Friday, September 20, 2013

Classical Christian Education Explained Simply

Our entire homeschool experience has been laced with pregnancies, new babies, and even a broken foot for ten weeks.  Keeping our schooling simple has been my primary focus over the years.  If you know my story, you know that I wasn't all that crazy about homeschooling, which you can read about here.  In order to execute this wonderful model of simplicity, I use Classical Conversations. 

What follows is my collaboration of what I’ve learned & how I understand the Classical Christian Model of Education.  It’s not perfect, and I’m still learning.  But, I've enjoyed learning it, and implementing it in our home.

 Classical Education is a specific method of educating your child.

1.       Classical Education puts more emphasis on how to learn rather than what to learn.  Using this method, you are doing more than just providing information for the student.  You are practicing a method that can be applied to anything needing to be learned in life: riding a bike, driving a car, cooking a meal, mechanics, becoming a doctor, etc…  This method does not have to be confined within the boundaries of academics.  However, you can use academics to teach your child how to develop the skill of learning, so that in adulthood your child can apply this method effortlessly (without even thinking about it) to all aspects of his or her life. 

2.       What’s the method?  The method is very simple, yet might need explanation.  There are three steps:

a.       Gather your information.  This is also called the grammar stage.  This is when you gather, and store facts.  But you don’t want to just pick up some facts here and there.  You want to be able to retain your facts.  This first step uses the tool of memorizing to pound in the facts for long term use.  You work on memorizing facts, and then review these facts so that years down the road the facts are still there ready to be used.  This process takes time—expect the child to forget, and have to be reminded; that’s part of the process.  This stage does not focus on understanding because it’s not always necessary.  Although, it’s not forbidden either!  Children like to explore their facts, and what’s the fun in learning if you can’t play with your information?  However, a child can (and should) still memorize facts even if he doesn’t know what it means.  That can come later.  Remember, we’re not spending just today learning.  We’re spending a lifetime of learning, and we get to spend many years focusing on academics with our children.  So, this stage is simply memorizing facts; and in general hits preschool-elementary years. 

b.      Dialogue about and explore your information.  This is also called the dialectic stage.  This is a time of wrestling with ideas pertaining to the information.  This is a time of questions, answers, and making connections between one topic and another.  An understanding of the information is beginning to solidify in the child’s brain during this time period.  During this time period you’ll see the importance of having your facts memorized.  If you can’t remember when, where, or what happened in history, how can you discuss its effects on science or mathematics or language development?  Know your facts!  It’s very important!  The memorizing is just as important as the understanding.  You want the understanding to last a long time, a lifetime even.  So having the facts there, ready to be used, makes this stage easier and more fun!  So this stage is an understanding stage; and generally hits the later elementary, middle, and early high school years.

c.       Make the application, and give it to others.  This is also called the rhetoric stage.  It’s tempting to say this is the time when you apply your information.  It’s true, but simply applying the information stops short of the beauty of the rhetoric stage.  The rhetoric stage is when you’re able to see the big picture of the information well enough to break it down for others.  You’re now able to teach the information back to someone else.  This is the beauty of the classical model; because at this stage you can now develop your own thoughts on the information as well as walk someone else through their own thought process of the information.  So, this stage is applying & giving it away; and generally hits the later high school extending into adulthood.

3.       The Classical Christian Model puts God as the focus of education, and integrates the subject matter.  God reveals himself to us through all subject matter: science impacts math, which impacts history, which impacts English and so forth.  As we learn more about the subject matter we discover an important aspect—it all points back to God!  Proverbs 8:17 “…and those who seek me find me.”  God is ready, and willing to reveal himself to us.  The question is, are you willing to seek him?

4.       Classical Education is “big picture” focused.  I like to think of it as a puzzle.  In gathering information we are handing out puzzle pieces to our children.  But in memorizing the information we’re ensuring our children can hold on to the pieces for later use; we don’t want them to drop the pieces.  For if they drop the pieces, they can’t put the puzzle together.  In dialoging, and exploring your information they are beginning to put the pieces together.  Different parts of the puzzle are being put together at different times.  At this stage children will get glimpses of the big picture.  Applying, and giving the information away, is the point where the puzzle is completed.  A child can look at the completed puzzle, ooooh and ahhhh over the completed puzzle, explain the aspects of the puzzle, and then take the puzzle apart and assist someone else in how to put the puzzle together. 

5.       Often times I’ve heard, and experienced, that these different stages overlap.  So, even if your child is in the grammar stage, he will try and play with the dialectic stage.  Or there may be times in the rhetoric stage you find your child is lacking in knowing his facts.  So, you may decide, let’s go back and work on the facts again so that we can reason through this easier.  The age ranges aren’t necessarily concrete, just a guide.

6.       You can use this same method of learning right now with anything you wish to learn!  Whether it is to further your own academic development, or learning a new skill.  This method applies and is a very useful tool.

Once again, after spending several years learning, and experimenting with this method, this is the best way I have come up with to explain Classical Christian Education.  As you can see in some areas I added the term "Christian" and other times I did not.  This is simply because you can use the Classical Model without God, but you do need to ask yourself, "what is the focus of our education?" 
I hope this has helped you have a clearer understanding of the Classical Model.  I love using this method, I can see the benefits of it, and I can also see how anyone can apply it to their lives.  And it has helped me keep my focus of school, as well as obtaining efficiency in my homeschool.

Please note that Anchored In His Grace has moved to a new web address.


  1. This is a great simple explanation! I love your new blog Caroline! such a great way to keep up with you and you always encourage me.

  2. Oh thank you Christine! I'm so enjoying the blog right now!