Remembering What It's Like to Learn Something New

Y’all, please welcome back my friend, Becki Hogan.  Becki and her husband blog at Running with Team Hogan.  Through learning about a new subject, Becki was able to learn more about classical education.  I can relate! When you understand classical education, you see learning -on any subject- through a new lens.  Read to see how she moves through the three stages of learning with classical education.

Over a year ago, I got a phone call from my husband.  He was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  The only thing I knew about Celiac Disease was that people had to eat gluten-free.  Of course, even that was a bit vague since I didn’t really understand the term “gluten-free” except that he shouldn’t have wheat. 

I had to dive into research mode – learning new terminology, consulting with friends who had learned before me, and reading everything I could on the internet.  I found out that I had to worry about wheat, barley, rye, and oats, and that those can be hidden in other strangely named ingredients.  I first started with some basics we could eat, but clearly I wasn’t done in my learning.        

Slowly, I was able to process enough new information to have food to feed my husband – even if it wasn’t the most exciting.  My brain began to process all the information.  Converting old recipes into new gluten-free recipes wasn’t such a daunting task anymore.  My understanding of what my husband needed meant that I could even evaluate sometimes contradictory information.  Reading on gluten-free blogs became less challenging since I actually had heard of some of the concepts before.  The addition of new and more varied foods could happen because I had a moment to evaluate new recipes and foods for our family.  I slowly even ventured into gluten-free flours.  Who knew there were so many or that potato flour and potato starch are not the same thing?       

Then after much research, thought, experimenting, and cooking for a family of six, I understood enough about Celiac Disease and having a gluten-free home that others were asking me for recipes and advice.  People looked to me to explain terminology and help them get started.  I could actually talk intelligently about being gluten-free and had lessons, recipes, and tips I could share.  Ah, I had arrived. 

Isn’t this really the process we go through learning any new material?  Isn’t this the Classical model of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric?  If I want to learn about a particular science topic or a time period in history, don’t I need to learn the terminology, consult others who have studied it before me, and do research looking for reliable sources?  This time of basic knowledge gathering is the “grammar” stage in classical education. 

I then took my knowledge and processed it.  I was trying to make sense out of all the new learning.  I knew how to ask the right questions to see what standards of “gluten-free” were needed for my husband.  Figuring out what groceries to buy, what meals to prepare, and what would work in our family was all part of this processing.  This stage even meant sometimes trying a food we thought was safe only to find out that “containing no gluten ingredients” and “gluten-free” weren’t the same.  Or that just because a package said “gluten-free” that didn’t mean that the fine print wouldn’t say processed in a factory or on equipment that processed wheat.  We had to question what foods made my husband ill and figure out how to keep him healthy.  All of this processing and questioning was our “dialetic” stage. 

When I reached the moment that others asked me for help, I had hit that third stage of classical education – the “rhetoric” stage.  People came to me just as lost as I had been not that long ago, and surprisingly to me, I actually could talk intelligently
about Celiac and gluten-free eating.   

As I study and learn more about this classical education I am trying to give my children, it was helpful for me to see the classical model played out right in my own life.  I’m thankful that I went through all that learning, not just so that my husband’s health is so much better, but also because I remember what it is like to learn something new.   

Isn’t it such a gift to remember what it is to learn something new? Our little scholars are excited and challenged to learn something new every day.  To learn alongside them, even something different from them, strengthens our relationship through understanding of the experience.  


  1. says

    After I wrote this, I thought of a few more odd things I learned. . . like there is a difference between potato starch and potato flour and recipes actually call for xanthan gum. I’m glad that we can model for our children how to be life-long learners.


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