Our Classical Evolution

My idea of a classical education has…evolved, if you will.

Our Classical Evolution

When I began teaching Elizabeth, I had no idea what I was doing. All options were wide open to me. I had taught public middle and high school students, and college courses. What was I supposed to do with a bright five-year-old? And that whole October birthday thing just threw us off schedule!

I started with The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM). I’m not sure how I discovered it, but it must have just been an internet search. I think it appealed to me that it was an education such as I would have desired to have (and aha – there’s The Well-Educated Mind for others like me!).

We had no real friends who homeschooled. No mentors. We had just moved from Georgia to Texas, thanks to the Air Force. I couldn’t find a teaching job, and Elizabeth’s birthday was too late for her to begin kindergarten, even in a private school. God closed every door to direct us to home educate our children.

I loved the curriculum options for all subjects from 1st-12th that are laid out in The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM). Yay for choices! But I had set in my mind that my daughter should be in kindergarten. She was only just 5 in October! Yet I knew in my heart that she was well beyond what kindergartners did all day. (She would have been a trouble-maker in school, that one.)

So I began with an old math workbook and a set of readers from my husband’s mother. She had taught kindergarten and second grade for 32 years! I let Liz set the pace. We sat at the kitchen table for “school” every morning.

Liz completed all the “kindergarten” work I had for her in ONE MONTH. Now what?!

Since Elizabeth already knew how to read fluently, I bought the first volume of The Story of the World and we went. to. town. We read through that and loved the notebooking and the narrating and the doing of fun projects. I loved the combining of history and literature – it seemed gloriously fun to do these unit studies.

We read through First Language Lessons (when it was levels 1 and 2 in one book!) and that was highly enjoyable for both of us.  The English teacher inside me just ate it up! Liz loved the copywork and handwriting exercises.  She is highly developed in language. We’ve never formally studied grammar or spelling after that. Liz now gets all her grammar education from her Latin programs.

I followed TWTM that first few years religiously. I had no other guidance. It was safe.

For the most part, Liz did really well and everything was fine with TWTM module.

Then she hit those upper elementary years. Tragedy!

The Story of the World just didn’t cut it for her that second time around. You’re supposed to cycle through those 4 volumes of history 4 times, digging deeper in each cycle, but we dug pretty deep on the first go-round.

Thus began the search for something more in-depth.

We dabbled in Charlotte Mason lessons for a year, but Liz needs more structure. I was in survival mode with another move across the continent and a new baby!

We now use Tapestry of Grace for our main curriculum. It encompasses history and literature, with all the necessary components, such as geography and writing. It divides the curriculum into four levels of classical education: lower and upper grammar, dialectic (logic), and rhetoric. {Story of the World is a core text during the upper grammar level.} We cannot express how much we love it. Our library is very well utilized and our bookshelves are overflowing. We use notebooking every week for the history and literature assignments. We love the craft projects and art program. It is well worth the price, especially to be able to use it for multiple children. Now, my younger girls are in their first year! And my son will use it eventually. Some weeks, we have a read-aloud all across the board, but mostly, the girls have different reading all on the same theme. I love how well it suits us!

For Victoria (6) and Katherine (5), First Language Lessons is just ok. I’m not sure if it’s me or them or a combination of us all, but we don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did with Elizabeth. They do love the poems and letter writing activities, but perhaps the grammar memorization is too much for them right now. It’s on hold for the moment. Part of this may be that we need to get to reading fluency before studying parts of speech thoroughly. Much of it may just be different personalities and abilities.

And the point to classical education is for the child to go at the pace at which his or her mind develops. It’s a cognitive progression. I have no need to rush Tori and Kate and no need to compare them to where Liz was at their age. Age doesn’t matter with classical education. And I’ve never been a stickler for “what grade they’re in.” I don’t have to fit them into those boxes. Thank God.

While Liz is extremely interested in every aspect of history, Tori is not. Kate likes only some of it. Kate balks at copywork, and Liz and Tori love it. Tori is fascinated by math; Liz is not. Kate and Liz are both linguistically gifted, reading early and desiring to learn foreign languages. Tori struggles a bit with reading since she is so right-brained! I constantly re-evaluate my methods and try not to compare the children to each other. And who knows where Alex will fit in? He’s only three. But I can tell he will probably be very verbal and I breathe a sigh of relief for my boy to love books in addition to being a very kinesthetic learner. And all my children are very musical (whereas I am not).

How does your child learn best? Find out for free at Kidzmet. The descriptions of different learning styles really helps me adapt my teaching of different lessons and subjects to each of my children while not expecting fish to climb trees.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

― Albert Einstein


  1. says

    Thanks for sharing this! It’s always nice to know a bit of the back-story of the bloggers that I have come to enjoy! I’m just reading through The Well Trained Mind for the first time and enjoy reading their perspective on it all. Thanks for the reminder that even within Classical Education, or kids don’t need to do things exactly the same way!