The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education has written an excellent article explaining what exactly constitutes a Catholic liberal education.
What is meant by "Catholic"? I love this quote: "Catholic Liberal Education is Catholic in its inspiration, resources and direction. It begins in faith and seeks understanding under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium and through the rich patrimony of the Church's intellectual, spiritual and cultural tradition. It is also Catholic in its willingness to learn, within the boundaries of faith, from any source of wisdom -- Christian or pagan, ancient or modern."
Too often Christian homeschoolers misguidedly criticize Classical education for studying Greek and Roman texts. While it is true that the ancient Greeks and early Romans were pagans, they form two-thirds of the basis of Western Civilization (the third being the Hebrews). Rejecting their pagan myths and other problematic practices does not mean that Christians should ignore all that they contributed to the development of our culture. Absolutely, we should consider non-Christian texts through the lens of Christianity. The Greeks and early Romans did not know the fullness of the Truth that has been revealed to us through the Holy Catholic Church. We should seek out the "True, Good, and Beautiful" from their civilizations and consign the rest to the dustbins of history.
What is meant by "liberal"? Not political progressivism, but the Latin word liber (free) as in "liberate" and "liberty". Another great quote from the ICLE: "Liberal Education is what is proper for the free man. The man who is free, as the aristocrats of pre-modern societies were, wants what is desirable for its own sake, not what is essentially a means to something else....the liberally educated man was introduced to the finest ideas of his culture through his study of literature, history and the fine arts, while he tested the soundness of these ideas through philosophy. This education is not only proper to a man with time on his hands; it also made him more free, free to be the best man he could be – free from the interior confusion of scattered experiences and opinions, free to express himself fully, free to understand and weigh the greatest and most beautiful thoughts of man."
Again note the emphasis on seeking out the True, Good, and Beautiful. This type of liberal education is the opposite of the conformist agenda of government schools. For an eye-opening discussion of this agenda, I highly recommend reading John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education available in a *FREE* e-book here.
What is meant by "education"? Yet another fabulous quote from the ICLE: "Education doesn’t aim at simply accomplishing a task; its goal is understanding....education is a higher word [than instruction]; it implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character; it is something individual and permanent, and is commonly spoken of in connexion with religion and virtue....Education above all aims at developing the proper habits of mind. It takes patience, prudence, and prayer. Facts will be forgotten after the exam is passed; education provides the foundations for a lifetime of growth."
This is precisely what I aim to foster in my homeschool- developing my children's minds in a way that will allow them to become the best Catholic men and women that they can be :-)