by Andrew Pudewa
The following is adapted from the 2015 Homeschool Magalog, available free at your request.
With the rapid rise of interest in classical education in homeschools, hybrid schools, and even full-time schools, we at IEW are often asked if our approach to teaching writing with Structure and Style is truly a “classical” one.
To some it appears that we lack the proper pedigree, since our syllabus lacks obscure Greek terms and also contains modern elements such as multiple reference research reports. However, I believe that we do indeed follow a classical approach in several ways.
- Our Units
The nine units of our syllabus (see here) clearly imitate the ancient rhetoric exercises.
- Our Techniques
Our stylistic techniques checklist requires students to learn and understand basics of grammar as well as many of the schemes and tropes of classical composition.
- Our Methodology
Our methodology employs modeling, imitation, and mastery—all mainstays of a classical approach.
- Our Materials
Our materials address all five of the canons of classical rhetoric.
We know the IEW system works. Having offered teacher training, mentoring, video courses, and student materials for almost twenty years now, we see excellent results. Students who have practiced with structure and style for a few years usually do very well in advanced classes, college, and university environments. And “the real world.”
I believe that we do, indeed, follow a classical approach. The list above only touches lightly into why, but my article “Is IEW Classical?”, the lead piece in our 2015 Magalog (free here), lists more ways IEW is classical:
- We model compositions similar to the classical rhetoric exercises.
- We use classical figures of speech.
- We value imitation.
- We practice memorization as a discipline.
- We teach how to speak well.
So, is IEW classical? We think so, but you be the judge. Read a little more about the ancient exercises, classical methodologies, and the canons of rhetoric, and see if we meet the standard, even without the fancy terminology. However, we are not exclusively classical. We teach what works to create excellence in writing, and it’s not surprising that what works hasn’t changed for several thousand years.