The Well-Trained Mind
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise was the first book that set me into the rabbit hole of classical education. The book recommendations and suggested schedule for each level is enough to purchase this heavy tome. Bauer and Wise will arm you with the tools necessary to provide a classical education at home,
Classical education is, above all, systematic—in direct contrast to the scattered, unorganized nature of so much secondary education. Rigorous, systematic study has two purposes. Rigorous study develops virtue in the student: the ability to act in accordance to what one knows to be right. Virtuous men or women can force themselves to do what they know is right, even when it runs against their inclinations. Classical education continually asks a student to focus not on what is immediately pleasurable (another half hour of TV or computer game, for example) but on the steps needed to reach a future goal—mastery of vital academic skills. Systematic study allows the student to join what Mortimer J. Adler calls the “Great Conversation”: the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages.
The Abolition of Man
Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis is perhaps the book that I think should be a must-read for all educators, homeschool parents or teachers alike. As a literary genius, Lewis is in a league of his own. If you need a book to remind you why progressive or modern education is not the answer to all our education woes, read this book:
We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
Karen Glass bridges Charlotte Mason and the Classical by expounding on the educational philosophies in her book, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. She does this by digging through the wisdom of the ages. By the end of reading this book, you will agree with Glass when she says,
We are reading to grow as persons, to know more that we may understand more, and ultimately, it is to be hoped, to act according to our greater wisdom.
Another excellent book written by this Charlotte Mason guru is Know and Tell: The Art of Narration. Karen Glass expands on how to implement the classical practice of narration.
The Liberal Arts Tradition
The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education is a book I would recommend not just to homeschool parents, but to educators who wish to understand more deeply what the seven liberal arts tradition is all about, and how they relate to another one another in order to provide a classical education. Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain writes convincingly,
This full-orbed education aims at cultivating fully integrated human beings, whose bodies, hearts, and minds are formed respectively by gymnastic, music, and the liberal arts; whose relationships with God, neighbor, and community are marked by piety; whose knowledge of the world, man, and God fit harmoniously within a distinctly Christian philosophy; and whose lives are informed and governed by a theology forged from the revelation of God in Christ Jesus as it has been handed down in historic Christianity.
Teaching from Rest
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie is a small book packed with invigorating counsel and much depth of wisdom. I read it regularly to remind me why I chose to homeschool in the first place. It provides a respite for parents to yearn for scholé, a restful pedagogy in both teaching and learning at home. My heart resounds with Mackenzie’s words here:
The true aim of education is to order a child’s affections—to teach him to love what he ought and hate what he ought. Our greatest task, then, is to put living ideas in front of our children like a feast. We have been charged to cultivate the souls of our children, to nourish them in truth, goodness, and beauty, to raise them up in wisdom and eloquence. It is to those ends that we labor. We toil because we long to be like the man in Psalm 1, who is “like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (1:3). The heart of this book is about remembering what our true task really is, and then throwing ourselves in completely. Giving our all. The raising of children, the teaching of truth, the sharing of life, the nourishing of imagination, and the cultivating of wisdom: These are all His anyway; we are merely His servants.
It must be noted that Mackenzie writes from a Roman Catholic background. There are a few times when this bleeds though, but most of the content is pretty universal to homeschooling families. Another book that you can appreciate from Mackenzie, whether you’re a homeschooling family or not, is The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids.
Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia For Greek and Latin by Tracy Lee Simmons writes why we need to reintroduce the classical languages of Greek and Latin back into our education. It does seem elitist at first, but Simmons wishes to raise the bar in education. After all, he writes:
The proper aim of the Humanist was not intellectual integrity alone, but the ability to take delight in delightful things. A classical education was to enhance the soul.
And he makes a very strong case for that.
