Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why Classical Education?

I knew even as an undergraduate, well before I actually had children, that I wanted to educate my family at home. What I didn't know, though, and couldn't figure out was how. My first exposures to the meta-topic of home schooling were in the form of Grace Llewellyn's work - compelling to be sure, but not quite what I had in mind.

Despairing over what I saw as my fellow students' inability to construct (or deconstruct, for that matter) a sentence, read and understand a simple paragraph, challenge statistics and studies meant to influence their thinking or - let's be frank - even parrot the simplest facts (the approximate dates of the U.S. Civil War, to what the Bill of Rights refers, where and what Nagasaki and Hiroshima are, for example) let alone understand why those facts are important, I simply could not and cannot wrap my mind around Llewewllyn's educational philosophy. I couldn't – and can’t - understand the rejection of the idea of a Canon, a body of knowledge deemed desirable for all to posses.

For years I brooded and half designed my own curriculum, not realizing the breadth and depth of the home educational materials available. I simply had no idea that somewhere out there others were thinking the same thoughts as I and developing a response.

In 2004 I read a scathing review of The Well-Trained Mind (Wise, Jessie. New York: Norton, 1999 which expressed more the author's attachment to the dogma of unschooling and personal dislike of Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer than any real impressions of the book’s content. The funny thing, though, is that the review's attack on The Well-Trained Mind led me to seek it out - they expect children to read! Science! Se don't need to stinkin' science! Math? Since when did anyone really need geometry, anyway? And literature? Please. No one's ever needed The Canterbury Tales to get a phone line installed.

Somewhere along the line, it seemed as though we all forgot how to learn, how to decode the messages that bombard us from all directions. Classical education – rigorous, elegant, thorough and exactly was I sought in all those years.

Settling on a method and manner only satisfied part of my search. Feeling alone and misunderstood even within the home education community for my dedication to seeing to both the content and approach of our home learning, I sought out comrades. Over time I even found myself adopting methodologies from other classical ed proponents. Laura M. Berquist, David Hicks, Marva Collins and others weighed in through their experience and writings, influencing our household in great measure. We were – and are - missing only one thing, community.

And that is why I have produced this, The New Classical Family. We have so much to learn from each other – what we use, where we turn and what we do. But even more, who we are. We are all The New Classical Family. Welcome.

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