In recent weeks, I have met with families who have asked me this similar question…why is it important to have Catholics and Protestants meet together in an educational endeavor? Even as I met with potential ‘host’ locations for our co-op, this was a question that was asked by priests and pastors alike. I guess I don’t think about it anymore, since we have been in a similar situation for years, but if I go back nine years in time, it was a pressing question in my own mind. A VERY pressing question. You see, my family and some of our family friends, considering going to Christiana Homeschool Academy 10 years ago, were wondering what it would be like to educate with those who didn’t have similar ‘doctrinal’ thinking. I guess, if truth be told, we were afraid our children would be influenced by differing theology and doctrine.
Of course, as we began our journey there, I was ‘watchful’ for anything amiss in theology, education, doctrine, and even in Biblical interpretation. I was concerned that teachers in the classroom would try to convert my children or sway them to think about subject matter in a certain way. However, the founders of CHA (both Protestant and Catholic) had thought this through quite well. As a teacher, I had to agree to NOT try to convert children to my own denomination or to impose my theological bias in the classroom. This is fairly easy in the ‘grammar’ and ‘logic’ stages of learning in the Classical Education Model. We seek to tell the story, to provide factual information and to teach the building blocks of the subject. Where this gets tricky is in the ‘Rhetoric’ stage of learning…maybe 7th/8th grade through 12th grade. This is where students want to ask questions and argue. So, there is a delicate balance of presenting material and then helping students to have a discussion about those ideas. BUT, this can be SO exciting to see students REALLY jumping into the material. Good teachers will help students to present their ideas BUT will also help students to research them, ask good questions and appropriately debate.
Let me give you an example. As a Protestant, I never questioned the likes of Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers. But I had never really studied the Reformation well…what led the Reformers to the point where they wanted to break away from the established Church? Our first year at this ecumenical co-op, my son was in 11th grade (Reformation Era history) and was in a class with a Methodist preacher’s daughter, 4 Catholic students, a couple of Baptists, a Church of God member and a non-denominational Charismatic student. He was the only Presbyterian. But WOW, what amazing discussions the students had. Led by a well-trained Great Books teacher (Protestant, by the way), she made them dive into the history. What had been going on in the Catholic Church, why did Luther tack the 95 Thesis to a door, why did the church respond to him the way they did? Where did the other Reformers come into the picture? We learned a TON of church history that year. And we realized that the church that had been united for SO LONG took a major hit. You see, all of our history (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and on and on) began in the Catholic Church and had been THE church for centuries. It is vitally important that we study ALL of church history, all the way back to Jesus telling Peter that He would lead the church, through the current day church. There is some ugly stuff in church history and we must ponder all of it. My son learned to debate that year and his faith strengthened. This kind of learning then prompted my children to study our own denomination’s history.
My other children also experienced this same kind of deep debate. But, at the end of the day, they embraced their friends, agreed there would be issues upon which they would disagree, and then went to the central piece of our faith, JESUS CHRIST, our savior and redeemer. They would praise God for what they DID agree on and rejoice in the salvation that had been given to them. So, as they have gone out into the world, they have gone, armed with knowledge, skill in debate and the ability to ‘acutely’ listen to people.
So, back to the original question? Why Catholic and Protestant believers together?
Well, if we sit in a room with like-minded people, where we rarely disagree, we may not be sharpened as much. But, if we are in a room with people who think a little differently than we do, AND we can learn how to listen and ask questions, it will push us to ‘study’ and to learn more. We come out of a situation like this better armed to have discussions with neighbors, friends and co-workers.
But a second reason to have Catholics and Protestants together is because we live in a severely divided world. We are divided on politics, education choices, gender, marriage equality, ethical issues…I could go on. It is my desire that we show the world one little place where we can come together. Can we show the world that, even though we disagree on some of our doctrine and theology, we love Jesus and we seek to make Him known? I think that this little community known as Frederick East Classical could be instrumental in showing that, even people who disagree, can come together for a purpose.
