It’s a simple question with a complex answer! Traditionally, classical education was centered around Latin and Greek, the two languages of the Greek and Roman world. Beyond that it focused on the history, philosophy, literature, and art of those same worlds. Students would master the languages first, and then memorize copious amounts of ancient literature, study and debate the philosophies of men like Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, ruminate on the military and political strategies of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, and immerse themselves in the great truths of the civilization from which these people came.
It was during the Middle Ages that the classical way of learning was studied and eventually systematized. Study was divided into two parts called the Trivium and the Quadrivium. The Trivium (Latin for “three ways”), also known as “the verbal arts,” was studied first and consisted of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric in connection to words – their meaning, their relation, and their ability to persuade toward truth. The Quadrivium (Latin for “four ways”) was recognized as “the quantitative arts,” and consisted of arithmetic (numbers), music (numbers in time), geometry (numbers in space), and astronomy (numbers in time and space). It was concerned with humanity’s understanding of and relationship to the natural world. Together, the Trivium and the Quadrivium made up the Seven Liberal Arts.
For centuries, through the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment, this kind of education – with some variation of course – was the norm. It wasn’t until the modern era of the 1800’s that education began to change. Slowly but surely the paradigm shifted from a “classical” education to a “progressive” education, so that by the 1950’s, only fragments of a classical education remained.
It has only been in the past forty years that a renewed interest in a classical education has risen, and it came from interaction with a brief essay written by Dorothy Sayers in 1948. In this essay, entitled The Lost Tools of Learning, Sayers laments the state of education in her time and argues persuasively for a return to a Middle Ages type of education – one centered around the Trivium and the Quadrivium – whose end goal is to produce virtuous people who can think for themselves and know how to learn. She brilliantly expands upon the three divisions of the Trivium, recognizing within them the natural stages of child development and mirroring the steps of lectio divina.
Grammar level students love to memorize, sing, chant, recite, and collect things, so we should capitalize on their natural tendencies and present them with things to practice those skills on so their “memory ark” is filled. Dialectic students love to argue and back-talk and be disagreeable in general, so we should teach them to think carefully and read slowly and make important connections wisely using logic and reasoning, so at least while they drive their parents crazy they can do it well. Students at the rhetoric level desire independence and the opportunity to express themselves as they synthesize everything they have learned and compose stories and speeches and soliloquies about it, so we furnish them with freedom within a framework of knowledge and allow them to immerse themselves in avenues of interest as they humbly discover how much there is still to learn.
Classical education a la Dorothy Sayers, commonly known as Trivium-based education, is the kind of education that most K-12 classical schools are following today, although it has been expanded and enriched over the years as organizations, schools, and individuals research more into the texts and practices of classical, medieval, and renaissance educators and experiment in the classroom. It is still grounded in the classical languages, predominantly Latin, but has expanded to encompass not only classical Greek and Roman history, literature, philosophy, and art, but that of the whole of western civilization up to the modern era. Study is generally, but not necessarily, focused on four chronological historical cycles (Ancients, Middle Ages/Renaissance, Early Modern, Modern) and repeated a number of times, so that by the time a student is finished high school they have tackled each cycle at least once at the grammar stage, once at the dialectic stage, and once at the rhetoric stage. It is within this framework that the ICP Memory Guides fit. They are grammar level guides aimed at furnishing the minds of students between the ages of 4 and 12 but can also be used by older students as desired.
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was a British educator who, though she never had children of her own, helped parents raise their children into well-rounded, liberated persons. She became a teacher, and it was while she taught at the Davison School in England that the idea of a “liberal education for all” was formed. At that time, children were educated according to what class they were born into, so upper class children were exposed to literature, art, music, and philosophy, and lower-class children were taught a trade. However, Mason believed that all children deserved a liberal education – one that would make them free – and after some time established the House of Education where anyone working with children could come and be trained in her educational philosophy. She also wrote a six-volume set of books that detail her philosophy of education, wisdom concerning child training, and parenting.
