Tool Box Approach to Classical Education

thecoreI purchased this book for two reasons: 1. I was looking for a basic overview of classical education for a parent’s resource group I facilitate. 2. I wanted to find out what all the hype was about in regard to Leigh Bortins and her “Classical Conversations” curriculum.

In her book, “The Core,” Leigh Bortins the CEO of “Classical Conversations” and host of the internet radio show “Leigh! at Lunch” gives you at “tool box” approach to classical education.

In the first part of “The Core” she gives her articulation of “What’s Wrong with Education Today? Why We Need Classical Education and How Classical Education Can Help You.” In the second part of her book, she takes the basic elements of classical education: reading, writing, math, geography, history, science and fine arts and gives you a “tool box” approach of how to implement the philosophy of classical education. The “tool box” approach allows you to take a tool from the box, read the description of the tool, and learn how the tool fits into the method, why it is important to the method and how to use the tool. The book is simplistic in presentation, but effective in application. The book also contains chapters on “Schedules and Resources for Classical Education and How Classical Education Gives Us Skills We Needs as Adults.” The author presents her material from a “Christian” perspective.

The only negative comment I have about the book is the author’s ongoing advertisement for her curriculum, “Classical Conversations.” I found the advertisements to be more of a distraction, than a contribution to the context of the book itself.

I would encourage any parent who is seriously pursuing classical education to read Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer’s classic, “The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home.” “The Well Trained Mind” is a comprehensive overview and resource for providing your child with a classical education at home.

Kathy Alphs

Quote of the Day


Gratitude spreads his feast of joy and thanksgiving for gifts that come to him without any special though of him on the part of the giver. He is thankful for all the good that comes to him.
Charlotte Mason Ourselves

The Culture of Contentment

contentment5This past week has been an interesting one. Last Wednesday evening, our family attended our church’s midweek service, WOW (Weekends on Wednesday). The evening’s speaker focused his talk on the subject of contentment. The next day, my friend Becca posted an article titled, What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?  by Krista O’Reilly Daavi-Digui. Interestingly enough, I had recently purchased a Kindle book titled; I’m Happy for You (Sort of…Not Really) by Kay Willis Wyma. Chance or coincidence these events happened one right after another? I think not. Often time’s events occur guided by providence to remind us of what is truly important in this life.

The present time period in which we live has been labeled The Information Age. The Information Age is defined as “The time period starting in the 1970’s with the introduction of the personal computer with subsequent technology introduced providing the ability to transfer information freely and quickly.” (1) The introduction of technology is a double edged sword. On one side, technological advances have been made in the fields of medicine, entertainment, economics, and an abundance of information available via the internet which benefits our society. On the flip side, there is a downside to technology. Facebook/Instagram Likes and Shares, Twitter tweets/re-tweets, Pinterest Pins, and You Tube views. While the latter are tools designed to connect the human race, over the past several years I have seen these tools create a culture of comparison, which leads us into the Land of Discontentment.


Paul Angone, author of 101 Secrets for Your Twenties addresses the culture of comparison as the smallpox of our generation. What’s Obsessive Comparison Disorder, you ask? It’s the new OCD I’ve coined to describe our compulsion to constantly compare ourselves with others, producing unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us into depression, consumption, anxiety and all-around discontent. It encourages us to stay up late on Facebook (poring) through all 348 pictures of our frenemies’ “My Life is Better Than Yours” album, and then it sends us to bed wondering why we feel so anxious.

Obsessively comparing yourself to others, becoming more and more frustrated that your life doesn’t look like theirs, is the absolute most effective way to take your crisis to unhealthy, eating raw cookie dough with a serving spoon, levels. Like having to run outside to light up a cigarette, our comparison addiction is uncontrollable, and it is killing us.” (2)

President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In the Age of Comparison, how do we cultivate contentment and joy in our own souls and the souls of our children? I believe the answer lies in one word: gratitude. Gratitude is defined as “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” (3) Contentment and gratitude are puzzle pieces which match, the two go hand in hand.

As a child, this was a concept I struggled with. I grew up as the latter part of the Baby Boomer Generation where comparison of our modern lives was an everyday event: Job, car, house, education, clothes, appearance, and faith were all part of the culture of comparison. When my mother heard me lamenting about “the lack of whatever”, she would have me play The Glad Game. The Glad Game originates from Eleanor H. Porter’s classic children’s book, Pollyanna.


Porter’s novel features a fledgling orphan named Pollyanna, who comes to live with her wealthy, but frosty Aunt Polly. Upon Pollyanna’s arrival she begins to infect the town’s people with her optimistic attitude, which she contributes to her late father and the game he invented for her: The Glad GameThe Glad Game consists of “finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how dismal it may be.” As my mother and I began to “find something to be glad about,” I would change my focus from one of discontent to one of gratitude. Often times, we would play the game for up to an hour; but my mother would usually end the game once she had observed a change in my attitude.

Another way to cultivate a culture of contentment and an attitude of gratitude in ourselves and our children is create what I call The Glad Game Jar. I came across the idea while reading Misa Leonessa Garavagila’s article, Creating a Family Culture of Appreciation.
To create your very own Glad Game Jar
all you need is a large glass jar, a stack of small slips of colored paper, and a pen. Every day, beginning on January 1, each member of the family writes down on a slip of paper what they are glad or grateful for on that particular day. At the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve dump the contents of the jar on your dining room table. Have each member of the family begin to read through the little slips of paper. As each family member takes their turn, everyone discovers and learns together what they are glad or grateful for. In doing so, this leads both parents and children on the path to creating a culture of contentment.


In closing, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes on the topic of contentment from Dale Carnegie: “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”


(2) Paul Angone. “7 Cures for Your Quarter-Life Crisis,” Relevant, August 2013.


(4) Creating a Family Culture of Appreciation by Missa Leonessa Garavagila


Great Resource for Language Arts Pre-K to Grade 1!


Peak with Books is a great resource for language arts Pre-K to Grade 1. The authors have selected 40 titles in children’s literature many of them Caldecott winners/nominees to be read aloud which incorporate activities such as poetry, songs, finger plays, art, thinking skills, narration, vocabulary, drama, and cooking. There are also 500 storybooks referenced so you can expand on a particular story if you would like to. Dr. Ruth Beechick noted educational authority has commented on Peak with Books: “I think this book is topnotch. Any parent who used these lesson plans for awhile would be getting a good education in using books with children and building upon them to expand vocabulary, experiences and thoughts. For people who want to do the “living books” thing that Susan Macaulay has popularized, here is the kindergarten program all worked out for them.” This edition is the 3rd and has been rewritten to accommidate children from ages Pre-K to Grade 1. This volume is a great companion to Dr. Ruth Beechick’s Language and Thinking for Young Children.

Kathy Alphs

(Photo Credit: Simply Audra Marie)

Quote of the Day


Can you remember a book that swept you away to another time and place with its words? The Hobbit is one that did that for me. To Kill a Mockingbird put me in Alabama in the 1930s. When I read a Charles Dickens novel, I joyfully travel to nineteenth century England and become immersed in the society, the culture, and the interactions of fascinating characters that Dickens brings to life.
As Emily Dickinson knew, the words in books can take us to places that enthrall us, excite us, and fascinate us. Through books we meet people who have changed the world. We read stories that teach us the heights and depths of human behavior.
Ray Notgrass, Where Will Words Take You Today?