We have been at Christiana for nine years. And, in that whole time, no one has converted to the ‘other side.’ Instead, our children (and the parents!) have come out of this experience stronger in our own faith, theology and doctrine. And I have dear friends who are Catholic, and Protestant friends from many denominations. I have an appreciation and respect for these faithful women who love Jesus deeply.
I remember when I first heard about a two-day co-op that was meeting in Howard County. My friend took her children two days, had several hours of volunteer duty each week and then was able to run errands, attend a Bible Study and even clean her house. Hmmm…that sounded interesting, but I could barely get out of the house to a one day co-op each week.
But I had four children who were really social and really enjoyed learning with friends. Maybe two days would be good for them. And, I was finding that I was preparing four math lessons, four history lessons, four writing lessons, etc. and was often up late into the night working on these things. Add to that keeping up with the reading for several children so that I could discuss the material with them. I had become exhausted. I had done pretty well keeping up, but was quickly losing ground in Latin, Science and Math.
We had tried a one-day cooperative but I felt like it was a ‘data dump’ and homework was optional, busy work activity. I didn’t know which direction to head in. My husband was actually the one who called to set up our shadow and interview at the two-day and I went reluctantly. However, it didn’t take long to realize this was a great option for us. It would give us a full academic curriculum, two days of instruction, quicker feedback (because we met two days), social interaction for my children and the valuable classroom experience that taught discipline and classroom etiquette.
I often tell people that this 2-day ‘saved our homeschool.’ It was just the structure and accountability that we needed. My children didn’t want to be the ‘odd man out’ in class, not having their homework or not having done the required reading. They were accountable to me, but more importantly, they were now accountable to someone else too.
Over the years, I have had discussions with friends and acquaintances about this kind of education. Some feel like it is ‘fake homeschool’ and that I have ‘sold out.’ But quite the opposite. I have realized my limitations and have reached out for help. In our current two-day, my high schoolers have instructors that have ‘expertise’ in the subject matter, teachers that converse in Latin, scientists that understand and better explain the concepts. Sure, I could have taught my children chemistry, but it often took hours for me to read, learn and understand the next day’s lesson. That left my house a mess, laundry undone and responsibilities shirked.
So, we go two days a week, Monday and Wednesday. My children have homework on the other days, supervised (and often enjoyed!) by me. I am learning along with them, reading what I can, editing papers, reinforcing concepts at home. The two days mean that concepts are stretched out rather than packed into one day. Homework is given in increments for each day. Teachers are available by e-mail, phone and skype on off days. One added benefit is the added community. I get to see my friends two days a week too! But I also get time to grab a coffee with a friend, read, do laundry and get some ‘order’ back in my life.
NO WAY this is fake homeschool. It strengthened our educational journey immensely. We all became life-long learners and I enjoyed homeschooling again. I know that many hesitate to commit to two days. But consider what it may bring to your homeschool. While you are needed to help for a few hours each week at the co-op, you also have time to do those errands, grab some time for you and perhaps ‘recharge.’ Homeschooling is a LONG commitment and it helps to know that you have help and a community that is in the journey with you.
Over the past 3 months, I have had the amazing opportunity to meet, e-mail or talk with over 100 homeschooling families. I LOVE stories and I love hearing how families have embarked on their homeschool journeys. Inevitably, as I talk with people, there are ‘small world’ connections that immerge. Either they know my family, I know of their family, they visited our church, we have mutual friends, etc. And in the coming months, I hope to meet more folks.
As I meet with people and meet with the ladies on our steering committee, each day refines the vision and goals that we have for this new cooperative. Of course, we started with what I call the ‘3 C’s’….We are cooperative and that means that each family participates in some way. The second is that we are classical and will strive to teach ‘stage appropriately’ (if this is foreign to you, please read Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Well Trained Mind) and to teach the ‘grammar’ of each subject in regular rotations. While many of our subjects have finalized curricula, we are still praying about science and history choices.
The third ‘C’ is the most important piece of what we are doing and that is the banner we hang the highest…we are Christian.
