He’s gone country,
Look at ‘dem boots
He’s gone country,
Back to his roots
He’s gone country,
A new kinda’ suit
He’s gone country,
Here he comes.
Okay Buckaroos, there was a much bigger lull after my first post than I intended. C’est la vie. Some of you may recognize the above refrain from Alan Jackson’s “Gone Country”, and some of you are about to leave because I just referenced a 90’s Alan Jackson tune. Stick with me. The song’s three verses refer to 3 different musicians. None of them come from a country background. In reality, none of them are going back to their roots when they decide to get into country music. And yet, country music is rooted in America and its agrarian past, and so in a cultural sense they are returning to their roots.
A cheesy example to be sure, but that’s a bit how I feel about our family tiptoeing, and then diving into Classical Christian Education. Neither Kobi nor I received a Classical Education, and neither did our parents nor grandparents. Yet we are living in a culture that is the result, however distorted, of classical inquiry and education wed with Christian Theology. Last time I wrote about how we ended up home schooling, and while that is the context for our family, that isn’t the focus of this space. It was, however, the impetus for our journey into Classical Education.
When we left off in my story you saw how incredibly supportive I was of Kobi’s desire to home school our children. She was amazing and I mostly stayed out of her way. She researched curricula and methodology up and down, laying out a plan for all three children. And we did what many people do, we mimicked the education we received and observed in schools with tweaks here and there for the needs of our children. Any attempt by me at this point to describe my wife’s transition would inevitably be a misrepresentation of the facts. At the very least the timeline would be off. So I’ll stick to my own journey, beginning with more engagement in my children’s education and ultimately embracing Classical Christian Education.
One of the many wise choices Kobi made the second year of home schooling was selecting the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) curriculum developed by Andrew Pudewa. She also joined a Classical Conversations (CC) campus. Kobi began moving toward Classical Christian Education that year. By the time she sat me down to show me the shift in curriculum I was a little more interested in what was going on. Even though we were many years away from it, the reading lists for high school immediately grabbed my attention. These were great works of literature. I had read a few of them, but mostly I was looking at the list and thinking, “I wish I had read these in high school…or even in college.” I was slowly beginning to see the value of taking control of our children’s education. We still knew very little about it, but Classical Education had piqued my interest.
Toward the end of the spring, IEW sent out a message that Andrew Pudewa would be the first guest on a brand new podcast with Sarah McKenzie called the “Read Aloud Revival”, discussing the importance of reading to your children. Kobi listened a few times, and then asked me to listen to it and give her my thoughts. According to her I lay, very somberly, on the bed and listened. By the end my thoughts were, “I want to read to the kids.”
In July we drove from Texas to Colorado and Kobi asked me if we could listen to more audio on the drive. Now, I don’t remember everything we listened to from IEW but I do remember laughing. A lot. My wife knew what she was doing. While I was embarrassingly complacent about my own children’s education I had no problem railing against problems with the system at large. I had complained ad nauseam about the structure of the modern classroom penalizing boys. So Kobi played Andrew’s “Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day”. That was probably the beginning of real change for me. There was more, and I wanted it for my kids.
I paid attention and actually listened to what Kobi was learning. In late fall we were repainting a few rooms in our house and Kobi played podcasts and talks from the CiRCE Institute. She said, “You’ll like Andrew Kern. He’s non-linear like you.” She was right. I spent the next several days in stitches being challenged on so many assumptions I lost count. Discussions ranging from how to teach literature, new films, and beauty to assessment and the role of sports in a classical education were thought provoking and entertaining. Talks by Christopher Perrin on the history of assessment and Angelina Stanford on feminism and The Church pulled me further in.
One that stuck with me was the multi-part series on Hamlet. Some of the people in the discussion had not only read it, but taught it multiple times. But when a participant who was reading it for the first time made an observation that no one else had thought of it wasn’t quickly dismissed or just politely acknowledged. It was contemplated thoughtfully, and added to the wealth of observation these teachers had already accumulated. It was such a refreshing attitude toward teaching and learning that I think of it every time someone mentions Hamlet to this day.
