Mar 152012

Early in our homeschool days, we were introduced to the idea of classical education. My husband and I were immediately hooked on the concept. We started our oldest son learning Latin in the 2nd grade.

As time progressed, we continued on the classical education path, though in a more relaxed manner than we had originally envisioned. We’ve continued with Latin studies for our older 2 children, and in middle school, we introduced the topic of logic.

I received The Art of Argument from Classical Academic Press to review. This book is an introduction to the informal fallacies. My older daughter is in the 6th grade, which is an ideal age to begin this study, though it is suitable for older students as well.

Art of ArgumentThe Art of Argument divides the fallacies up into 3 Units: Presumption, Relevance, and Clarity. Within these units a total of 28 fallacies are discussed. Each fallacy is introduced with its definition. This is followed by examples and questions for the students to answer. Each chapter also includes a discussion between Socrates, Nate, and Tiffany. These discussions are great helps in understanding the concepts.

The soft covered text and teacher’s edition include many helpful illustrations. The teacher’s edition is the full student text with the answers filled in, rather than just an answer key. There are also DVD’s of the lessons available.

My daughter has been enjoying this course so far. She’s worked through the introduction and the first several fallacies. Like just about everything else, she’s working independently on this study. Because of this, I expected her to really appreciate the DVD’s. However, she didn’t find that they added much over the book and prefers just reading. I think the DVD’s are very well done with both lessons and discussions with students.

Actually, I think my daughter’s feeling that she doesn’t need the DVD’s is high praise for the text itself. It’s very clearly written and has made the subject both interesting and easy to understand. It is also humorous at times. This is a definitely an item she will continue using! I plan to have my older son read through the text as well. He completed a much shorter study of informal fallacies a couple of years ago, but I think that reading through this course will help refresh his memory on what he learned, as well as go into more depth on  some of the fallacies.

These materials can be purchased from Classical Academic Press for the following prices:

  • Text – $21.95
  • Teacher’s Edition – $24.95
  • DVD set – $54.95
  • Bundle including all of the above – $88.95


Disclosure: I received The Art of Argument text, teacher edition, and sample DVD to review as a member of the Homeschool Crew. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Sep 282011

It’s my turn on the Schoolhouse Birthday Blog Hop again. Hopefully you visited last week when I hosted Malia Russell.

Today I’m pleased to have Amy Barr of with me. Amy will be writing monthly in The Old Schoolhouse® magazine on Classical Homeschooling topics. Being a somewhat classical homeschooler, I was pleased to be selected to interview Amy. I was not familiar with the Lukeion Project, but have now visited the website and it looks like a fantastic program. They offer live, on-line, high school level classes in Latin, Greek , Classical Literature, and more! I’m going to be checking into these for my son for next year.

Kristen: How did you become interested in Classical Education?

Amy: When I was 10 I saw a magazine article about a city that was wiped out during the worst mega-disaster in human history: It was about Pompeii, a Roman city of 20,000 annihilated by a volcano in AD 79. I was hooked!  I started an archaeological excavation in our back yard. When Pompeii was re-discovered in 1749 it caught the imagination of the world, prompting the neo-Classical movement just when our founders were deciding how to build a new nation.  Most people don’t know Thomas Jefferson picked columns instead of cathedrals because of Pompeii. I can relate.

Once I started college I began to work abroad as a Classical Archaeologist.  I spent a decade of summers living in Jordan, Greece and Turkey doing what I loved best. While studying ancient history, archaeology, art, architecture, Greek and Latin, I gained valuable college teaching experience. My husband, Regan, followed a similar path but started his journey with a couple of degrees in New Testament.

I knew I would teach my children at home well before I had a family. I worked at my college library in a special collection for education majors where I organized the tools of the teaching trade.  I wasn’t impressed with the racks of diagnostic tests aimed to calculate intellect rather than nurture it. Future teachers were learning how to give tests, not how to teach children. Once I started teaching at the college level it was clear that most of the students could not read carefully, write effectively, reason clearly, or think independently. My husband and I agreed:  we could do a better job with our own children.

