I’ve seen a lot of debate lately about what exactly is a classical education.  I saw one person eviscerate Dorothy Sayers and claim that her idea of a classical education was erroneous.  I’ve seen other people say that a classical education is largely about learning classical languages–Latin and ancient Greek, specifically.  I have heard other people say that it means reading the great books.

I really like Dorothy Sayers, and my ideas of what a classical education is largely came from her brief essay.  I think her method of describing a hopeful new future based on young people using the method of the trivium is brilliant and clear.  It’s easy to keep in mind:  Young children learn lots of “stuff” in the grammar stage (letter sounds, names of animals, continents, etc.), adolescents in the logic/dialetic stage learn to argue logically.  They tend to argue naturally.  This is the opportunity to help them do so logically and respectfully.  The rhetoric stage begins somewhere around high school.  This is the opportunity for young people to learn to speak and write eloquently.  It is also an opportunity to become involved in political issues and impassioned for the good.  I find that I can see the transition from logic to rhetoric.  It isn’t instant but gradual.

Nonetheless, I guess after so many years of homeschooling, I think there is a lot of room for variation in the definition of a classical education and even more room regarding how it is lived out in the daily lives of homeschooling families.  We homeschoolers really are quite the opposite of homogeneous.

For us, classical education is two things together really:

1. It is a method that takes into consideration a child’s natural stage of learning and orients the content and method of learning to that stage as mentioned above.

2. It involves choosing content from the good, the true, and the beautiful.  That means delving into great books and ideas.  At a young age, it means children’s classics like the Narnia books, the Little House books, Tolkien, mythology, fables.  Later, it includes the books that have formed the minds of men and women for many centuries.

So how do you define classical education?