Classical Education from Home

This fall has been the season of tours. Every week (and lately three or four times a week!) I’ve been walking through our school with prospective parents, returning parents, local and state officials (including two policy advisors to our lieutenant governor), and people interested in starting classical schools like ours in Texas and other states. It’s an encouraging reminder of how far we’ve come since 2014, and how much interest in classical education has increased lately. 

Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s a certain rhythm to these tours: parents always ask about our approach to the STAAR test and are relieved to learn that our curriculum is much richer and deeper than the state standards. There is always a nervous question about technology and a sigh of relief when I explain that our students don’t use their cell phone during the school day, and that in class we read books, have discussions, listen to lectures, and take notes by hand rather than trying to learn with iPads and videos. I tend to get a question about the Riggs program and how our students learn to read as we are approaching the kindergarten classrooms, and then a question about our Archer hours program when people learn that all of the books in our libraries were donated and catalogued by volunteers. After we’ve been in our first upper school classroom, whether it’s astronomy, Latin, geometry, or literature, the question is always the same: “Can I come and sit in on classes, too?” 

I always say the same thing: “Of course you can!” Parents are always invited to observe classes (click here to reserve an observation date), and this year we’ve had many moms and dads and even some grandparents walking the hallways and observing one class at a time. They love seeing the students, and we always find their comments helpful after they’ve spent a class period with us. 

But, it’s hard for parents to come as much as they’d like to, especially with young kids at home and jobs during the day! For those who would like to learn more about what our teachers and students are studying here at Founders, I always recommend Hillsdale College’s online courses. They’re short, they’re free, and they’re completely aligned to the curriculum at our school. I sometimes listen to them on my 30 minute drive to and from school each day, and I always learn something from them. 

Here are a few courses to start Founders parents off on receiving a classical education from home:

An Introduction to Classical Education 

Dr. Dan Coupland on why grammar is essential for a liberal education. 
  • A Proper Understanding of K-12 Education: Theory and Practice
    Hillsdale’s course on K-12 education is taught by many of the people who advise our teachers each summer and visit our school each year. If you want to learn about the theory behind the teaching practices we use every day, and a little bit about the curriculum, too, you’ll enjoy this course. Dr. Coupland’s lectures are especially good. 

Courses in American History and Government

More than many other classical schools, Founders Classical Academy provides students with a thorough education in American history, government, and political thought, so that our students can grow up to become thoughtful citizens. Try the following courses if you want to learn about American History and some of the works we study as part of this effort. 

Dr. Larry Arnn (my dad!) teaches Constitution 101. 

An overview of American history from the very beginning. The starting place for anyone who would like to be a history buff but is a little rusty. 

Along with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution is one of the two most important pieces of writing left to us by the Founders. Together they explain how our government is designed, what limits apply to each of the three branches and the government as a whole, and what purposes it should be pursuing. This course is essential for anyone who wants to become a more knowledgeable citizen. 

When the Constitution was written, The Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to explain it to the American people. Today, reading The Federalist is one of the best ways to understand why the Constitution is the way it is. Take this course after the Introduction to the Constitution course above. 

Courses in the Great Books

Our school provide students with an education in the great Western works of literature, history, philosophy, government, and theology, and and through these, an understanding of the ideas that have shaped the Western way of thinking. 

Dr. Ben Whalen on Huckleberry Finn. 

In this course, which covers parts of the Bible, works of Ancient Greek literature, Dante, Chaucer, and more Dr. David Whalen, who gave the keynote address at our second commencement, delivers a lecture on The Odyssey that you’ll enjoy. 

In these lectures, which cover Shakespeare, Austen, Dostoyevsky, and Twain, among others, I especially recommend Dr. Whalen’s lecture on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If you’ve just seen our fall play, or plan to see it, that talk will be of special interest to you. 

Dr. Stephen Smith on Hamlet. 

Someone once told me that school is hard for young people, because they rarely see the adults in their lives learning by reading books. Through our example, we unintentionally teach our children that books and learning are for the young, and that adulthood is the time to leave those things behind. We can help our students enjoy school more and understand how important it is to learn about our country, the Great Books, and the Western tradition if we set the right example–interested in learning more, curious about the world around us and strong enough to pursue knowledge about the most important things over the course of our whole lives. 

This year, our lead teachers are going to be hosting short discussions about our curriculum centered around some of these online courses. These evening sessions are a great way to get more involved in the Founders community, and meet other parents who are raising classically educated children.  For information about these evening talks, check the Archers in Action parent newsletter.