Classical Liberal Arts Academy

The Classical Liberal Arts Academy was started in 2008 by a classical academic turned teacher with a young family of his own. It claims to be the only school providing a real classical liberal arts education. It is definitely unique.

For those not familiar with the concept of liberal arts, here’s a brief run-down. There’s the Trivium and the Quadrivium. The Trivium is a bit like English and the Quadrivium is a bit like Maths. The Trivium goes Grammar then Dialectic then Rhetoric. The Quadrivium goes Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astronomy. You might see these terms decorating various centres of learning (like the Great Hall at USyd).

So what are the differences?

Their pre-readers’ course teaches Latin before English.

The first lesson in Arithmetic contains no numerical puzzles but bids the student memorise a catechism beginning with “What is Mathematics? Mathematics is the study of Quantity.” The catechism unfolds a categorisation of quantity that is just begging to be drawn on a white board with big curly braces like Alice Nelson and all the Doc Woodbury afficionados did in the Thomistic Sydney Underground.

The Grammar course plunges into John’s Gospel. The website contains sample translations written by the hand of a five and a seven year old.

There is no grade by age. A student starts at the beginning and works through at his own pace (I’ll use the male pronoun since I have all boys and anyway, we’re discussing a plan of learning centuries old, we can afford to be a little antiquated here). A teenager might work quite fast, while a five year old do the same lesson at a more relaxed pace. Each lesson has an online examination. Written work can be faxed or emailed to CLAA or signed off by a parent. There are no prescribed terms or school year’s to work to.

There is a lively discussion forum for parents to get advice. Mr William Michael, the director, encourages debate. He has strong opinions backed up by strong arguments. Although one may flinch at first by his forthright words, his reasoning is very sound.

Readers might be aware of John Taylor Gatto’s books on the problems inherent in modern educational theories. Although not a Catholic, he shows how the protestant reformation introduced a whole slew of rather evil doctrines into the world. Calvin, Darwin, John Dewey, Francis Bacon are the names I can spout without remembering the details. Mr Gatto’s answer points towards Unschooling – just forget the whole idea of controlling children and do real things together. Mr Michael has an even more radical idea – look at what they were teaching before the reformation. How can we do that? The books are still around! Ratio Studiorum is a Jesuit book from 1599. That’s what CLAA is using.

There are more courses being planned. Enrichment courses include World Chronology, Classical Vocab and Art and Music History. The Music course is being developed with help from the Ward Method. See Musica Sacra for more info on why that is an amazing thing. Gregorian Chant takes centre stage by the sounds of it.

If this was open courseware I’d be into it in a flash. But CLAA asks for commitment – and money. How much is this worth to me? Could I spend the money better? There are lots of local apostolates who could use that sort of support. Will my boys be significantly worse off if they never read Cicero in Latin? Wouldn’t it be wiser to finish cladding the house first?

Of course, as a difficult person I am wondering if I can do this myself. The Ward Method books are all online. Aristotle, Euclid, Cicero and the Baltimore Catechism are all public domain by now. There’s Ratio Studiorum mentioned earlier. Finding Saint John’s Gospel in Latin, Greek and English is not hard. I have little Latin and less Greek, but I’m still ahead of my children. Whatever little I can manage may still give them a good standing in finding out more themselves. Or would I put them off completely.

It does sound like a lot of work though. Learning from experts is a whole lot less frustrating than trying to nut things out for yourself. Reading Garrigou-Lagrange is slow work. Hearing one of the great disciples of Doc Woodbury explain it is joyful clarity. Doc Woodbury in turn studied under Garrigou Lagrange. I wonder who Mr Michael of CLAA learned from.

It looks like there will be a whole lot of disciples of Mr William Michael in the future. According to the website over 800 students have enrolled since they opened. Only time will tell.

Children’s Catholic history on the cheap

Protestants are so lucky! There is so much traditional protestant homeschooling material available. Much of it free to download. Browse Project Gutenberg and you will find a wealth of children’s bible stories and moral tales from a nineteenth century Church of England perspective. There is Ambleside Online providing a whole Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum for both English and US history all based on books available for free. Mater Amabilis is the Catholic equivalent, but they rely on bought books. You just can’t get the same range of books for every occasion for the Catholic view of history for free.

