We all have problems and questions, don’t we? Sometimes those questions seem to be louder than the answers and sometimes our problems seem to overshadow possible solutions. Of course this is frustrating, since we all want to experience harmony in our homeschools. As I have thought about all the problems we face and the questions we ask I began to notice a pattern. There are a ton of similarities between each of us and the problems we face.
Here are just a few comments from real homeschool moms about what causes a sense of discord in their classical homeschool.
“My expectations are hang ups from being educated in the public school system… a mistaken, or misdirected, understanding of what success looks like (in my kids).”
“Learning to balance high standards and reality. I’m learning that some of my expectations may not be entirely realistic.”
“Laziness. I’m being serious. Classical education requires conversation and relationship building. You can’t just throw workbooks at your kids. It takes time and energy. And some days I’d rather watch Netflix!”
“My own lack of classical education.”
“How one of the hardest parts for both the mom and the child is that initial pushing through to start what you don’t want to do.”
“My super social child who would rather get on a bus and go to “real school.”
“Getting it all done, whilst ‘teaching from rest’.”
“Feeling like there is only one way to do classical education.”
“The need for, and absence of, classical community.”
“How do I teach using those classical methods? I need examples.”
“The tension between the real and the ideal, the world and the heavenly.”
“A schedule where we get things done but aren’t stressed out the whole time.”
In searching for solutions we find two extremes. Either there seems to be an enormous amount of ideas, curriculum, and opinions out there about how to do this classical homeschooling thing, or, for certain problems, there seems to be no solution at all. Sometimes the answers we find are elusive, lofty, and seemingly unapproachable, other times they are inflexible, don’t fit our family dynamics, or we fear they are incomplete.
Many times we find ourselves learning something new and feeling like we need to do some big and comprehensive overhaul, only to feel the same way six months later. This points to the reality, that on this side of eternity we will always be wrestling through tensions, learning new things, and learning how to apply them to our lives. This means that within the Christian classical community, we desperately need a flexible form that can grow with the circumstances of each community and family without losing its integrity. We need a way to assess what kind of problem we have and what direction to begin walking to find a solution. We need to know how to get started and go deeper in this tradition in a way that can meet us where we are no matter what community or curriculum we have chosen. The truth is, the Christian classical tradition is not contained within one community or curriculum —it is WAY too big for that.
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So, what if we could categorize all those questions and problems? What if all the questions or problems we face in the Christian classical homeschool, fit into certain groups? I believe they do. I call those groups the 5 Elements of the Classical Homeschool. The 5 Elements are the different dimensions that are inherent in every harmonious classical homeschool. Each element names and answers a different basic question or problem that commonly arises in Classical Homeschools. The elements are highly integrative. They are dependent upon each other. Each element is good in and of itself, but our experience with the tradition will be incomplete if we do not include all the elements. Notice I did not say, ‘be a master of all the elements’. Simply practicing each element will do, even if it’s only a little bit at a time. So, what are the Elements of a Harmonious Classical Homeschool?
Question 1: Why do we teach classically?
The first element, The Classical Narrative, answers the questions, “What is this tradition and where does it come from?”, “Why are we teaching classically?” and “Who are we teaching? The Classical Narrative helps us hear the history and atmosphere of the classical tradition from which we draw our principles and practice. It also helps to build belief and energy as we work each day.
This element is one of piety towards our God who is reflected throughout, towards the heroes of the tradition who have gone before us, and our present day mentors, teachers, and parents who lead us currently. This path is also about simply experiencing the truth, goodness, and beauty of the tradition through what Clark & Jain, in their book The Liberal Arts Tradition, call a musical education.
Question 2: What do we teach?
The second element, The Course of Study, answers the question “What do we teach?” The Course of Study helps us hear what we ought to attend to if we truly want to be free. It exposes and explains the liberating arts, sciences, and disciplines which best suit the cultivation of wisdom and virtue in the life of every human.
The Christian classical tradition views what we ought to study in a unique way. Our goal in educating is wisdom and virtue. It should be no surprise that the very things we study cultivate wise and virtuous free human beings, who rule themselves. Through the seven liberal arts, the four sciences, and the fine & servile arts the Christian classical student is equipped to live out wisdom and virtue in his or her personal and public life.
Question 3: How do I teach classically?
The third element, Classical Teaching, answers the question “How do I teach classically?” Studying this element gives us access to the skills, ideas, and knowledge we need to successfully teach anything, in a way that cultivates wisdom and virtue.
