What do we mean by “Liberal Arts”?

As Christians recover classical Christian education, they are unearthing old treasures, once the possession of every educated man. Some of these treasures are words and descriptions–terms like “Trivium” and “Quadrivium,” “paideia,” and “liberal arts.” Of all these terms, “liberal arts” lays at the heart of what classical education is all about. So what did our forefathers mean by “liberal arts”?

“Liberal”

The word liberal has nothing to do with our modern use of the word in politics and culture. Liberal means “free,” and historically described the kind of education expected of a freeman–especially one in a position of leadership, like nobility. Our culture has so alienated itself from a historic education that it’s very difficult for us to think of education without thinking of jobs and vocational training.

Dr. Roy Atwood, founding President of New Saint Andrews College, was once asked by a student, “Who are you”? His automatic response was to give his profession: “Uh…I’m a professor.” But the student responded, “No, I don’t mean what you do, but who are you?”[1. Dr. Roy Atwood, Educating Royalty, Reformed Perspective: A Magazine for the Christian Family, Vol. 33, No. 6, April 2014.] We are programmed to answer that question with what we do, with our job title. And we likewise think of education in terms of answering the question, “Will this education prepare me for a job?”. The modern definition of education has the effect of not only defining the education process in terms of pragmatic usefulness, but also defining human beings themselves in terms of usefulness. Like in the world of Thomas the Train which our children didactically watch, our identity is wound up with our usefulness. “Who are you?” asks the modernist? “I do this job” we reply catechetically.

Christians of previous generations viewed education, and themselves, differently. The opening lines of the Westminster Shorter Catechism would have been familiar to nearly every child in early America: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That is who we are: worshiping beings, who delight in God. Or to use Dr. Atwood’s conclusion to the question “who are you?”, we are royalty, heirs of Christ. And we should educate our children in that light.

Some may object that this identity is a fine thing, but has nothing to do with education. “How does it help you get a job? How is it useful?” In 1646, the founders of Harvard College defined education in their “Rules and Precepts” in this way:

“Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.”

Christ is both the source and the goal of education.

“Who are you?” We are liberal (free) Christians, pursuing wisdom and virtue through the interwoven arts of theology (study of the knowledge of God) and humanities (study of ourselves and of mankind). “Knowledge of God and knowledge of self” is how John Calvin sets the stage for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and is also how Harvard and other universities in the United States prior to the 1900s set the foundation for education.

So the term “liberal” points to the purpose of education and our identity. But what precisely does this looks like.

“Arts”

If the foundation of education is knowledge of self and knowledge of God, how might the liberal arts help us in this endeavor? The Liberal Arts are an education in first principles–in the foundations of things. The Western heritage is the cultural soil into which Christ was made flesh, and the common inheritance of all God’s people. This specifically means recovering an education which includes Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Dante, Augustine and Boethius, Cicero and Plutarch, Homer and Vergil, Milton and Shakespeare. These and many others are so much woven into the fiber of ourselves and our culture that we cannot truly know ourselves without knowing them. It includes the classical study of logic, rhetoric, grammar, and language. These disciplines inform our understanding of the written and spoken word, the means God gave us for understanding Himself and ourselves.

We may have only recently re-discovered this birthright, but it is not presumptuous to receive this rich heritage as our own. Our culture is in full-blown identity crisis. The liberal arts educate our children in their identity, giving them the tools to understand the world around them in wisdom and virtue. And with this education in first principles–these freeing, liberal arts not defined by usefulness–our children will possess tools of learning that are surprisingly useful in a confused world.

This article is an adapted excerpt from chapter one of A Better Admissions Test: Raising the Standard for College Entrance Exams, published by the Classical Learning Initiative and Mudhouse Press. 

family-square-360x360Daniel Foucachon grew up in Lyon, France where his father was an evangelist and church-planter with Mission to the World. He moved to Moscow, Idaho in 2005 to attend New Saint Andrews College, where he graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts and Culture in 2009. In 2009 he founded a media production company, and was the producer of Canon Wired (the media branch of Canon Press) until 2013. His love for classical education and desire to publish curriculum designed for home education led him to found Roman Roads Media in 2011, which has since produced and published award-winning liberal arts curriculum for high school students. He and his wife Lydia live in Moscow, Idaho with their three sons and one daughter.
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Education as a lifelong process

“Education is a lifelong process. How well any of us becomes educated does not depend essentially on how much he comes to know in his school and college years but rather upon how effectively he has come to be imbued with the spirit of study in school and college years so as to assure his remaining a student throughout life. It is amazing how general the notion seems to be that we study only when we have teachers who require it. Learning is the result of study! Teaching is not a substitute for learning but is only a stimulus to it. Teaching, then, should be confined to those fundamentals which serve best as a basis for subsequent learning. College days should not be wasted on those highly differentiated aspects of subjects, the mastery of which will naturally follow if genuine intellectual interests are created or stimulated during college years…College is a place to learn how to educate oneself rather than a place in which to be educated.”

