Book Review ~ The Core

Title: The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education

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Author: Leigh A. Bortins

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Author Biography: Leigh A. Bortins is the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations, Inc., whose enrollment is 20,000. She hosts a weekly radio show, Leigh! for Lunch and lectures widely about the importance of home education at nationwide conferences and seminars. She lives in West End, NC.

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Copyright Date: 2010

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Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

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ISBN: 978-0-230-10035-0

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Brief Synopsis from the publisher: In the past, correct spelling, the multiplication tables, the names of the state capitals and the American presidents were basics that all children were taught in school. Today, many children graduate without this essential knowledge. Most curricula today follow a haphazard sampling of topics with a focus on  political correctness instead of teaching students how to study. Leigh Bortins, a leading figure in the homeschooling community, is having none of it.  She believes that there are core areas of knowledge that are essential to master. Without knowing the multiplication tables, children can’t advance to algebra. Without mastery of grammar, students will have difficulty expressing themselves. Without these essential building blocks of knowledge, students may remember information but they will never possess a broad and deep understanding of how the world works. In this book, Bortins gives parents the tools and methodology to implement a rigorous, thorough, and broad curriculum based on the classical model, including:

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• Rote memorization to cement knowledge

• Systematic learning of geography, historical facts, and timelines

• Reading the great books and seminal historical documents
instead of adaptations and abridged editions

• Rigorous training in math and the natural sciences

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What I Think: I would like to start by saying that I believe in and follow the basics of a classical education in my own home.  My copy of The Well Trained Mind-A Guide to Classical Education at Home is a nightstand staple that I have referenced over and over again throughout the years.

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Things I Liked/Points of Brilliance: While I did not necessarily agree with the personal views/tone of the author, especially in the Introduction and beginning Chapter where she gives statistics and her background views of why to classically educate and the importance of a classical education,  I do wholly believe in the basis of classical education and did find many usable tips and strains of thought to implement into my own plan of education.

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As a mother of 3 whom I choose to home educate, I find certain subjects easy to implement and others I struggle with.  History/Geography in particular, always leave me feeling as though I could do more, or do better.  I loved Leigh’s reasoning for, and layout of, her Geography Chapter.   Her insights about why having a good map basis is important and how to go about the task of getting to that point were well laid out and complete enough that I have already started drawing the 5 great circles with my children. (My description of this process also caused one of my friends to go out and order the book herself!)

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Let Downs/Disappointments:

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To practically implement the History portion of Leigh’s plan you would need the first 160 time-line facts which she fails to give you in this book.  She spends time laying out the process of memorizing and implementing the History memorization in such an easy, practical way that I was ready to jump right in!  Unfortunately, she leaves you hanging and unable to do so by not including the foundation of the plan, the facts.

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***I sent a note to my contact from Palgrave Macmillian asking about the above facts that I feel are missing.  She relayed my thoughts to the author, and the following is the author’s response:

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“We use the Veritas Press history timeline cards.  There are 5 sets and each set has 32 flashcards.  We are one of many sellers of this resource, http://www.classicalconversationsbooks.com/fostkit.html.  Due to the nature of our agreement with Veritas Press we can only distribute them in certain forms.

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In Closing: While Leigh has a strong basis and logical layout of a solid classical education, I find that the book gets bogged down with statistics and soap box style fluff, and lacks some of the primary information needed to implement the plans that she so eloquently lays out for you.  As far as using it as a practical resource to carry out a classical education at home, I think your money would be better spent on The Well-Trained Mind – A Guide to Classical Education at Home.

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***Disclaimer*** I received a review copy of The Core: Teaching Your Child The Foundations of Classical Education from the publisher Palgrave Macmillan.  No monetary compensation was received and my opinion was not influenced in any way.