If someone were to ‘pin me down’ and make me choose just one of these to put as our mission or most important ‘piece,’ I would have to choose that we follow Christ first and foremost. To that vein, every decision, every worry, every challenge has been handed off to Him because He does ask that we ‘cast our anxiety upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). As this ‘idea’ of forming a 2-day a week cooperative began to bloom, it was obvious that God had created a pathway. Facilities were open to housing us, families were interested, resources abounded. But more than that, there is a need for solid Christian communities that ‘pull away’ from the noises of the world and can learn together, pray together and support each other in meaningful ways.
If you are not aware, this world is turning more and more toward dark and ugly places. Sin took a foothold in the garden, but has spread exponentially throughout humankind. We are all ‘prone to wander’ and ignore our ‘maker’s voice.’ We have all come through a particularly ugly political season and the media continues to surprise us with new zingers every single day. We watch as Planned Parenthood convinces the world that cells growing in the womb are not important. In addition to that, the traditional family is slowly becoming the ‘odd man out’ as divorce rates rise, families blend, same sex marriages become popular and now transgender families immerge. My pastor recently addressed this as humankind moving ‘inward’ for the answers of identity. We are each using our own ‘expertise’ to define who we are. And that, my friend, is the problem. We no longer look to our Creator to give us our identity, but we look to each other. That is going to get us into some serious trouble.
So, pin me down…why should we do this? Of course, we want to educate our children. We want to enhance our own thinking skills and find support. But, first and foremost, we should find solace in this community that is being created to focus on Jesus, our great redeemer and friend. And from that, springs the education we want for our children, as we seek to explain things in light of WHO created and ultimately purchased us for Himself.
But it doesn’t end there. We cannot just stay in our little community. NO WAY! We ultimately do this so that we can go out into the world and THINK, REALLY THINK about the messages that are hitting us. We must be able to recognize false teaching, fallacies and illogical thinking and know how to respond through thoughtful conversation and winsome debate. The world will NOT change because of who is speaking the loudest or protesting with the biggest, well-worded signs. It will change because people see Jesus in us, loving them, accepting them, but challenging them to seek their identity in the one who carefully knit us together. Won’t you join us as we seek to hear our ‘Maker’s Voice?’
I have been honored to have visited with a bunch of homeschooling families in Frederick County over the past two months. For a long time, I have been a lover of ‘stories.’ I love to hear journeys of faith, how couples met, how they ended up in Maryland and how they decided to homeschool. These stories often lead to ‘small world’ moments where we realize we know some of the same people, or went to the same college, etc. Often, the conversations have led to ideas for curricula, or ideas for the administration of the co-op or aspects of the classical education that I have not considered. I thought that this piece of putting the co-op together would be exhausting and draining over the spring months. But it has been quite the opposite. I have been invigorated, and excited to see the gifts, talents and ideas that God is shaping together in this endeavor.
So, since many of you have shared your stories with me, I thought that I would share a little more of mine. I am often asked why I am starting this endeavor as my youngest nears graduation, why I am starting something when Classical Conversations has well-established programs and communities in the area and other co-ops provide academic and elective options. After all, most moms my age, who are finished homeschooling, will go back to work or to school to pursue things that were ‘packed away’ long ago when they began homeschooling. I don’t like to talk about myself, but because I know many of you a lot better than I did a couple months ago, it is only fair to bare my soul to you.
Many of you know that I grew up in Maryland, graduated from Brunswick, and am a true blue country girl that still dreams of living in Jefferson again! My parents became Christians when I was about 10 and began a Christian singing group called the Ecumen. They traveled throughout the area singing in local churches. Both my parents sing, my mom plays the piano and organ and I followed in their footsteps. I love music and was trained in woodwinds, piano and guitar. So, ministry ‘seeds’ were planted in me from an early age. Education was also important and I attended James Madison University, graduating in 1985 with a degree in Communications/Business Marketing/PR with a further emphasis in English and Journalism. My plan through my Junior year was to graduate and ‘climb the corporate ladder’ working in Public Relations within the recording industry. However, during my time at JMU, I became involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and began to consider ministry with them. By my senior year, I was convinced that God was calling me to be a campus staff member with IVCF. I worked with IVCF for a year in Charlottesville, VA (UVA) and then transferred to eastern North Carolina where I was the campus staff member at East Carolina. That is where I met my husband, Jeff, who had attended ECU and was teaching math at a local high school. After five years, I left staff with InterVarsity and began working with abused and sexually assaulted women at an abuse center in ‘little’ Washington, NC. I served as the Executive Director and LOVED every aspect of working for this non-profit.
