Homeschooling with the Great Books

Part of an ongoing conversation in which I was not involved (I was not the one asked the question) but which bears repeating:

Do you have any advice for a man such as myself who was raised in the modern public education system but wants to raise his children with a classical education?

Another reader offered this answer:

I have BA in Liberal Arts from a “Great Books” school and teach 5th grade at a classical charter school. I’m also a bit of a bibliophile and source hunter, so even though Mr. Moore hasn’t answered yet, I might be able to help.

1. Mortimer Adler’s list and Harold Bloom’s list of the Great Books. Adler’s list has the bedrock texts of the Western Canon, while Bloom also includes what one might call second and third tier texts, as well as having a more literary emphasis. I recommend sticking with Adler’s list and using Bloom’s list to fill in gaps, but only up through “The Democratic Age” and no further.

2. Mortimer Adler’s The Great Ideas and Great Treasury of Western Thought. These two paving slabs of books compose the meat of the Great Books of the Western World collection, including all of Adler’s essays.

3. For instruction in how to study and examine texts, I recommend Adler’s How to Read a Book and How to Speak, How to Listen.

4. For books on the foundations of the Trivium: An Introduction To Traditional Logic by Scott Sullivan, Logic as a Human Instrument by Henry Veatch, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student by Edward Corbett, The Trivium by Miriam Joseph, The Trivium in College Composition and Reading by Miriam Joseph, and The Arts of Learning and Communication by Benedict Ashley.

4. If you need a framework for a curriculum, I recommend Adler’s “Paidea” books: The Paideia Proposal, The Paideia Program, and The Paideia Classroom (which isn’t by Adler, but is about implementing the ideas in the other two books). The network of classical schools I work for used the first two of those books as a basis for their whole curriculum.

5. For books on teaching and the management of learning: The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet (start here), Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov, and The First Days of School by Harry Wong.

6. The two books you need to in order to learn how to give Socratic instruction: Teach Like Socrates by Erick Wilberding and Socratic Circles by Matt Copeland.

7. For math instruction, you might look into “Singapore Math” or “Saxon Math.” For a combined phonetic, spelling, reading comprehension, and penmanship program, I would go with the Spalding Home-educator’s Kit

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