A friend recommended I read Deep Work by Cal Newport. So I put it on hold at the library and waited several weeks for my turn to arrive. Apparently it’s a rather popular book!
Deep Work & The Classical Homeschool
The premise of the book is that deep work is needed in our economy and people who are able to produce deep work will thrive. And what is deep work?
Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
These activities which push our cognitive capabilities to their limit are what drive advances in technology. Advances in history. Advances in education.
And it’s the later I’m most interested in.
Because as I read the book, it struck me that classical education teaches children to do deep work. I don’t expect a dancing rabbit to teach my little kids to read. We sit down with a phonics primer and carefully concentrate for a short, but lengthening, amount of time and work on reading.
And reading is hard for preliterate children!
Kids sit down with a math textbook and learn to concentrate. They learn to solve problems. Eventually they even learn to solve proofs.
But it’s hard.
I’ve gotten push-back over the years. My kids want to learn the easy way. They want more documentaries or dancing rabbits teaching them math. I’ve been told I should use computers to teach my kids. Use more games. Use more movies.
It’s not that I’m against computers, games, or movies. But they have their place. And their place isn’t as a daily part of my homeschool. They’re the icing on the cake. Movies and games are great for days you want a change or everyone is sick, but not for the daily homeschool.
Because I’m working to teach my kids to think deeply. I want them to be able to sit down, concentrate, and tackle hard subjects. I want them able to produce deep work.
And classical education does just that. It teaches kids to produce deep work. To tackle that hard problems of life.
After all, Latin doesn’t come easily to most people. There’s grammar to learn; vocabulary to memorize. You conjugate verbs. You decline nouns. And kids get frustrated because it takes a long time to master the various grammar forms. It takes years before kids can sit down and read Cicero.
And even the books written in Latin are hard! We’re talking about Virgil, Cicero, and Quintus Horatius Flaccus. And if you add Greek into the mix, you’re looking at even more work. Just learning Koine Greek to read the New Testament will give you enough material to study and ponder to last a lifetime.
Not all of us make it through Latin and Greek and begin reading the ancient texts. Instead our kids read Virgil, Cicero, and Quintus Horatius Flaccus through translations. But kids still wrestle with the concepts.
My kids follow the 4 year plan as outlined by Tapestry of Grace. We reading the texts from ancient Sumeria, and ancient Egypt. Then we move on into the ancient Greek works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. We tackle the foreign concepts and enjoy the ancient story.
And we move forward into time. Kids read the Song of Roland and study the meter and genre. Kids see the advent of the novel and the changes which happened.
Kids tackle the hard thoughts of life and society instead of reading just short stories and article.
Children need to learn to sit down and think. They need to sit down and ponder through life’s issues. They need to sit down and produce deep work.
Of course it’s not the only reason for classical education, but it’s one worth pondering.