During my time at this program, our first son was born and parenting became our priority. As my oldest grew, I knew that I didn’t want to work full-time. God opened the door for us to move back to Maryland, where teacher salaries were higher. We moved back in 1993 and when my son turned 4, we began to homeschool (only because all my friends were doing it!). We went on to have 3 more children and continued to homeschool. I have to stop here and say that homeschooling is the HARDEST job I have ever done! We had our ups and downs (and still do), tried various curricula, went to tons of homeschool fairs, tried several co-ops and read a TON of books. But, through it all, I have to say it has been VERY worth it. I have been with my children for the majority of their formative years. I helped to shape their world-view instead of having their friends shape their world-view. I talked with them about controversial subjects and issues, shared scripture with them, had Bible study with them, prayed with them. I also read great books with them, re-learned history and FINALLY, learned Chemistry because I was teaching them.
Throughout my 20 years of homeschooling, I have been involved in various ministries. I volunteered with InterVarsity at Hood for about 5 years, worked with our Women’s Ministry and Worship Team Ministry at church, and served on the Board of Directors at Heartly House. I enjoy serving and enjoy mentoring.
And, I found a new love when we began at Christiana Homeschool Academy. I went ‘kicking and screaming’ into teaching in the classroom and found that I loved to teach middle school students. They will still laugh at my jokes and will pretty much do what they are assigned, making it a joy to teach them. I taught a full day one year, teaching 7th and 3rd Grammar and Writing, 8th History, Algebra I (I am really a math nerd at heart!), Public Speaking and Logic. This year I took on 5th grade science. I LOVE IT!
But this year, I also grew in my desire to mentor and to lead/administrate. I have ministry in my blood, 20 years of homeschooling classically in my blood and a love of teaching in my blood. Christiana is transitioning its leadership this year and it was my desire to take my gifts and experiences and to lead there. But that was not God’s plan. I have to say that I was disappointed. We loved Christiana and I really didn’t think that I had it in me to start something new. However, a new ‘start-up’ seemed to continually pop into my head and as I worked through the disappointment and began to realize that God was telling me that my CHA time was nearly over, I decided to explore this option. But I did tell God that He would have to make it clear and obvious that this was what I was supposed to do. And that He did.
Out of the ‘ashes’ of my disappointment, God led me down an unknown path and I was afraid. I knew that I would carry a HUGE responsibility on my shoulders. People would entrust their children’s educations to me in a sense. And most people in Frederick did not even know me because I had been in the Carroll County homeschool world. But God has paved a relatively smooth path and so many of you have joined in the journey. While much of the work has been mine to do here at the start, it has been a great joy. In addition, I am enjoying watching some friends ‘bloom’ in their leadership and look forward to seeing what God does in others as we continue to build.
So, why am I doing this? I am 53, my youngest is a junior next year and I could probably find a corporate ladder somewhere to climb. But that isn’t my heart’s desire anymore. My desire is ministry. I began to desire that last summer. And with my youngest in high school, I now have time to do what my heart loves. I want to mentor moms (and dads) as they begin or are in the midst of their homeschool journey. Titus 2 instructs the older women to mentor the younger and I relish the opportunity to do that. I don’t know everything there is to know about homeschooling, but I can walk alongside when things get tough and celebrate with you when you see success. I love the 2-day a week, classical educational model, I love homeschooling and I love to watch families grow in this very hard endeavor.
