Compare KONOS to other Curricula
KONOS and the Classical Approach
By Linda Trumbo, VA

Classical Education, as it is presented in The Well Trained Mind, is both a methodology and a course of study. The methodology involves lots of information input and memorization for young children (1-4 grade), some memorization and beginning analysis thinking at the middle years (5-8th grade), and in-depth critical thinking, analysis, and persuasive writing and speaking at the high school level. As a course of study it involves studying Western Civilization exclusively and chronologically, repeating material every four years, just at a deeper level. It also includes Latin, logic, and theology.

As I’ve read through the material on the methodology, I’ve seen a lot of points of similarity to KONOS. I’ll list, if you don’t mind, the similarities between the two, some close approximations, and the major differences.

Similarities:

  1. Both rely on real books and primary sources instead of textbooks. A general overview book plus whole books, fiction and non-fiction, are used.

  2. Narration and dialogue are important components.

  3. Research is taught at upper elementary and middle levels, and is vital during the high school years.

  4. Both are “language rich” approaches - lots of reading, discussion, and writing.

Close approximations: 

  1. Classical approach requires memorization; KONOS utilizes hands-on drill with vocabulary and timeline figures. The goal of both is the same - kids who know their stuff. The difference is enjoying the journey! 

Outright differences:

  1. Classical starts first graders out with ancient history and mythology, often drawing from writers who were writing for an adult audience. So much of that material is abstract. KONOS starts with concrete learning that’s closer to home for young students, then moves to ancient as their thinking matures.

  2. Classical treats Bible and theology as separate subjects; KONOS teaches to the heart and head by integrating all knowledge around God’s Word and His character.

For those of you doing HOW, this is Classical and then some! If you make sure you are requiring orderly journals and high-quality written work from your high-schooler, you’ll be matching the recommendations for history and English put forth by the Classical Ed people. If you take advantage of the extensive map work, Bible work, and activity selections in HOW, you'll be exceeding the recommendations of the the current advocates of Classical education. The joy of KONOS is that it makes this level of learning possible even for the young person who isn’t a bookworm. There’s no provision for that student in the Classical approach.

My strongest concern with the Classical Approach as it’s currently being expressed is the recommendations for young children. In a truly Classical Approach, the younger years (until about age nine) were used for mastering the 3 R's, exploring the world around us, and enjoying lots of reading and family input. The grammar stage did not begin with 6 year olds! This is a modern adaptation to make this chronological approach to history fit the public system - not a wise endeavor, in my opinion. I want my young ones’ minds and hearts aimed toward godliness at the beginning and I want them to know the joy of learning along with the hard work. Only KONOS has provided that for us.

An interesting side note - in her essay "The Lost Tools of Learning," Dorothy Sayers never advocated a chronological approach to history. Again, this is a modern American adaptation. 

KONOS compared to Literature Based Curricula

KONOS is literature based. In fact, back in 1984 when we began selling KONOS, the first complement we received was from a librarian who said, "I cannot believe how you have woven the all time best in classics, Newbery Award winners, and greats in children's literature into your units about character traits! Were either one of you librarians?" Jessica and Carole certainly could be, for they know children's literature inside out. Jessica has often said that beautiful wallpaper, gorgeous furniture and fabric, and great books make her salivate. Seven years ago when we built our home in the country, the one thing Jessica insisted on was a real library.

BUT no matter how wonderful books are and no matter how much they make Jessica salivate, we are clear at KONOS that Godly character should be the focus of everything we read, write, say do. This is why our academics are woven into units focusing on a particular character trait. Of course we want our children to be well read and love literature, BUT literature is not our primary focus…Godly character is.

LIKEWISE the latest research about how children learn best does nothing but confirm what we as parents know…children learn best when they are participating in interactive, hands-on, doing, kinesthetic learning. Call it what ever you will, but it all involves movement. The younger the children are the more important that movement is. My favorite quote about children comes from Henrietta Mear who was a famous Bible teacher of Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ and Ruth Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham. Mrs. Mear wisely comments, "God put the wiggle in children. Don't you dare try to take it out!" KONOS loves reading, but KONOS is designed to teach children the way God made them…wiggly. KONOS uses meaningful activities plus literature to motivate, enjoy, retain…and work with, not against, the wiggle.

KONOS compared to Textbook Approach

At KONOS we do not hate textbooks. We simply view them as an incomplete way to study history, art, music, drama, science, etc. 

We view the whole world as our curriculum
and the whole library as our textbook

How could ten pages in a textbook fully tell you about the Civil War? The answer is it cannot and it does not. You need to read Across Five Aprils; set up soldiers in battle formations reenacting major battles; memorize the Gettysburg Address; argue Dred Scot's case; sing Stephen Foster songs; read biographies of Harriet Tubman, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln; map the entire conflict on a big map; practice taking black and white photos; make a haversack complete with contents; read about gangrene; dress as Union or Confederate soldiers and have a bivouac; watch Gone With the Wind and Shenandoah; sketch the face of Clara Barton, and have a Civil War Ball. KONOS is about immersion into topics, not just grazing topics.

KONOS compared to Other Unit Studies

KONOS shares with other unit studies the commonality of the unit, yet it surpasses other unit studies in its focus…Godly character traits. Certainly, units focusing on plants or Indians or even baseball have a similar approach of integrating all subjects. However, KONOS believes those topics can and should point toward the character the Lord wants His people to emulate. Godly character is something that every Christian parent wants his children to posses. It should not be limited to a few minutes of the school day. Children should be saturated with the incredible reality that God displays His character in all His creation…whether it be His orderliness in the universe, the seasons, or mathematics…or His patience in the growth of humans and plants…or His trust demonstrated in the laws of nature that govern flight. KONOS units and topics always point back to the character trait

Further, the unique activities of KONOS are not duplicated in other unit studies. A very unusual call came into the KONOS Corporate office many years ago. A customer wanted to purchase KONOS, but she also wanted to make a confession. "I am not sure you want to sell to me," she said. "You see, I used to write for one of your competitors. I would sit around with several other writers and we would try to think of KONOS-like hands-on activities to make our curriculum like KONOS. We just never had the creativity of Jessica and Carole, so I decided to buy KONOS to teach my own child."

If you don't have creativity, don't worry…KONOS has it for you.