Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 4 (6)


After lunch, The Essentials Guide begins to pull students from the memorization stage into the discovery or dialectic stage of learning. Now that the students have a lot of grammar in their heads from the Foundations memory work, the Essentials program shows them how to use it by asking lots of questions.

The approach is rooted in the catechetical model. Ask questions of the memorized answers, and then move to a new application in short, easy steps. Students are shown first how to question what they know and then how to use it to discover a new answer. A lot of grammar is still involved, but now the families are thinking really hard.

None of the material requires students to sit down and write or be totally quiet. They are constantly engaged in activities and shouting out words and working on parsing sentences together. They can work on solitary activities at home. Now is the time to work together and enjoy learning as a community.

Instead of pop culture words presented in fun games at a youth retreat, they participate in similar activities that require academic knowledge to be shared.

Parents attend weekly academic seminars with their children so they can be trained in classical teaching techniques alongside their children. Education is a family endeavor, supported by, and not usurped by the local church.

This model requires minimal facilities and a few trained tutors paid by the attending families through a small tuition. The subject content is grounded in biblical theology and the training system for tutors and parents is free and already developed.

Because the parents participate, there are always plenty of adults to keep students on track. Students with learning difficulties can do very well in this environment because of the constant repetition and the encouragement to participate as a group. Wrong answers are always met with a joyful, “Good job, try again!” But in our programs, there are wrong answers. Self-esteem comes from a job well done, not from a false ‘hurrah.’

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thinking About Parental Rights

A Smart Mama from Virginia put together this video on Parental Rights in the U.S. I encourage you to watch it. Whether or not you agree with the conclusions drawn, parents in the U.S. should thoughtfully consider these issues.

(Here is a different take on the idea that treaties supercede US law: Imprimis, by Jeremy Rabkin at George Mason University.)

Here are a few things to consider while thinking about this video and the issues it introduces:

  1. Should we recognize the government's right to define the word Parent in the constitution?
  2. We already have compulsory education, mandated immunizations, and birth control distribution even by private physicians. We demand government health care and send our kids to government schools. We expect the government to bail us out of lost jobs. We've already said these are the rights of our government, so should we be surprised that a bigger power wants in on the action?
  3. What if the energy spent on this issue went toward training Christians to rely on Christ and to choose to be responsible with the little He's given us?
These are hard questions for parents to wrestle with. How would you respond?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 4 (5)


Although Echo in Celebration talks about all three skills, The Foundations Guide and The Essentials Guide are meant to aid in the grammar and dialectic stages. Because of the limited scope of this project, the study of rhetoric is not covered in depth.

The Foundations Guide takes commonly known information and arranges it into a system that allows families to work together on the grammar of creation. It teaches them that the beginning of learning is defining words.

Math words, Latin words, history words, science words, and Bible words are all memorized through a variety of games, songs, and activities. The book also explains how to operate a three-hour academic program including science projects, art projects, presentation skills, and parental support.

Local families meet weekly at their churches, while developing an academic community and support network for the participating families, quality academics for the students, teacher training for home schooling parents, and an inexpensive way to bring academics back into the realm of the church.

The book guides students from four to thirteen years old and their parents through a core knowledge series with an emphasis on western civilization.

Unlike other classical curriculums, it includes a lot of science because of our emphasis on creation. It does not specify a reading or math curriculum because young students move through these subjects at such individualized paces. The Foundations program is usually offered in the morning.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Classical "Memoria"

By Jen G.

This fall, I started graduate school to earn my masters in English. For my doctorate, I knew I would eventually need to be proficient in two foreign languages. I studied French in college, so that took care of one, but what about the second?

Let me think.

Ah yes, Latin. I took two years of Latin in high school with Classical Conversations. I have vague recollections of "vestis virum reddit" and "aquila non capit muscas," but little else. This could be interesting.

Now a month into my intensive elementary Latin course, I can testify to the power of memory and recall. Not always the best Latin student in high school, I may have been confused about the difference between the ablative and dative cases, or when to use the imperfect or the perfect tense, but somehow my brain took in (and remembers) "-bam, -bas, -bat, -bamus, -batis, -bant" (the endings for the imperfect tense of verbs).

Because I memorized the grammar, now I find it much easier to translate readings and sentences, and to re-learn the more complicated concepts I missed the first time around. When you are juggling other classes and work, NOT having to start that new account in your memory bank from zero makes a big difference.