Around this time I began to meet with a group of men, some of whom had children on the same CC campus as my children. When I joined them they were reading John Eldredge’s “Fathered By God”. As I was listening to a chorus of people trying to redeem and restore Christian education along came a ministry focused on redeeming and restoring Christian masculinity. Similar themes and vocabulary began showing up in both conversations: Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Wisdom, and Virtue. The same Church fathers, philosophers, and artists were being referenced: Augustine, St. Anthony, Athanasius, Shakespeare, MacDonald, Tolkien, Lewis and more. There was a shared belief in the power of story and why it resonates with the soul.
Slowly clarity crept in. These weren’t just good ideas or a nice philosophy for life. There was truth here. It rang true whether the conversation was education or masculinity, curriculum or fatherhood. Truth is truth, goodness is goodness, and beauty is beauty. They are not defined by the conversation you’re having. They define the conversation. I experienced overwhelming conviction about my passive role in education up to this point. My wife and my children are entrusted to me. Ultimately I have to entrust them to God, but I am also accountable for the years I have with them. I was struck by how few years I have left with my oldest, my only son. What better way to “train up the child in the way he should go” than to be actively involved in his education? This came into sharper focus as I began to see education not as college and career preparation but human formation, though I couldn’t yet express it that way.
Shortly after Christmas Kobi and I were shopping and ran into an old friend from church. In the course of catching up she mentioned she had gone to the CiRCE conference the previous summer in Houston. When she walked off Kobi lamented missing the conference when it was close by, because the next one was in Charleston. I didn’t think too much of it, but a few days later she asked me if I had planned anything for our anniversary in July. I told her I planned to go on a trip but hadn’t decided where. Then she told me she wanted to go to the CiRCE conference for our anniversary. I did not immediately warm to the idea. An education conference…for our anniversary…really? We didn’t have the time or money for another getaway, but she persisted and assured me that was what she really wanted, so I agreed. I am so glad that I did.
By the time it rolled around I had become immersed in the speakers through podcasts and old talks. When we arrived, people of whom I was in awe, made us feel welcome, at home, and part of the tribe. Between the talks, the conversations, and the shared meals my interest and excitement only grew. I shamelessly introduced myself to everyone and hung around conversations until I was invited to wherever everyone was going. After hearing Wes Callihan and learning about his Old Western Culture curriculum from Roman Roads Media we bought it on the spot, even though none of our kids were old enough for it. Kobi and I both wanted it for ourselves.
That purchase brings us to the purpose of this space: a journey into Classical Education for myself, because I can’t give what I don’t have. Luckily I don’t have to go without a sage to guide me. I will be following the path laid out by Wes Callihan. You can find the links to the Old Western Culture series below along with other resources referenced in this post. We’ll start with the Iliad and make our way through. I’ll also be getting some added help at the beginning from CiRCE’s Iliad guide “The Space Between”, for which I am very grateful. My confession complete, I hope some of you out there will read along. I’m starting from a place of ignorance and will no doubt stumble my way through, so I’ll be grateful for friendly hands to grab as I get back up and ramble on.
I’ve gone classical. Back to my roots. I’ve gone classical. Here I go.
Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day: http://tinyurl.com/TeachingBoysForts
Read Aloud Revival: https://amongstlovelythings.com/
CiRCE Institute: https://www.circeinstitute.org/
What Is Woman?: A Reexamination of Feminism and the Church – Angelina Stanford: http://preview.tinyurl.com/FeminismChurch
A Brief History of Assessment Methods from Medieval Times to the Present – Christopher Perrin: http://tinyurl.com/HistoryOfAssessment
The Space Between (Iliad Guide): http://tinyurl.com/IliadSpaceBetween
Old Western Culture: https://romanroadsmedia.com/old-western-culture/