Weighing the Differences Between Classical Education and Calvert Grade-In-A-Box Curriculum

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.

I am a staunch believer in the classical methodology of running the sciences along with the story of history:

1st/5th/9th grades: biology with ancient history
2nd/6th/10th grades: astronomy & earth science with medieval history
3rd/7th/11th grades: chemistry with the age of exploration
4th/8th/12th grades: physics and computer science with modern history

During each period of history, vast improvements in the corresponding sciences occurred. I think studying things within their natural framework leads to a cohesion mentally as to when things and why things happened the way they did in history.

In addition, another beneficial aspect of classical curriculum is using whole books instead of readers. Textbooks for literature are edited for ease of reading. The most exciting and pivotal scenes are chosen so that the reader is always entertained and engaged without effort. Each selection is provided with a character and plot summary bringing the student reader 'up-to-speed' on the passage. Carefully phrased questions pertaining to the portions provided are at the end of each passage. Definitions of unknown words are available in bold in the margin. How does a child learn to analyze for content with such material? Reading literature from a textbook is akin to watching educational television: you are passively fed information, and are asked to regurgitate someone else's assessment of the information. Classical education requires the reader to do investigative work to discover under their own mental powers what the text has for you.

Perhaps you took your child out of public or private school because of social or safety reasons, and you know that homeschooling is best for this child. Maybe you found homeschooling to be a solution to your problem, but you aren't one of those people who always knew this was the road for you. If this describes you, I would wholeheartedly recommend this company and their curriculum as a solution. It ensures that if your child does the work, no gaps will be left in your his education.

However, for our purposes, I will invest the time and energy to lay out a curriculum based on The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. I think the benefits of a classical education far outweigh the ease and convenience available through Calvert School, however excellent it may be for others.