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Patrick Halbrook

Books on Education by Non-Classical Authors

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In his essay "On the Reading of Old Books," C.S. Lewis pointed out, "It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones"

As educators committed to a classical vision of schooling, most of us similarly seek to find the right balance between the types of books we read about education, trying to figure out how to divide our time between: 1) the multitude of books about classical education that have been written within the past 25 years, 2) older books that we (at least theoretically) value the most, by Augustine, Mason, or Lewis himself (is he in the "old books" category yet?), and 3) newer books on education from outside the classical or Christian realms, about which we might feel ambiguity or suspicion, but which may at times offer valuable insights or practical suggestions we wouldn't get otherwise.

  • How do you attempt to strike the right balance between these categories? (How would you divide up the categories you try to balance?)
  • What books have you read from non-classical/Christian educators which have been the most (or the least) beneficial? (And have you encountered any authors who are inclined in the direction of a classical approach without realizing it or naming it as such?)

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I don't do a very good job of balancing my reading, unfortunately. Here's what I have typically going on (more or less regularly):

A book on parenting.

A book club book (usually literature, but sometimes history, theology, or philosophy, etc.).

A disciplinary book (I teach rhetoric).

A bible study book (usually a commentary on a book of the Bible).

A random "catches my fancy" book.

As for books from non-CCE folk that have had the biggest impact, I'd say Plato, simply because I've read and reread a few of his dialogues that touch directly and fundamentally on the problems of knowledge/virtue: how to attain them and pass them on. One day, if I ever get around to it, I'd like to write a book on pedagogy using Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus.

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Oliver DeMille's A Thomas Jefferson Education was a great primer and inspiration for me. The more I learn about classical ideals the more I see in his methodology. He advocates for mentors not teachers, and those using classics not text books. He asserts that students educate themselves, a teacher/mentor can only teach, but they ought to "inspire not require" aspects of learning and help structure student's time not content. He has a different "ages and stages" structure of: Core stage - is for the very young and it's pre-loading habits and essential character/family skills that will assist the student for beginning learning. Love of Learning stage - children love to learn a little or a lot about everything, so give them a Charlotte Mason sort of opportunity to touch lots of things and go as deeply or as quickly as they desire. Then they begin to want  to go deeper and spend more time on a few things, and they want to be challenged to hone their skills in the scholarly phase.  They begin to really focus on scholarship, and finally they become "vocation" focused. Through each stage the mentor (or mentors) are resource provides and gentle directors  of the student's need to continue on their educational journey. It is adult-intensive in the beginning because really the emphasis is to spark their fire. You read great books together or out loud and talk about them, YOU do math on a white board to tease them into interest, or have them involved in projects like budgeting and grocery shopping that show them math applications. it's a very interesting book without being long and difficult. But it is not a "curriculum". It is an approach, and sometimes a very vague one at that. But I still really appreciated it. Andrew Pudewa introduced me to it. https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Jefferson-Education-Generation-Twenty-first/dp/096712462X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1V2B89WFP1ZMJ&keywords=thomas+jefferson+education&qid=1557004575&s=gateway&sprefix=Thomas+Jefferson+ed%2Caps%2C155&sr=8-1

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I'm not sure if this counts since James K.A. Smith is so often associated with Classical Christian schools, but Desiring the Kingdom is a helpful book for educators. Karen Swallow Prior is another name often tied to the movement these days, but her book On Reading Well provided some excellent material for lesson plans! Both books are fantastic for how they put words to many of the difficult concepts we classical educators try to carry out on a day to day basis. Orienting the hearts and minds of children is difficult, and these books help.

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