A Classical Education: The Greatest Educational Opportunity for Our Children by J. M.

My wife and I are preppers primarily for our children.  Though we have lived rich, full lives, they are not yet even adolescents.  If what we are prepping for happens, it will be this generation that will rebuild this nation to greatness.  We want them to be equipped intellectually and spiritually.  We want them to understand the influences of the Greeks, Romans and British that helped our Founding Fathers craft the greatest nation this planet has known.  I refuse to entrust America to those that do not understand these truths or those that are not up to the task.

When asked what school our kids attend, I used to say that “We homeschool our children.”  Now I more accurately say, “my wife homeschools our children and I wholeheartedly support it.”  By the time my workday is done, the kids are done.  No homework – that’s one of the great blessings of homeschooling.  They become proficient in subjects and then they move on (unless they are reviewing, of course).

But we are not simply lazy by not wanting to help our kids with homework in the evenings.  We had our oldest in a great Christian private school for 2 years.  Then we moved her home because we believed (and believe it even more fervently now) that homeschooling was simply the best educational opportunity for our children. 

For the first two years at home, my wife used the “K-12” curriculum.  It was good.  The following year went from good to the best.  That year, a friend introduced us to the Classical Education model.  The Classical Education model has been used for most of human history and yet, I hadn’t even been aware of it.  Modern education is outcome based.  I am a product of outcome based education (I figure that will excuse any grammar errors that are contained herein).  

The advantages of a classical education are many.  More than anything, it teaches and equips students for a lifetime of learning.  Our kids are part of Classical Conversations, a nationwide homeschool community started by Leigh Bortins in 1996.  The students meet once per week as a group for 24 weeks throughout the school year.  Classical Conversations provides a curriculum and a forum for accountability and interaction with other students that are experiencing the same rich educational opportunity.   The mission statement of Classical Conversations is for students “to know God and to make Him known.”

Modern Education vs. Classical Education
Modern education places the student in the center of a wheel with each subject forming the spokes of a wheel feeding information (segregated into separate unrelated subjects) to the child.  Most private Christian schools add a spoke of the wheel called Religion or Theology.  The other subjects in that Christian school might incorporate a couple of Bible verses here or there but the curriculum is not integrated with our Creator.  A classical education places God at the center of the wheel with all the subjects pointing to Him and from Him.  All the subjects are also integrated with each other (i.e., pointing to each other).  How can created beings study history, science or math and not focus on the Creator of this universe, these people and His place throughout history and the events of mankind?

Here is some additional insights from the Classical Conversations web site.

Classical Conversations combines classical learning and a Biblical world view.
Classical Conversations’ programs model the three stages of classical learning—grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Using age appropriate methods, children are taught the tools for studying any subject. Grammar stage is for ages 2-12. Grammar is imparting knowledge through memorizing of facts, facts and more facts: history, science, English grammar, poems, geography, Latin, math, books of the Bible, anything that parents know and wish to impart to their children. The tools of memorization are repeating the information and or action, over and over through reading it out loud to your child over and over, asking your child to repeat it, singing the information, drawing maps, and games like Jeopardy. The Dialectic Stage, ages 12-15 is taking all of the knowledge (facts) a child has learned plus new information and processing it in their minds to gain understanding. The Rhetoric Stage, ages 15-19, have gained a mastery of information and understanding. They take the information and demonstrate it to others through various methods.

The Classical model emphasizes mastery of facts during the early years. This gives students a foundation on which to build later learning and a solid framework where ideas can be categorized and compared as students mature. (For more information on the classical education model, read Dorothy Sayers’ 1948 essay The Lost Tools of Learning.)

Classical Conversations is set up in a three cycle format, and every three years the information repeats. So if a family joins when their child is in Kindergarten, the child will get the same base information twice through their sixth grade year. Parents are free to take the base information presented in Classical and expand on it in anyway they feel so led. Every Classical Conversation’s community in the country does the same cycle each year. This year is Cycle 3.

Cycle 3 consists of:

History: American History, Presidents, Preamble and the Bill of Rights

History timeline (cards are available through Veritas Press. (Classical Conversations is creating their own History timeline cards which should be on the market, very soon),

Geography: American Geography ,

Science: Human body and Chemistry,

Math facts.

Latin: John 1:1-7.

Grammar: Verbs/irregular verbs, sentence parts, clauses, Sentence structures and patterns.


Cycle 1 (next year) consists of:

History: Ancient, Medieval and early modern

History timeline

Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America

Science: Biology, Geology, weather.


Latin: Noun Cases through 5th declension

Prepositions, Linking verbs


Cycle 2 consists of:

History: Medieval history through Free elections in South Africa, European

History timeline

Geography: South America and Caribbean

Science: Ecology and physics.

