Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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The Illinois Loop website is no longer updated on a a regular basis. However, since many of the links and articles have content and perspectives that are just as valid today, we are keeping this website online for parents, teachers and others researching school issues and solutions.
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Classical Education

  • The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers. This article is sometimes cited as having prompted the revival of interest in classical education.

  • What is Classical Education? A K-8 charter school in Minnesota with a Classical curriculum provides this succinct description of just what Classical education is. Here is an excerpt:
    Classical education rests on the concept of the Trivium -- grammar, logic and rhetoric -- not as subjects, although these subjects are studied, but as the structure of every subject and discipline.

    • Grammar is the foundation of a subject -- the collection of its parts and the mechanics of how they work.
    • Logic is the organization of these parts into a whole and an understanding of the relationships among the parts.
    • Rhetoric is the ability to apply the foundational knowledge and logical understanding of a subject purposefully and creatively to solve a problem, express an opinion with clarity or create something new.

    Every subject we attempt to learn, at any time in our lives, has its grammar, logic and rhetoric, from reading and math, to gardening and law, to music and auto mechanics.

    The Trivium also parallels the maturation of the mind from childhood to adulthood. Young children are able to memorize huge amounts of information, from the alphabet to TV jingles to names of constellations. (How many of us still hum a little bit of the alphabet song in our heads when we want to know what letter comes after K, or silently review the "i before e" rule when writing, or start thinking "30 days hath September..." when we want quickly remember how many days there are in June?) They want to give a name to each thing in their world. This is the grammar stage. The middle school student chafes at having to learn facts for their own sake, becomes argumentative, wants to look at the big picture and wants to know why things are the way they are and work the way they do. This is the logic stage. The high school student feels compelled to express thoughts, opinions and individuality through whatever means are available, whether it be through forceful writing or purple hair. This is the rhetoric stage.

  • The Western Classics by Phil Brand, Capital Research Center, January 2009. What are classical schools like? Here are vivid first-person reports on two classical schools, Casper Classical Academy, a public school in Casper, Wyoming, and Logos School, a private school in Moscow, Idaho.

  • The Classical Trivium Remains the Best Course of Learning by Terrence Moore, Ph.D., October 2003.
    "One thing that is never studied in modern, progressive schools of education is the classical-medieval organization of studies known as the Trivium. Since classical education regards human beings foremost as thinking creatures, at every level of education youth must be invited to think about the great problems of the physical and moral worlds. Nonetheless, the ancients knew that learning must be tailored to the age of the student. ...
         "Young people have to begin at the beginning. At the first stage of education students must master the basics, or the 'grammar,' of every subject. ... At this juncture education relies heavily on young people's memory. By nature children love to memorize things. Simply ask a child to repeat back the details of a story you have just read him and watch his face light up! ...
         "Once students have gained a pretty good handle on the grammar of various subjects, they move into the 'logic' stage of education. Since this level corresponds to the onset of adolescence, it might also be called the 'argumentative' stage. Though students continue to study the facts of the various disciplines, they now have the intellectual capacity to call those facts into question or to wrestle with them. Indeed, their nature prompts them to do so, as any parent of an adolescent will testify. ...
         "High school should be considered the third part of the trivium, the 'rhetorical' stage. Having the facts at their disposal and being able to wrestle with them, students will now be able to express themselves with increasing grace and at considerable length, both in speech and in writing. They will learn to make coherent literary, historical, mathematical, and scientific arguments."

  • Taming the Tempest: The Meaning of Classical Education by Graeme Hunter. Here's a fsacinating and enjoyable essay on classical education, using Shakespeare's The Tempest as a theme for the author's points. Excerpt: "No doubt The Tempest never sets out to discuss education. It is only about education because it examines so tenderly and profoundly the development of a young girl. ... The Tempest ... contains a mature vision of how teaching and learning ought to be adjusted to one another ... As I look into the play's polished mirror, I see there six deep truths about education. ..."

  • Classical Education Redivivus by Douglas Wilson, Chronicles, September 2003. "Broadly speaking, in these schools, classical refers both to the pedagogical method and to the content of the curriculum. Following Dorothy Sayers in her important essay The Lost Tools of Learning these schools seek to pattern the curriculum around the ancient trivium -- grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. This is not a reenactment of ancient schooling patterns but, rather, a modern (and, in my view, brilliant) application of those ancient patterns."

  • Advocates for Classical Traditions in Education

  • Association of Christian and Classical Schools

  • Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education: "CCLE encourages and serves families, teachers, and schools working to restore the classical arts of learning and the best traditions of Lutheran education. The CCLE cultivates this restoration through educational conferences, online resources for teachers and parents, and accreditation for classical Lutheran schools."

