Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Classical Education in Our Home, Challenge #1: my own background

When God first called us to educate our children at home, he placed in me a desire for them to have a Classical Christian education. That was a tall order since I really had no idea what it was! So I started doing the research…
What I learned was that Classical Christian education had been around for a long time, and that in my own educational background (13 years in a “progressive” public school system and a BA from a highly respected liberal arts college) I received the vestiges of a Classical education – the leftovers from an earlier era.
During the 1960’s and 70’s (for those of you too young to remember), we were going through a social revolution that sought to throw out anything that was “old”, “classical” or “traditional”. But in any institution, public education included, there is a process to change and a period where the old mixes with the new…and that was the confused educational climate I grew up in. Our teachers had us read the “classics”…because we should, somehow, they thought, be exposed to them…you know? It just seems right, you know? (Yes, the teachers were more confused than we were!) So I read Les Miserables in 8th grade, in a class taught by a teacher who was more concerned with social justice than literature, and at the same time “studied” American “history” taught by a teacher who impressed us more with her “mod” clothes (remember Mrs. Peel in “The Avengers”?) than with anything she had to say in class. This same trend continued through to my college years, so even though I was given an “excellent” public school education and graduated from a top ranked college, I reached adulthood feeling like I really hadn’t learned anything.
I’ve discovered that the problem with my own education is that I was given bits and pieces in a vacuum. How could I hope to understand Les Miserables without any understanding of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era? How could I understand the French Revolution without understanding the humanistic philosophies of the time? How could I hope to understand the main theme of redemption in the story without an understanding of the religious and moral underpinnings of that society or my own? And that was just the beginning. I read Moby Dick under the guidance of a professor who refused to look at the Christian symbolism of the book, Dante’s Divine Comedy with only the shallowest of understanding of medieval literature, and Beowulf with just an inkling that there may be a connection between Old English literature and the modern pieces by Tolkein and C.S. Lewis.
The result was an English major who hated reading literature, and a writer who couldn’t write. I wanted something different for our children, and God called us to something different.