quest for a classical education

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It all started about three months ago. I wanted to reanalyze our educational approach, because I did not think that I had the tools to teach my kids thinking skills (nothing to do with the “critical thinking” so popular lately among US homeschoolers; I am talking about the reasoning skills, logical thinking skills). I know that my kids are young but I felt the world’s pluralistic and relativistic breath sneaking from everywhere, even within church’s culture, and not being recognized as such, claiming slowly peoples minds while being veiled as altruistic kindness, tolerance and acceptance.

I got my WTM book out. I did not look at it for over 2 years, since then I decided that it gave not realistic expectations of homeschooling families. Too busy, too disconnected, I thought. I did think that history cycle based curriculum, with integrated literature and other subjects would be IT. That’s why I was wanted to start TOG for two years (4 year history based, literature, geography, government, arts, philosophy, writing – all nicely integrated and flowing together for kids of different ages in your family, so you can keep them all on the same theme). Finally I did it and … as much as I like it, I started to panic that it will not provide what I wanted. One of the main reasons I got it, was the philosophy component and well organized “Socratic discussion” guides. Everything else, although made so well by them, can be done by anybody (with a great effort) who has enough time, but these two parts would be so beneficial in the future, I thought, that it will be worthy.

Although I really like TOG, I still felt that I was missing an integral and basic part. Did I really think that some kind of discussion, after taking one year or two courses of Logic, will really change the mind of a student and provoke better thinking? If not, how would I teach thinking, analyzing, persuading, debating, argumentation, criticism that is not based on so called common sense but on well developed skills? I couldn’t call it different that THINKING. I just couldn’t see how these two elements of  TOG thrown in the middle of other will really teach reasoning skills. Common sense and discussion skills are ok, but is that really what it supposed to be like?

I started to look for the answer, what kind of education (with one ds having probably dyslexia and God knows what else) would develop thinking skills leading to God as the ultimatebeauty, what kind of progression and priorities should be implemented.

My premise is that there is only one truth, and a person can know it. There has to be a way to reach to this point of finding it, following it and living by it.

I thought that maybe I need to buy some Logic curriculum and go through it. Or maybe read something online. Everybody seemed to be advising Latin which I couldn’t get why, since we need more to concentrate on learning Polish, but I thought, hey…why not Latin?

I’ve signed up for one popular classical homeschooling board and started asking questions. I also dived into googling up all related topics. The info that I found shocks me and prompts me to change many things I thought before were “classical education”, but were not. I found out about Latin Centered Curriculum and Circe Institute.

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And then I found the CLAA (fanfares). The world seemd a little brighter. My head seemd to spin a little faster. Then I started to discover what I did not know yet.

It started with looking into D. Seyers famous article on Westerners falling out of classical education wagon, which so many Protestant (and not only) classical curricula emphasizes as their guiding path. After reading an article undermining Seyer’s expertise on the subject of teaching, I digged deeper.

Soon I was asking questions on the homeschooling boards. Here are some excerpts:

Seeing in history that Christian classical curriculum brought such bright minds, scholars, teachers, saints, philosophers, writers etc. I would like to implement the same methods in our homeschooling journey. How do one goes about that? Trying to find out how they were educated, right? So…I am looking fo people who were the originators of the Christian classical method of teaching, right?

Well, in the most known circles of classical methods of education Sayers’ essay is quoted so many times as a base of the philosophy of teaching, that I can’t just overlook it. Looking at the facts about her own education (her accomplishments as woman scholar, translator, writer is unquestionable; she was not an expert on education though…) vs. experience in teaching (almost none), I am trying to examin how come her influence in this area is so enormous and followed as classcial education premise, where in reality she is not the person to follow in that area at all.

My question is: why are you following the particular author/book/methodology/curriculum (if they call themselves classical), and do you know if the theories given by the authors are well proven and by who?

I am interested in thoughts of people who think that Dorothy Sayer’s ideas were really the base of the modern classical education, and if so, why do they think so?

I am looking for the answer, which method is the one that produced the great Christian minds of the previous centuries (like Aquinas, Jerome, Augustine, Ignatius, John of the Cross, just to mention the few giants)? Surely they were talented, disciplined and focused but there had to be a teacher there. What this teacher was teaching, how and why?

I don’t want to waist my time on something that is not proven, but invented because of the needs or cultural relevancy, I guess, but I am willing to risk a lot to find the way that will lead to one and ultimate truth, God himself.

The question is about content and methodology and what is it based on.

I think that without ideology one can’t fulfill his destiny, because he will not know where, how and when to go. Without the absolutes we can’t have or see or strive for the best. God is ideal, we are sinners. That does not mean we shouldn’t think and contemplate about being pure, holy and perfect. God himself encourages us to be perfect because He is. Is that ideal? Is that practical? Reality is spiritual first, then visible. Our every day life (reality in common meaning) should evolve first around the highest things. That will provide the answers to the more visible (no lesser) things around.
Oh, gosh. I hope that I am being clear on that. I don’t want to sound way out there. Jesus came “here” from “there”, and in Him we see the best concoction of ideal and practical. But…how different priorities, time management, focus, behavior, handling of finances and wealth, debates, rhetoric etc than what we are concentrating our days around.

I think that to begin the evaluation of every important thing in our life and
doing it on the base of “what makes sense” is not the right way. For a radical fanatical Muslim in the Middle East putting bomb on himself makes sense and for many abortion makes sense (ok, this is NOT a post about abortion and Islam ).
That is extreme explanation just to get to the point that there is more to it than we think, i.e. we rally shouldn’t make choices, form opinions, form our destinies etc. just on “what makes sense”. The question would be: are there ultimate truths? The ones that we can build all of the less important, but so useful things in life. The lack of consequences in people’s choices, because they are not based on the true fundaments, are staggering, like all of the Christians should be anti-abortion, but they are clearly not (polls show that).

The think is that we wouldn’t have what we have without those dead guys in many areas of our lives. The whole Western culture was formed on these dead great guys. What would happen if some of them were not born? I don’t know. The possibilities are vast, but worth of imagining (as a homeschooling exercise, we may ask our kids: what would the world be like if Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great….put whoever here…were not born?

Since then I’ve asked many more questions on the CLAA Family Forum and I’ve learned a ton from their web site. I feel like the cloud of confusion and ignorance is lifting up slowly. I am reading Plato, Augustine and Aristotle, as well as Catholic Catechism. Go figure.

I would like to enroll our children into the CLAA courses this coming 09/10 school year.

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