The Classical Historian teaches the student to know, understand, engage, and love history. Classical education in history nurtures a young person’s natural inclination to seek the truth in all things and trains students to be independent thinkers and lifelong learners. Key in our approach is the Socratic discussion in history. The Classical Historian is an American company. We aim to teach students specifically what it means to be an American citizen, to nurture a love of country and an understanding of America's common cultural history rooted in Western Civilization, and to understand and defend liberty.
The Classical Historian provides a comprehensive, classical approach to history effective in classrooms and in the home school. The classical approach challenges students to know history content and to think, read, and write critically about past and current events. Key to this approach is the Socratic discussion in history. The Classical Historian approach is engaging, interesting, and teaches students to be independent thinkers and lifelong learners. Classical Historian students learn how to analyze history and current events with a critical eye. Students acquire the basic facts of history through a clear concise text and primary source documents. They acquire critical thinking skills specific to history. Using this knowledge and skills, students become adept at finding out the truth in past events. They then use these thinking tools when learning current events.
Students learn how to become a part of the conversation of history by answering key open-ended questions designed to not only test their knowledge of facts but also develop critical thinking skills. Classical Historian students use the Socratic dialog with their classmates or family members and learn to listen to the perspectives of others and grow in their own thinking.
History is not just a list of dates and events but is open to differing interpretations. Classical Historian students know history but also engage the past with critical thinking tools. Students who use these tools in their history class then apply them throughout their lives. We hope you and your student become a part of the conversation. The goal of The Classical Historian is to teach students how to strive for the truth in history, to train teachers to be experts in challenging the students to become their best as historians and people, to promote liberty, and to promote virtue. The Classical Historian encourages teachers and students to systematically learn and practice the highest academic ideals, such as honesty, virtue, patience, and logical analysis.
Liberty and The United States of America The Classical Historian is devoted to teaching the story of liberty throughout history. Liberty means at least two things: having freedom to and having freedom not to. A goal of liberty is to provide maximum development of an individual’s capacity to be human, to love, to think, to choose to be charitable, to believe in God and follow a religion or not to, to start and run a business, to have a family or to choose not to. It is the freedom an individual has to live his life to its full potential. The story of liberty is as old as the human race, and for much of our world’s history, including today, the great majority of people have not lived in liberty. Only recently, within the last few hundred years, have some people enjoyed a great deal of this freedom.
In modern times, the United States of America has been the leader of liberty. This is why France gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States in the 1800s. It is why immigrants have come first to the United States of America, over other countries, since its inception in 1776. It is the reason that, even though the United States trails China and India in population by about 1.3 billion to 325 million, the U.S. has the greatest economy on Earth. Liberty is a universal idea that continues to fill the hearts and minds of people around the world.
The American Founding Fathers defined liberty in the American founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Like John Locke before him, Thomas Jefferson believed liberty rested on the principles that “all men are created equal,” and “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The founders believed that the rights of Americans rested on the idea that the Creator formed man with rights that no government had the authority to remove. God existed as the authority above government, above man, and the government was always subject to uphold and defend the rights given to man by the Creator. Jefferson and the other Founders fought Great Britain to establish a limited government so that individuals would have maximum freedom.
In the Constitution, liberty is defined in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments. The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, freedom of the press, religious freedom, and the right to assemble. The founders were very concerned about freedom of political speech, meaning the right to campaign or financially support the candidate of one’s choice without limitation. They wanted to make sure that government would never become so strong that it would limit Americans’ ability to participate in politics. Regarding freedom of religion, the founders wanted to make sure the government would not enforce a state religion, however, at the same time, they wanted Americans to never be limited in their practice of religious worship. There are other important rights in the first ten amendments, such as the right to bear arms, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the main point of the Bill of Rights was to make sure that government would never take away the liberty of Americans.
American students (and many adults) do now know the history of their own country and do not know the meaning of the founding of the United States of America. There is a lack of publishing companies serving the k-12 community to fill this need. The Classical Historian is answering this call.
Virtue and the Socratic Discussion The Classical Historian is dedicated to promoting virtue, which is defined as behavior showing high moral standards. The teacher can nurture virtue in many ways. The teacher can simply smile at each student and welcome them to class, or a home school mom can do the same to her child, and in so doing promote positive thoughts and actions. One of the key methods we use to promote virtue is the Socratic discussion history. Students learn how to form historical judgment in history, express his ideas among their peers or in front of the parent, and then listen to other ideas and respond intelligently. Any observer of American politics or media will note the great lack of civil discussion in our society. In teaching students how to discuss history, we are promoting the habits of listening, evaluating, treating others with respect, and searching for the truth.
