An “Aristotle” Education for the College-Bound

Describing below my personal experience with my oldest child as I attempted to classically educate her following closely and borrowing concepts from Susan Wise Bauer’s book, “The Well Trained Mind”.  This site provides more details on what we actually did throughout her homeschool years and what I am currently doing with her four younger siblings…

When my oldest turned 5 on our second year as immigrants to Canada, the idea of home education appealed very much to me.  My husband and I, both raised by parents who valued academic achievement, had a strong desire to be involved in our own children’s education.  The idea of taking charge of the academic growth of my children was a challenge that I was inspired to take on.  At the same time, home education paved the way for our goal of instilling in our young children family values.

A form of classical education is what I attempted to provide this child. This is implemented in the three stages of information-gathering in the early elementary, analysis and logic in middle school, and in high school, the stage of gaining proficiency in self-expression.  I determined to build strong reading, writing and arithmetic skills during her early years by exposing her to good literature, developing in her a love for reading, and instilling in her the discipline for a rigorous math program.  We went about school subjects systematically in the hopes of developing virtue in her.

This method is also “language-focused”, requiring us to learn through the printed (or spoken) word rather than through visual images.  We relied heavily on reading whole books (rather than textbooks) whether for science, history or literature especially before high school.  This child methodically studied English grammar and Latin throughout her school years.  As she grew older, phonics and spelling were replaced by vocabulary studies and rhetoric.

The nature of my early education provided me with an environment in which learning was natural and self-motivated. I never could understand the prevailing attitude against learning that many of my young friends held. I liked numbers. I wanted to learn how to read. My parents encouraged and honoured this curiosity of mine. They taught me that it was valuable – as valuable as math and reading. I was taught that ‘school’ does not mean grades and exams and awards. These things are merely secondary. For me, school primarily means an appreciation and a good understanding of how the real world works. At eleven, I was learning that math and physics were not simply textbooks. I found them in the real world. I found math in my music lessons, physics in my swimming lessons. Because I realized that there was no dividing wall between what I learned in my studies and what was part of the real world, I loved learning even more. – my now 12th grader

This education was executed in the context of a “world” focus.  The course of studies was designed in such a way that the student would cycle at least twice in her survey of world history from ancient to modern times, tackling each period more in depth the next time around.  Approaching subjects against this historical backdrop, she began to develop the skill for seeing and analysing connections in the fields of science, literature, fine arts, government, economics, and worldview.

Ever since I can recall, this child had a determination about her when it comes to learning something.  When she received her first bicycle at 6, she was on it continuously, stopping only for meals, so that she could maneuver it quite capably by the end of that day.  As she grew older, she took on much of learning in the same way: with much passion, determination, and eventually independence.

The eldest of five children, this daughter developed early on an independent attitude towards her work.  I did not find that I had to supervise her work very closely but I held her accountable for what I expected of her.  She has always met my expectations in this regard.

As a home-educated student, discipline also meant whether I would wake up early or not, whether I would study now or later, whether I would read my assignments or not. The nature of my education required me to have this discipline to make any progress at all. This discipline I have learned will, I hope, help me face both the academic and practical rigours of a university education. – 12th grader

Math is a subject she always had a heart for while growing up.  She could never decide which math curricula to use throughout elementary so she would complete two math programs (Saxon and Math-U-See) each of those years.  When this was no longer possible, she would do them one after another.  She was able to achieve this despite the requirements her other subjects demanded as well as the growing fields she began to take on (logic, Latin, French, vocabulary). It is her inclination towards this subject also that explains her predisposition towards the science of physics.

Other than math, this child has discovered her inclination towards another language – Latin.  With some Latin background in her younger years,  she found herself self-studying the college Latin text, Wheelock’s Latin. Having placed into Latin 2 thereafter, she finished the text by enrolling with Lukeion Project online.  There was the challenge of having to stay up for the 10-11pm session, being the only reasonable option for our time zone, but she plodded along with determination despite her regular swimming routine at 6 a.m.  She has completed Latin 2a, Latin 2b, and Latin 3a with Lukeion and had the opportunity to take part in the National Latin Exam for Latin 2 last year with a perfect score paper.  At the same time, she was accomplishing her goal of building up her endurance for 2-kilometer swim sessions.

