stages of learning. In essence, they are the elementary, middle, and high school years.

Hopefully, we’ve cleared this up before it was too confusing!

What Are The Stages Of The Trivium?

  1. Grammar Stage: 1st-4th grades.
  2. Logic Stage: 5th-8th grades.
  3. Rhetoric Stage: 9th-12th grades.

“Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind.

The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study.

In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments.

In the high school years, they learn to express themselves.

This classical pattern is called the trivium.

Susan Wise Bauer, What Is A Well Trained Mind? June 3, 2009. Well Trained Mind. Accessed November 14, 2021.

The Pros & Cons Of A Classical Homeschool Education

The HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast

Listen to this episode about a classical education method of homeschooling on the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast.

You can also listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or nearly anywhere you can find podcasts. Look for episode #130.

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