Review: The Core by Leigh Bortins

Updated: Mar 28

This book primarily serves as a skillful introduction to classical education. Many people would benefit beyond belief from reading this book. Bortins stresses using your brain in order to practice virtue in the world. Classical education is a lifestyle and not merely a thing one does. Many of the concepts in the book are easy to understand, but hard to follow. Classical education is different from all other models because its main goal is to cultivate virtue, not a series of college degrees after one’s name and endless certificates of “achievement.”

In this book, Bortins articulates what is wrong with modern education, and the utility (and even necessity) of classical education. Her critiques and suggestions are spot on and rational. She emphasized the importance of the individual in education, not the group. The book goes on to give suggestions on how to structure a classical education for elementary-age children. What she writes about is the “core” of education and learning. Although Bortins founded the international homeschool group Classical Conversations, she does not advocate for parents to put their children in such a program. Instead, she shows the beauty of what a real education looks like.

Buying into the lie sold to one by the modern “educators” is like taking mental poison. I could say much more about Bortins’ points, but this is, after all, merely a review. I would suggest everyone to pick up the book for themselves.

Some of the best quotes from the book are below:

“Teaching subjects like algebra or history classically is actually an easy task compared to cultivating rich lives.” (Bortins 86)

“If you understand phonics, you could scratch a word in the dirt with a stick and teach a child to read the word.” (Bortins 92)

“An educated person is not someone who knows something, but someone who can explain what they know to others.” (Bortins 92)

“If he can sit quietly before a computer or TV, you know he is physically capable of self-control. He may have to be emotionally trained to sit still when he is not engaged by a machine, but you know that he can sit quietly.” (Bortins 111)

“Clarity of meaning is the purpose of punctuation, not obeying rules for rules’ sake.” (Bortins 122)

“We perish from what of wonder, not from want of wonders.” (G.K. Chesterton quoted, Bortins 179)

This book can help anyone. Whether you have never heard of classical education or were raised in it, this book will either help you remember old concepts or introduce you to new ones. I have been around many families who call themselves “classical” or “classically educated.” The sad truth, however, is that many are not. They use the label, the word, without participating in the practice, the journey. Classical education is not easy to learn and hard to practice. Bortins mentions many times that classical education is “simple.” This may be true, but simple things are sometimes the most difficult. It takes time to go from temporary education to the education designed by God.

The overall rating is 79/100 (this rating is only low because there are other timeless classics by writers such as Aristotle, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare; if this book were rated in terms of the modern book, it would be a 100/100).

Suffice it to say, read this book and take it seriously.

You can buy the book here: The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education (9780230100350): Bortins, Leigh A.: Books

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