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What does classical education mean to you?


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#1 Night Elf

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:31 PM

I've been a member of these boards for 5 years at least. I've read TWTM. I've participated in curriculum discussions and have tried to understand the concept of classical education. When I hear someone say they are educating classically, I automatically think they are having their child read classic books and studying Latin and Greek. Yet I've read that doing these things do not make a classical education. So what does, then?

#2 Julie in GA

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:04 PM

Well, there's the classical approach, via the Trivium, and then there are classical subjects. Latin, Greek, formal logic, rhetoric, ancient Greek & Roman history -- those are classical subjects, and they do usually accompany a classical approach. But, some people can still implement the broad approach of the Trivium w/o teaching all of the classical subjects. A good book on this is Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn's book, Teaching the Trivium.

All that being said, I can't imagine doing it without Latin, so I guess that's my "litmus test," if you will.

Not very thorough of an answer, but maybe I'll post more. Gotta run and make our Friday pizza. It's movie night, too. :lurk5:

(I've been wanting to use that smilie!)

#3 Plaid Dad

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:18 PM

My favorite definition is borrowed from Tracy Lee Simmons: "a curriculum grounded upon - if not strictly limited to - Greek, Latin, and the study of the civilization from which they arose." Historically, the study of classical languages is what made an education "classical" and I don't see any reason to change a definition with a 2000+-year pedigree.

#4 Closeacademy

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:18 PM

I've read TWTM, Teaching the Trivium and The Latin Centered Curriculum--in that order.

I would say that for us a classical education is one that focuses on

K-3:

The Three R's of phonics, penmanship and mathematics

4-8:

Latin, grammar, composition, history, and mathematics

9 +:

The great books and the great conversation but still with plenty of mathematics and writing about the great books. And from here on out the learning never ends because it could take a lifetime to read all the great books.

#5 Mama Lynx

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:20 PM

My favorite definition is borrowed from Tracy Lee Simmons: "a curriculum grounded upon - if not strictly limited to - Greek, Latin, and the study of the civilization from which they arose." Historically, the study of classical languages is what made an education "classical" and I don't see any reason to change a definition with a 2000+-year pedigree.


This is the definition I use as well. You will find that the confusion comes because other people define it differently. SWB defines it differently.

#6 Reya

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:45 PM

I've been a member of these boards for 5 years at least. I've read TWTM. I've participated in curriculum discussions and have tried to understand the concept of classical education. When I hear someone say they are educating classically, I automatically think they are having their child read classic books and studying Latin and Greek. Yet I've read that doing these things do not make a classical education. So what does, then?


I have to agree with what most of the others said except not so much on the re-imagined "trivium." I describe myself as a "classical" educator because that's something that people understand, but I'm not in the least offended by people who get...um...very DEFINITE about my not being one. *ahem* Because really, I'm not. I'm a Renaissance-man educator, but people don't really get that without a big explanation, so I just say "classical."

We spend way too much time on non-Western history and non-Western languages to be classical, much less our emphasis on fine arts, music, and science, none of which are emphasized in the British public school/American Latin school tradition that's the classical schooling heritage. We also don't care nearly enough about Latin--we'll do it, sure, but it'll be waaaaay down the list of priorities.

I think a lot of people use the term "classical" because it's easy, like me. I think others don't know or care about making their education really, well, classical in truth and use it because they kind of follow TWTM, which is probably the least "classical" of all the "classical" education books. *shrugs* I just don't have anything emotionally invested in the term.

#7 genie

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:47 PM

I came across a blog earlier today that had a series of posts discussing the different definitions of classical education, and then the blogger's definition. Here are bits a pieces from one of her posts that I found interesting:

In Classical Education, the discussion is the crux of the whole philosophy. Discussion as well as writing are the two important ways for a child to learn abut virtue. Many educational methods and philosophies do not advocate discussion. Writing is an important tenet of any method but discussion seems to be always left behind. The student is given a textbook or a book and is told to read it then write an essay on some topic from that reading. That is the extent of that learning. There is little discussion. I think that that is a big piece of the puzzle that is missing in our children's education. In discussion, the student is exposed to various ways of thinking, not just his own. He is able to hear the thoughts of others. He is able to see the 'other side' of an issue. Through discussion, an idea can be torn apart logically and then put back together again to shed a different light on the topic. ...
There are probably many more characteristics of CE that set it apart from the myriad of other methods, but these two (discussion of the Great Ideas and the melding of latin, logic and rhetoric) are the main ones for me.



#8 Plaid Dad

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 06:57 PM

I came across a blog earlier today


Could you post a link to the blog? I'd be interested in reading more.

#9 Leta

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 07:13 PM

I guess I think of the trivium and the quadrivium. The trivium being the acquisition of facts and basic skills, followed by the organization of facts, and finally the ability to express oneself in a logical, coherent, and applicable fashion.

#10 genie

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 08:03 PM

Could you post a link to the blog? I'd be interested in reading more.


Sure. Her blog is Musings of a Prairie Girl. You'll need to scroll down to her April 7th post "Classical Education" to catch it from the beginning, then scroll up for the remainder that are mixed in with other posts.

#11 Jami

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 08:39 PM

Well I'll add a little to the confusion. ;) While I completely agree with the T. L. Simmons quote and definition, I personally subscribe to the classical model that I think was fully developed in the Christian medieval model. Yes, Latin and Greek and the literatures and history of those cultures is central, but to what end? So I take my definition from the Circe Institute and schools like Westminster Academy in Memphis "Classical Christian education is the cultivation of virtue and wisdom by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness and beauty according to God's Revelation using the classical liberal arts. Its purpose is to train the soul (which is the seat of the mind, will and emotions) to love that which is worth loving."

