What is Classical homeschooling?

What is Classical homeschooling?

Classical education is a popular method of teaching used in homeschooling circles. Of all of the homeschooling philosophies, this one is considered the most stringent and the most difficult to teach. Classical homeschooling is more than an education style. For many, it is more of a movement.  Parents who are drawn to this type of homeschooling tend to value structure, discipline and a stringent, challenging education.

The instructional style of classical education is not a new invention. It is based on an educational method developed by Latin writer Martianus Capella in the Middle Ages and popularised during the Renaissance period.

With a Classical education, a student is taught the same historical subject matter three times over the course of their education years. This includes the teaching of world history chronologically, separated into four time periods: ancient, medieval, early modern and modern. Each of these time periods is generally taught over the course of a year, taking around four years to get through the entirety of world history. Each time the students cycle through the four year period, they will be instructed based on a different stage of development with age and grade-level appropriate learning expectations.

While a classical education emphasizes history, it integrates literature and language studies along the way. In the process of teaching history in order, other subjects are taught alongside it that complement it well. This typically includes the study of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, art and language, often including Latin. Science is included whenever possible, but for the most part, science and maths are stand alone subjects.

The trivium

The classical approach to teaching and learning is characterised by the three part process of training called the trivium. The three phases of the trivium are Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

In the first step of the trivium called the Grammar phase, the student is taught the basic facts. They learn the who, what, when and where of the subject matter. This is done during the primary grades up to age 12 where they learn the foundation knowledge they need to build on. This stage focuses on memorization, repetition and recitation.


During the next stage of learning, called Logic (or dialectic) students move on to analytical thinking. While cycling through the same time period information again, students now discuss this information that at this point familiar to them, but they now explore the logic of the events and learn to reason through them. That means not just what happened, but why. During this stage, students learn reasoning, informal and formal logic, and how to eloquently argue a point. This stage covers the upper primary and middle school (early high school) years.

The final stage of the trivium in the classical model of education is Rhetoric, which is essentially using the knowledge and logic they learned previously and learning how to express themselves. This is when they learn the art of communication and effective writing. Debate  and discussion are a large component of the rhetoric stage of learning.

Classical homeschooling is considered to be the most stringent approach to homeschooling. It can seem like overkill to some as the same material is learned over and over again in 4-year cycles. For many, the classical approach to homeschooling does include the study of Latin and is not inclined to use pictures or video as it “leads to a lazy mind”.

Visual Latin

If you’re drawn to the classical homeschooling approach, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of classical style curriculums available that will guide you. Some of the programs available are:

  • Memoria Press provides homeschool-in-a-box curriculum complete with an instruction manual for teaching.
  • Classical Conversations is taught in homes and parent-led homeschool co-op environments.
  • Veritas press which provides an online version of a classical curriculum.
  • Classical Academic Press which is a company that lets you pick and choose from classical curriculum offerings.
  • Tapestry of grace combines the classical homeschool philosophy with unit studies.

If you want to tackle the classical homeschooling approach, the oldest and most reliable instructional book is The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer.

Classical homeschool education is rich with great books and has a track record of developing leaders, inventors, scientists, writers, philosophers and more through the ages. It is not unusual for a high school student who has been taught with a classical homeschool approach to accelerate through the final years of homeschool, and even enrolling into online university courses such as Open Uni.

Because it is a cyclical education, a student can typically jump into the cycle at any point, as they will eventually hit the subject matter they have missed again. Also, any student who has spent four consecutive years in a classical homeschooling curriculum will have an excellent grasp of the entirety of world history.

Is a Charlotte Mason education a “classical education”? While a Charlotte Mason education will incorporate many of the same kinds of books as a classical education homeschool reading list, the approaches to how a child learns are different. A good explanation of the differences and similarities can be found in Karen Glass’s book Consider This. Some other books to educate yourself on the Classical method of homeschooling, including Classical Christian education, are below:


Learn more about other homeschooling methods and philosophies

What is school-at-home?

What is a Charlotte Mason Education?


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