I have come home. All of the things I have loved I am doing. I love working in non-profits, I love doing ministry, I love classical education. God has put them all together in this beautiful little package called Frederick East Classical. For a while last fall, I lamented and wondered why God didn’t chose me to lead at CHA. But one day, He gently whispered that He DID choose me. He chose me for this. It is a little scarier, a little riskier and a little more costly both financially and time wise. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Since first announcing that we may pursue a 2-day a week co-op, I have answered nearly 100 emails, posted a bunch of Facebook posts and met some amazing Frederick County families. It appears that there is interest in this endeavor and we are going to push forward for a September 4, 2017 opening date. But what happens in between?
Well, for those spear-heading this effort, there will be schedules to make, teachers/tutors to hire, students to enroll, parents to train. This all seems overwhelming but it is comforting that so many have offered to help! And there will be work to do! But, what about the families that are thinking about this as a possibility for their children. How can you be preparing and planning?
If you are one of those that is in the ‘thinking’ stages of a new co-op, there are some things that you can be doing now to help you in the deciding process and to also prepare your children for this new effort.
First, there should be much prayer put into this possible change for your family. If this sparked interest in you, then perhaps there is a need for more structure to your homeschool, a more ‘classical’ approach to education, or just some help for tough subjects. Whatever your reason for investigating this, please pray. And, if you are currently in a co-op or learning situation that you LOVE, realize that this is a precious thing and really think hard before you leave. There may be curriculum that you love, methodologies that you love, tutors that you love! Don’t take this lightly! Commit to pray for a period and make a list of pros and cons. And definitely contact us if you don’t hear from us. We would love to talk with you more and try to paint a picture of what this kind of learning looks like.
Second, consider your strengths. How would you like to participate? Do you like to teach? Or if you are shy and uncomfortable up front, maybe you can assist? And, of course, there will also be jobs like lunchroom duty, playground monitor. All of us working together will make this work. But, if you are one of those moms who needs this time to work, to take care of a family member, etc., we are considering ways to help you in your homeschooling needs. So again, pray that God would open and close doors.
Third, consider preparing your child with some Latin background, IEW writing and encourage them to read, read, read in order to strengthen their reading pace and comprehension. There are online Latin helps and for reading, let me suggest classics that are age appropriate. For more specific suggestions, please contact us and look for some booklists on the website in coming weeks. Also, take time to read together as this will be a key component of your work with younger children at CHA.
A fourth suggestion would be to read The Well-Trained Mind. This is readily available on Amazon and well worth the read. If you are new to the classical education, Susan Wise-Bauer lays out systematically and thoroughly, the basics of the classical education. There will be other suggested reading throughout the next 9 months, but this is a good place to start.
Finally, consider the kind of education you want for your child. I think all of us would agree that we want our children to be challenged, to have a love of learning and to work hard. One of the first things that God did after placing Adam in the garden was to give him work. He was to name the animals and to tend the garden. He must have been filled with wonder as he went about his duties. However, after sin entered the garden, Adam and Eve had to leave and had to learn how to work in a sinful world. Tending animals and plants probably became more difficult and Adam and Eve may have grumbled a bit! And here we are dealing with the same thing. We have to work and we have to deal with problems and issues every day! For our children, their work is school. God has put them into a situation where they can learn about His world (science), His story (history), words (remember, He spoke and the world came into being, so communicating is important to God), languages (remember, He is the one that brought ‘chaos’ through language), the order of things (math). And while we learn, we seek virtue and truth. That, in a nutshell, is the classical education. In this new co-op, we will seek to provide opportunities to ‘wonder’ and to hear God’s story, all while being with friends.
Oh, and did I mention you should pray!
This is an excerpt from the Christiana website and explains what a 2-day a week cooperative would look like:
First, we ARE NOT a school. There are several ways we could define our program, but we are a cooperative. Cooperative is defined as working or acting together willingly for a common purpose or benefit (dictionary.com). All of our families are expected to ‘cooperate’ in some way. That may be teaching, assisting with administrative duties, working in nursery, etc. We are working together for the purpose of educating our children.
