Practicing early home education – Plato on preschool

So often it is the mothers of three-year-olds, maybe five-year-olds, who are most concerned with educational principles and theories and practices. I know I was.

My commonplace quote from today justifies this preoccupation.

The Great Tradition: Classical Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being is a collection of the writings about education from Plato to the modern era, the writings that have informed the development of western civilization and classical education.



Teaching does not begin with phonics and counting.

This section from Plato’s The Laws, Book 1, is about how education in the broad, unspecialized sense is summed up as how to obey and how to rule.

We must learn to obey. This begins with obeying parents and teachers, but extends as adults who know how to obey the law, obey God, obey their conscience, obey those in authority over them.

We must also learn to rule. This begins by learning to rule ourselves, which is self-control. Then is extends to learning how to govern those under our care justly and lovingly.


CH059: Where Education Begins & Ends


One who rules without obeying is a tyrant, one who obeys without ruling is a slave.

And both truly all begins when young children learn to obey, because that requires the beginnings of learning self-control.

The most important part of education is right training in the nursery. – Plato, qtd in The Great Tradition

When we think about educational philosophies, theories, and curriculums, we must not forget the basis, the foundation.

Homeschooling – education of any sort, actually – begins with a toddler learning to come when called, pick up his toys, and obey his mom and dad. Everything that comes after is built on that first practice at submitting to authority and exercising self-control.

No matter what educational methods or settings you choose, this very early beginning is essential and cannot be neglected.

Homeschooling – education of any sort – begins with a toddler learning to come when called, pick up his toys, and obey his mom and dad. Everything that comes after is built on that first practice at submitting to authority and exercising self-control.

My Favorite “Nursery Training” Books

Learning what classical education really means from primary sources.

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4 Responses

  1. ~ linda
    | Reply

    As a retired teacher for the primary-age child, and now a tutor to the same age, this all comes as common sense and profound at the same time. How many children and adults do not understand these truths? Far too many!! Thank you for sharing. I just came from a homeschooled 9 year old who is behind a bit and am helping him out while his mom homeschools the other 3. These children KNOW this ‘obedience’ thing and are being raised rightly. I love being around them. They are a delightful bunch. The oldest are learning the ‘ruling’ part now too and doing very well. Glad I came by!!

  2. Anna
    | Reply

    Good reminders, Mystie. When you have several kids with a big age spread, it’s easy to focus on the older ones and forget that the little ones are also being educated, whether intentionally or by default, even if they’re not doing math or reading yet.

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