Classical education divides the way a child learns into three stages (the trivium or “three roads”) based on how the child’s brain works during development: grammar, logic, rhetoric. These stages roughly correspond to elementary, middle, and high school. Educators who keep these stages in mind appreciate why the same logic-based task will aggravate an 8 year-old but amuse a 14 year-old.  Language skills are essential to Classical education as learners are given the tools and time to read great literature while they incorporate math, science, philosophy, art, history, travel along with Greek and Latin. What’s not to like?  Regardless of our children’s path, their world is well-rounded.

Kristen: Do you think that the classical education model is good for every student? Why or why not?

Amy: No one model of education when strictly applied will work for everyone. We home educators must evaluate, adapt, and refine what and how we teach the unique learners that God gave us.  Classical education, however, is a broad and forgiving approach that will fill the needs of most families.

The tools that I’ve found most useful in this approach came naturally as a result of my own interests. I’ve modeled a love of learning and as a result my kids are voracious readers and their vocabulary and language skills are excellent. My husband and I are professional Latin and Greek teachers so a systematic study of Latin and Greek are a natural part of their education. My husband and I worked at the site of Troy as archaeologists and I also teach mythology professionally so my children have a remarkable understanding of the Iliad, Odyssey, and other foundational Classical literature.  Just by being around us, our kids have a first-rate view of the whole cultural setting of ancient Greece and Rome.  They even take yearly family trips with The Lukeion Project to the Mediterranean. For us, Classical education is a life-style more than an educational methodology.  I know there aren’t many people that have all of that available. A Classical focus can be adapted for your family using your talents and skills.

Kristen: Is it easier to begin studying Greek or Latin first? Should students study both languages at the same time? At what age do you recommend beginning Greek and/or Latin studies?

Amy: Since I am a full-time advanced Latin teacher while my husband teaches Greek at the same level, we get this question a lot.  Each language affords its own advantages, and they help each other out when learned together. Some are a bit intimidated by the Greek alphabet, while others delight in being able to write (and type!) in a 3000 year-old language. Latin is a more conventional and may seem less threatening. Start with the language that interests your learner more.  If you want your child to take both, wait until he has had at least a year or two of one before starting the next.

In the elementary ages, children can learn a lot of Greek and Latin vocabulary, play with short translations, and master the Greek alphabet. Keep these early years fun! Mix a little language learning with plenty of hands-on history craft projects, games, travel and museum visits.  Once a learner starts to think more logically (roughly 12 to 15) he is ready to begin a systematic study of Latin or Greek. Wait for your learner to be intellectually ready and these languages will be a pleasure instead of a pain.

Thank you so much for your insight Amy. I’m looking forward to reading your contributions to The Old Schoolhouse®.



Jun 292010

The Core is the latest book by Leigh Bortins, the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations. Even though I knew a little about Classical Conversations because there are several groups in my area, I have never been involved in a group, or even attended an informational meeting. All the information I had was from members, or previous members, of Classical Conversations. My knowledge of the program could be summed up as follows:

  1. It follows a neo-classical model.
  2. The students do a lot of memorizing.
  3. It’s not an inexpensive program to join.

The reasons I had not joined, or even investigated the program further, were #2 and #3. I was excited to receive a review copy of The Core so I could finally see why so many people are so excited about Classical Conversations.

The book begins with a very thorough explanation of what is wrong with our country’s current educational model and the benefits of the classical model. Though this was not new information for me, it served as an excellent reminder of why we chose to educate our children classically, and it provided me with encouragement to stay the course. For someone unfamiliar with the concept of classical education, this book provides an exceptional explanation.

Part Two is divided into subjects such as reading, writing, math, history, and science. Each chapter is devoted to a single subject and how to teach it. I found this section very practical. The focus in the grammar years is mastering and overpracticing the foundational skills. The Core does strongly emphasize memorization of facts, especially in the early years. However, the author very clearly explains the reasons that memorization is so important.

I was honestly never thrilled with all the memory work that I had heard about in Classical Conversations, but after reading The Core, I am definitely going to be adding more memory work to our routine. An important thing to understand concerning the memorization in this program is that although it sounds like a lot of work, it is not in addition to everything else you’re already doing. It’s instead of. I think that’s what I was missing before. The approach is actually very relaxed in many ways. There is no structured history or science curricula for the grammar years. The time is spent in memorizing key facts and reading or listening to good books. There is time for exploring interests in science and history. The program doesn’t tie you to a specific time period in history or topic in science but allows for great flexibility.

