A classical education gives students opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. Some schools, however, advertise that they are classically-based, but actually lack the structure and methodology of an authentic “academy” in its classic form. This term derives from the school that Socrates founded, Athen’s “School of Thought,” and is integral in understanding how classical education functions in a modern world.
Focus on the Triumvirate
Not only does a classical education focus on, well, the classics (in both letters and sciences), but it is also based on a very old series of “schools” within schools. These three branches of the educational process were titled “Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.” They were considered the basis for all solid learning and this ancient school built its worldview upon this foundation.
For example, in Grammar school, kids learn the basics of language, the fundamental support structures that allow us to communicate, and the beginning of the critical thinking processes. After that, in “Logic School,” which usually comprises the middle school grades, kids solidify reasoning and deductive/inductive methodology of determining an answer.
Integration of Philosophy
Speaking of philosophy, it’s important to note that these ancient traditions stem from some of the greatest minds we have encountered in the reasoning world. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are legends for a reason: they built a very solid framework for processing information, which has stood the test of thousands of years of human experience. Even much of American philosophy, from Democracy to the Free Market ideology, are all based off these men’s teachings.
To really understand the underlying attributes that single out a great classical education, one needs to look at individual branches of these philosophies, and how they played out in reality. One extreme but also effective example are the Stoics. This group of philosophers believed in absolute adherence to minimalism and a complete dismissal of the notion that we are “controlled” by biological urges. In a famous story, a stoic was captured by enemies who wanted to get information from their prisoner.
Diversity in Courses
Finally, it’s important to note that a truly well-developed school will have many courses to choose from. Make sure you browse around until the interests of your child match the available classroom experiences. For example, some schools have lots of extra funding for sports teams, district connections, and similar extracurricular activities, while others don’t.
Finally, make sure that not only does the school offer an excellent blend of classical education basics, like philosophy, theology, government, literature, and composition, but also a healthy mix of supplemental classes throughout the arts and sciences. Any school who seems too focused in one area might be lacking funding or may be undeveloped. Make sure their standard of excellence is on-par with your preferences.