This morning I was delighted to find that things are changing. RC History has a chronological list of saints taken from a popular book of saints by the Daughters of Saint Paul. Using this list you can turn the devotional book into a Catholic supplement to world history. You can read the chapters online at the J Club. Amazingly they also have chapters out of their longer lives of the saints. Maybe not as convenient as a Project Gutenberg book which you can download and read offline, but its good stuff – favourable reviews on Love 2 Learn – and it’s Free!

For more on teaching Catholic history for homeschoolers you can join
The History Place at Yahoo Groups.

Now on a patriotic note. What about Catholic history from an Australian perspective? The Mater Amabilis mailing list has an article on Australian books in its Files section.

Also, a lady from Victoria has been making copies of A Pictorial History of the Catholic Church in Australia, something like a 3 part comic book for use in schools around the 1950s. It is out of print and she makes copies at cost, but she is not on the internet. She uses the old-fashioned Telephone. Here are some excerpts from her catalogue from September 2009.

  • Great Australians – $4
  • Explorers Australian – $5
  • Stories of Early Days – $6
  • A Saddle for Bontharambo. Australian Pioneers. A family leaves Sydney to live in North Victoria – $12
  • Happy Grammar (old) story form – $2
  • Pioneer Priests – $4
  • Catholic History Readers, 6 books – $30
  • Pictorial History, 3 books – $30
  • Then and there. Aust. – $3
  • God loves me, for small children, by Mons. Batchelor. – $2
  • Colouring books: Hail Mary – $3; Sacred Heart -$2; Stations of the Cross – $3.50; Child goes to Mass – $1
  • Short History of the Catholic Church, 30 chapters, crossword with each and answer keys, By Fr. Batchelor. Old books. Fr. Batchelor’s work is about 30 years old – $7
  • Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Latin Mass) a study course with answer keys. – $10
  • We live for God, 3 year program, 30 booklets, by Fr. Batchelor – $30
  • Blessed Eucharist Crossword with answer keys – $3
  • The Texas Bishop of Krishnagar: the story of Fr. Morrow, author of My Jesus and I – $2

Phone number available on request. Prices do not include postage. I have only seen the Pictorial History. I may have seen the Great Australians booklet. The one I saw featured Charles Kingsford Smith, Henry Lawson and Blessed (soon to be Saint) Mary Mackillop.

For an online copy of A Pictorial History of the Catholic Church in Australia see Under Her Starry Mantle. There a homeschooling mother has scanned in each page.

For older readers and parents the works of G K Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc are out of copyright and available through Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. More recent works such as Eamon Duffy’s Stripping of the Altars may be available through your local library. There is an amazing wealth of research supporting the Catholic view of history, but unfortunately it is taking its time filtering down to the popular myths that surface in children’s histories.

So the plan is to keep finding good biographies of saints match these with a little digging in our local library. Homeschooling on the cheap!

The Myth of Hitler’s Pope by Rabbi Dalin


For one thing its not just about Pope Pius XII. It covers the whole attack plus great stuff on the real threat to Jews. Funnily enough there was a cleric in cahoots with the Third Reich and he wasn’t Catholic. It was the Mufti of Jerusalem who was the one to watch.

Rabbi Dalin explains where the whole defamation case came from. It was years after the end of the war, years after the Pope’s death. Before that everyone was saying how great this Pope was until a play came out. A Play. Not a scholarly work looking at evidence but a polemical but successful bit of entertainment that had it in for traditional Christianity.

There’s a chapter on Pope John Paul II and his relationship with the Jews. Mel Gibson even gets a mention for his movie the Passion of the Christ.

Then when I was reading a part about Yasser Arafat my husband says he got a Nobel Peace Prize!

So the overall impression was: how crazy can the world get!

So a good read to get you up to speed with some of the rubbish circulating out there. Not that long, a good chunk of the book is all the footnotes.

My favourite quote was one from Einstein.

Being a lover of freedom, when the [Nazi] revolution came, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. . . .

Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s Campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

From Time, 23 December 1940, 38-40

This was a regular loan from my local library. Get them to order it in if they don’t have it already.