Home Education by British educator Charlotte Mason. It is the first volume among the six she has written. This first one compromises of her educational philosophies as she explains the principles of what constitutes a Charlotte Mason home education. Even if you don’t agree with everything she has written, Home Education is a valuable book that contains a lot of practical ideas on how to apply Mason’s principles, particularly in the early years. Not only that, this volume also includes one of the best write-ups on using the Bible as the primary text in the Spiritual nourishment of the child:
We are apt to believe that children cannot be interested in the Bible unless its pages be watered down—turned into the slipshod English we prefer to offer them… Children between the ages of six and nine should get a considerable knowledge of the Bible text. By nine they should have read the simple (and suitable) narrative portions of the Old Testament, and, say, two of the gospels. The Old Testament should, for various reasons, be read to the children. The gospel stories they might be read for themselves as soon as they can read them beautifully. It is a mistake to use paraphrases of the text; the fine roll of Bible English appeals to children with a compelling music, and they will probably retain through life their first conception of the Bible scenes, and, also, the very words in which these scenes are portrayed. This is a great possession. Half the clever talk we hear to-day, and half the uneasiness which underlies this talk, are due to a thorough and perfect ignorance of the Bible text. The points of assault are presented to men’s minds naked and jagged, without atmosphere, perspective, proportion; until the Bible comes to mean for many, the speaking of Balaam’s ass or the standing still of the sun at Joshua’s bidding. But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion
Teaching the Trivium
Teaching the Trivium by Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn provides the Biblical basis for homeschooling, reflecting much of R. L. Dabney’s views on education.
According to the Biblical model for education, parents are to be directly in control and directly involved in the education of their children. Under God, neither the state nor the church has any jurisdiction in the matter.
The Bluedorns have ably written a noteworthy book by providing much detail on how to apply the classical Trivium at home at each age or level of the child. Also a good book to keep as reference.
Beauty in the Word
Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott is a recent book that I have discovered, and the contents have resounded my own educational philosophy. The foreword by Anthony Esolen alone was enough to grab my attention,
We do not know what or how to teach children, because we do not know what a child is, and we do not know what a child is, because we do not know what man is—and Him from whom and for whom man is.
This book brings you back to what matters most, which is very much the opposite of most educational reforms of today. The author is Roman Catholic, but the wisdom you can glean from this book is priceless.
A Handbook to Morning Time
Ever wanted to learn or read something in your homeschool, but you have no idea where to insert that in your routine? A Handbook to Morning Time by Cindy Rollins may just be the answer you are looking for. In the Circe Institute version of this handbook, Cindy describes Morning Time aptly as,
It is a time for everyone in the home to gather together and focus on those things they can learn and appreciate with one another, especially including those things which are of great importance but easily put aisde in the shuffle of formal studies
The best thing of all, Cindy offers a draft for this material for FREE download at her own website.
You can also learn more about how to implement morning time or morning basket time when you read Better Together: Strengthen Your Family, Simplify Your Homeschool, and Savor the Subjects that Matter Most by Pam Barnhill.
Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child is written by Cheryl Swope of Memoria Press. If you have a child with any special needs, read this book. Cheryl has taught two of her severely autistic children with multiple special needs, and they are thriving. You’ll go through the ups and downs of Cheryl’s own journey, and come out convinced that you can do it, too.
The child with behavorial and emotional disturbances can be the most challenging child of all. For the Christian parent, remembering the one thing needful will help in this difficult situation. Temporally, he needs consequences for misbehavior and encouragement for behaving well. For his spiritual well-being, he needs to hear again and again the he is loved and forgiven, cleansed and made righteous through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Cheryl writes with a lot of heart, and you’ll realize that you are not alone in this worthy endeavor of providing a beautiful education for your child or children with special needs. Without this book, I wouldn’t have continued on my classical education journey.
Classical Me, Classical Thee
If you want to read a book from a student that has gone through Classical Education herself and is now teaching in a Classical school, you might want to grab Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education. Rebekah Merkle is also the daughter of one of the pioneers of the Classical Christian Education movement in America, so she definitely knows what she’s talking about. I read it one sitting, so it’s a quick read if you want a testimonial from a person who has experienced it first hand and still believes in the joys and benefits of a Classical Christian Education. This is also a good book to give to your classical student!
Other Books on Classical Education and Homeschooling
Tolle lege! Tolle lege!