The past thirty years has seen a revival of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy that has parallels to the classical education renewal. In 1987 Dean and Karen Andreola discovered Mason’s long out-of-print volumes in England and brought them home with them to the United States where they arranged for their re-publication under the name The Original Homeschooling Series. The Andreola’s homeschooled their children using CM pedagogy, researched ever further into the method, and began to write about their experiences. In 1998, Karen published A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning, which became a staple in CM homeschools across the nation. Since that time, numerous other CM inspired books and curriculum have been published as parents seek to give their children an “educational life.”
In the preface to Volume 6 of the series, Towards a Philosophy of Education, Mason outlines her 20 Principles. The first, and most important, principle she espouses is that children are born persons. This may seem obvious, but it is sometimes too easy to forget that children are unique individuals made in God’s image and come fully equipped with an intellect, emotions, and will. This belief stands in direct contradiction to both the Aristotelian and Lockean idea that we come into this world tabula rasa – a blank slate – waiting to be written on by our experiences and by those around us. More importantly, however, this belief demands that we educate the whole of the child, not just the mind, hence Mason’s definition of education as tripartite: “…an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”
By “atmosphere” Mason means that everything in a child’s natural life should contribute to their education. There is no need to create artificial “child environments” because children learn best from the natural reality around them. Wherever a child spends the majority of time is his “natural environment,” so if you are homeschooling, then the home environment is, and should be, a powerful tool in your child’s education.
By “discipline” Mason means that children should be trained in virtuous habits, or character development, as well as in bodily self-control. Today’s modern psychology would interpret this as “You are what you think…do…eat…” Mason believed that the brain and body could be trained in virtue, so cultivating character was integral to her philosophy and played a key role in the classroom.
By “life” Mason is referring to a child’s need for “intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance.” By this she means that education should apply to all aspects of the person and should be rich and varied with a “generous curriculum” where facts are learned in connection with their “informing ideas.” A generous curriculum includes such things as living books, experiences, exercise, crafts, science, art, and music, which all enable the child to forge “natural relations” with vast numbers of things and thoughts.
We at ICP love both the Trivium-based classical model and Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. We see the brilliance behind Sayer’s expansion of the Trivium to the developmental stages of children, and we appreciate Mason’s idea of approaching the student as a whole person and laying a feast of good things before them while cultivating virtue and discipline. The ICP Memory Guides attempt to find the “sweet spot” of harmony between the two. A Classical, Charlotte Mason education uses the tools of the Trivium and combines them with the Principles of CM.
Surprisingly, other than Latin, Dorothy Sayers didn’t think the material that grammar stage students memorized was the most important thing, only that they actively memorize, and she believed that the things memorized did not necessarily need to be understood by the student during this stage: “What the material actually is, is only of secondary importance; but it is as well that anything and everything which can usefully be committed to memory should be memorized at this period, whether it is immediately intelligible or not” (Sayers 13). She believed that children could find great joy and satisfaction in the memorization of material that was far beyond their ability to comprehend and that one of the errors of modern education was supposing that every fact, date, law, or list memorized at this level required a rational explanation be provided simultaneously. She believed that filling the memory banks of children who love to memorize but are not yet able to fully analyze was the best preparation for when their brains were developmentally prepared to find connections between those facts and argue about them, and then ultimately take a stand on one side or the other and virtuously persuade someone to the truth.
In contrast to this, Mason believed that the quality of material presented to children, and the ideas behind the material, were vitally important and should not be separated: “But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas.”
