Classical Education – Books to Get You Started

Classical Education – Books to Get You Started

(The following is a guest post from Marla Szwast, author and blogger.  Find out more about Marla over on her blog, Jump Into Genius.)

Are you looking for great Classical Education books to get you started?  Check out our favorites!  Also, be sure to check out our Classical Education courses at True North Homeschool Academy.

The Liberal Arts Tradition – A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education – by Kevin Clark & Ravi Scott Jain

This is my all-time favorite book on classical education, in fact, before I read this book I did not think of myself as a classical educator. Although I had read other books on classical education and I taught my kids Latin, there was just something I felt was missing from the explanations of classical education. I still don’t go around telling people I am a classical educator although I fit into in the definition provided in this book pretty thoroughly. The big difference is summed up with this quote:

“Education is not merely an intellectual affair, no matter how intellect-centered it must be, because human beings are not merely minds…A full curriculum must cultivate the good of the whole person, soul, and body.”

In The Liberal Arts Tradition, you will be encouraged to feed the soul with music and great stories, the body with exercise and training (referred to as gymnastic) and the mind with subjects such as mathematics and linguistics. You will be introduced to the quadrivium and be led on a beautiful journey that reveals how all of these things work together to nourish and cultivate wisdom.

This balanced approach to nourishing all the parts of our humanity is what was missing when I read other books on classical education. Reading this book explained to me why I did many of the things I did and why I felt so strongly about them even though I could not logically explain my reasons until after I read this book.

I still don’t tell people I am a classical educator, because the term conjures certain images and I still don’t think I fit the box that most people have defined as classical education. However, if judged through the lens of this book, I come pretty close.

The Well-Trained Mind – A Guide to Classical Education at Home – by Susan Wise Bauer & Jesse Wise

This was the first book about classical education and about homeschooling that I ever read, my oldest was still in diapers when I bought this giant and dove into a way of education I had never heard of before. Many of my ideas about what an excellent education looked like were formed during this first encounter with a classical education. The book is full not only of great ideas but also practical advice guiding you on the various steps of the journey.

Since every time I read another book on classical education, I come across a different definition of classical education I will quote here the definition used in The Well-Trained Mind:

“It is language-intensive-not image focused. It demands that students use and understand words, not video images. It is history-intensive, providing students with a comprehensive view of human endeavor from the beginning until now. It trains the mind to analyze and draw conclusions. It demands self-discipline. It produces literate, curious, intelligent students who have a wide range of interests and the ability to follow up on them.”

The authors consider their book to be a handbook written to give you guidance and direct you towards the tools and schedules needed to create such an education. At over 700 pages it is certainly comprehensive and thorough.

The Core – Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education – by Leigh A. Bortins

I have to say I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t expect it to be very different from the Well-Trained Mind, but although it is coming from a similar framework I felt like I was reading a different story.  This book weaves in references to the truth about how the brain learns such as the proven need for repetition. I enjoyed that as I very rarely see how the brain works referenced when I read about educational methods.

Leigh also has a way of taking current culture and weighing it against what we are trying to accomplish with a classical education. This book would be a great read even if you can’t manage to homeschool and just want ideas of how you can foster a classical culture within your own family.

The book takes you on a journey through each subject, talking about what are the most essential concepts and facts to be learned and also pointing out how once they have the grammar, (or facts and vocabulary) of a subject older children will naturally move into dialectic and rhetorical use of the subject.

I also enjoyed the perspective of Leigh as a mother who did not classically train her oldest two children but then did classically train her younger two. She has interesting observations about the differences in her kids who were classically trained but also encouraging remarks for those who don’t start on the journey until their kids are older, as was the case with her older set of boys.

“The purpose of classical education is to strengthen one’s mind, body, and character in order to develop the ability to learn anything.”

“The goal of education is to teach children to become adults who can handle complex ideas, in uncertain situations, with confidence. We feel confident when we can competently manage words and ideas.”

This book made classical education look easy. It sounds simple. Like a back to the basics journey, but without letting go of excellence.

