What is classical education and can it be done at home? Can it be mixed with or influenced by other methods? Is classical education a method at all?

When we look to random internet sources, we end up more confused. That’s why we need to go back to original sources and let the classical and the medieval educators tell us what these terms mean.

After all, a label is a tricky thing.

One homeschool label is “classical.” Under that umbrella, you can find many different – sometimes seeming contradictory – definitions and applications.

But, if we look at principles rather than methods, then I think we will find many of those different voices agreeing more than not.

What was meant by education has remained principally the same until the Industrialization. Education has meant a pursuit of Truth and understanding, the pursuit of wisdom.

An educated person was one who is conversant with ideas and history and knows how to comport himself properly in light of this.

Virtue, loving wisdom, is the heart and guiding principle of classical education.

What is classical education?

Classical education, rather than a specific set of instructions or books, is a spirit, a concern, a conscience. It is a mindset more than it is a method. Sure, there are methods – there must be for anyone to do anything – but it is the mode, the mind, the mood that matters more.

That mood, that mode, is one of curiosity. That curiosity is not idle, but active – pursuing not satiety or selfish ambition, but truth. This bent of the mind [curiosity] allows the educated man to go on educating himself or extending the realms of knowledge for his fellows.

Classical education requires wonder, in both the sense of marveling and questioning. It marvels because it realizes it doesn’t know. It questions so as to know more and attain to as much truth as possible, knowing all of life is not long enough to discover all the truth out there to be known.

Get curious and wonder with me:

Have you ever wondered how classical and Christian can go together when the original classical thinkers were pagan? Let the church fathers tell you how:

Classical education philosophy

As mother-educators, whether we like it or not, we have a philosophy of education that shapes our decisions in planning and in day-to-day decision-making. It behooves us, therefore, to develop that philosophy, to grow in understanding, and to draw closer to truth each year.

Educational philosophy is essential, not scary. Listen to Scholé Sisters episode 52 with Eric Hall all about educational philosophy for mommies.

Classical virtues

Although the idea of classical homeschooling can be intimidating and appear unreachable, it is far more down-to-earth than we might think. This task is not too lofty for us, homeschooling moms with households to run; in fact, our very lifestyles are an asset, not a hindrance.

Modern education tends to be utilitarian; that is, concerned with usefulness, with economic advantage, with production. Classical education has always been aimed at forming a certain type of person: a free man. Now, classical methods can be employed for utilitarian ends, and they often are. When we take classical methods and use them in order to get good test scores, in hopes that our children will get good jobs, or in order to get into a prestigious college, then we are actually pursuing the ends of modern – not classical – education.

Classical education teaching methods

How does one teach classically? First, by listening to the wisdom of the ages…

The Socratic method is a classical teaching practice, but not everything that calls itself Socratic actually is. Listen to this episode about Socratic method.

Featured article: Dear homeschool mom who wants to give her 5-year-old a classical education

classical education great tradition book
Click here to find my reading journal posts from The Great Tradition

Classical homeschool curriculum

Many people try to skip philosophy and jump straight to curriculum. However, classical education is a philosophy. So the curriculum you use, whether it claims to be classical or not, cannot be classical if your own approach and mindset is first classical.

Classical education starts with you, the teacher and administrator, not with the curriculum.

However, here are some thoughts on and reviews of curriculum from our own classical homeschooling experience so far:

Information on particular materials:

The Trivium, Quadrivium, Memory, & Subjects

Classical education does not deal in subjects like modern schooling does.

  • What are the liberal arts? What do we study in classical education?
  • Scholé Sisters podcast episodes: The Sisters on Sayers and the followup episode Gainsaying Sayers

Classical education concepts

Truth, goodness, and beauty are the transcendentals defined by

Ordo amoris means the ordering of the affections

Multum non multa means

Scholé means

Classical Education and Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy

Classical education is a set of assumptions about what a person is, what a person is for, and how best to fit him for not only practical life, but also for an active life of the mind.

Charlotte Mason, a Victorian educator, laid out methods and particulars for how to accomplish an actual education, that is, a classical education.

Classical education in the medieval and ancient times focused more on philosophy and why rather than what and how. Charlotte Mason’s why is the same as classical education’s philosophy, but she pulled together a cohesive, reasoned plan of action for actually accomplishing true education.

“No effort is permissible toward the education of children without an intelligent conception both of children and of what is meant by education.”

-Charlotte Mason

Classical education is paideia

Paideia was one Greek word for education, but it also meant so much more.

What to read to learn more about classical education

book list coming soon….