Category Archives: Classical Education

Hard Words for Homeschool Moms

While teaching my classes online, speaking with customers at conventions, and swapping stories with my son who is also a teacher of homeschoolers, I have observed a troubling tendency among homeschooling mothers of teenage sons, a tendency pervasive enough that I feel compelled to say something. I do not want to unduly offend, but I want to speak to the problem as I see it. Here it is: Continue reading Hard Words for Homeschool Moms

Books I read my children

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Andrew Pudewa, the director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing and a father of seven, speak at an education conference on the importance of reading aloud to your children. As he spoke, I recalled with delight the many hours I spent reading to my four children before they went to sleep. My eldest is about seven years older than the youngest. I would first read the Bible, making sure I at least turned the page every night. We read it all the way through, Genesis to Revelation, over and over again (once we finished it in an airport), occasionally changing the translation. We would pray and sometimes sing, and then I would read a story, alternating each night between the boys’ room and the girls’ room (I tried to keep track by which room my chair was left in, only later learning that my girls would move my chair to the boys’ room during the day so that I would move it back to their room so they could be in their own beds as I read).

I am thankful that I kept a record of the books I read to them. I have listed them below, for anyone who might somehow benefit from knowing the stories that shaped my children (and me). They are listed roughly in the order that I first read them over the years. The underlined books are favorites that I read more than once. No doubt some books went unrecorded (I’m pretty sure I read some missionary biographies, but I cannot recall which ones). You can see that I would sometimes get on a theme. I do not offer these as the best books, and I would not even offer all of them as suggestions (were I to do it over, for instance, I would not read Pollyanna to the girls). But they are all worth considering. Anyway, here they are. Continue reading Books I read my children

Small Beginnings in China

China marketOur Uber driver chatters at us in Mandarin as he weaves through the crowded streets of Chengdu on a muggy morning after the rains. We pass honking cars, quietly-buzzing electric scooters, and squeaky bicycles loaded with cardboard boxes, heavily loaded garbage bags, and even a refrigerator. With a population of almost 18 million, Chengdu is the seventh most populous city in China. Old men mosey with t-shirts pulled up to expose their warm bellies, and children laugh as they splash in the sidewalk puddles. The usually smoggy air is cleaner than normal — probably by temporarily closing some factories — to impress the leaders of the recent G20 summit, and the locals are enjoying a rare blue sky. They have an idiom in Chengdu: “When the sun appears, the dog barks at it.” We emerge from the car, thank our driver, and walk cautiously along a slippery stone path. Consuming our greasy pork baozi and warm soybean milk, we wait in a closely packed line for the elevator to take us up seventeen stories to a classroom of Chinese college students waiting to learn logic.

Boys in ChengduClassical Christian education is taking off in China. Yes, you read that correctly. I just returned from Chengdu, Sichuan, where (through an interpreter) I taught an intensive, week-long course in formal logic in a small, densely packed room of about forty young men and women. These intrepid grad students are preparing to be teachers of mathematics, classical literature, even Latin, in newly formed classical Christian schools throughout China. They are on fire for Christ and eager to learn. Many of them arrived early from their homes throughout the city for a devotional hour of prayer and Bible teaching. Continue reading Small Beginnings in China

Shakespeare’s Use of the Liberal Arts: Rhetoric

81Few4FQ9cL[1]In her invaluable book Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language, Sister Miriam Joseph tells us that, according to Shakespeare scholar T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespeare “was trained in the heroic age of grammar school rhetoric in England, and he shows knowledge of the complete system, in its most heroic proportions. He shows a grasp of the theory as presented by the various texts through Quintilian.” In fact, a contemporary reported that Shakespeare was a country schoolmaster before he came to London, and at that time the grammar school would have significantly familiarized him with the arts of language.  Many passages in Shakespeare’s plays show such a familiarity with the technical vocabulary of rhetoric. Continue reading Shakespeare’s Use of the Liberal Arts: Rhetoric

Shakespeare’s Use of the Liberal Arts: Logic

81Few4FQ9cL[1]The classical Christian school movement is seeking to revive a form of education that helped shape some the greatest minds of western civilization. But how do we know that our father’s were trained according to the Trivium? One delightful demonstration of this is William Shakespeare’s frequent and detailed use of the liberal arts of grammar, logic and rhetoric in his plays and poems,  a use thoroughly identified by Sister Miriam Joseph in her book Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language. In this well-researched book, she argues that Shakespeare’s application of formal logic is evidenced in his use of definition, genus and species, syllogistic vocabulary, applied syllogisms, enthymemes, and more. Let me give some of her clearer examples. Continue reading Shakespeare’s Use of the Liberal Arts: Logic

An exhortation to teachers regarding formal proofs

Formal proofs are hard, like many other things worth learning!
In this video, I talk through the difficulties of formal proofs of validity, and why it’s worth enduring the hardship to learn them.

YouTube version HERE.

Great Books Challenge Lesson 12

Lesson 12 is the final installment in this Old Western Culture video course on The Romans, unit 1, and it has been a grand adventure. Wes Callihan has taken us through the entire Aeneid, greatest of the Roman epics, and led us through large portions of Ovid’s mythical tales of Metamorphoses. In this final lesson we are introduced to the last three of the Roman epics, connected (oddly enough) by the theme of impiety: De Rerum Natura by Lucretius, Pharsalia by Lucan, and Thebaid by Statius. Continue reading Great Books Challenge Lesson 12

Great Books Challenge Lesson 10-11

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is an encyclopedia of about 250 Greek and Roman myths from Creation to Julius Caesar, including Pyramus and Thisbe, Arachne, the Minotaur’s labyrinth, Icarus, Hercules, Pygmalion, Orpheus and Eurydice, King Midas, and more you will probably recognize. These otherwise independent stories are united by Ovid’s theme of change, along with other interesting interweavings, such as Daedalus being both the architect hired by Minos to hide the Minotaur and the engineer who designed the wings of wax and feathers that he and his son Icarus use to escape Crete.

Wes Callihan brings to light dozens of fascinating insights, finds connections with biblical events, and demonstrates the value to Christian students of understanding this ancient epic, among others. For example, in Ovid, man is made in the image of God to rule over the earth. Ovid’s version of the great Flood, following the ages of gold, silver, and bronze, and the violent age of iron, has surprising parallels and differences with scriptures story of Noah. The only survivors, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, survive on a small boat, land on a mountain, but repopulate the world by throwing rocks behind them, which then grow into people. This demonstrates both the historicity and superiority of the biblical account.

As someone who enjoys science, I was particularly intrigued by three further associations made by Wes Callihan. Continue reading Great Books Challenge Lesson 10-11

Great Books Challenge Lesson 9

This lesson completes Vergil’s epic classic the Aeneid, with books eleven and twelve. These books are battle filled page turners, with gripping side tales and a satisfying conclusion. The side tales are sometimes tragic, as when King Evander mourns the loss of Pallas: “I, in living, have undone the fate of fathers: I survive my son”; maddeningly frustrating, as when Diomedes’ suggestion of a truce is received by all but Turnus: “I shall go bold against Aeneas”; or adventurous fun, as the story of Camilla, the warrior maiden: “At the center of the struggle, like an Amazon…”

Wes Callihan has noted many parallels between Vergil and Homer (modified to match the Roman mindset), as well as Vergil and the Bible. These parallels have been insightful and educational, and have added to the pleasure of the reading. And as Vergil imitated Homer, so later writers, such as Dante, used matter from Vergil. Continue reading Great Books Challenge Lesson 9