The Latin Centered Curriculum – Home Schooler’s Guide to a Latin-Centered Classical Education – by Andrew Campbell

This book embodies a different definition of classical education.

“Classical Education is a curriculum grounded upon-if not strictly limited to- Greek, Latin and the study of civilization from which they arose.” (Simmons, p. 15)

Other than using Latin and Greek as your most-important spine, this method also considers math to be central.

“Mathematics, along with the classical languages, forms the core of the classical curriculum; math represents the Quadrivium as Latin does the Trivium.”

Andrew adheres to the idea of learning a few subjects thoroughly over learning a little bit about a lot of things.  And those few things should be Latin, Greek, and Mathematics. (Later in the book he does mention the importance of music as another daily practice.)

He does not neglect the other subjects and devotes much of the book to details and suggestions of how to treat each subject. The emphasis is on Latin and Greek language, history, and literature, and other things are included with this in mind. For example, there are not as many English literature readings suggested at each age as you will find in other books. However, I found this helpful as many lists simply contain more material than it is practical to cover in a year.

One of the reasons for the limited focus of subjects is to ensure the child plenty of time for free reading, being read to, and the pursuit of the arts. He includes suggested lists of what should be read aloud to children of different ages and these are also refreshingly short.

If you are overwhelmed by long lists this book will give you a good view of what can be accomplished without long lists!

In Conclusion

Reading these books may at first seem confusing because not everyone agrees on the details and definition of classical education. Perhaps that is how it should be, after all, anyone interested in classical education wants to have interesting conversations and arguments. Also, classical education is a bit too rich of a philosophy to constrict itself to one exact formula. The lofty goals of a classical education cannot be reduced to one neat formula. But there are many patterns that we can use as a framework for the education we will build in our own homes.

Reading the above books will give a deep and rich picture of what it means to be a classical educator and how you can weave it into your home. Some think classical education is burdensome and overly demanding. But the pictures I see painted before me when I read these books are full of both time to explore and to master the subjects which will enrich and guide our children throughout their lives. This matches my own experience.

Many people think I am crazy if I list off all the things my kids do in a day. They envision children stuck at a desk all day. Yet my kids have plenty of free time. We relax while we learn. They are developing as unique, confident persons. They enjoy a good video game daily, on top of the long list of everything else they accomplish.

It may sound complicated and overwhelming and it is easy to build a schedule and list of must do’s that is overwhelming. But a classical education can be simple, restful, and freeing. It is up to us to dig deep, look at all the beautiful suggestions spread before us, and throw out enough of those suggestions so that the design of our lives is not so crowded that it is ugly. Beauty needs room to breathe.

 

Marla SzwastMarla Szwast lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband and six children. She is a life-time homeschooler.  She has written articles for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  She is the author of Stepping Through History: Starting With You!, and a semester-long fifth-grade science course. Both courses are published online at the Schoolhouse Teachers membership website.  She writes about homeschooling, child development, neuroscience, and the history of education on her blog at www.jumpintogenius.com, you can also follow her on Facebook @jumpintogenius, or Twitter @MarlaSzwast, or Medium. She is also a homeschool product reviewer, and yes, you will find reviews where she does not recommend the product!

 

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Books that every Homeschooler should read

Books that every Homeschooler should read

I was asked this week what my favorite books on homeschooling were. Hard to pick, but my top favs are probably Jesse and Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Trained Mind, Marva Collins, The Marva Collins Way, Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire but there are so many more.

So I did y’all the favor of making my comprehensive list of Books that every Homeschooler should read.