In a very real way, I am rediscovering that memory work early on - even if separated from comprehension - is not in vain.

Happy belated birthday, Caesar Augustus.

...because everyday adventures can be classical opportunities too...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 4 (4)


The Echo in Celebration book gives many examples of the classical model and how it relates to a Christian worldview.

The skills can be summarized in a number of ways. Proverbs calls them knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Classical educators call the skills the trivium—grammar, logic (or dialectic), and rhetoric. Hebrews mentions them as elementary truths, distinguishing, and maturity. Computer programmers refer to the tasks as input, processing, and output.

Whatever you want to call the skills, you can’t expect wisdom to occur without knowledge and understanding. They always work together no matter whether you are forming a hermeneutical study or trying to become a car mechanic. Dorothy Sayers’ essay also contains many practical examples.

Grammar is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary (1982) as the “basic principles of an area of knowledge,” like the grammar of music. The ability to memorize the fundamental ideas and concepts of a particular subject has been lost because moderns no longer think memorizing is important.

Grammar schools trained students to complete recitations to prove there was actually knowledge in their heads and that they were capable of learning large quantities of information. They didn’t necessarily understand the data memorized, but the muscle called the brain was regularly fatigued and stretched much like a marathon runner. Now moderns argue that we can just look up information, so this skill is no longer thought important. As a result, our brains atrophy.

Dialectic is the reconciliation of ideas, facts, and information. It is the ability to discover the fundamental ideas and concepts of a particular subject and apply that information to other particular subjects. It is also called thinking. This was historically taught through parsing sentences in many languages.

If a student had memorized the conjugations for “to be” in English, they could better understand “Yahweh” in Hebrew. They could figure out how language worked.

Rhetoric is the consequence of ideas. It is the ability to share the fundamental ideas and concepts of a particular subject in such a way that a broad range of ideas could be interrelated. This is what a teaching pastor does when he expounds on God’s Word in light of the author’s original intent and relates it to the common troubles of modern man.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Telephone Syndrome

By Pam Greenholt
Challenge I Director, North Carolina

Here we are several weeks into the school year already. I am always amazed at how quickly the time seems to go when we are beginning a new tutorial year.

It always takes a few weeks to get all the students accustomed to my teaching styles and preferences for classroom behavior, and also for me to become familiar with their unique gifts and academic needs. By this time I think that we are becoming comfortable with one another.

While each year's students are different from those we've had in the past (even though we frequently have multiple siblings from local families), I have noticed that there are also striking similarities in students from one year to the next. One of othe most common is the topic of this commentary: I call it the "telephone syndrome."

When we were little, a game often played at birthday parties was the "telephone" game. In this game you made a circle of children, the more people the better. To start the game one person thought of a message to whisper to his neighbor. The message was whispered quickly from one person to the next with no repeats until it reached the end of the circle, and then the last person said the message out loud to the person who had started it.

Most of the time the message had acquired some interesting new words and twists during the course of its trip, and this led to great hilarity.

I get the most communication from parents at the beginning of a new tutorial year. I never cease to be amazed by the messages they say their students have brought home from me regarding assignments and other conversations in class. It is the "telephone" game all over again!!

I have to remind myself of this very true statement: Just because you think you are doing a great job of teaching, don't assume everyone in the room is hearing the same message and learning what you think they are learning...

It happens every year with all types of students, and it definitely makes me stop and think about communication.

I wonder if this is why Jesus so frequently included the phrase, "He who has ears to hear..." when he was talking with his disciples and other people? I'm guessing He knew about the "telephone" syndrome long before we did!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 4 (3)


“The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17, NASB).

This verse reminds Christians of two things. First, we think we are doing well if the method has always been done and we haven’t heard of anything else. Second, we can be swayed like a leaf in the wind each time we hear of some exciting educational fad, or we feel like our child is unhappy with our method of schooling them.

Our task as Christian educators, pastors, and parents is to examine all of our educational choices in light of Scripture rather than the latest emotional influence, for we will be presented with many options in this age of global technologies.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ” (Col 2:8, 9, NIV).

This warning applies to everything we think, learn, and believe. Dennis and Dawn Wilson point out, “Although Paul is warning the Colossians of the heresy of the day, we can take note that he is pointing them to the sufficiency of Christ over the philosophies of men. He is telling them to be on their guard and not to be led astray.”(1)

The classical model is very simple to define, but difficult to wrap our modern brains around. We are more familiar with graded learning, standardized tests, and credits than the actual purpose of education—to know God and to make Him known. I value and endorse grades and testing, as they give both student and teacher evaluation tools, but the ultimate goal is the student’s ability to explain how his/her knowledge builds God’s kingdom.

