How We Use the Classical Method

I titled this how "we" use the classical method because how we use it might not be how you use it or want to, and that's fine! There's no reason to assume that the method is set in a certain curriculum or even in Classical Conversations. The method is useful for any subject, as I showed you in the first post with couponing. It's a method, which is to say it's a tool. It is not a curriculum. I say all this because I don't want you to think my way of using the classical method is the only way.

Ok, that out of the way, let me explain how I use the classical method in my homeschool.

Wait, nevermind, let me explain how to use the classical method first.

When you use the classical method the first item you need to identify is the language of your subject. What is important to the study of each subject. Most often it is the vocabulary. I've been studying language for a while now, and it fascinates me. When we don't have, or can't form a name to a thing, it is as if that thing does not exist. It literally can't exist in our heads or understanding. I read this article about how our ability to see blue seems to be a relatively new phenomenon. The ancients didn't have a word for blue, so the ocean was described as "wine-dark" by Homer. Does this mean blue didn't exist? No. The Egyptians did have a word for it in the same time period. It does mean that without the language of blue, we can have no understanding of what blue is. We must identify a thing before we can understand it. And we must understand a thing before we can explain it. So for the classical method, we must give our students or ourselves, the language and vocabulary of the subject. We must be able to recognize the vocabulary when it comes time to understand.

After the language is drilled, the time to ask the questions of "why?" or "how?" come. Why? What does that mean? How do we use it? What can we do with this information? During the understanding stage, both student and teacher are to be asking the questions and finding the answers. This is a good time to learn to ask good questions. It's also an excellent time to cement in a student's head that the answer does not reside in ourselves. Nowadays, people believe we have the answer inside of us. God says man's way is not his own. While we are reiterating that we don't have all the answers, we can also show how to find the answers and how to find reputable answers.

Finally, we are at the point of the telling. This is when a student becomes a speaker of truth. They know the facts and language of their subjects, so they can't be swayed by interpretations. They know, they understand, and they can teach. In the Wisdom stage, the students learns how to teach and share. We always learn a subject much more deeply when we also have to speak on it.

If this is a piece of literature, you might want to begin with vocabulary lessons. Pick out the vocabulary that might pose a problem or hangup, and memorize those words. Memorize their spelling and meaning. After you've memorized those words, you can begin to use the words, to understand how the words are used in sentences, and discuss those usages. When you've memorized and understood the vocabulary, then you can read the book. And after you've read the book with full understanding, you can converse

You don't have to use the method in long term, as we are. Grammar age children naturally are learning language and memorizing vocabulary, so I am teaching the language now, and not trying to pursue the dialectic and rhetoric yet. Those are the goals though, so I can look ahead as I'm doing with Latin and Greek. But you can use the classical method in a shorter form, kind of like a unit study.

We use Classical Conversations (CC), for the brunt of our schooling. I use it for a number of reasons, but one being that most of the hard work in the classical method is complete. The hard part is organizing the language or grammar, the understanding, and the rhetoric of each subject. Take for instance history. In CC, we have history sentences and a timeline to memorize in Foundations. This is the language of history: names, dates, order of events, and events themselves. With CC, that's all done for me. There are other reasons, many, but that is a big one.

I'm also using the classical method with the Writing Road to Reading, by teaching the basic sounds, formations, and rules of spelling. Spencerian Penmanship is another way. This little cursive book breaks letter formation down to strokes before moving on to letters. You must practice the little dashes and lines over, and over, and over again before you can connect the lines to make letters. I think of it as muscle memories.

I'm still in the process of figuring out math and science classically. So more on those later! How do you use the classical method? Or is this all new information, and you have a ton of questions?

For the rest of this series:
The What of the Classical Method
The Why of the Classical Method


  1. I like the new site, it looks great. Thanks for sharing this very informative post with us at Good Morning Mondays. I had never heard about Classical Homeschooling, but you are really helping me understand all about it. Blessings to you and your lovely family. xxx

    1. Thank you Terri! You always leave such sweet encouraging comments.

  2. This is a great summary of classical education! Thanks for sharing. :-)