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Characteristics of a Classical Education: Humanity

Characteristics of a Classical Education: Humanity

This is part of the series: Classical Homeschooling

We are a long way removed from the first classical educators of antiquity. For us, a large part of beginning the work of educating our children classically is asking in the first place, “What is classical education?”

This question reminds me of sitting in my freshman Intro to Religion class and listening to various students attempt to define the word “religion.” (We never did reach a satisfactory definition in class.) Sometimes the more foundational the word is, the harder it is to define. I’ve always found that in such cases it’s easiest to try to identify characteristics rather than a strict definition.

The first characteristic I believe is necessary to a classical education is this:

Classical Education recognizes the humanity of the student.

Let me just note that obviously, this topic is so huge that it can’t be covered in a single blog post.

An attempt to create a humanizing education is one that takes into account what nourishes people intellectually, bodily, and spiritually. No facet of your planning or daily routine can fail to recognize the needs of the small person whom you are nurturing.


A homeschooling mom must attempt to gauge whether the work she’s requiring of her students is appropriate. Is she doing this by collecting data through regular testing, or is she looking in her students’ eyes, reading body language, and listening for moans of boredom or jittery excitement?

In my own attempt at a classical homeschool, we don’t really grade anything. This is not just because my oldest student is still quite young. Rather, I don’t want to spend my time measuring my kids. I think it’s more important to spend our time together learning, exploring, practicing, working, and enjoying. These are things humans do.

Machines are tested, probed, calibrated, and analyzed for data.

Our children need to be guided, loved, and accompanied.

So in our homeschool, we simply don’t move on to the next lesson until my son has reached mastery.

Books & Curriculum

This is the tough one for most of us. The truly classical homeschooler isn’t run by the curriculum. And she probably doesn’t let the kids run wild in the library, bringing home (like I accidentally did today) books that will not help her students grow in wisdom and virtue.

Charlotte Mason calls this “twaddle,” which I think is a great term for the junky books we all acquire. Twaddle doesn’t form consciences around Truth. It doesn’t lengthen attention spans. It barely even increases literacy. And, most problematically, it’s everywhere.

I have to admit, too, that I often fall into the daily pattern of checking items off our to-do list. Though there is nothing wrong with prioritizing our academic responsibilities for the day, letting the list or curriculum overrun me is not teaching classically. In my defense, it may have something to do with the other three hoodlums humans crawling on top of me.

Speaking of which…

Personal Interactions

During a lesson, is the homeschooling mom talking at her student, or talking with him?

Family relationships lived out in the homeschool space are quintessentially humanizing. There’s something incredible about older siblings learning to care for and help younger siblings, and younger siblings having easy access to their older siblings from whom they learn more than they could from any curriculum.

People are created to be relational. Classical education recognizes this by developing the student’s ability to interact through words with those around him via the Trivium. The classical homeschool magnifies this by placing the student with family members with whom he will need to learn both daily and long-term relational skills.

A dehumanizing education places the student in a sterile environment with a strict culture of obedience and only little opportunity to interact with family or people of different ages and backgrounds. The most humanizing education gives the student the opportunity to practice–in the most natural setting possible–relating to others with care, generosity, and mercy.

Next up: Characteristics of a Classical Education: Education as a Path

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.


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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