So how do we balance these two conflicting ideologies? We contextualize and integrate memory work! If the student is memorizing a history sentence about Julius Caesar, after we play with it using different modalities a few times, we pull out living books about him and read them aloud and then have the student narrate. We find a great work of art depicting him and study it and then have them imitate it. We examine maps that illustrate where Julius Caesar lived and conquered and then trace them and label them. We research the different musical instruments of the Roman world and listen to interpretations of Roman music. We read a kid’s version of Shakespeare’s play and take time to meditate on powerful words found in the funeral speeches, or we throw on some togas and dramatize the stabbing scene. We talk about honor and courage and loyalty and betrayal and ground them to the timeless truths found in scripture and the kind of life that Christ calls us to. We fit the feast to the facts and the facts to the feast and celebrate the educational life together with our children. It really is that simple.
Sayers and Mason are not as far apart as many believe, and their end goals are surprisingly similar. In fact, I think they would have been friends! Sayers desires students who can think and learn for themselves and Mason desires students who understand that their chief responsibility as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. The way they get there may vary to some degree, but we at ICP believe it’s possible to utilize the best of both methods in the education of our students. To this end, we humbly present a definition for Classical, Charlotte Mason Education:
A Classical, Charlotte Mason education is motivated by God’s glory and utilizes true, good, and beautiful material within the Trivium-based method to accomplish the formation and equipping of the whole person made in God’s image who can learn, reason, and persuade people to the enduring truths of God and act virtuously toward their neighbor.
Allow us to unpack that a little. A Classical, Charlotte Mason Education stands on three pillars: Motive, Material, and Method. By “Motive” we mean that our educational efforts should be motivated by the idea of God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Likewise, in Romans 11:36 we are told: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” Sacrifice and death are the keys that open God’s glory (John 12:20-28), and when we take on the homeschooling role, it is a call to sacrifice and a daily dying to self; that is why our motivation for doing it must be grounded in something far greater than ourselves – God’s glory.
By “Material” we mean the feast we place before our students. Memory work should be carefully curated and chosen for its importance within the present and future realities of the student. Living books, art, music, nature studies, science, and physical fitness opportunities should be a homeschool staple, presented in beauty, and grounded in the Truth and Goodness of God.
Finally, by “Method” we mean the Trivium-based model of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, as briefly outlined by Dorothy Sayers and expanded upon by proponents in the modern-day classical movement, as well as the practice of lectio divina first with Scripture and then with the great books. And that’s it! It’s not a comprehensive background by any means, but it’s enough, we think, to get you started and help you to understand how to use these guides.
In a private homeschool setting, the parent will introduce the “back-page” memory work, also known as the Pulchre Tempore, as well as the core memory work, on the first day of the week. The work will be reviewed on subsequent days using fun and varied modalities. Integrated read aloud and narration time will be prominent aspects of each day, as will nature studies, gymnastics, math time, and language study, which can be looped in as desired. The integrated science and fine arts guides should be used during the week to “flesh out” the memory work. The Scripture focus for the week can lead to daily bible reading and if desired, a theological catechism such as New City Catechism can also be added to round out the day. Active involvement in your local church or community at large can cultivate the virtues of piety and charity.
In a one-day-a-week community setting (full or half-day), the leader(s) will open the day with the chosen selections from the “back-page” memory work, to be done in congregation with all students in the community, regardless of age. After Pulchre Tempore, students are dismissed to their respective classes. Grammar teachers will introduce the new memory work to the class, taking time to explain concepts and answering questions if asked, allow time for prepared presentations, lead science or fine art demonstrations or activities using the integrated guides, choose and read from applicable fiction and non-fiction selections and listen to oral narrations from students, and review memory work from previous weeks if time permits.
On the remaining four days of the week, families can follow the same format as private homeschool families do, with the added preparation for presentation time in community the following week.
The ICP Memory Guides are rooted in history. Covering five eras total, from Ancients to Modern in four years, and a focus on Canadian or American History in the fifth year, classical schools can use the guides beginning in grade one through grade five. Teachers in each grade can use the Pulchre Tempore as their morning time classroom fellowship and then spend the remainder of the day and week reading through corresponding history and science texts such as Story of the World and Apologia. Adding in living books, narration, copy work, dictation, nature studies, weekly fine arts and science projects (using the integrated ICP guides), as well as picture studies, music listening, gymnastics, mathematics, language studies, and Bible reading and theological catechesis will create a robust classical program that focuses on the whole child made in the imago dei.
