A Classical Home in a Pop Culture?

By Tom Thistleton, MHA Founder
February 20, 2019

We’re all familiar with classical and Christian education (CCE) but has anyone ever heard of a classical home? We might guess it has something to do with the picture of a traditional family — father working, mother at home, all-American kids growing up in the heartland. But, that’s not it. I’m referring to a home structure that supports a classical, Christian education. 

I’ve been reflecting on the impact my home life has on the CCE my children experience at school. I recently read an article, “A Classical Education Demands a Classical Home” by Josh Gibbs. We’ve all likely read critiques of popular culture, but Gibbs does a good job bringing that critique home to the challenges it poses for the education of our children.

Several key points stood out to me and challenged me. 

First, Gibbs says, “a classical education is more concerned with loving what is right than merely knowing it.” 

This is consistent with education as it’s been understood throughout western (and Christian) history and illustrates the complexity of educating well. In fact, Augustine defined virtue as “rightly ordered love.” Filling the mind with content is hard but not nearly as hard as cultivating the heart. Often times, if we love something, learning all about it becomes relatively easy and enjoyable. In other words, if we win the battle over loving the right things, winning the battle over knowing the right things becomes that much easier.

Second, Gibbs describes the difficulty of cultivating rightly ordered affections in the midst of our modern entertainment and distraction-soaked culture. 

“The more time a student spends on a smart phone, the less interesting class will be, for the classroom cannot be clicked away from the moment it ceases to amuse. … The more sensual and overblown the music and movies a student consumes, the more dull class will seem. A good deal of popular culture is anti-contemplative and bent toward intellectual oblivion.” A student might pack away a good number of facts in his head, but he will likely never love what is true, good, and beautiful — and so learning will always be a chore to be suffered through or avoided rather than a delight to be pursued.

Finally, Gibbs makes clear the importance of the home. 

“A good father must teach his children not only to steward their time, but to steward their affections. While concern for school should not govern everything which goes on at home, parents should often ask, ‘Will this make the job of my children’s teachers easier or harder?’ when their kids ask to see a certain movie or read a certain book.” If we’re not careful, our children’s lives outside of school will undo all that happens in school.

This is likely the greatest challenge to our children’s education. The constant ringing and buzz of the smartphone, the never-ending pull of social media, and the always-available, on-demand nature of today’s entertainment are challenges for all of us, especially our youth. I’ve been involved in classical, Christian education for more than  20 years with six children who have graduated from MHA. I can say, without a doubt, that it feels like a whole new world today. We thought the cultural challenges then were big, but today they’re all the more pervasive and debilitating.

Jesus teaches us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What do our kids love? Where is their treasure? Do they love the true, good, and beautiful? As parents, we have to help them love rightly, first by loving rightly ourselves (modeling) and then creating the environment that nurtures the right ordering of loves (teaching). 

Let’s all commit to doing our part to help our children get the most from the education they are receiving at MHA (and ensuring we get the return on our educational investment). It’s hard work, and it takes consistency over time for the fruit to ripen in their lives, but it’s oh so glorious when it does!