(1) Dennis and Dawn Wilson, Christian Parenting in the Information Age: Rediscovering a Biblical Worldview for Raising Children (Sierra Visa, AZ: Tricord Publishing, 1996), 65.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Constitution Day!

On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine delegates to the Constitutional Convention met to sign a document, which began, "We the People of the United States..."

222 years later, we're still celebrating their accomplishment. Today, Constitution Day, is a great opportunity to think about what the U.S. Constitution means for you and your family.

Start by taking turns reading from the Constitution out loud. If you've memorized the Preamble, have someone in the family recite it.

After that, here are some great links with history, documents, games, videos, trivia, and more:

Finally, spend some time talking about the role of the Constitution today. How is it used and reinterpreted? How should it be treated in the Supreme Court? Should the Constitution be seen as a "living document"? Is it still relevant?

This is a great opportunity to reflect on our nation's founding and what that means for our country today--and tomorrow.

Happy Constitution Day!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 4 (2)


Some churches don’t have the resources to maintain an entire school, yet they want to promote Christian education for their families. Other churches have huge facilities and want to offer a full-time school while providing support for parents who educate their children from home. In either case, many pastors, elders, and church leaders are looking for a way to equip parents for the biblically mandated duty of raising their children in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ through academics.

This paper presents a system that churches can use to equip parents educating their children from home. The project provides a model of church-based education currently being used in over one hundred churches by thousands of families across the United States, Canada, and a few foreign countries.

Though moderns have referred to this form of education as ‘home schooling,’ it is not a very accurate name since most of those who ‘home school’ find learning to be a natural process of life and see the world, rather than a classroom or even a living room, as their locus. Home-centered education is a more accurate description.

Many parents that have taken on this responsibility want to know that their church leaders desire to support them and keep them accountable to academic work done well for the Lord.

Pastors often wish they had a simple way to keep their families accountable to a high standard of academic excellence. Other pastors desire to help more children learn from home, but know some families will not be successful if they have to teach without support.

Most church leaders recognize that quality, Christian education is a large, important endeavor and are seeking more ways to bring Christ and community together through learning. This model should be of value in any of these situations.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

1 Smart Tennis Mama

In all the talk about what Serena Williams did and said and apologized for, here are a few details about the winner, Kim Clijsters, that you may not have heard:

  • She's a mom.
  • She was in retirement for 2.5 years before returning to tennis.
  • She was the first unseeded play to win the U.S. Open.
  • "No mother had captured a major since ... 1980 at Wimbledon."
"'She's playing because she thinks it's fun and because she likes it,' Wozniacki [second place] said. 'I really think she might be a better player now than she was before.'"

It's great to see some recognition for a Smart Mama who knows what perseverance means.

So in that spirit, I want to recognize each and every one of you Smart Mamas who choose perseverance every day. Way to go!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't Forget to Register!

It's not too late to join other families from across the nation for this special week - our fourth annual - in Williamsburg, VA, September 20th through the 25th. Call today 1.757.229.9700 and mention Classical Conversations to get a discounted rate!

Visit the Classical Conversations website, under Event Calendar, today to register for seminars by Leigh Bortins and a talk by Becky Dunlop of the Heritage Foundation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 4 (1)


Church leaders need tools to apply the best techniques from early America.

This thesis provides a solution for church leaders who are concerned about the loss of Christian capital and Christian worldview in our culture. Many are aware that both home schooling parents and classical, Christian schools are trying to recover the lost tools of learning defined by the Bible as knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

This project provides three inexpensive resources that a church could implement to provide a church-housed or even church-based opportunity for families (parents and children) to learn as a Christian community. The projects in their entirety are:
  1. Echo in Celebration: A Call to Home-Centered Education contrasts Christian education with modern education and calls families to consider their responsibilities as their children’s first and best teachers. This easy-to-read book explains the problems in education and begins to propose a solution. The book was designed to encourage Christians to talk about what makes an education truly Christian.

  2. The Foundations Guide provides an easy-to-implement, three-hour-a-week, classical grammar school (K-6th grade) program that is currently used in churches across the U.S. This curriculum focuses on training families to retain large amounts of information in a very supportive environment. Pastors who appreciate the ability to “hide God’s word in our hearts” (Ps 119:11) will understand the emphasis on brain training.

