Posted by: Brian Glass | June 11, 2010

Classical Education Part 1

A couple weeks ago Shari and I went to the FPEA Homeschool Convention. I was simply amazed at the plethora of materials available and the myriad approaches to homeschooling. About a year ago Shari suggested that we try the classical approach and I thought it was a brilliant idea.

As we approach the “end” of another school year we of course look back and wonder what we should change. We went with the pure Well-Trained Mind approach last year. This year Shari thought it would be good to simplify a bit. The kids’ day is packed on this program and we have found that retention isn’t as good as we’d like. We had read The Latin-Centered Curriculum last year, but chose not to follow it. This year it seemed more attractive. We decided to move forward with that since its focus on quality over quantity was attractive.

In talking with some of the people in the booths at the convention, particularly the Memoria Press booth, we found that some of the suggestions in LCC were probably a bit too aggressive, at least for Hannah. (By the way, Kudos to Tanya at the Memoria Press booth who was a huge help).

While all this information was great, we were becoming unsure of what to do. Later we came across another book called Triviuim Mastery that purported to be a guide to classical homeschooling and seemed to go against the grain of much of what we thought of as classical education. This again just added to the confusion.

Some say the Trivium was not a system of stages of learning, while others do. Some say the content is not important, only the method is. Others disagree. Some advocate cramming your day with tons of history and classics. Others say focus on quality not quantity.

What it all comes down to is that there is a lot of confusion out there about what a Classical Education really is. And when it comes right down to it, what is our goal with a classical education anyway?

At this point I tend to want to trust Memoria Press most in all of this simply because I think they have excellent materials and because they provide very cogent articles in support of their position. They seem to be running a very successful school as well. However, I want to understand this at a deeper level and I have taken it upon myself to do some in-depth reading on the subject. After all, one of the things (at least I think) that classical schooling encouraged was going to original sources rather than reading a bunch of books about the topic written by “experts.”

My first step was to head out to Google Books (which is a boon for homeschoolers) and dig around to see what I could find. I found a few items of interest, but the one that struck my fancy was called The English Grammar Schools to 1660 by Foster Watson. I want to see what the schools were like both before and after the reformation and this seems to do an admirable job of that. It also references a number of original curriculum sources, which occasionally are also available on Google Books.

Stay tuned for my findings.



  1. Love this article Brian! You touched on the exact same issues I have struggled with. I love the Well-Trained Mind but practically we are having a hard time keeping our head above the water. I have fallen in love with Memoria Press as well as I am thoroughly impressed with Tanya (I met her in Nashville at the MTHEA conference). If you check out Memoria’s forum it is great as well. This year I am going with quality instead of quantity and see how it goes. I look forward to reading your additional articles!

  2. I didn’t like The Well-Trained Mind much at all…too rigid for our tastes. My favorite book (so far) on classical ed has been Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns. I loved the ideas in the Latin-Centered Curriculum. We settled on following the Classical Conversations plan (with our own personal tweaks and interests) for now. It’s a blessing that there are so many resources and ideas pertaining to classical education.

    It’s very interesting to me to see how so many seem to be turning to classical ed in one way or another! Makes me think God must be doing something!!

  3. Great post, Brian. It’s nice to know that even homeschooling parents with older kids struggle with what to do (my oldest is 5). I won’t detail my own struggles here, but they also center on *how* to do a classical education. It’s almost enough to make this parent want to throw up her hands and use Robinson.

    Please do keep us posted on your search for a “true” classical education. I’d love to know what that is supposed to be like.

    BTW I came over from your food blog. It’s funny–on my local WAPF yahoo group, almost everyone homeschools their kids.

  4. I’ve been researching Classical (and other) education ideas and am still a little confused – looking forward to what you uncover.

    I don’t entirely agree with the trivium concept – my 3yo asks WHY all the time and I think you can/should start with logic from birth… However, I love the 4-year time period pattern and emphasis on classical literature.

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