Modern Classical Curriculum: Evolution of an Idea

In the Latin-Centered Curriculum, first published in 2006 and revised in 2008, I laid out an ambitious plan for educating children along traditional classical lines. While that book is out of print—and will stay that way due to the legal agreement I have with the original publisher—I have continued to ponder how best to educate children at home or in the classroom. I’d like to offer some pointers to articles or other resources that explain how my thinking has evolved since LCC first appeared.

Philosophy and Pedagogy

I still believe that there is much good to be found in the classical model as long as we let it evolve to meet the needs of contemporary students and do not allow religious or political ideology to rule the day. The purposes of education have not changed, but 21st-century students are not facing the same challenges that their Gen X or Millennial parents (let alone their Boomer grandparents) did. Families need to be prudent in their choices, especially in the economically and environmentally tenuous reality now emerging. While the core classical teaching methods—direct instruction, memorization, imitation, and, for older students, Socratic dialogue—remain valid, it simply will not do to adopt medieval educational models, or even 19th-century ones, wholesale. To suggest otherwise smacks of the worst sort of unexamined privilege.

Classical Languages

Let’s face it: not everyone wants or needs to teach Latin. If you have determined that you do, my elementary Latin program, I Speak Latin, uses proven modern teaching methods. It was developed to prepare students for Hans Ørberg’s Lingua latina per se illustrata, which is, hands down, the best Latin text I’ve found. The two volumes of LLPSI will take students through high school. (Greek students may enjoy Christophe Rico’s Polis.) There has also been an explosion of Latin novellas that provide the extensive reading needed to achieve fluency without constant mental translation. Readers interested in the pedagogical basis for these recommendations will find Communicative Approaches for Ancient Languages useful reading.

Literature

Exploring the World through Story, my world literature curriculum, updates the literature selections in LCC to correct for that book’s Eurocentric bias. My recommendations for writing and grammar curricula can be found in the FAQs for EWS. In high school, I recommend two years of World Literature using a standard anthology (Norton or Longman) and aligned with two years of World History; one year of American (or other national) literature alongside a corresponding history course; and one year of AP Language and Composition.

Social Studies

While the four-year history rotation popularized by the Well-Trained Mind retains its appeal, it’s not the only possible approach to Social Studies. This article outlines an alternative sequence.

STEM

The STEM subjects are not my areas of expertise, but friends who are experts assure me that standard math curricula (Saxon, Singapore) and course sequences will get the job done for most students. Mainstream textbooks that present the scientific consensus on topics like evolution; the age of the universe; climate change; the natural variations in human gender and sexuality; and the efficacy of vaccines are vital.

Logic and Rhetoric

Over the years, I have become convinced that the basics of formal logic can and should be taught in the context of rhetoric at the end of high school, not in middle school. I have successfully used the logic and rhetoric programs from Classical Academic Press as outlines to do just that, although I adapt both heavily to include more diverse, contemporary rhetorical models and to balance the religious and political bias in the texts. A modern alternative, and the one I recommend for most college-prep students, is a robust AP Language and Composition course with a substantial unit on the syllogism. This can be taught in 12th grade as the student’s final year of high school English.

A Mainstream K-8 Alternative

I also recommend Core Knowledge for families who want a more mainstream, knowledge-rich curriculum to which Latin and/or Greek can be easily added. The materials are free to download, and you can learn how to implement Core Knowledge at home with the Homeschool Workplans site. Core Knowledge will give students the academic skills and background knowledge they need for a college-preparatory curriculum in high school.

Copyright 2022 by Andrew Campbell, PhD. All rights reserved.

Andrew Campbell is the author of The Latin-Centered Curriculum, Living Memory, I Speak Latin, and Exploring the World through Story. Dr. Campbell is a veteran homeschooler and has worked as a classroom teacher, private school administrator, and independent tutor.