A recent post on Facebook caught my attention. The post was from a student taking online classes through our online school, Veritas Press Scholars Academy. It interested me because it highlighted the difference between a classical Christian education and a traditional one. It also illustrated an interesting phenomenon regarding the status of home-educated students.
Here’s what was said:
I was going to register for the SAT, but I'm still at a loss when it comes to fitting Omnibus into all the neat little categories. World History, US History, European history, US Government, world cultures. The list goes on and on. And that's not even to mention the literature portion. Why is math the only thing that can be integrated. And then, my mom can't get it into her head that I don't test as a Louisiana Homeschool student and that all the colleges who have received my ACT scores and are sending us stuff view me as a homeschool student now. Ugh. Why is this all so complicated?
In this article I’ll address this confusion relating to classical Christian education. Part 2 will address how to know whether a student is considered homeschooled or not—even if they think they are (or aren’t).
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Classical education differs little from traditional education in its educational content during grammar school. During the early years, kindergarten and first grade, students learn to read. They use phonics. Non-phonetic approaches to reading are not popular with classical educators. And for good reason: these methods don’t provide the tools of leverage that the word attack skills of phonics provide. Yet, this is hardly unique to classical education. Many other educational models embrace phonics as well.
One might argue that learning history chronologically (as we encourage) is a very different approach, but educators of all stripes see the value of teaching all time periods of history in order during grammar school. Teaching history from the beginning is not what makes classical education distinct.
Classical education in general, and ours in particular, emphasizes teaching Latin in grammar school—commonly, in 3rd – 6th grades. There are exceptions, but Latin in grammar school is often found where a classical education is followed. One of our main reasons is that learning Latin is a tool of leverage for mastering our own language. Even those who don’t teach it recognize the argument and don’t find it too strange.
However, the traditionalist (at least a modern one :)) finds it strange when we introduce logic, rhetoric and an advanced reading of the Great Books throughout 7th – 12th grades.
The language of modern education doesn’t quite know how to categorize these things. A few years ago, we learned that the NCAA allowed high school credit for Basket Weaving but didn’t know what to do with our Omnibus courses! They didn’t fit in the available “boxes”. After I escalated the call—which was no easy nor efficient thing—to a management level staffer we were able to work out a very good solution. (Now, you can take our Omnibus courses and get an athletic scholarship!)
The problem is that studying the Great Books, logic, and rhetoric are just not commonplace enough to be understood by today’s traditional educator. What should we do?
One simple solution would be to abandon what we’re doing and conform. You already know we’re not going to do or recommend that. We believe with all our being that what we do is better than what they do. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it.
We have found that the best solution is to understand their system and work with it as best we can—without changing ours. Speaking their language helps them. Keeping our education intact allows us to reach our goals. With the NCAA, this meant providing transcript terms for the courses that they have a “box” for.
Here’s an example. If a student takes Omnibus I Primary Books and Omnibus I Secondary Books they receive three credits. For transcript purposes the credits are in World Ancient History I, Doctrine & Theology I and World Ancient Literature I. Now these are terms everyone can understands.
That works for not only the NCAA but for all the colleges we‘ve worked with as well. Of course, it also helps when colleges see the SAT or ACT scores our students earn, read the essays requested in most applications, as well as see the poise and articulation they exhibit if a personal interview is part of the process. Classically educated students shine. They stand out.
But we all know that getting into college, excelling there, and getting a good job is not the primary benefit of working through the frustration caused by our differences. The primary benefit is seeing our children become adults who love learning, can engage in meaningful communication, lead others, and of course seek to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and love their neighbor as themselves.