Does Classical Education Work for Children With Special Needs?


Y’all, special treat, my big sis is here to share what she’s learned on how a classical Christian education, specifically CC, works for children with special needs. Try not to be distracted by the pictures of my impossibly cute nephews and niece (I will!) and hear what she has to say, because there is some valuable stuff in here for all of us.  Thanks, Laura, for sharing! 

Lately I have noticed the question “Does Classical Conversations work for a child with special needs?” appearing frequently on social media sites. Today, I will attempt to answer this in-depth question. The simple, short response is a resounding, “YES!”  With the mission statement of Classical Conversations in mind, “to know God and to make Him known,” I believe the curriculum choices, presentation of material, and fellowship of like-minded families all combined have the ability to cultivate the mind and character of any child.

A classical Christian education is formulated to be ordered and integrative. Memory work demands recitations which develop mental strength, power, and agility. Learning Latin creates discipline and helps to order a child’s mind. The actual teaching of logic strengthens the mind for reasoning with clarity. Fellowship with other families creates friendships for children and parents alike. While connecting with peers is wonderful, attaching to Jesus is incredible. A classical, Christian education with Classical Conversations aims to do both.  It desires for children to think, discern, reason and aspire.  As Cheryl Swope says in her book, Simply Classical, A Beautiful Education For Any Child“Classical education will not remove the child’s challenges. Classical education simply provides a means by which a child can be educated-truly educated-in spite of his or her challenges.” (Pg.85)

“But what about the nuts and bolts of everyday schooling my child with special needs?” Well, I am glad you asked! Trained tutors, alongside equipped directors, present the weekly Foundations (4yrs-12yrs old) information to both the child and the parent. This modeling allows the parent to replicate the memory work at home. Tutors present the material in fun, active ways which keep the children focused. Making use of all modalities of learning, tutors are able to present material to the visual learner on through to the kinesthetic learner and every learner in between! The repetition that is vital to classical education lends itself nicely to the child with learning needs.


As a trained special education teacher (for students with severe disabilities), a CC Foundations/Essentials director (with children who have varying learning needs) and a mom of five children with a wide range of learning styles, including a son with delays, I have seen Classical Conversations be a tremendous homeschool curriculum and community for ALL children. My husband and I have been blessed to see how much our three oldest sons have learned just this year. When asked if we thought our child with special needs could learn using CC we adamantly said, “Yes!” Much to our surprise and delight he has learned, retained and enjoyed more than we ever thought possible! For example, in the fall of this school year, our family took a trip to the aquarium. On the walls of this aquarium were maps of the seven continents and open spaces for the oceans. There were no markings on the maps. The continents were all green and the rest was black. Our son became so excited as he ran over to the first map and loudly exclaimed, “Look mom! The seven continents and four oceans!” He went on to label each continent and ocean on every map in the aquarium.  This lead to us having the wonderful opportunity to teach about the different species of fish located around the world made by our loving Creator.

What Cheryl Swope said proved true for us, “Classical education’s overarching pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty offers rich rewards to any child, no matter his pace or progress. With these timeless tools, he may well achieve, learn, and thrive in ways that surprise even his own parents.” (Pg. 99) Praise be to God! And my son’s marvelous tutor.

For more information on this topic I highly recommend checking out Cheryl Swope’s book by Memoria Press, Simply Classical, A Beautiful Education for Any Child, for yourself.  Mrs. Swope provides detailed information and helpful facts on teaching children with multiple disabilities using the classical Christian approach to education. This book offered me encouragement on my journey as I teach all my children at home.

There you have it! Didn’t you learn something? This is plainly an overview, so if you have more specific questions, please leave them in the comments.  Laura will be checking in periodically to answer.  Or if you just want to share your experience, we’d love to hear that too! 

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