Method, in Detail The Classical Historian teaches students history with lessons that are age-appropriate. As Dorothy Sayers in the 1940s wrote, a student's educational life can be separated into three phases: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. In the Grammar stage of history, students ages 3-11 memorize facts such as dates, events, and biographies. In the Logic stage, ages 12 to 14, students learn the tools of the historian: how to analyze history and the basics of writing and speaking. In the Rhetoric stage, 14 and older, students work on perfecting oral and written expression.
For young students, The Classical Historian teaches basic facts through history flash cards, and fun and educational games. Children ages 3-11 love to memorize and play games. They also love repetition, and are most comfortable when the educational lessons rely on games with clear rules. Older students, ages 12-18, enjoy to argue, like to analyze, and are eager to express themselves. The Classical Historian uses these natural aspects of the young student to promote the academic study of history. The aim of the study of history is discover not only what happened, but to strive to understand why it happened.
The Classical Historian uses a five step program to teach history. The first step is the “Grammar of History.” Steps two through five are the “Dialectic and Rhetoric of History”: 1. The Grammar of History 2. The Tools of the Historian 3. Research 4. The Socratic Discussion 5. Analytical Essays
The Grammar of History The grammar of history refers to basic facts of a historical event and does not require analytical thinking. Answers to the questions of “who, what, when, and where” constitute the grammar of history. It is essential for a historian to know the grammar of history, and it is a perfect level for kids in pre-k through grade 5. Students at this age (3-11) are eager to memorize, parrot, and recite. Even so, learning the grammar of history never stops at a certain age. Even an adult can benefit by adding historical knowledge through reading, lectures, visits to museums, and discussions.
Young children love games that have clear rules for all, and games where it is possible to improve and become a master at playing. The Classical Historian games not only teach basic history facts; they also teach intellectual and social skills that aid a child’s overall academic development. The American History Flash Cards teach over 300 basic historical facts from American History.
Many pediatricians argue that 90% of a child’s intellectual capacity is gained through the age of five (Sears, M.D.). That is why it is most critical that before age 5, children spend their time doing active things, such as kicking a ball, singing songs, learning poems, and playing simple games. The Classical Historian Memory Games are excellent for children ages 3 and up. Requiring no reading skills, they build cognitive abilities of visual and spatial memory. Once a child learns how to read, The Classical Historian Go Fish Games test historical knowledge, chronology, and geography. Both games are visually beautiful and stimulate the mind. Children love to play them together, or with their teacher or parent.
The Dialectic and Rhetoric of History The Dialectic and Rhetoric of History refer to the thinking, speaking, and writing tools essential for analysis and expression in history. They include, as well, the ability to research various sources, engage in Socratic discussion, and write analytical essays.
The Tools of the Historian The tools of the historian are taught through the Classical Historian Socratic Discussion DVD Curriculum and the Take a Stand! series. The Classical Historian products show you how to use these tools and train your students how to use them as well. If you wish to become an expert at teaching these tools, you may take our teacher certification seminars in person or through our distance learning teacher certification program.
Below is a list of tools we teach through our Teaching the Socratic Discussion DVD program and the Take a Stand! series. The difference between the two products is that the DVD program features John De Gree teaching the tools to two students, ages 15 and 11, and he is teaching the viewer at home. With the Take a Stand! books, the teacher at home is responsible for going through the lessons with their child.
1. Fact or Opinion? 2. Judgment 3. Supporting Evidence 4. Primary or Secondary Source Analysis 5. Using Quotes 6. Paraphrasing 7. Researching Various Sources 8. The Socratic Discussion in History 9. Making a Counterargument 10. Understanding Cause and Effect 11. Understanding Compare and Contrast 12. Understanding Bias 13. Using Evidence and Not Emotion to Form Judgement 14. Writing a Thesis Statement for an Analytical History Essay 15. Writing an Outline for an Analytical History Essay 16. Writing a Rough Draft for an Analytical History Essay 17. Revising an Analytical History Essay 18. Citing Sources in the Text of an Analytical History Essay 19. Writing a Works Cited Page
The following is a list of forces that influence history. While not strictly tools as the preceding list, understanding and knowledge of the following help a historian analyze and teach history. In our Take a Stand! books, we challenge the young historian to analyze the past based on the following forces: a. Technology b. Social forces c. Institutional factor d. Revolution e. Individual in history f. The role of ideas g. Power h. International organization i. Causation j. Loyalty
Research to Answer Open-Ended Questions Behind every good historian is the research he conducts to form his analysis. The beginning historian, 11 or 12 years old, shouldn't be expected to begin with a long list of resources, unless he is ready to tackle many different viewpoints. It is our opinion, however, that the sixth grader will have enough to do when reading one or two sources in trying to analyze the past. As the child ages, he should use primary source documents, conflicting sources, and as many varied texts that he can get his hands on. The idea is that once the tools of history are embedded in a student’s mind, he can use these tools and apply them to various author’s interpretations of history.