Most of the authors listed also have websites, resources, podcasts, and online stores. They all have something to add to your life as an educator.  Dig in. Enjoy!
A Child’s History of the World by Calvert. Christian culture despite personal beliefs. The timeline of history as a framework for life.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason – Home Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
Summerhill  School, A New View of Childhood by A.S. Neill –  Freedom from coercion and repressive cultural ideas; free expression; believe in kids ability to want to learn.
How Children Learn by John Holt – Allow your child to follow their passions and develop their personhood. Life is learning, learning is life. Play is a child’s work.
Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn- Throw off the shackles.
Homeschooling for Excellence and Hard Times in Paradise by Colfax. We are shaped by the work that we do;  back to the land, live pro-actively, excellence in education.
The Successful Homeshcool Family Handbook and Better Late Than Early, Home Grown Kids by Raymond and Dorothy Moore– Delight directed education; lay a firm foundation, the importance of basics. Better late than early.
AlphaPhonics Crimes of the Educators by Blumenfeld–  Fundamentals of education, lay a firm foundation; don’t expect the government to truly educate our country’s youth.
Timeless Teaching Tips by Joyce Herzog – To really understand something, start your research in the children’s section of the library.
The Underground History of Education,  Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto – Be proactive. Craft something beautiful despite the norms that seek to entangle you.
The Joyful Homeschooler by Mary Hood – Learning centers, discovery learning.

No Regrets, How Homeschooling Earned me a Master’s Degree at 16  by Joyce Swann – Accelerated education.
Beautiful FeetTeaching Character through Literature Unit studies; the joy of connections.

Homeschool Design Form+u+la by Barb Shelton – Delight directed, vocationally oriented. Record-keeping and organization, how to create a course.
The Well Trained Mind Eat an elephant one bite at a time. Have a vision that incorporates depth and width. Expect more from your kids and from yourself.
Latin Centered Curriculum and LCC: A Homeschoolers guide to a Classical Curriculum Depth vs. Width; simplify, stick with the basics; go far.
The New Global Student the world is (or could be) your classroom.
The Marva Collins Way Ordinary Children, Extraordinary Teachers  Become the teacher you wished you’d had. Know your stuff. Know more. Classical ed, baby, by a class act.
Rafe Esquith Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire -LIghting Their Fires —Real Talk for Real Teachers The power of discipline, the arts and passion. Pursue sponsors for what you know to do.
University Model Schools– Combining the strength of homeschooling with the power of community. Win-win.
HSLDA– Strength in numbers- parental rights (vs. state rights).
G.H. Henty– Age of exploration. Find joy in history. Facts are dazzling diamonds, so it doesn’t matter if they are set into the same mold time and again.

Sonlight Curriculum– Literature and Bible-based teaching are a powerful combination.

Above Rubies– Establish a legacy.
Gentle Spirit– What do you have in your hand? Understand, establish and work with the seasons of life.

Sally Clarkson- Sympathize with the heart of your child.

Montessori– Kids are not mini-adults. Ages and stages, uninterrupted blocks of time to focus, discovery model
Mary Pride– The hand that rocks the cradle, rocks the world.
Hugh Ross– Science and Theology are beautiful bed-fellows. Intellect and faith go hand in hand.
Usborne books– The power of graphics; thinking skills made fun.
Marilyn Howshall–  Lifestyle of learning. Get one.
Classical Conversations– Train the brain to retain; grammar, dialectic and rhetoric stages.
Logos Academy/ Doug Wilson– The power of doctrine; living according to a clarion call; cclassical ed.
TeenPact– Age doesn’t matter in your ability to do great things for God. There is something unique about where you live right now. What/how does God want you to know/do about it?
Greg Harris– Establish your kids vocationally; do hard things; live out-loud.
Diana Waring– Joy in the journey, laugh out loud.
Greenleaf Press Press– 4 year history cycle, academic excellence.
Jim Weiss- The power of story-telling
Andrew Pudewa– Power of language; find the expert; give the kids as much help as they need; distill the difficult into simple. Master teachers and excellent curriculum rock.
Robinson Curriculum– Different seasons demand different methodologies; stick with the vision and make the curriculum work for you. The basics ware gonna get you through the night, baby.
Timberdoodle– Toys with a purpose; imaginative, active play; the discovery of the world through art, building, creation.
Cindy Rushon– Notebooking; journaling with an academic purpose.
Apologia– Textbook as lecture.

Who is on your list? Who did I miss?

Are you a new homeschooling mom? Or maybe you are just a seasoned homeschool mom looking for some encouragement. Check out our recommendations for books for homeschooling moms. Be encouraged today! #books #homeschooling #homeschoolmom

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