So, what do we do? To begin, we meet two days a week and provide classroom instruction (to small classes -- 10-12 students per class). While many folks successfully homeschool around the kitchen table, with mom leading the way, some children need extra accountability and do well with someone else teaching them. We don’t have ‘teachers,’ but consider our instructors to be ‘tutors.’ These tutors are assisting in the homeschooling by tutoring your children two days a week. Some of these tutors are previous teachers from public or private schools, some worked in the area in which they now teach and some have been ‘late bloomers’ to a particular subject, studying on their own to learn the subject matter. Most of our high school tutors have a background in their particular subject matter. Many moms/dads tutor, but we also hire folks from the outside.
Our classical ‘roots’ dictate our meeting together…just like Socrates questioned his students and opened up discussion, so we see the ‘meeting together,’ discussing and questioning as crucially important to the learning process. Plus, we can make a mess in the classroom with science experiments, history timelines, and art appreciation.
While we value the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness in our pursuit of academic study, we also have fun together…friendships grow and flourish as students meet together to learn. We offer school activities like drama, art. Also, activities like prom and father/daughter dance, graduation ceremonies (K, 8 and 12), crazy hat days, spelling bee. It is important to learn well, but it is also important to explore creative sides and enjoy community relationships.
What DON’T we do? We are NOT the final authority. We are, instead, your servants…you are STILL the parent and you are in charge of your child’s education the other three days. By participating in our program, you agree to help your child at home, working with the curriculums we have chosen and completing assigned homework. But you have some flexibility and hopefully, creativity, to help your child on home days. For example, your child may be a poor reader and you may need to read aloud to him. Or, writing may be slow and painful, so he dictates part of the work to you. Is the homework long one day? Perhaps you discuss with the tutor a way to modify for that day. We do test children as they come into the program, so hopefully they are on target with other children in the class.
We also want to clarify that we DO NOT provide official transcripts. We do provide an online grading system to help you keep track of assignments and do have certain percentages for students to achieve in order to move onto a next level of education. This is an important tool for our parents and our tutors, but you will continue to be under an umbrella group or school system for oversite.
We are a community. We try to provide support, a structure and a place for your child to make friends and grow in academic knowledge and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But please know that we are imperfect people and sinners saved by grace. As in any community, we will strive to work well together, to apologize when we wrong each other and to encourage each other in success and failure.
Since I have been homeschooling, I have often told friends that my own education has been ‘redeemed.’ What exactly does that mean? Well, if you think about a coupon that you redeem, you actually turn it in to claim its value. Or if you think in terms of Christ redeeming us, he is ‘getting us back,’ into a relationship with God.
When I think of my education, I often remember being teased because I had glasses and braces. Or later on, in middle school, I was a bit nerdy and was teased for being a book worm. I remember being boy crazy and thinking about the spring musical and if I wanted to participate. But, rarely do I remember discussions about history or remember formulas or patterns that I learned in math. My education boils down to the experiences that I had in school, not what I learned.
And yet, here I am, ‘up to my ears’ in education again. When I decided to homeschool my own children, I did so largely because I wanted to be the one to have the most influence with them. I also wanted to choose how they learned and what they learned. I wanted them to have a strong Biblical education and wanted to be able to sing, read and do art with them. But little did I know that we would end up at a place that would plunge me into the depths of the ocean of knowledge, right along with my children.
My education is being redeemed. How? Well, I used to claim that I was pretty good at math…and I was. I earned the top honors for math in my high school and took more math in college than I needed. I understood all the formulas and patterns, but now that I teach it, I REALLY ‘get it.’ So much so, that I can teach it better every year. And while I loved history, I never really saw patterns of ancient governments reemerging in modern history. I hadn’t really studied leaders and didn’t understand how governments had been set up and run throughout the centuries. The real kicker is that I studied Writing and English in college. But my real knowledge of grammar came when I taught it. Year after year, the grammar of the English language has made more and more sense. Along with all that, I am able to discuss some of the great classics with my own kids. I have gone through Homer several times and can actually have a fairly knowledgeable discussion about his stories. The same can be true for any subject…when I taught piano lessons a number of years ago, all that theory came rushing back in and made perfect sense.