—Frederick Kelly, The University in Prospect, Inaugural Address as President of the University of Idaho, 1928.

The River Thief, by N.D. Wilson (starring Joel Courtney) | Review

If you’re familiar with N.D. Wilson’s children’s novels, you know you’re in for a treat with The River Thief, his first feature film.

This film breaks from the typical Christian film by telling a good story first and foremost. A lost, father-hungry boy discovering true love. Not the sappy, romantic love of your typical Hollywood flick (this girl wouldn’t have any of that), but rather the kind of love that creates a longing to live or die for someone else (something new for Diz).

A wonderful family film, although there are some rough scenes. My 7-year-old son was spellbound, and somewhat affected by the rough parts. Yet this is the kind of story that is healthy. The emotion, drama, and violence of this *good* story are like emotional boot camp; it allows a young boy or girl to experience these emotions of grief and fear along with the positive life lesson that a good story provides.

As a resident of the Northwest where this was shot, I also appreciated the cinematography, which was outstanding! Beautiful aerial views in particular.
I highly recommend The River Thief!

Augustine on the use of Rhetoric

Christians need to learn the tools of Rhetoric both to persuade and to gain wisdom and understanding of our times.

“Since, then, the faculty of eloquence is available for both sides, and is of very great service in the enforcing either of wrong or right, why do not good men study to engage it on the side of truth, when bad men use it to obtain the triumph of wicked and worthless causes, and to further injustice and error?”

—Augustine, On Christian Teaching (quoted in Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student by James B Nance).

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Great Books Challenge for Parents 2016

Welcome to the 2016 Great Books Challenge for Parents! This Challenge is for any parent, but especially for parents who plan to classically homeschool their children, or who are currently homeschooling their children.

Classical homeschoolers love Old Western Culture because they see their children coming to the dinner table full of stories, and thirsty for knowledge and wisdom. Make 2016 the year classical learning comes alive in your home, and earn free curriculum in the process!

Last year’s Great Books Challenge, centered around Virgil’s Aeneid, was a tremendous success! This year we are going to continue and build upon that challenge, adding the following unit, Romans: The Historians, to the challenge. Romans: The Historians, covers the most famous men of Rome, as well as the history of Rome, the persecution of the early Christians, and how the Roman empire influenced the West, especially the founding of the United States.

THE 2016 GREAT BOOK CHALLENGE FOR PARENTS


YouTube version

FREE CURRICULUM!

If you complete the challenge by December 31st, 2016, you will qualify for a free unit from the Old Western Culture curriculum, which includes the video set ($56 value), the workbook ($12), and the accompanying Reader ($22 value).

IN ORDER TO QUALIFY, YOU MUST:

  • Be a parent (children of any age, including expecting).
  • Watch all 12 lectures from either The Aeneid, or The Historians.
  • Complete all reading assignments from either The Aeneid, or The Historians.
  • Fill THIS FORM (form link coming soon) indicating that you completed the above before December 31st, 2016.

FIRST THREE PARENTS TO COMPLETE THE CHALLENGE:

This Great Books Challenge is not a race, however the first three parents to finish the challenge and fill the form on this page will receive a special prize!

  • First Place: $50 Amazon Gift Certificate
  • Second & Third Place: $15 Amazon Gift Certificate

20% OFF TO HELP YOU GET STARTED

To help you get started, we are offering 20% off the price of the materials associated with the Challenge. Enter code “challenge2016” during checkout for a 20% discount on all items related to the Challenge (DVD set, Workbook, and Reader).

“WHY ARE YOU GIVING AWAY FREE CURRICULUM?”

We are convinced that parents who use Old Western Culture will LOVE it. And when a parent loves a curriculum, they tell their friends. And word-of-mouth is the BEST way to let people know about this curriculum. We’re spending most of our time making this the best literature curriculum available, and we need help spreading the word. So help us by USING it, and telling your friends!

Get Started with The Aeneid Challenge
The Aeneid
Get Started with The Historians Challenge
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COMPLETED CHALLENGE FORM

Click HERE (link coming soon) to fill out the form when you have completed the challenge. The form includes an option for choosing your free unit.

TESTIMONIALS FROM LAST YEAR

I’m including a few comments from parents who finished last year’s Great Books Challenge for Parents.