As a result of her education, this child has developed into a person who loves to learn and having discovered more of her interests in high school, pursues her interests with determination. So as not to limit this, parts of her program of studies have been outsourced through well-researched, quality online classes when she reached high school (foreign language, English, physics, math, AP courses, electives).  These classes have not only inspired her learning even more, they have whet her appetite for learning from those who are experts in their field.  As she has had a taste of mentoring relationships with teachers and interaction with peers in these online classes, she has developed an eagerness to interact in a real school setting where students are serious about education such as would be expected in a university.

This passion for learning has only grown stronger through my high-school years. I am glad to say that I sit down to read Thoreau, translate Caesar, and prove trigonometric identities with the same fondness for words and numbers. I truly do believe that this passion has been the underlying reason for any success I have had in academics. I also believe that it is this passion that will allow me to flourish at university.  – 12 grader

Furthermore, these online classes as well as involvement in such a community has given my daughter the further training to learn independently, develop good study habits, and establish time management skills in meeting deadlines and balancing her schedule. Her interests are as varied as can be.  She has always been scholarly but also believed in pursuits outside of academics.  If not for our having to move overseas when she was 11, her piano teacher was getting her ready to train under the Royal Conservatory of Music.  It took awhile for us to acquire a piano after relocation or to find suitable teachers in our area, but she was able to take up piano again towards the end of her 11th grade year.

Aside from music,  this child tinkers with photography and is quite an excellent videographer.  She prefers running over swimming and loves tennis.

It is this rigorous learning lifestyle I have described above as well as a holistic approach to education that has, I believe, prepared my now 18-year old for university-level education.

Finally, the last thing I have been taught is excellence. This, however, has not been a by-product of my education, as passion and discipline have been. My parents taught me excellence not as my educators, but as simply my parents. They have taught me by example the value of doing anything with excellence, and they’ve pointed out to me the satisfaction in work finished diligently – whether it is the laundry or an essay or a swim practice. – 12th grader

Hike to the top of

Hike to the top of “The Stawamus Chief”, British Columbia



  1. Wow! Amazed and got goosebumps with the progress of your daughter. My girl is 14y.o and been homeschooled since she is gr 5 and all the circumstances you have discussed and exponentially delivered with almost similarity to my girl…swimming, tennis, and most espcially Math and Science. She have been an excellent passer from her class in ENLI and because she got two bronze medal in her 2013 class she didnt like to march during graduation. One thing i want to enroll her again to traditional school but she was forced to be in a MAPEH class with my prodding to join for extracurricular activities. How was your child’s social habit? Did she gain friends with her swimming classses? This is onething i want to implore on her as she needs to when she goes to univrrsity.Will search on this topic if you have discuss this area of socialization of your daughter and how it improve her esp like you we always travel too and move places.

    Thanks for the article it really inspired me more as i divide my time with my two girls, aged 9 and 14.

  2. Winnie

    Hi Rowena! Yes, my daughter gained friends in her tennis as well as in her swimming classes while we were in the Philippines. The lessons were actually private but the tennis coach would encourage matches with his other students. The swimming coach would also sometimes hold lessons together or one after the other and this gave my daughter (and other children) a chance to make friends. These teenage (and younger) girls they became good friends with are neighbours of ours who go to regular schools in the area. They have sleepovers, come over to each others’ houses to hang out, and for a time, played tennis regularly on Saturday mornings. She misses them now as well as other friends from our bible study group but she has made new friends here. I am confident she will make new friends when she goes away for university in the fall.

    My daughter’s closest friends are her siblings though especially her sister who is 18 months younger than her.

    I have never been worried about my children’s socialisation even if they don’t get out much compared to other children. Since I have 5, I just try to teach them how to relate to each other and to us. I also guide them in how they relate to our extended family and our church community. My husband and I try to model relating to others and opening our home to others so that my children grow up in a healthy environment knowing how to relate to people of differing ages. And I have seen no problems with their skills in knowing how to live with people in the scenarios they have found themselves in (e.g. extended youth camps they spend away from home, visits or travels with relatives on their own, sleepovers at someone else’s house).

    I think it’s not a matter of our children being able to easily attract friends or strike a conversation. Sometimes, these are personality issues and every child will be different. It’s being able to hold a healthy relationship with another person and keep that relationship going that is more important.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Pingback: God be with Ye ("Goodbye") | living and learning

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