You see, we live in an intricately created and beautiful world…God’s story in scripture and beyond is a beautiful story of redemption and we continue to see his handiwork into our own stories. Studying history becomes a reminder of all the times that God’s hand has saved, ordained, intervened. As we look on creation, and consider the heavens, we should be awestruck at all that God has done. Studying the sciences and considering that God made all of this should blow our minds. I totally did not engage in my science classes in high school because I just wasn’t interested. However, I have been called on the carpet by my creator…NOT INTERESTED? REALLY? IN ALL THAT I HAVE MADE??? Yes, I recently realized that my lack of interest and engagement in what God has done is not right. My eyes have been opened to the beauty and intricacies of His world.
Homeschooling is hard work…we need to teach our children, keep records of our progress and cook dinner after a long day of schooling. Sometimes it seems like we can’t keep up, but what if we consider that we are in ‘school’ too. As we teach, can we experience that ‘wonder’ of what God has made and done? I have tried this method of learning with my kids and ‘redeeming’ my education and now that my kids are just about all ‘graduated,’ I find that my education continues. I guess I’m finally turning my coupon in and finally redeeming the ‘value’ of my education.
I was recently asked an odd question concerning my homeschooling. That question caused me to really think. The question was ‘aren’t you looking forward to being done homeschooling so that you can read what you want and catch up on TV?’ Hmmmm…I have homeschooled for 20+ years and I must say that it has been the HARDEST job that I have ever done. Being responsible for teaching my kids to read, for mapping out their curriculum, for making sure they knew math and science…I could go on and on. It is not a task for the faint of heart. My book shelves are bulging with curriculum, some well-used and some never used as those books weren’t worth opening.
But there are a couple shelves containing books that are so worn that the bindings are nearly gone, the margins are no longer white because of the comments in the margins, and some of the pages are missing because they fell out. Those are the ‘great books’ that made it onto our co-op’s list of great reads throughout history. Aristotle, Homer and Plato made the list. Virgil, Shakespeare, Plutarch and Livy show up in 10th grade. Boethius, Dante and Twain entertain and challenge our 11th grade and finally in 12th grade, we have the likes of Pascal, Descartes, Swift and Paine. The friend who asked me this question about finally ‘reading what I want’ has heard me talk about these books. I can’t say I’ve read them through all the way…chapters, sections, and synopses here and there. I’ve talked with my children about these books and have learned a great deal through ‘chewing’ on the words of these authors of old. And then there is summer reading. My book list is long…it seems to grow exponentially and bookshelves overflow. Ayn Rand has been a favorite recently and Twain is a favorite ‘go to’ author. I currently am working through Federalist Papers and none of this writing is easy to read and process.
But as my friend realized, my days of homeschooling are just a few years from being over and then I can read what I want. However, I have been to the fountain. I have learned from the best. I have seen words woven together in such a way that I can’t leave them behind. I come to a fork in the road. I could return to mindless fiction for a steady diet of information or I can continue to meet with the great voices of history and delight in a hearty diet of great words!
You see, my children have been classically educated. This type of education is reaching the WHOLE person and in my situation, it has reached the WHOLE family. As my children have read and I have read, we have engaged in rich discussions, asking questions and pursuing truth. The structure of a classical education involves educating children appropriately according to their age and stage of development. But this education also involves integrating subjects and making connections. Our current government run education involves compartmentalizing everything. You take math, you take science, you look at a portion of history. But with a classical education, we want to work through history and understand how science was influencing a culture, why different people groups were fighting, how the church was being persecuted and changing. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We want our students to question, to debate, to draw conclusions and ultimately to find truth. There isn’t a different truth for each person that lives in the world. There is THE truth and we are on a path to discover that truth. From the moment a child enters Kindergarten until they take the stage for their Senior Thesis, we want them to grow in the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ and to know how to think and affect the world around them.
So, back to the question at hand. What will be on my reading list in a couple years? I can’t say for sure, but I can say with certainty that I have met some pretty remarkable guys…Plato, Homer, Virgil, Twain, Dickens, Franklin…I think that I want to hear from them and chew on their words a bit longer. I’ve been classically trained myself over these last 10 years and I don’t want to stop.
Won’t you join me?