  3. The Essentials Guide provides an easy-to-implement, two-hour-a-week, dialectic language program (for 4th to 8th grades) that teaches families to study the structure of words through the English language. This course will delight every pastor who values Hebrew and Greek studies as expository skills.
Additional study guides have been developed and are used across the U.S. for the higher grades, but they are beyond the scope of this project. Churches that want to implement this hybrid between a classical school and a home school co-op can include opportunities for families of high school students. The greatest need has been for parents of young children, so the elementary grades are the focus of this project.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Classical Current Events

On Tuesday, President Obama spoke to the nation's public school children. Before the speech, some parents protested what they saw as an attempt to indoctrinate children.

Someone asks you - you're a home schooler; what do you think?

This week, I've seen a lot of news coverage about the President's speech. It has reminded me that current events are a great tool for practicing dialectic - processing and reconciling information - and rhetoric - sharing your knowledge with others.

Give it a try! I've used this story for an example, but you could do the same with any news story.

1. Start with some basic information: read or watch the speech.

2. Ask yourself (or your older children) some questions:
  • Does Obama's speech have relevance for home schoolers?
  • Did you follow the controversy surrounding the speech?
  • If so, what did you think about it?
  • Were parents "silly" (to quote the Secretary of Education) to be concerned?
  • Is there something unique about a speech directly addressed to children in school?
  • Should parents have the right to opt out of school events?
  • If you were going to give this speech to your children, what would you change about it?
3. Read what other commentators have said. Here are a few to get you started:
4. Chew on these perspectives for a little while. Integrate some, reject others.

5. Finally, formulate your own opinion, and share your conclusions (and the process you used to get there) with someone else.

This topic may not interest you; however, unless you study, practice, and prepare, when you are faced with an issue that does matter, you won't be ready to respond. (1 Peter 3:15)

...because everyday adventures can be classical opportunities too...

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (15)

CHAPTER 3: LITERATURE REVIEW (part 15 - final)

Technology and Globalism

Before establishing Bethany M. Baxter & Associates, Inc., Bethany Baxter was a member of the IBM Higher Education Consulting Group for eight years. During that time, she facilitated strategic planning for information systems in more than 60 educational institutions in the United States and Canada.
Nineteenth-century American schools, generally one-room schoolhouses, featured students of many ages and skill levels working on a variety of lessons in a single classroom. Based on the experiences of my grandmother, who taught in a one room schoolhouse; my father and aunts and uncles, who attended these schools; and my own experience in 1962, teaching in a rural high school where the students had attended one-room elementary schools through seventh grade, I am convinced that the one-room schoolhouse model meets the needs of individual students in a way that our modern schools typically do not.
During the days of the one-room schoolhouse, a teacher—with one year of normal school and no other adult support—was able to effectively reach 30 children ranging in age from 5 to 16 because each child’s education was based on an individualized lesson plan.
Mastery learning was the norm; children did not move on until they mastered the topic they were studying. Progress may have been slow or even non-existent, but no one expected children simply to move at a pace set by the teacher.(1)
Modern work gurus like Peter Drucker and William Bridges, along with famous technocrats like Bill Gates and Michael Dell, write books promoting the use of computers to develop individualized instruction that can move a student from one level of mastery to another.

It is very important to examine the use of technology in modern education, but that is beyond the scope of this paper. Even so, remember that a machine cannot disciple a student to choose wisdom over folly. That takes an adult who desires to sacrificially model the love of Christ.

The literature reviewed makes the case that some of the great thinkers of the twentieth century saw historically effective educational techniques being replaced by modern, untested ideas. Remember, Experiment House was the name of Lewis’s hated school in The Chronicles of Narnia.(2)

(1) Bethany M. Baxter, “Returning to the One-room Schoolhouse” (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2000), (accessed 11 December 2008).
(2) C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: Collier, 1970), 5.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Great Wolf Lodge, Sept. 20-25

Our 4th Annual Gathering!

Join other families from across the nation for this special week in Williamsburg, VA, September 20th through the 25th. Call today 1.757.229.9700 and mention Classical Conversations to get a discounted rate!