The active reader recognizes the bias of the writer, and the active student grasps the importance of primary source documents. There is a problem with a student learning history solely through one perspective. If the child does not learn how to analyze history and practice this analysis on various authors, the student is unprepared to analyze conflicting viewpoints. A well-educated historian cannot only form the correct perspective, but he can also refute a lesser than perfect perspective by using historical analysis.
Because much in history is left up to interpretation, this subject is excellent for the Socratic discussion. Open-ended, interpretive questions are those that are impossible to answer with a simple yes or no, but need explanation. Questions that will stimulate thought and discussion are such as these: “What caused the Roman Empire from persecuting Christians to adopting Christianity as the state religion?” “How did American society change from 1950 to 1990 because of technology?” “What caused the fall of the Soviet Union?” “Compare and contrast the Incas with the Aztecs.” “Compare and contrast the reasons Martin Luther and King Henry VIII founded new religions.” In their discussions, students will learn that it is possible to look at history from varying vantage points. This exercise in logic trains the mind.
Questions To answer open-ended questions well, it is wise to understand how most upper-level history questions are asked. The following is such a list.
a. Change Over Time b. Cause and Effect c. Compare and Contrast d. Define and Identify e. Statement/Reaction f. Evaluation g. Analyzing Viewpoints
The Socratic Discussion in History One key element of the tools of learning history and reading for the 12 through 18 year old is the Socratic discussion. To arrive at the Socratic discussion, students should be able to distinguish between fact and opinion, be able to form good judgment from evidence, and practice analyzing primary and secondary resources. Whereas Socrates used questions to pursue the truth in philosophy, we will use questions to pursue the truth in history.
One point that teachers need never worry about is whether they know enough history to conduct a Socratic discussion. Socrates noted that the best teacher and most intelligent philosopher is one who knows what he does not know. It is essential for the teacher adopt certain habits of thought and of questioning. Once an interpretive question is chosen and the student has researched and formed a perspective the teacher needs to ask appropriate questions. Beyond the introductory level of “Who, what, where, when, why, how?” however, the parent must ask, “What evidence do you have that supports this?” This is the ultimate question in a discussion in history. If the evidence is weak, then the student’s judgment will be weak as well. For how can there be a strong conclusion with weak evidence? The open discussion stimulates the mind to think of other possible conclusions. The teacher’s primary role is to be the questioner and therefore he does not need to be an expert in history.
The teacher’s role in the discussion is not to tell the student what to think, but rather to question and challenge the student’s conclusions, forcing the student to continually clarify and defend with historical evidence and sound judgment. If other students are available, the teacher can encourage students to debate each other’s ideas, with the intention of arriving at the best possible conclusion together. If there are not other students available, the teacher should encourage the student to be able to present a perspective that is contrary to the student’s own perspective. In this exercise, the student exercises his mind to view what the opposing side may see. The teacher’s goal is to create a scholarly atmosphere where students are free to express their ideas but careful to cite the historical evidence that supports their thesis statement. The Classical Historian DVD and Take a Stand! curriculum teach the Socratic discussion in history.
Analytical Essays In analytical writing in history, substance takes precedence over style. The student needs to take a perspective that he can defend with evidence, and the thesis is appropriate where an opposing viewpoint is possible. Writing a narrative which only explains the major points of the Renaissance is not an analytical piece. Writing that Leonardo de Vinci was the most influential artist of the Renaissance and using evidence to defend this point, however, is analytical, because somebody may argue that Michelangelo was more influential.
The Take a Stand! series provide questions that compel the student to write analytically. Each essay assignment is crafted so that the student must take a stand on an issue that can be answered from a variety of perspectives. The prewriting activities provided in our Take a Stand! series gives students the necessary guidance to find evidence that will support or refute their thesis. And, simple to read but effective lessons on how to write all pieces of the writing process guide the student to create strong essays. The Classical Historian DVD and Take a Stand! curriculum teach the Socratic discussion in history. To visit our Mission page click HERE.
"I absolutely LOVE the critical thinking aspects of the curriculum." Dina, California