Monday, August 10, 2009

What kind of education is that?

I've been having all kinds of thoughts about education bounce around in my head after our Wisdom and Eloquence Retreat last week. The main speaker is a professor of Rhetoric, and a big proponent of Classical Education as the best way to educate children.

I have never aspired to be a classical educator. I own a copy of The Well-Trained Mind, but it sits, unmolested, on a shelf in my family room, from whence it shall--someday--join the ranks of those books destined for the used book store. I may read it first, but I'm waiting until the kids are all finished homeschooling.

I have, however, been privy to enough conversations about classical ed and read enough blog posts and articles to be familiar with the concepts. I have learned that classical educators--like radical unschoolers--jealously guard their turf. (We are and you're not, so don't even pretend you may overlap.)

All that said, as one of my more unschooly friends and I listened to Dr. Classical Ed last week, we were both struck by how much the process, the tools, the very structure of classical education mirrors the de facto way our unschooled children have learned. You would think that classical educators would like this affirmation that, yes, this is naturally the way children's minds work at these stages. But they don't. Not from us.

Like classical ed, we reject the boxing into subjects that progressive education insists upon. We agree that knowledge is interconnected. As is suggested in TWTM, we have always used history as a framework for "hanging" our knowledge. We have not taken the organized, cranked down approach suggested by classical ed, but we've gotten to the same desired place, with our children ready to join in the Great Conversation.

Am I saying we are classical educators? Certainly not! I gladly wear my badge of mostly unschooly-ish-ness. It keeps me sane and my children happy. And I'm also not arguing for the superiority of any one way of doing things. My philosophy is that each family needs to determine what works for them.

But if your end desire is kids who know things, can think critically, and can speak and write clearly about what they know, from a basis of the great tradition of the western world, well, there's more than one way to get there.

1 comment:

Elephantschild said...

Yup! Exactly so. Interesting that some Classical people were quite so creeped out by the unschooley types.

Must just be that "turf" thing!