Founder of Classical Conversations, a classical homeschool teaching
community, Leigh Bortins has written this new book, a thorough
look at how all parents and educators can apply classical methods
to their students' educations.
The Core is comprised of two main parts. Part One discusses
the merits of classical teaching in today's society in three chapters
titled "What's Wrong with Education Today," "Why We Need Classical
Education," and "How Classical Education Can Help You."
Lack of meaningful relationships between student and teacher,
government replacing community as the force behind education, discarding
memorization (with repetition) as the main tool of learning, declining
literacy rates, and therefore leaving today's children out of the "great
discussion" are the problems with today's education system: "We
have rejected the historically successful model of rigorous, classical
education in favor of entertainment and job training."
Part Two describes the classical method for the grammar-stage
child as it applies to reading, writing, math, geography, history,
science, and the fine arts. How parents or teachers of various
kinds (single, double-income, afterschoolers, non-classical educators,
and homeschoolers) can apply these ideas makes up the last chapter.
Leigh Bortins raises the bar for education in general, even classical
education, going back to the time-honored method of learning via
memorization. Listen to this partial list of goals: know the times
table through at least fifteen by fifteen, draw (as opposed to
fill in) a world map with two hundred locations, and recite a 160-event
world timeline. Does it sound daunting?
A common thread of encouragement is woven throughout The Core pages.
Not only are parents capable classical teachers of their children,
but they are equally capable learners of a classical education.
We can and will and should learn along with our students. To the
popular thought that our adult minds are beyond the task of our
sponge-like-brained youngsters, Leigh Bortins says in her geography
chapter, "Adults can learn very quickly because they have context.
We've watched the news, driven, flown, and traveled. We can relate
to the largeness of the globe. We understand the difference between
curved 3-D and flat 2-D space. Spend the time needed to improve
your own geography skills so that any time a student has a question
about a location, there is an interested adult who has an answer
ready." The self-education we parents can and should achieve is
a repeated theme throughout the chapters.
A resources section at the end of the book provides sources for
many of the citations in the book as well as book and curriculum
recommendations. This is a treasure as Leigh Bortins lists and
describes what has worked best for her family. There are references
to other materials throughout the book, and I wish all of these
were listed in the resource section as well. Also, I found the
Fine Arts chapter a little bit of a letdown. I was hoping for more
content, suggestions, and resources in this chapter.
I will be revamping our homeschool right now (and as I look to
next year) with many of ideas learned in The Core. Whether
or not you are classical in your approach to homeschooling, I think
you will find The Core challenging and inspiring.