Hi, I finished the parent Aeneid challenge yesterday and I am so very happy I did it. Not only am I much more prepared to help my children learn the material in a few years when they reach high school age, but I absolutely loved reading the books! I was a science major in college and never really “got” the excitement for literature and history. Now I realize that literature and history are foundational to our western society. They have become the subjects central to our little homeschooling effort.
– Kirsten

I have now finished the Aeneid Challenge and much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed and understood it all. I was terribly intimidated before I began but within the first lesson my apprehension evaporated and I couldn’t wait to move on to the next section! Thanks so much for issuing the challenge as I can’t wait to begin with my daughter in a few months!
– Sarah

Hi there, I took up the Aeneid challenge this year and wanted to let you know that I completed it! The Aeneid was the first “Great book” I have ever read and I am amazed at how much I have learnt.
– Cindy

Hello!
I wanted to let you know that I have completed the Great Books Challenge using the Aeneid. Actually, my husband and I did it together after we put the kids to bed (they are in elementary grades) and called it a weekly ‘date night’. 😉
Being publicly educated, we didn’t have the education that we hope to give our children and had very little exposure to most of the ‘greats’ (both books and individuals). I suggested we begin to learn these things now, though our children are younger, so we will know a bit about what we will be teaching when the time comes. Your great books challenge was just the impetus we needed to dive in- and we are so glad we did!
We were both amazed at the vast knowledge that just seeps out of Wes Callihan–it is clear he is not reading from a script but teaching through conversation…a style we both loved. And he teaches in such a way that even huge spans of history or daunting subjects can be made both understandable, fascinating and downright pleasant to discover.
We are very excited for this incredible resource for ourselves presently and for our children in the future! 
– Rebecca and Matt

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Great Books Challenge 2016

Originally appeared on Roman Roads Media Blog. Written by Daniel Foucachon.

A glimpse at what we lost when we abandoned classical education

Wesley Callihan on the opening lines of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars

Mark Twain is attributed with the saying “Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.”

We are now a couple generations away from our forefathers who abandoned classical education. We are now the generation that does not even know what it has lost. Wes Callihan gives a  glimpse at the kind of richness we have lost in this excerpt from the Old Western Culture curriculum on the great books of Western civilization. If you don’t study the classics, you have no advantage over those who can’t. Roman Roads Media provides tools to help you accomplish this task! Get started today!


Watch on YouTube.

what we lost - gallic wars

Originally appeared on Roman Roads Media blog. Written by Daniel Foucachon.

Late to read? Why that’s not always a problem.

I would like to tell you something about my mother and about me. Homeschooling mothers have to be self-sacrificial, hard-working, and patient. I want to share how these qualities in my mother blessed my life in a particular way. For whatever reason (some people would affix a three or four letter acronym to this), I was just not ready to read when most boys and girls normally learn to read.

New Saint Andrews Freshman with the Freshman reading list

Some classmates standing beside the Freshman reading list at New Saint Andrews College

It wasn’t that she wasn’t trying hard enough, or that she was not qualified (truth be told, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Gordon College, and taught at Winter Park High School – she is over-qualified!). For whatever reason, I simply wasn’t ready–I was just not grasping the careful and articulate lessons she taught me. She patiently continued to teach me from 6-10 years old. When I was about 10 years old everything suddenly clicked into place. I was ready to read, and took off!

Years later, I now have BA in Liberal Arts and Culture from New Saint Andrews College, a particularly vigorous program in terms of reading, requiring an estimated 20,000 pages of reading in Freshman year alone. The pile of required books every Freshman reads reach higher than the average student when stacked. And I loved it. I thrived. I am a voracious reader.

Donna Foucachon

My wonderful mother, Donna Foucachon

The amazing thing, however, is not that I was late, but that I never knew it. It was only years later that I looked back and realized that most kids learned to read earlier than I did. I had no idea. And that’s when I realized just how much love and care and patience it took my mother to continue teaching me, worrying about the delay, and yet plodding on. It turned out, nothing was “wrong with me.” I was perfectly normal, and just needed time. Had I been in public school I would have been acutely aware of my “slowness.” It wasn’t easy for my mother to homeschool all 5 of us kids in 5 different grades, while also being a pastor’s wife overseas. But it was an incredible gift to me. Thank you!

Now married to another bibliophile, we are inundated with books. We have more books than our bookshelves can hold. Piles of books on every subject: fiction, history, philosophy, literature, theology, how-to’s, The Great Books, classics, etc. And we’ve read the majority of them!

If you are a parent with a late reader, don’t assume there is a problem. Obviously sometimes there can be true issues, ranging from physical, physiological, or even just plain old laziness. But I believe many children are cast into a mold that simply doesn’t fit them. When we force them into that mold, we are hurting them, not helping them. Sometimes they just need time. I did!

Daniel Foucachon,
Founder and CEO, Roman Roads Media
January 8th, 2013.

family - squareDaniel Foucachon grew up in Lyon, France where his family was church-planting with MTW. He was homeschooled for most of his education, attending a Classical Christian School for two years in Lyon. He then moved to Moscow, Idaho in 2005 to attend New Saint Andrews College, and graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts and Culture in 2009. While finishing school and working in his father’s French restaurant, “West of Paris,” he ran a local media production company where he sub-contracted with Canon Press to create CanonWired. In 2012 he founded Roman Roads Media with the desire to bring quality Classical Christian Education to the homeschooler. He now lives in Moscow, Idaho with his wife Lydia, and four kids (Edmund, William, Margaux, and Ethan).

late to read