  • You've heard of "liberal arts" schools and colleges. What does that term mean? To find out, read the article "A Liberal School" by Dr. Ken Calvert.

  • Classical Christian Homeschooling

  • Great Books Index

  • Schola Classical Tutorials

Books on Classical Education

  • "The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer

    This book provides valuable resources, tips, schedules, and ideas for any family attempting to provide a traditional classical background to their children, a learning adventure which is provided in few schools today.
  • "The Trivium: The Liberal Arts Of Logic, Grammar, And Rhetoric" by Miriam Joseph, C.S.C

    Description from Amazon:
    Opening the door for beginners who seek a thorough grounding in the first arts of human understanding, this book explains the nature of logic, grammar, and rhetoric-the three of the seven liberal arts-and how they relate to one another. In Renaissance universities, the trivium (literally, the crossing of three part way) formed the essence of the liberal arts curriculum. Examined are topics such as the nature and function of language, distinguishing general grammar from special grammar, the study of logic and its relationship to grammar and rhetoric, and applying the concepts of logic, grammar, and rhetoric to literary works.

    Read more at the publisher's website.

    Read the first chapter (PDF).

Lutheran Schools and Classical Education

    Although the articles listed here address Lutheran schools, the descriptions and ideas behind classical education in general are well-described and are useful to all.

  • Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education: "CCLE encourages and serves families, teachers, and schools working to restore the classical arts of learning and the best traditions of Lutheran education. The CCLE cultivates this restoration through educational conferences, online resources for teachers and parents, and accreditation for classical Lutheran schools. We heartily agree with Martin Luther that 'You parents can provide your children with no greater gift than an education in the liberal arts.' The Consortium's goal is to give every family the opportunity and tools to follow Luther's advice."

  • The Classical Education Movement and Lutheran Schools by Gene Edward Veith and Erik Ankerberg, Lutheran Education, (Journal of the Faculty of Concordia University, River Forest, IL), November/December 1999.

Classical Schools in the City of Chicago

  • Stephen Decatur Classical School, a public school at 7030 North Sacramento Avenue in Chicago. This school shows up regularly in annual roundups of the top grade schools in the state of Illinois, occasionally as the #1 school in Illinois. Click, or phone them at (773)534-2201 for more info on what classical education can provide for your child.

  • Three other public classical schools in the city of Chicago are:
    • McDade
    • Poe (although, unfortunately, they are listed as using the dismal Everyday Math program)
    • Skinner

  • Chicago Grammar School is a classical private school at 900 N. Franklin. In addition to a serious classical course of study, they use a phonics-based reading program and the widely-praised Singapore Math program. (However, parents may want to look more closely at how they implement their stated commitment to constructivist projects.)

  • Cambridge School Chicago: This non-denominational Christian school at 4611 S. Ellis says that it combines the approaches "of Charlotte Mason, Marva Collins, Dorothy Sayers, Dr. Howard Gardner, and E. D. Hirsch, Jr." That's a pretty broad range, but we are encouraged by their enthusiasm about classical methods: "Our Administrator has a strong background in classical schools, most recently serving as headmaster at a classical Christian school in Texas." They describe their methods as following the "Core Knowledge sequence in combination with the excellence of the classical tradition", but also "with an emphasis on experiential learning". This is worth investigation by careful parents. The deepest problem with "experiential learning" or project-based methods in general is that content is too often watered-down by all of the activity. But if the school maintains its committment to the Core Knowledge Sequence, then that suggests content remains a priority. We are thrilled to learn that teachers are chosen on their ability to teach and their degrees in related fields of study, rather than just paper credentials on dubious ed theories. The news in math is wonderful: the school uses Singapore Math !

Classical Schools in the Chicago Suburbs

  • Public schools: There are no public schools anywhere in the Chicago suburbs with a Classical format. None. Zilch. Zip. For more on the depressing lack of options in the Chicago suburbs, go to our page on the Suburbs.

  • St. Paul's Lutheran School in Brookfield, IL:
    Rev. Joel A. Brondos, headmaster at St. Paul's, wrote to tell us about the excellent curriculum program they're offering:
    We use Saxon Math, the Spalding Writing Road to Reading, the Shurley Grammar method, and teach our history timeline and daily oral Latin to students as young as Kindergarten. We have a literature-based reading program (no basal readers) so the children read unabridged versions of classical works like those written by Homer, Chesterton, Plutarch, and more.

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