The Liberal Arts Tradition–Classical Education is Not Just About The Intellect

I am reading The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain for a second time and I am really glad that I am. As what usually happens with second reads, I am seeing it in a different light. The first time through did not see me in a place of positive opinion. To put it bluntly, I did not like the book at all; it was too clinical for my taste. But in the past year, of all that I have read about this book, it seems that I am in the minority with my negative opinion. People, whom I admire and respect, have been raving about it. So when Brandy from Afterthoughts declared that she was going to blog her way through the book, I decided to read along with her. I have been pleasantly surprised that, so far, I am enjoying this book.

This week, Brandy has been discussing about gymnastics and music as part of a classical education. Jain and Clark describe ‘gymnastic training (as being) concerned with the entire physical conditioning of a child. It culminates in competitive running, swimming, wrestling, etc, but includes the rudiments of control over the body as well.’ Gymnastic education is married with intellectual education. It is not just latin, logic and rhetoric that makes up classical education but it also deals with the body. A whole education deals with body, mind and soul; and that is what the ancients did through classical education.

I first came to Classical Education through The Well Trained Mind. The WTM is very much focused on the intellectual aspect of education and I followed along with that. In the early years of our home educating our children, I was tempted by the Waldorf education because they were focused on the whole child– the heart, soul and mind of the child. This intrigued me and caused me to lament that Classical Education wasn’t fashioned in that way as well. As we are finding out now, though, CE is indeed a whole education; forming both the mind and the body and uniting them together. Gymnastics is how we do this.

I do not think that gymnastic training is limited only to sports but rather it includes any movement of the body, any movement that requires discipline. That movement could include pilates, yoga, jogging, hiking, trampoline-jumping, etc. Anything that causes the body to move. The more I think about this, the more I want to include this into our daily rhythm but I am just not sure yet how to do this. Oh, so many things but so little time!

This aspect of being more in our bodies interests me because I am a person who is in her head a great deal of the time. I am a thinker but I have to be very intentional about being in my body as well. Because I am in my head a lot, I teach that way. I teach my kids to think, to analyze and as I am seeing through recent readings, this is not good. I need to get my kids into their bodies more. Yet another thing to ponder as I am planning for the oncoming school year.

‘Human beings are created in God’s image as unions of flesh and spirit–mind, heart and body. Just as their minds and hearts require formation, so do their bodies. Gymastic training is therefore essential to the Christian classical curriculum.’ — The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain

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