Math facts

Latin: Verb conjugations

Grammar: pronouns, eight parts of speech, adverbs, four kinds of sentences

As I said, my wife is doing all the work here.  I’m largely an observer (with the never-ending desire to get more involved) and I must say I’m truly blown away by the amount of information our four kids are learning and what a rich experience this is for them.  Oh how I wish I had this opportunity when I was young.  My wife is also learning amazing new things as she shares this journey with them.   I am unspeakably proud of my wife and our children.  

The Classical Conversations program is nearly doubling in size every year and I am not surprised.  It is a fantastic model.  It is very challenging and my wife and I are looking forward to our oldest (12) to enter the Challenge Program (7-12 grade).  We recently attended a parents meeting for this next phase and I left there so excited for our kids!  They will learn Latin, debate skills, try a mock murder case in 8th grade, utilize the Socratic method to solve problems in groups and critique their peers in a safe and encouraging environment.  Seventh graders will be able to draw the world map (freehand) and label every country and major geographic features (over 400 items!)  By 11th and 12th grade the students lead most of the discussions throughout their daily session.  My mind wonders what college or employer wouldn’t desperately want these students after this rigorous training. 

The Most Coveted T-shirt in 5th Grade
Classical Conversations has an annual “contest” in the Foundations program (K-6 grade) where students test for “Memory Master”.  For successful completion, the winners get a T-shirt.  I believe it is fitting that the “prize” is something that will either fall apart, sit in the back of the drawer or be outgrown in a couple years since the true “prize” is mastery of the task at hand which will serve them for a lifetime.  They will learn firsthand the amazing capacity of their brains and have the confidence to face great challenges in the years to come.

Memory Master is reciting from memory, before the school director.  It amounts to over 1,000 pieces of unique information, with all the work learned during the course of one year.  The bulk of the information changes every year while some items are constant, such as the timeline of human history (containing over 160 events) and math facts.  Examples of the material that needs to be committed to memory :

Science: What is an element?  “An element is a basic chemical substance defined by its atomic number and atomic mass.”  (this is considered 1 of the 1,000 pieces of information referenced above)
History: Tell me about Pearl Harbor.  “On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, causing the U.S. to join the Allies in World War II.”
Geography: Trails.  “Cumberland Road, Santa Fe Trail, Mormon Trail, Gila Trail, Old Spanish Trail, California Trail, Oregon Trail”
Grammar: Independent Clause.  “An independent clause expresses a complete thought like a sentence.”
Math: The Commutative Law.  “The Commutative Law for addition: a+b = b+a.  The Commutative Law for multiplication: a x b = b x a.”
Latin: Latin Nouns.  “vita /life; lux/light; homo/hominum nomen/name” (they are learning John 1:1-7 in Latin and English this year)

The material must be recited in four different levels of testing with the final round allowing for no mistakes.  The last year when our three older kids were testing for Memory Master was quite an anxious time since I knew how hard they had each worked on the material – and then it all comes down to a performance test (which I believe is great preparation for future tests in life, in school and by employers, etc.).

A final reason to consider homeschooling is the multiple advantages offered for preppers.

For Preppers, homeschooling offers the following advantages:

  1. Provide your kids with an unapologetic Christian world view that allows for a foundational understanding of the greatness of America (the America of our Founding Fathers) in addition to the critical influences of ancient Greek, Roman and later European cultures
  2. Homeschool wherever you live which offers the opportunity to move to your retreat location now  – or the opportunity to spend part of the year in more than one location.  I like to joke that our kids go to one of the most exclusive private schools in the country (not a joke, I guess.  I wouldn’t want them anywhere else).
  3. The cost/value of a homeschool education beats any private school education
  4. You can shape the curriculum to include or exclude whatever you want (subject to any restrictions that your state may impose) such as gardening, cooking, homesteading skills, etc. while you may choose to exclude environmentalism and multiculturalism.
  5. A guaranty of consistent, loving instructors that know your children better than any other teacher on earth could know them.
  6. Most children are directing their own schedule and instruction in 6th or 7th grade – which frees up the parent to focus on the critical years for younger students (reading and math fundamentals – so they can be independent in 6th grade) or frees up large blocks of the day when the youngest child achieves largely independent coursework.
  7. Homeschooling is highly adaptable for children with special needs.  In the words of one of the Classical Conversations Challenge Instructors (8th grade), every child is a gift from God and not a societal castaway destined to sit in a corner of a classroom with a “special” teacher.

And I’m sure I’m missing some others that your great readers might want to add.

I can’t recommend a Classical homeschooling education enough and it has been one of the greatest blessings for our family.   I expect it will have a generational impact on this country and an eternal impact for God’s Kingdom.