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Latest Posts


  • Fact: The #Navy wife life will kill you if you don’t find support somehow.
Fact: That support will almost 100% of the time be the females around you.
Fact: Our whole family got the flu literally THE DAY Jake’s boat pulled out.
Fact: This little @theglorioustable ditty about crashing our proverbial banana trucks posted the same day. God has a sense of humor. Link also in profile. (
The fact that I am just now getting around to posting about it tells you the extent to which the flu knocked me on my ass. I was in bed for three days straight. I am NEVER this sick.
Fact: If it weren’t for strong, kind, generous WOMEN around me, I probably would have ended up in the hospital and my kids may or may not be alive. The menfolk care too, they just weren’t here. Couldn’t support. Had their own work to do. The mission does not stop for sick families.
Find yourself a tribe if you want to survive. You HAVE to have someone to call. Even if, like me, it’s your mom (who will--wisely--tell you to ask for local help even though you don’t want to be a bother.) I needed prayers, sure, but more than that, I needed local people to literally come to my house and feed my kids and put food in my fridge, be here while I went to the doctor, and put my kids to bed when I was too sick to stay awake a minute longer. A virtual community CANNOT do those things. It can try, but a local community has power a virtual community will never have.
Another post on this topic here: (
#community #Navywifelife #momlife #sisterhood
  • Happy New Year and all, but more importantly, today we got to watch our @wyo_football win the Arizona Bowl. (With a freshman QB starting for the 1st time ever, btw 😮😮😮💪🏻) Way to go Pokes! #theWorldNeedsMoreCowboys #OneWyoming #GoWyo
  • We always have so much fun doing projects from @artforkidshub #homeschool #trynewthings #watercolor
  • Morning Time Details! E. (12), S. (almost 8), and L. (6). Our Morning Time morphs as the kids grow and change. It usually includes a combination of memory work and reading aloud. We try to cover a WHOLE LOT of things: Shakespeare, Bible, poetry, catechism, hymns, timeline, art study, composer study, and Ambleside selections for nature study, tales, and church history. This term I’m adding Plutarch.
The hard part is figuring out where I want to aim, with the 5-year gap between E. and S., and then L. being a newbie to full-on school. Having moved twice in 2019, I nixed MT and just focused on individual work. That came with costs. Shakespeare, Plutarch, art study, and composer study suffered. Memory work barely happened at all. I was BUSY. We missed out on discussing things together. Now that we’re settled, it’s time to restart MT.
This term I’ve decided to aim Shakespeare and Plutarch at the oldest, while the girls listen in and do handwriting/drawing/fine motor. I won’t ask them for much narration. Our reading schedule for these is AMBITIOUS. Maybe crazy. Then we’ll do all the memory & read aloud stuff that suits everyone. These lessons are SHORT. Then E. will go do his individual work while I read aloud w/ just the girls.
Also, “Morning Time” is a misnomer, considering we break it up throughout the day. It should really be called Morning/Lunch/Nap Time. I need a new name. Circle Time? Except we don’t sit in a circle. Together school? Except we’re together doing school all day. I don’t think English has the word I’m looking for. Maybe Tertulia or Salon?
Our actual coursework is: the Scottish Play, Plutarch is Alexander the Great’s life, our artist is Gustave Courbet, composer is Paganini, Bible memory is Psalm 46, Hymn is Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, read alouds will rotate from Burgess Bird Book, Trial and Triumph, Blue Fairy Book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Vanderbeekers, & picture books. Timeline is from Classical Conversations. Poems are Charge of the Light Brigade, Winter Night by Teasdale, and The Land of Nod.
Whew! It’s gonna be a fun term! What do you guys do for Morning Time?
  • #homeschool #family #weekend projects. Oldest got through a CPR course, curtains are hung, first batch ever of hard apple cider is bottled (a big learning experience!), and Morning Time for the next term is planned. 👊🏻 Time to call Dominos so these people can get fed 😂
  • Oh Halloween. That day when I pull costumes out of thin air at T-minus one hour ‘till trick-or-treating. Then one kid melts down in the middle of the fun, and is carried screaming to the car, with me hoping all the while that no one thinks I’m abducting a child. And, my favorite non-PC thought: one kid suggests we should have dressed as hobos, since we’re going around asking people to give us free candy. Phoned it in this year, Kutzers. 🤦🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️ #gladitsover For the record, we had a soccer player, an archer, Spider Girl, a princess, a tiny farmer, a witchy mom (Is that even a costume or just a Thursday?), and Bat Dad.

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