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    Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    The Liberal Arts Tradition: Series Finale and Final Review

    December 14, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    The Liberal Arts Tradition gets a double thumbs up from me. But you already knew that, didn’t you? I’ve written extensively about it, and yet there are so many great parts I didn’t cover. But I suppose that is the point. Ultimately, we all have to read these books for ourselves.

    It’s been a pleasure to get to know Kevin Clark, Ravi Jain, and Adam Lockridge a tiny bit along the way. Adam’s guest post How the Arts Were Liberated is still my favorite from the series, and if you haven’t read it, go do so! It provides the historical context for the book and, quite seriously, unsentimental me teared up a bit. I find it incredibly moving to read how God is working in the world through Christian education.

    The obvious question is what could possibly remain to be said.

    Series Finale and Final Review Liberal Arts Tradition

    Admittedly, this will be a short post.

    If you recall, the name of this series is The Liberal Arts Tradition: Classical Charlotte Mason. I called it this because I started having Charlotte Mason sightings in the first few pages of the book, and, after flipping through it, I realized that was going to be the case throughout. So I thought it’d be fun to try and tie the two together — and also point out places where they are different, or where they diverge.

    What fascinated me was learning that Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain had never read Charlotte Mason before writing their book (though they’ve both told me they’re reading her now, or planning to). I found myself wondering how it was possible that their philosophy was so similar to hers. It honestly felt to me like CM, repackaged for our own era. Was it exactly the same? No. But the similarities were so striking.

    I was thinking about this as I was flipping back through Karen Glass’ amazing book Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. In her book, Karen is constantly tracing Charlotte Mason back to her classical roots — books Miss Mason quoted, books she likely read, books that maybe she did or didn’t read, but that influenced books she definitely read, that sort of thing. One of the things that I love about Karen is that she’s got a firm grasp of the big picture. As I was rereading certain passages, I realized something: Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is the logical conclusion of someone steeped in the classical tradition.

    That’s why the two are so similar, you see. Clark and Jain, too, are steeped in the classical tradition (as evidenced by their amazing footnotes — a feast in and of themselves).

    At this point, it seems like we should all hold hands and sing.

    Or something.


    There is still one more post in this series, and it’s coming up in January. Afterthoughts, if you aren’t aware, takes a Christmas break for two weeks each year. We’ll be “closed” from December 19th through 31st. And we’ll kick off the New Year with my 10th Blogoversary Extravaganza Thingie — a celebration of 10 years of Afterthinking that’ll give away 10 prizes to 10 lucky readers — including one prize that will help one winner be steeped in the classical tradition this coming year.

    And also, we’ll have one last post for this series. I’m calling it the denoument. What would it look like for a classical co-op to make significant, meaningful changes in light of what they found in the pages of books like For the Children’s Sake and The Liberal Arts Tradition? Written by Pam Barnhill, we’re going to get the real life story of a co-op that did just that. Can’t wait for you to read it!

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  • Reply Gessica Hellmann March 18, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Hello, Brandy,

    My name is Géssica, I am a brazilian homeschooler mother.

    Reading about “Classical Education” and “Liberal Arts” I notice that many authors mix the concepts of “Dialectics” and “Logic” and, in some cases, they go so far as using these words as synonyms. I know that, philosophically, these words have extremely different meanings but, within the context of the Trivium, what is the difference between them? More precisely, what is exactly the theoretical, conceptual and practical scope designated by each word in the context of Liberal Arts in the Middle Ages? Is there a precise boundary or there are superpositions ou juxtapositions we should consider?

    Thank you in advance for your attention and any help you could provide.

    Best wishes,


    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 18, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Hi Géssica! My short answer to your question is that logic is focused just on reasoning — it can be done alone, using syllogisms, etc. Dialectic was learning to reason well, but in the context of discussion (dialog). So, a good example of the former would be a modern logic textbook, while a good example of the latter would be a Socratic dialog. Personally, I don’t think that logic is a small part of the dialectic, which is much bigger. Another thing that seems to be the case, though I might be wrong, is that goal of logic is simply to reason correctly — so technically one could come to a wrong conclusion through correct logic. I get the impression that the goal of dialectic was truth.

      There is more to it than this, because there are different types of logic (formal logic, material logic, etc.), and I think what I said about logic is more true of formal logic than the others, but these are the simple categories I use in my mind to frame my thinking. I certainly haven’t finished thinking about this issue! It’s *huge* I think! 🙂

      • Reply Gessica Hellmann March 18, 2016 at 10:06 am

        Brandy, thank you very much! 😀

  • Reply JenB December 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Just found your blog recently, and oh what a treasure!!! There is so much to read through. I’m currently reading and journaling my way through The Children’s Sake… Would this be a good book to pick up next?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 15, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      Welcome to Afterthoughts, Jen! 🙂

      It would be a good book next, yes, but I think that maybe Karen Glass’ book Consider This would be even better. At least, that is the order I would suggest. 🙂

      • Reply Jennifer December 17, 2015 at 9:54 am

        Thank you! I will be sure to get her book. 🙂 I also just purchased your Start Here study to incorporate with what I’m doing with For the Children’s Sake…..Looking forward to diving in.

  • Reply Kelly December 14, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    This has been a good series. I’m looking forward to the last installment since a friend and I are doing a mini co-op this year — I’m teaching literature and writing and she’s teaching science. She’s not really classical but she has an affinity for what she’s read of CM and she loved the CiRCE Restful Teaching seminar I took her to last month, so I’m hoping that our collaboration will continue and will grow more classical in nature.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 14, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      You went to that seminar?? It sounded divine! ♥

      Your co-op sounds lovely as well. 🙂

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