Homeschooling styles and methods: Classical


The Classical method is a bookish, historical, logical, disciplined education method. One of the handbooks specializing in the classical method is The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM)[1].   TWTM provides a curriculum, scheduling suggestions and recommended resources. Another classical-method book is Designing the Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education[2]. Both TWTM and Designing the Classical Curriculum reference Dorothy Sayers’ 1947 presentation, “The Lost Tools of Learning,”[3] a passage of which is quoted in TWTM:

For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects. We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spell binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. We dole out lip-service to the importance of education–lip- service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school-leaving age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school hours; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.

An earlier version of a classical liberal arts book, and the original homeschool resource book, is Jean and Donn Reed’s The Home School Source Book[4]. The main difference between books such as TWTM and The Home School Source Book is that the Reed’s book doesn’t prescribe a scheduled curriculum but does provide the materials for the various subject areas. Instead of being a teaching manual the Reeds’ book is a memoir of their homeschooling years combined with a  resource listing.

 Homeschoolers might call classical homeschooling ‘college for kids.’


 [1] The Well-Trained Mind. Susan Bauer and Jessie Wise

[2] Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education.  Laura M. Berquist

[3] “The Lost Tools of Learning.”  Dorothy Sayers, 1947 Oxford University presentation

[4] The Home School Source Book.  Jean and Donn Reed


Copyright 2006, 2009 Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and freely distributed as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

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