Leigh Bortins and CC Writing Essentials Seminar
Wednesday and Thursday, September 23 & 24
7am to 1pm at GWL

Since the pen is mightier than the sword, writing is the most important skill we can teach our children. Having spent a good portion of her summer learning and speaking, Leigh Bortins is ready to share with Essentials tutors and parents the powerful writing tools of structure and style. Please join her as she inspires and instructs using the Institute for Excellence's Structure and Style, the writing method used in CC's Essentials. Our learning time together promises to be fruitful and fun!

Becky Dunlop of The Heritage Foundation
Wednesday Evening, September 23 at GWL

CC is proud to present Becky Dunlop of The Heritage Foundation. Mrs. Dunlop served in President Ronald Reagan's White House and is currently Vice President of External Relations at The Heritage Foundation, which is the nation's most broadly supported public policy research institute. The Heritage Foundation's mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, (particularly family and religion) and a strong national defense.

Because of her personal faith, Mrs. Dunlop is often sought out to discuss the role of faith in public life and in policy development. For more information on Mrs. Dunlop or the Heritage Foundation, please visit their website at:

Following Mrs. Dunlop's talk, please join Leigh Bortins and the Classical Conversations staff and families for an informal "Meet and Greet" also at the Great Wolf Lodge.

Visit the Classical Conversations website, under Event Calendar, to register for these events. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (14)


Dominic O’Brien – The Latest Brain Research

An important non-Christian weighs in on this discussion from a totally different perspective. Dominic O’Brien has been the World Memory champion for many years and has written practical, interesting books on brain functionality and educational techniques. In his introduction to the book Learn to Remember, he also asks an interesting question.
In 1988 [at the age of 31, proving that adults can memorize as well as children], I was to witness an event that would change my life. I watched a man called Creighton Carvello memorize a randomly shuffled deck of playing cards in just under three minutes- a feat of memory which put his name in the record books. I was dumbstruck. How could anyone connect 52 unconnected pieces of data together, perfectly in sequence, using nothing but their brain, in such a short space of time?(1)
O’Brien then spent three months trying to learn to duplicate these efforts. He continues:
Soon after I was entering the record books myself by memorizing not one, but six randomly shuffled decks of playing cards from a single sighting of each card. While I was amazed and impressed by my own brain’s capacity, I felt at the same time immensely bitter that I had never been taught these same levels of mental agility when I was a student struggling with examinations. As a child, I was diagnosed as dyslexic. In addition, I was described as having an inability to concentrate on and remember what my teachers were saying. As a result, I did not shine academically, and I left school at sixteen… Even today, when we know comparatively so much about the brain and the processes of learning, children are not taught to learn effectively. Why? I have to confess that the answer to that question escapes me.(2)
But the answer shouldn’t escape Christians. Satan will do anything he can to keep our families from hiding God’s word in their hearts. He will fool us into thinking entertainment is an effective learning technique because it holds students’ interest more than diligent hard work. He’ll fool us into thinking it takes a lot of money rather than ‘just our brain,’ as O’Brien puts it, to learn.

The entire Old Testament is an admonition to memorize its entire contents so we’d be prepared to recognize who really brought us out of Egypt. What shame it should bring Christians when we see the TV news filming 12-year-old Muslim boys sitting in the dirt working to memorize the entire Koran.

Are we people of the Word or not?

In the academic curriculum developed for this thesis project, I’ve interwoven Dominic O’Brien’s brain training techniques. You would think a Christian would regularly be the World Memory Master because we are instructed to raise our children to memorize God’s Word.

Christians should habitually memorize large chapters at a time like Charles Spurgeon used to do. Few Sunday school leaders would think to require a class to memorize a chapter of Scripture, let alone a whole book. We’ve been tricked into thinking it’s “too much,” just as the Hebrews in Jeroboam’s time were deceived.

(1) Dominic O’Brien, Learn to Remember (London: Duncan Baird, 2001), 9.
(2) O’Brien, Learn to Remember, 10.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Day of Labor, Day of Rest

On the calendar, the first Monday in September has a tiny printed legend that says "Labor Day." If you're like me, you've probably chuckled about all the work of the year being summarized and condensed into that one day.

The Dept. of Labor calls Labor Day, "a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

The first Labor Day was Tuesday, September 5, 1882. In 1884, the date was moved to the first Monday in September, and in 1894, Labor Day was made a national holiday.
The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day.
This year, I suggest a supplementary way to celebrate: spend some time learning about work in this country. With your children, read a newspaper article about an industry you don't know much about. Learn about the history of the holiday. Take a Labor Day quiz.