In a hybrid school/community setting (full or half-day), the leader(s) can open the day with the chosen selections from the “back-page” recitation/memory work, to be done in congregation with all students in the community, regardless of age. After Pulchre Tempore, students are dismissed to their respective classes. Grammar teachers will introduce the new memory work to the class, taking time to explain concepts and answering questions if asked, allow time for prepared presentations, lead science or fine art demonstrations or activities using the integrated guides, choose and read from applicable fiction and non-fiction selections and listen to oral narrations from students, and listen to recitations from previous weeks if time permits. On the remaining four days of the week, families can follow the same format as private homeschool families do, with the added preparation for presentation time in community the following week.
In a hybrid school/community, the leader can open the first day as described above, and on subsequent days either choose to do the same when opening the day, or delegate the Pulchre Tempore to the individual classroom teachers. Following that, the week’s core memory work should be reviewed before moving on to dedicated subject time. Below is a suggested schedule for an 8 am - 3 pm day. This kind of schedule can be used in the home for the remainder of the week, especially if your children thrive on routine, but make sure to build in flexibility. In my homeschool, I found that if the mornings were scheduled pretty tightly it left more room for freedom in the afternoons. For schools where more of a framework is required, you may need to try a few different iterations before you land on the schedule that best suits your needs. Charlotte Mason suggests that lessons should last no more than 20 minutes for younger students, and up to 40 minutes for older students. If you are block scheduling, you can break up 45-60 minute subjects into sections. For example, with math, you can spend 5-10 minutes chanting and singing and moving to the weekly math fact(s), then switch to math games for 15 minutes, then the day’s lesson for 20 minutes. Language Arts can be spread throughout the day, with 10-20 minutes spent on spelling, copywork, dictation, phonics, etc.
Morning Time Recitation in Congregation (Opening Prayer, Scripture Reading, Poetry, Hymn, List, Announcements, etc.)
Timeline, Picture Study, Core Memory Work Introduction
Beautiful Time (Read Aloud/Narration & Picture Study)
Science or Fine Art hour 12:15-1:15
Lunch & Recess
***If you are only doing half day community, this is the end of your day! If you’re doing a full day, you can schedule as follows.***
Grammar (integrate memory work by reciting grammar, or use the history sentence to diagram, teach the parts of speech, etc.)
Latin (Living Latin, Picta Dicta, Memoria Press, and Latin Alive! are all great programs. Determine what your goal is for language study and choose accordingly.)
Writing (Choose a writing program with the same history focus, such as IEW, or work on developing the art and skill of written narrations. Or alternate both!)
Morning Time Recitation in Congregation (Opening Prayer, Scripture Reading, Timeline, Poetry, Hymn, List, Announcements, etc.)
Core Memory Work Practice
Beautiful Time (Read Aloud and Narration)
Snack & Recess
Math (Weekly fact(s) reviewed, games, speed drills, discussion; lesson from chosen curriculum)
Language Arts (Copywork/Dictation and Penmanship, Spelling, Phonics. Grammar Focus)
Beautiful Time (Picture Study)
Lunch and Recess
History or Science (Incorporate aspects of Language Arts here with copywork, written narrations, integrated spelling, etc. if desired)
Beautiful Time (Music Listening)
Snack and Recess
Circle or Center Time Activities (Silent Reading, Handicrafts, Free Drawing, Legos, Class Games, etc.)
Alternate each class day with Nature Study, Gymnastics*, Fine Art, etc.
