How classical are you? Take this quick quiz and find out!
Spoiler... there is no quiz; though, our recent forays into remote learning might tempt us to think that the work of classical education is as easy as an online quiz. And anyway, if we were to post an online quiz on remote learning, we would be far more interested in responses to the following question:
Has our experiment in remote learning been a success?
And the follow up question:
In what sense has it been successful?
One can imagine our returning to school, thoroughly thanking everyone for participating in this grand experiment, and calling remote learning a smashing success. But will it really have been a success if all we do is complete math lessons and history worksheets? If that is all it takes to constitute a successful classical Christian education, why do we even spend all day at school? Why not just keep the kids home next year and let them work through a history textbook on their own time?
Before we do that, let’s check our perspective. To be clear, we are trying to get through what is an unprecedented event in our lifetimes in the best way possible. We are not establishing a new normal with our grand remote learning plan. So, now awash in simple history cards, worksheets, and 30 second online quizzes, one finds it necessary to identify elements that differentiate the work normally accomplished at a classical Christian school from the work such a school might send home during a quarantine.
A Love of Old Things That Have Lasted
How do we know what we know? What things are best? We look to the unfiltered, uninterpreted past, or in Latin ad fontes. While students are keeping up with history worksheets, they are missing careful examination of primary sources. A 5”x8” history card on the Lewis and Clark Expedition is one thing, but the classical teacher brings his intimate knowledge of The Journals of Lewis and Clark to the conversation.
The Master-Disciple Relationship
How will the student become like his master? By imitating the master as the master imitates Christ. While we are delighted that students are getting extra time with parents, teachers and students alike have been missing this relationship at school.
The Study of Latin and English Grammar
How does language express what it is to be human? Precision of language makes all the difference when one is trying to understand the world or get the world to understand him. While a break from the rigorous study of grammar may be pleasant for a season, students who have missed polishing their linguistic skills develop lazy tongues that betray and beget lazy minds.
A Wise and Virtuous Use of Leisure Time
The question is, “What ought we do?” not, “What can we do?” While students have had additional time for reading and doing good work in their homes, they have missed the school's liturgy of work, rest, enjoyment of good art, and reflection.
Contemplation of Difficult Questions
What does “X” imply about our place in the world? While the students have done their assigned reading, they have missed the hefty work of contemplating and responding to thought provoking questions in the community of classroom.
Because classical education is about these things it is impossible for remote learning to qualify as an unmitigated success for classical Christian schools. Success in seeing us through an extreme time? Maybe. While we will tweak and adjust as we go, trying diligently to deliver the best education we can in this difficult circumstance, it will help if parents imitate the classical classroom at home. To be clear, we think home education is a fantastic option for some families. Certainly, some parents have been successfully educating their children at home in the truest and best senses, and we mean them no disrespect. For many families, however, this remote learning is a real challenge.
As parents consider how they can supplement the remote learning packets sent home each week, consider this a guiding principle: Classical education brings “the things which last into our souls, so that our souls can last, too.” There is more to education than getting the worksheet done. You have to dig deeper. For example, use dinner table conversation not just to hear your child’s retelling of her literature book, but to ponder the deep question of why the book matters and why it has stood the test of time. Also, what does it say about the human condition? What can we learn about ourselves by observing and trying to understand the characters? That’s a good start toward getting the things that last into her soul.
Also, it is possible for students to rise above their assigned remote school work during this season. Take this opportunity to read good books you could not ordinarily get to. Take virtual tours of museums. Review math concepts that were not quite mastered the first time around. Plant a garden, paint a picture, write a poem, memorize a few poems…
Much is being missed by our students not being at school. Remote learning, no matter how “successful” in its own right, cannot replace the classical Christian classroom with a competent and passionate teacher at the lectern. We miss you and look forward to your return!