If you have older children, talk about issues like child labor, the minimum wage, and labor unions. Share your thoughts about the nature of work as the Lord intended it, and how a Biblical view of work differs from our culture's view.

Instead of treating Labor Day as just another long weekend, don't miss this chance to share with your children what it means to be a life-long learner.

For more information, see Labor Day History from, and also The History of Labor Day from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 3 (13)


Dorothy Sayers (cont'd)

Miss Sayers continues:
Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt (that is only to be expected), but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? Are you often bothered by coming across grown-up men and women who seem unable to distinguish between a book that is sound, scholarly, and properly documented, and one that is, to any trained eye, very conspicuously none of these things? Or who cannot handle a library catalogue? Or who, when faced with a book of reference, betray a curious inability to extract from it the passages relevant to the particular question which interests them?(1)
Are they taught how to take their study habits in one field and apply them to another or must they be shown repeatedly as adults how to learn anything new?

Dorothy Sayers answers her own questions with a practical solution – return to the classical model of education that was maintained for almost two thousand years by the church. Teach just three skills: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. For content, use the best of literature and science and math resources guided by a Christian who loves teaching students to learn anything.

Modern Classical Leaders

Doug Wilson, prolific author, popular speaker and founder of The Association of Christian, Classical Schools, launched the growth of the modern Christian, classical school movement after expanding Dorothy Sayers’ seminal essay in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning in 1991. He followed this book up in 2002 with The Case for Classical, Christian Education. Following are some of his key ideas about a classical education:
  1. Terms always need to be defined. The master should define terms for the student and Christians for the culture, not the other way around. Grammar, the science of vocabulary, should begin the study of any topic.
  2. Logic, or the reconciliation of ideas, should be taught next. This is often called the dialectic stage. The biblical view of truth is in opposition with the world’s view of truth. Just as in a hand clap, when a biblical idea meets a secular idea, there should be a sting and some noise. This should inform our educational choices, teachers, and methodology.
  3. True knowledge and understanding should lead to wisdom. Rhetoric, the consequence of ideas, reveals a man’s heart.(2)
Long time home school leaders Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn have a very practical book called Teaching the Trivium. Trivium is Latin for ‘three roads,’ defined as grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.

As a professor of literature at the College of William and Mary, Susan Wise Bauer and her mother, Jessie, have written large volumes, including The Well-Trained Mind and The Well-Educated Mind, that promote and serve as encyclopedias for reference on the classical model.(3)

There is a large body of work referenced in this thesis bibliography developed specifically for classical home-centered educators.

(1) Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning.”
(2) Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003).
(3) Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999); and Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Has It Gone Full Circle?

In 1520, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed under Spain’s colors through what is now called the Straits of Magellan in South America to reach the Pacific Ocean.

Magellan had proposed a westward route to the Spice Islands in the Indies. He finally struck Guam in March 1521. He was killed in April while trying to conquer the Philippines, but a few of his sailors escaped and reached the Spice Islands. After shipwreck and imprisonment, one ship made it to Spain in September 1521, successfully circumnavigating the globe.

On July 16, 2009, seventeen-year-old Zac Sunderland successfully circumnavigated the globe again--alone: An Intrepid Home Schooler.

On August 27, 2009, Mike Perham of England, an even younger seventeen, did the same in only nine months: Brit, 17, Completes Solo Sail Around the World.

On August 29, thirteen-year-old Laura Dekker of the Netherlands faced a child protection court wanting to prevent her from beginning her own solo circumnavigation: Girl's Solo Sailing Plans Stir 'Super Child' Debate. (The court ruled that Miss Dekker will have to wait.)

Meanwhile, two other sixteen-year-olds in the U.S. and Australia plan to start their own voyages soon.

After 488 years, during which exploration has moved out to new frontiers like space and in to explorations of DNA and nuclear physics, the "simple" act of sailing around the globe has suddenly re-emerged as a challenge that young people are eager to take.

Without making a judgment call on the safety and wisdom of Miss Dekker's now-postponed trip, I wonder if the experts debating it are missing a very simple point, one that educators in the U.S. would do well to note: children, students, naturally seek out challenges. They want to explore, to discover, to do hard things.

If nothing else, this circumnavigation trend tells me that we are letting a lot of energy and enthusiasm go to waste, not to mention failing to respect students' potential, when we treat teenagers as if they are capable of nothing better than passing a standardized test.