Weighing the Differences Between Classical Education and Calvert Grade

Since 1905 Calvert School has been offering homeschoolers a complete package- one year of curriculum covering all subjects. Previously I hadn't even considered their company for two reasons: cost (one time fee of over $600) and my control over materials: a parent has no control over the choices for subjects.

This year Calvert began offering a payment plan which would cause its cost to be similar to what we budget for now, when we deliberate and choose our texts. So with the cost objection out the window, I looked more carefully at the course descriptions.

Calvert is really impressive for a few reasons. First, teachers are available on-line or by telephone if your kid(and you) are stumped by some topic. They have initial placement tests and unit testing in subject material online. Each enrolled student has resources available to them in their Calvert account. These include math and spelling games, an "i-Library," tutorials, and e-textbooks. There is a lot of parent support available, through the phone, email, or the parent's online resource which include answer keys.

The coursework is thorough, and includes art history, geography and computer literacy from elementary years on. However, the approach of the curriculum in general is scatter-gun in organization similar to public schools. For instance, putting life cycles and physics together in the same year of science instruction. Biographies not laid in the timeline of history, but as a focus of the history course? I much prefer the classical organization of science with history in a chronological flow.

Why We Educate at Home, A Discussion of the Classical Education Method

My husband and I have no qualms about our style of parenting, which is so tied up in home education. He grew up beside his father in a greenhouse. Our first apartment at 500 sq ft, had 31 houseplants in it. He now works as a landscape designer. So we understand this analogy: Children are like little plants. You take the seed and put it in a little cup of the best topsoil. You give it lots of light. You gently sprinkle it with drops of water so the delicate leaves aren't broken. When it gets a decent root system, you transplant it to a bigger pot. You protect it from the wind and the hottest sun. You bring it in when there's a freeze. You don't put it out where the dog will trample it or a deer will eat the buds. When its well-established, and the season is right, you can transplant it finally to its place outside your home. Then it will do well on its own in the downpours and coldest winters.

So we plan to raise our children, protecting them and ensuring they are firmly established before they go out into the world. It is our hope that they do much better at surviving their relationships and careers with such a secure beginning. Our family follows the Classical Education model. The basic premise of the classical method is the breakdown of education into three sections which each build on each other. First is the Grammar stage, generally 1st-4th grades, in which a child's curiosity is encouraged by just stuffing them full of images and facts. The next stage is the Logic stage, generally 5th- 8th grades, where an adolescent begins to find the answers to the how and why of what they learned in the Grammar stage. Last is the Rhetoric stage, in which 9th -12th graders learn how to coherently express what they have learned. In Classical Education, all learning follows history as its base and the other subjects work around it. In addition, a student goes over the same material three times in his education (cycling through the material once in each stage).