It is true, there are certain ways of teaching that cultivate wisdom and virtue and there are certain ways of teaching that enslave us and our students. In order for our teaching to be as harmonious and freeing as the course of study, we must also embrace a few teaching methods and skills. This element teaches us how to teach classically.
Question 4: “How & Where do I make this happen?”
The Element of Liturgy and Logistics, answers the question “How & Where do I make this happen?” Liturgy comes from the Greek word that means work, but it has a communal, beautiful, and healing connotation to it. The Element of Liturgy & Logistics leads us to consider the atmosphere and rhythm of our homeschools and helps us discover ideas for scheduling, lesson planning, creating our homeschool spaces, and other administrative details.
The pace at which we move and the procedures we implement have a huge impact on the presence or absence of harmony in our homeschools. Our pace should be one of rest and our procedures should serve the goal rather than drive it.
Question 5: “What is my role as a classical homeschooling mom”
The Element of the Teacher, answers the question “What is my role as a classical homeschooling mom” and “How do I prepare myself?” The element of the teacher helps us ask the right questions of ourselves so we can apprehend with greater clarity what our children and homeschools need. The element of The Teacher helps us hear when we, the teacher, are in need of tuning, rather than the curriculum or schedule, and what we can do about it.
As a classical teacher, I acknowledge my dependence upon God, upon Christ, and upon the Holy Spirit. I also align myself with a form that is not of my own making. Personal salvation, repentance, and continuing education are an intricate and always present part of pursuing the Christian Classical Tradition. I want to reflect Christ as much as possible so when my students look at me, my life is a witness to Him, my Lord. In addition, it is very difficult to see what our students are struggling with if we have not wrestled through the same tensions. Learning how to cultivate wisdom and virtue in our own lives and recharge in meaningful ways it vital to the harmonious atmosphere of any homeschool, especially the classical homeschool. So much of what we wish to attain depends on teaching from rest. The good news is, this is a practice, not one time event. Best of all, we have help from the One who spoke us into being and who knows our tendencies, our hopes, and our fears. This element is a beautiful and numinous one, but also the most important one.
In summary, each element is dependent upon the others to create the harmonious whole, yet, at the same time, retains its own identity with its own principles, particulars, limits, and possibilities. Each element is worth practicing as far as we can in our own, mostly small, and sometimes big, ways. Sometimes we start out very squeaky and out of tune, but as we continue to practice, we sense the element more clearly and then can imitate it more precisely.
To help us engage in practicing the these elements we have created an online, at your own pace course for the everyday classical homeschooling mom. The 5 Elements of Classical Homeschooling. This course invites you to take an in-depth look at each element. This course will help you see how each element addresses the problems and questions we all face and guides you in how to begin practicing and mastering the elements.
If we learn about and practice these elements, we will find we are on a solid path to growing in the skills of leading a harmonious classical homeschool. I would love to continue this journey with you. The 5 Elements of Classical Homeschooling is the perfect way for us to do that.
The course contains 7 modules and a 90-page printable workbook, that will lead you to learn about each element, reflecting on big ideas, and practicing it in real ways. Also, you will have access to a private forum where we can help each other by answering questions, discussing ideas, and encouraging one another.
- 90-page Downloadable Workbook
- Private course forum to ask questions, discuss ideas, and receive support.
- MP3 Downloads of each lesson
- Introductory Module
- 5 Core Modules (One for each Element)
- Bonus Module (Course Downloads and a Bonus Lesson: ‘Principles at Work in the Classical Homeschool’)
- Engaging lessons that explain how each element works and how to think about it.
- Thoughtful questions and challenges to deepen your understanding and experience with each element.
- Clear explanations and directions for how to practice each element.
- An individual Liberal Arts Year-at-a-Glance Chart for 1st – 12th grades
- A list of skills to teach in each grade level and how to teach them.
- Copious tips, links, and resources for further study.
Together we are practicing the pursuit of the Christian classical tradition by practicing our pursuit of Christ and doing our part to play the music of the tradition for others. It is up to you to decide if you will listen. Let us Attend.
“And so let us together answer this invitation, one that calls all of us to a particular kind of life, a life of true and flourishing humanity in the midst of a cosmos redeemed in Christ, a journey that makes its way through and soars up to that light by which we see light.” -Stephen Turley, Awakening Wonder
Expanding wisdom, extending grace,