Posted by: Brian Glass | July 31, 2010

Classical Education Part 3

If you have been following this short series you will recall that I started my study of Classical Education reading The English Grammar Schools to 1660 by Foster Watson. I think I will still come back to finish this book but I have since made a number of detours and not really lost my way, but changed course a bit. I felt there was some sense of urgency since we will be starting a new school year in a few short months.

I acquired a copy of Climbing Parnsassus by Tracy Lee Simmons. I haven’t quite completed it, but it did give me a whirlwind tour of the history of education and a sort of vision of what the purpose of a classical education was at various times. In addition to this I have been spending time helping Shari to sort out where we want to go in a more practical and less theoretical way. While a solid theoretical understanding is important, it eventually comes down to practice.

I have come to realize that what I was really looking for was a “traditional” education. And in the sense that classics are books that have been approved by time, it is very much rooted in tradition. That is, it is passed down from one generation to the next or “traditioned” to the next generation. But alas, what I found in this regard is that much of the living tradition has been broken and consequently lost. My suspicion is that there are little pockets of this important tradition hiding in small schools or monasteries as it happened through the middle ages, but I don’t have access to this. The best I can do is reconstruct from books or follow the example of others who already have. We are The Civilization that had to Teach Itself with its own Books. And in the spirit of tradition I think joining those who have already begun is wisest. This is the reemergence of an ancient tradition.

I have never been humble, but I have finally come to understand that I am truly ignorant. What people took for granted 200 years ago is unknown to me. Yes, I can develop software with the best of them, but does that really make me a better person? Has it taught me to strive for excellence? Do I even know what excellence is?  We stand upon the shoulders of giants and I barely even know who they were and what they thought. This will be mine and Shari’s education as well as our children’s.

In compiling our curriculum for this coming year and tentative plans throughout high school we have found four key curriculum sources that are exemplary models of classical education. By far the most influential in our decisions is Memoria Press and Highlands Latin School. These are essentially one organization. One half is an actual school and the other half is a publisher. We have used their materials and find them to be of high quality. We have talked with their people and found them to be knowledgeable and intelligent. The skeleton of the plan we have developed is based on the Highlands Latin School curriculum with some adaptations for our home-school environment and for Orthodoxy.

Other sources of import have of course been The Well-Trained Mind and The Latin-Centered Curriculum. WTM has been and continues to be very useful as a resource guide. We very much like the philosophy of LCC and appreciate the purity of his program, but we have found it to be a bit over-ambitious. If your kids are geniuses then LCC might work just fine, but we think that Highlands Latin School’s sequence is more practical and age-appropriate. It still functions well as a resource guide. We have also found Kolbe Academy’s curriculum to be useful.

Shari and I will continue to post on this topic and likely post the details of our choices over the coming weeks and months.


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