HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style
Authors: Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
Publisher: Trivium Pursuit, 2001
Related website: www.triviumpursuit.com
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading Level: For parents
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Bluedorn, Harvey and Laurie. Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style (published in 2001 by Trivium Pursuit, PMB 168, 139 Colorado St., Muscatine, IA 52761). A new resource is now available for homeschoolers. It is called Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style. The authors are Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn of New Boston, IL, who are the parents of five children, ages 17 to 25, who have always been homeschooled. The Bluedorn family operates a homeschooling business known as “Trivium Pursuit,” and they are proponents of what is commonly called a “Classical Christian Education.”
Before going any further, it might be good to explain the concept of “Classical Education,” because the term means different things to different people. There are those who advocate a type of education based on the Renaissance classical curriculum derived from ancient Greece and Rome, which includes reading Homer, Plato, Caesar, and Virgil; studying the philosophy of Aristotle and Seneca; and learning to speak like Demosthenes and Cicero. The Bluedorns identify this as a Classical Humanist Education.
However, using a similar model, there has arisen a movement, especially among those from a Reformed background, to establish Classical Christian Schools. Also there is a Classical School movement among Catholics as well. And there are homeschool programs based on these concepts as well. The Bluedorns define their concept of a Classical Christian education more narrowly to include that which is of good form and lasting value (classical) and which conforms to a Biblical standard within a Biblical world-view (Christian).
In 1947 Dorothy Sayers delivered an essay entitled “The Lost Tools of Learning” at Oxford Univer-sity. In it, she advocated that education return to what had worked in the past, and specifically applied the three subjects of the formal medieval Trivium Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric as an educational model or philosophy and as a teaching medium or technique. Rather than studying the actual classical curriculum, the model suggests that each child passes through these three stages of development and the method indicates that each subject can be taught through these three stages of development.
The Bluedorns then show that this Trivium model/method is actually based on Biblical principles. “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). The grammar stage, which involves the accumulation of facts, is knowledge. The logic stage, which involves seeing the relationships between facts, is understanding. And the rhetoric stage, which involves the practical use and expression of what has been learned, is wisdom. They generally identify the stages of child development with grammar through age 12, the logic being ages 13-15, and the rhetoric being ages 16-18 (others divide it slightly differently).
The book investigates different methods and approaches to homeschooling in the light of the Trivium and makes suggestions as to various activities that can be pursued during each of the stages of child development. In addition to discussing several other issues that are of special interest to homeschoolers, the book has two appendices. One consists of a number of very interesting articles on education, and the second is a resource list for those who are interested in pursuing a classical style of homeschooling.
Cathy Duffy, author of The Christian Home Educator’s Curriculum Manual (two volumes, one for elementary grades and one for junior/senior high), wrote: “The Bluedorns are true pioneers in classical Christian education. For years, they’ve been sharing what they’ve learned through their research as well as through their experience teaching their own children, and through interaction with thousands of other parents across the country. They share a growing enthusiasm for classical education, but they temper their enthusiasm with cautions about pagan content. Rather than buying into the Great Books’ model of classical education, the Bluedorns apply the methodology while carefully selecting resources that support a biblical Christian worldview. Some of those resources are among the Great Books while others are not.”
The Bluedorn’s philosophy of education is presented at length in the first part of their new book, Teaching the Trivium. However, they also address broader issues such as government control of education and its conflict with biblical principles, problems with classroom-style teaching, arguments for teaching Latin, Greek, and Hebrew (as well as some how-to’ information), charts showing classical’ sources for teaching ancient history for each time period, and discussion of various homeschooling methods and how they can be adapted (or not) to classical education. This is one of the rare places where the contrasting ideas of Dorothy Sayers and Charlotte Mason for elementary education are addressed. All through this section, I especially appreciate the Bluedorn’s flexibility; they suggest numerous ideas for content, presentation, and timing but leave it to parents to decide what makes sense for their own children.
Chapters eleven through fifteen get into very specific suggestions for teaching the various subjects at different age levels. Also, flip back to the last forty pages of the appendix for extensive resource lists that identify curriculum and resources that fit the Bluedorn’s methodology. In addition to the resources list, the Appendix features sixteen articles that address more specialized topics such as Dorothy Sayers’s The Lost Tools of Learning;’ Ancient Education: Hebrew, Greek, and Roman;’ and The Trivium in Scripture.’
Teaching the Trivium is a valuable contribution to the discussion regarding classical Christian education. The Bluedorns have been writing, speaking, and sharing online for years, but it is wonderful to have so much accumulated wisdom finally collected in one volume. This is an opinionated book, reflecting the strong convictions the Bluedorns have developed over the years. They approach their subject from a serious Reformed perspective, relying on Scripture as the ultimate authority. Even those Christians who might not share the Bluedorn’s theological perspective should find this book helpful if their goal is to use the classical model of education by drawing from it that which is worthy, while staying true to biblical principles.”
I purchased the book at a special prepublication price, but it lists for $27.00. There are other resources for a classical style homeschool education, such as The Well Trained Mind by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer (though not from a specifically biblical perspective), the Covenant Home School Curriculum, Veritas Press, and the Sept./Oct., 1997, issue of The Teaching Home, among others. Even if one does not specifically plan to follow what is generally identified as a classical model for homeschooling, there is much worthwhile information in this book that he should find interesting, relevant, and beneficial. I am beginning to see the book listed in homeschool catalogues now.
Here is a quote from the Bluedorns that itself is almost worth the price of the book. “Those Christians who have resisted Homeschooling look at it as a short-lived aberration in history. They smirk, and wait for homeschoolers to wake up and join the real world. They will be waiting until the end of the world. Homeschooling is an even more fundamental philosophical culture-shift than what took place when the parochial Christian school movement began in the 1960’s. Homeschooling is here to stay, be-cause it answers questions that Christians have been asking ever since God began to put the desire in the hearts of parents to pass on their faith to their children.” To which I add a hearty AMEN!