I was also very happy to discover that The Core is not a big advertisement for why you should join Classical Conversations or buy their products. Of course there are a few mentions of specific resources used in the program, but overall it’s an instruction manual on how you can teach classically at home. I can definitely see how a group setting would aid in accountability, but I did not find myself, upon completing the book, immediately searching for Classical Conversations groups to join. Instead I have found myself thinking about how I have been teaching and why I have chosen to teach some subjects. I have also been trying to determine what changes I need to make to achieve the educational goals we have for our children.

I highly recommend this book both to classical educators who need to refocus, and to homeschoolers who are interested in learning more about classical education. It is available at Classical Conversations, and will be sold by major booksellers.

I have read 23 books this year for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Core from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this review.

Jun 172010

When I saw that this week The Homeschool Village was asking “What book has encouraged/supported you in your homeschooling adventure??”, the book that immediately came to mind was The Well-Trained Mind.(Yes, I see the pun and decided to keep it.)

When I first started researching homeschooling, I found a curriculum that I fell in love with. It focused on reading wonderful books, and that greatly appealed to me. I joined a Yahoo group for preschoolers and started using the preschool curriculum. But it was on that group that I first heard of The Well Trained Mind. Intrigued by the title, I started reading reviews. Pretty soon I realized that I was going to have to read the book, so I bought it. (You really don’t have to twist my arm too much to buy a book.) I read the book from cover to cover. My husband read the book from cover to cover. After reading it, we both knew that this was the kind of education we had missed. It was the kind of education we would like for our children.

So our long-term plans shifted. We began to think in terms of the stages of learning. We started researching Latin curricula. We decided to study history chronologically.

This all happened over 7 years ago. Have we followed The Well-Trained Mind completely? No. If Susan Wise Bauer were to visit my home, would she recognize any of her ideas here? Probably not. (Though she would find all 4 volumes of Story of the World and First Language Lessons!) I’ve done more research. I’ve branched out and found some different ways of doing some things. I haven’t emphasized some of the things that I should have to be truly “classical”.  Even so, the single most influential homeschooling book for our home has been The Well-Trained Mind. As a matter of fact, I want to purchase the 3rd edition and reread it now that I have a children in the logic stage. I could use the inspiration!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something, it will bring me closer to purchasing a new copy of The Well-Trained Mind.

Oct 282008

There is a lot of disagreement among homeschoolers concerning the value of studying mythology.  Some, especially strict Classical homeschoolers or Latin-centered homeschoolers, place great attention on mythology in the early years. The article Why Pagans? by Cheryl Lowe of Memoria Press is a short defense on the value of studying the Greek and Roman culture. Others, take a more moderate view of studying mythology.  While recognizing some of the value in the forms of cultural literacy and understanding of ancient times, they do not elevate the Greek and the Roman culture to a higher place than it deserves.  I would consider Tapestry of Grace to be among this group.  Finally, there are some who disagree with teaching any mythology in the early years.  I would put the Bluedorn’s among this group.  This article explains their concerns and their definition of classical education. 

I guess I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, possibly leaning more to the Bluedorn’s perspective on this matter.  But we do study some mythology.  We are in Week 14 of TOG and my Upper Grammar kids have been reading D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths.  I think it has been a profitable study for them.  I was excited yesterday by the connections my older son is making with the Greek story of a flood to the biblical account.  He was interested in seeing how Noah was spelled in our Greek New Testament.  Then he was comparing the stories of Noah to the Greek and Babylonian flood stories.  We talked about the Tower of Babel and how all men would have heard the story of the flood before their language was confused.  Then after the people were dispersed they took the story with them.  Over time, the story was confused in the cultures that did not continue to follow the true God of the Bible.  He sovereignly preserved the true story which is recorded in Genesis.  I think this is an example of the light that everyone in the world has as mentioned in Romans 1 but has been distorted. The reading of the myths really enabled my son to see these connections for himself.  I’m always encouraged when he shows such insight!