A Classical Education is Practical (Part 2)

This is part of the series: Classical Homeschooling

Now that we’re thinking of the liberal arts in terms of skills, not exclusively as phases of child development, let’s discuss four more points on the practicality of a classical education.

1) A high school education is preparatory.

This point is more important than it might seem. With all the pressure homeschooling parents are under to prepare their kids for the future, it’s worth mentioning that this preparation ends at some point. The homeschool graduate does something at the end of their senior year: graduate.

Our job is to get them as ready as possible to face the world–not face the world for them.

At the very least, an education in the liberal arts will adequately prepare an 18-year-old to be an 18-year-old. But it does do more than that.

2) A classical education is an education in language and mathematics.

This is the core of practicality. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are the foundation of all future learning, and this is what the Trivium and Quadrivium offer and more.

Whether your student wants to be a scientist, a plumber, or a trophy wife, she must learn the skills offered by the Trivium: reading, thinking, and speaking.

3) Employers want employees who can learn.

From an economic standpoint, we homeschool parents want what all parents want: our kids to be employable. This is, of course, not all we want for our kids, but we certainly don’t want them living in our basements when they’re 30.

Today’s economists are arguing about why there are so many unemployed workers, yet so many jobs available. Is it unqualified or unskilled workers?

Two things are sure though:

  1. On-the-job training costs companies money they don’t want to spend, and

  2. The prospective new hire who learns the fastest wins.

A classical education gives the high school grad an edge in college. In The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer recounts her surprise at the inability of her college students to write a simple paper. Anecdotally, friends of mine have said the same of their college students. Any student who enters college already knowing how to express herself with grace, using sound argumentation, will stand easily above her peers.

Whether your student lands an internship out of college to get experience before a job, or goes straight into the workforce, she will need to know how to learn. Every job has its own learning curve, and an education in the liberal arts is fundamentally time spent “learning how to learn.”

4) A classical education is more than academic.

The classical student spends a lot of time reading, thinking, and writing/speaking. He encounters texts that not only challenge his language abilities, but form his affections. When the student reads about King Arthur, he learns about chivalry, bravery, and sacrifice. When the student reads Homer, he learns about struggle, pride, and temptation.

An education weighted heavily in great works of literature can’t help but teach the student what to love, respect, or revere.

Any student who is prodded to think deeply and write about what he’s read is more likely to empathize with others and act with compassion or fortitude like the literary characters he has studied. The well-read student has faced the ethical dilemmas of racism, bullying, and adultery from the safety of her living room.

This experience–this learning how to relate to God and other people–perhaps more than the skills learned through the liberal arts are what make a classical education the most practical.

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