Minute of Silence and End of Day Benediction**
The simple answer is, “No.” The complex answer is also, “No.” YOU are in control of your child’s education. YOU decide what you want to include and exclude. The ICP team has tried to include more than enough content to structure your homeschool day/week/year around, but if you try to do it all, you will probably fail. The ICP Guides are created to be flexible and adaptable tools in the hands of more-than-competent moms, teachers, and principals that can be used to achieve personal, community, and school goals. YOU use the guides, the guides do not use you. .
Invictus Classical Press is unashamedly Christian in its foundation and philosophy.
About Salvation: We believe that salvation is by the grace of God; that the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us paid the full penalty for our sins and provides the sole basis for the forgiveness of God. Salvation occurs when an individual places his faith in the death and resurrection of Christ as sufficient payment for their sin.
About God: We believe in one God who exists in three equal persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe in the absolute deity of Jesus Christ, the Second person of the Trinity who became flesh to reveal God to mankind and to die on the cross as Saviour of the lost world. We believe that He rose from the dead and lives today.
About the Bible: We believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; that the sixty-six books, as originally written, were verbally inspired by the Spirit of God who moved men to write the very words of Scripture. We believe the Bible is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
The vision for Invictus started out very small. We left an established classical community that had its own curriculum to start an independent one, and we needed to find a replacement for the curriculum. After looking around and finding only one other option that, unfortunately, did not check all the boxes we were hoping for, we decided to write our own. We knew we wanted core subject memory work, but we also wanted integrated poems, hymns, scripture, lists, picture studies, music listening selections, read aloud and narration options, and detailed and beautiful fine arts and science lessons that enriched the memory work. We are big Charlotte Mason fans, though not purists, and we truly desired to unite her philosophy with what is now known as the Trivium based model. What started out as a simple attempt to meet the desires of our own community turned into a wider vision once we realized there were other communities out there looking for the same thing. To our knowledge, none of the big classical companies are doing what we’re doing.
Our flagship product is the Volume 1 Ancients Memory Guide Series. It’s a 30 week core subject memory guide with integrated poems, hymns, scripture, lists, picture studies, music listening selections, read aloud and narration options, and detailed and beautiful fine arts and science lessons that enrich the memory work. It’s perfect for the homeschool parent of multiple aged children, because it is designed to be used within a one-room schoolhouse model due to content that is scalable either up or down, depending on need. It’s also perfect for a one-five day a week homeschool community or hybrid school, because there is enough content to spread through the week, there is built in integration, and encouragement toward the pursuit of virtue in all endeavors.
Invictus is a Latin word that means “undefeated,” or “unconquered.” As homeschool moms, we know that there is a mountain of condemnation in the form of insecurity (I’m not good/smart/disciplined/patient - insert other adjectives here - enough), guilt (I lost my temper, I fell behind, I hate math, we don’t go outside enough, my child can’t read yet…), and loneliness just waiting to crush us. Educating our children is an enormous responsibility and no parent takes it lightly. But we fail all the time! Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. Paul talks all about this in Romans 8, arguably one of the most powerful chapters in the New Testament. But then he offers us incredible hope! We are not under condemnation! There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Jesus! In fact, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:37 Now, the Latin word invictus is not actually used in the Vulgate translation of this verse, but we’re ok with that. The meaning is the same. We view the homeschooling parents, and the classical administrators and teachers - the dear souls in the depths of the educational trenches - as unconquerable warriors in the army of God!
Being lovers of all things mythological, as well as appreciative of many cultural aspects of the ancient world, we instinctively looked to antiquity when we were deciding on a logo. We wanted something that represented Invictus and all it had come to mean to us as homeschooling moms, leaders of a classical community, and teachers in the classroom. The phoenix was the obvious choice, for it is the invincible firebird that perishes in flames and yet is reborn from the ashes - resurrected if you will – to new and glorious life. When people see the Invictus phoenix, we hope they see strength and resilience and beauty and courage – the virtues we believe are most important to those of us in the classical education renewal.
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