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The Classical Model: Preparing Students AND Parents for Post-Graduation Endeavors

Congratulations, Classical Conversations parent!

I am proud to present you with a personal “Certificate of Readiness to Tackle College Admissions and Everything Else that Comes After High School.” At least, I wish I could present each of you with that certificate. Come to think of it, the wording might not fit on a standard 8½ by 11 page, at least not if I want to include the number of gold embossed stars I had in mind.

Does all of this sound like a weird idea?

What if I told you that being a classical parent (a parent who is educating using the classical model) prepares you—not just your student—to conquer the challenges of homeschooling through high school and sending your child on to do great things afterward? Would you believe me?

I am going to challenge you to approach the nebulous post-high school pickle the same way a student would approach a difficult math problem, by asking three questions and then assessing the tools at your disposal. Let’s start with the questions:

  1. What do I know?
  2. What do I not know?
  3. How do I find out?

Your answer to the first question may range from extremely general to extraordinarily specific. As a parent confronting college and options after high school, you may know only, “My child wants to go to college” or “I want my child to go to college”—a meaningful distinction. On the other hand, your answer may be as specific as, “My child wants to get a football scholarship to a small liberal arts college.” The important thing is to plant your foot on something solid, no matter how basic it may be.

The next question, “What do I not know?” will produce a similar range of answers. You may be wondering simply how to help your son or daughter accomplish his or her goals in life, while on the other hand, you may be lacking specific information, such as, “Where can homeschoolers play football?” or “How do I attract college recruiters to my daughter’s soccer games?” These preliminary questions can be daunting because they ask you to confront the gaps in your knowledge directly, rather than leaving all to chance and telling yourself, “Oh, we’ll muddle through somehow.” The good news is that you have the tools to find answers.

(In my mind, a drumroll accompanies this section.) When you are ready to take the next step, asking, “How do I find out?”, prepare to be amazed at how much you have absorbed from your child’s education through the classical model.

If your child participated in the Foundations program, memorizing many facts in the grammar stage, you have discovered the first key to classical education: gathering a body of knowledge. The World Wide Web makes a perfect net to cast broadly and pull in as many “fish” as possible. You know from watching your child sing history songs and recite Latin endings that sorting and understanding will come later. For now, it’s all about information gathering.

Add to your list the people in your community, both physical and virtual. Fellow moms and dads possess a wealth of facts and stories and opinions about the college search and other options after high school. Talk to yo+ur tutors; chat in the CC Connected discussion forums; attend a free webinar with the Challenge and Post-Graduation Advisor, Linda Tomkinson; post on Facebook. You will soon have tens or hundreds of comments to add to your harvest.

You can start this process as early as you want, even when your child is in Foundations, storing up information bit by bit like a squirrel laying aside acorns for the winter. However, try not to panic—it can be overwhelming to see the mounds of good and bad advice, sometimes contradictory, that our global society has made available to us. Keep going! You have more tools to unpack.

If your child participated in the Essentials program and the first three Challenge programs (A, B, and I), engaging in the dialectic stage of learning, you have wrestled with the second element of classical education: sifting through that body of knowledge using good questions. You can help your students define their goals, whether clear or cloudy. You can help your students compare colleges, universities, gap year programs, internships, and service opportunities. You can tease out the relationship between test scores like the PSAT and national scholarships. You can ask how your circumstances (homeschooler, classically educated, financial need) could make your student a better candidate in the eyes of the college’s admissions department. Finally, you know how to weigh the testimony of friends you trust and parents with experience alongside the advice of authors and the Internet.

Now we come to the fun part. As your young adult reaches the upper Challenge programs (II, III, and IV), she is diving into the rhetoric stage, learning to express her ideas clearly and persuasively as she acts wisely, developing as a leader in the process. You, too, are ready to become a rhetorician, acting on the knowledge you have acquired about the college admissions process and the choices available to your student after high school. Now, both of you are ready to seek interviews, travel to visit colleges, request letters of recommendation, and speak personally with potential mentors.

Not only that, but you are also prepared to converse adult-to-adult with your son about the wisdom of each option and the consequences of each potential choice. You have learned what it means to be persuasive and you can appeal to his heart, mind, and soul as you offer guidance. You are ready, too, for the difficult task of stepping back to watch your baby take the lead and make the big decisions that are available to him thanks to his—and your—many years of hard work.

If you have parented a classically educated student, you have the tools to do all of these things. All it takes is a great deal of prayer, a circle of friends to remind you that you are not alone, and a conscious decision to look ahead in faith, confident that memorizing a history sentence with your six-year-old and parsing a sentence with your eleven-year-old will one day reap vast rewards for you both.

Congratulations! You have earned your certificate.


CATEGORIES: Articles, Big Ideas: Truth, Beauty, Goodness and more!, Classical Christian Education, Dialectic Stage (ages 12 to 14), Grammar Stage (ages 4 to 11), Homeschooling Life, Rhetoric Stage (ages 14 to 18)

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