That says it all for me. The why, the how, the end, the means, the form and the content. The classical liberal arts were codified in the medieval period and are the essential content of a classical education, Christian or otherwise, in my opinion. Latin (Grammar), Logic/Dialectic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music/Harmonics, and Astronomy. After a foundation in these arts, a student is ready to study the humane and natural sciences, and then move into poetics, metaphysics and theology.

Because of the long history of classical education, there are different periods one can go back to for ideas and application. As a Christian, the medieval Christian model resonates with me more than a purer ancient model. But anything post-Enlightenment won't fly here. ;) We're shameless pre-moderns. :D

Jami

#12 Night Elf

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 09:16 PM

See, I totally understood the stages discussed in TWTM because I had already known something about childhood development. Even before I knew about homeschooling, I was teaching my children because I knew that little kids love learning new stuff. My children loved memorizing facts and bits of info when they were younger. They've now reached the point where they are asking WHY they need to learn more. I consider it a transition to the Logic Stage as I'm sure it doesn't happen overnight. But I don't think understanding the stages makes an education classical. I believe the stages are just labels for what seems to happen naturally as we mature from baby to adult.

I love the idea of my children becoming learned, and by that I mean well read, able to think, and able to communicate both in speaking and writing. That is one thing I really pulled from TWTM. We are Latin dropouts. We used Latin for Children and it was great fun for a while. We also dabbled in Memoria Press's First French and their D'Aulaire study. We didn't stick with it as it didn't wow us.

Oh well. I was just wondering. It's not important for me to have a label for how we live and learn but since I spend so much time on these boards, I thought I'd ask to see what others were thinking. :)

#13 Twinmom

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 09:28 PM

I keep my definition simple, unless someone really wants the details. I say that classical education is about teaching my children to really think and to understand & defend their faith, using developmentally appropriate techniques in a liberal arts framework. Works for me to remind myself of this definition as well, when I get overwhelmed! ;) There's a lot involved in classical education, but this is the crux of it, IMO.

You can go off into definitions of the trivium if you want to or need to, but ultimately it boils down to a few things. You are laying a strong foundation in verbal, mathematical and observational skills in the early years, building on that foundation to help them challenge assumptions and answer "why" questions in the middle years, and teaching them to debate and defend their positions in the latter years. To do that, you use classic literature, great books, Latin (to understand languages!), exposure to other great works of science, math, etc in the Western tradition. You also use history as a basis for ensuring that the student sees the "connections" between events/discoveries/scientific advances and how they are related to each other. Classical education does NOT mean education with the exclusion of knowledge of other cultures, but rather education that first understands the culture of the learner well enough to compare/contrast that culture with the culture of others.

HTH.

#14 TheCoffeeChick

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 08:24 AM

Well I'll add a little to the confusion. ;) While I completely agree with the T. L. Simmons quote and definition, I personally subscribe to the classical model that I think was fully developed in the Christian medieval model. Yes, Latin and Greek and the literatures and history of those cultures is central, but to what end? So I take my definition from the Circe Institute and schools like Westminster Academy in Memphis "Classical Christian education is the cultivation of virtue and wisdom by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness and beauty according to God's Revelation using the classical liberal arts. Its purpose is to train the soul (which is the seat of the mind, will and emotions) to love that which is worth loving."

That says it all for me. The why, the how, the end, the means, the form and the content. The classical liberal arts were codified in the medieval period and are the essential content of a classical education, Christian or otherwise, in my opinion. Latin (Grammar), Logic/Dialectic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music/Harmonics, and Astronomy. After a foundation in these arts, a student is ready to study the humane and natural sciences, and then move into poetics, metaphysics and theology.

Because of the long history of classical education, there are different periods one can go back to for ideas and application. As a Christian, the medieval Christian model resonates with me more than a purer ancient model. But anything post-Enlightenment won't fly here. ;) We're shameless pre-moderns. :D

Jami


What a great explanation IMO :001_smile: This is exactly what I have been trying to say when I explain classical education to my parents & in-laws. I think they conjure up thoughts of only latin instruction when I say I am leaning toward a classical Christian education. This is perfect for me!!

I will also use this to remind me of my ultimate goals of hsing ... which can be easy to forget:tongue_smilie:

#15 cajun.classical

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 09:01 AM

Well I'll add a little to the confusion. ;) While I completely agree with the T. L. Simmons quote and definition, I personally subscribe to the classical model that I think was fully developed in the Christian medieval model. Yes, Latin and Greek and the literatures and history of those cultures is central, but to what end? So I take my definition from the Circe Institute and schools like Westminster Academy in Memphis "Classical Christian education is the cultivation of virtue and wisdom by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness and beauty according to God's Revelation using the classical liberal arts. Its purpose is to train the soul (which is the seat of the mind, will and emotions) to love that which is worth loving."

That says it all for me. The why, the how, the end, the means, the form and the content. The classical liberal arts were codified in the medieval period and are the essential content of a classical education, Christian or otherwise, in my opinion. Latin (Grammar), Logic/Dialectic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music/Harmonics, and Astronomy. After a foundation in these arts, a student is ready to study the humane and natural sciences, and then move into poetics, metaphysics and theology.

Because of the long history of classical education, there are different periods one can go back to for ideas and application. As a Christian, the medieval Christian model resonates with me more than a purer ancient model. But anything post-Enlightenment won't fly here. ;) We're shameless pre-moderns. :D

Jami


As usual, ditto. And thanks for saying that so much better than I could have. :D


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