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Curriculum Spotlight – Old Western Culture

Curriculum | January 27, 2021

The more I read, the more I want to read and realize that I will never get through my list. That doesn’t stop me from reading, but sometimes I wonder if my time is spent wisely on one text versus another. This is particularly true about the literary canon where I want to read every single word. But even if I knew where to start, I would never get through it all. And I’m sure it would only make me ask more questions as I wonder about context and relationship to other texts that are not included in the literary canon.

The perfect solution to this problem would be a tutor or a guide to help me navigate that great and worthy body of thought. That is why I get pretty excited about Old Western Culture and the program that they have created. They feature the esteemed Dr. Wes Callihan, an approachable, wise teacher who has extensive insights and knowledge into the Great Books.

In these lectures, he comfortably approaches each topic from his leather armchair, ceding the screen for the occasional picture or piece of art that illustrates his point. He shares with us his knowledge of the text and how it integrates with the rest of the humanities, and he shows us how these works echo through history and thought turns to action. Later units include other presenters, but it’s hard to improve on Dr. Callihan’s friendly expositions.

Curriculum Overview

In this program, the Great Books of Western Culture are split into four different eras: The Greeks, The Romans, Christendom, and Early Moderns. Each era is divided again into four parts, each part dealing with an aspect of the era equalling a total of 12 units. The Great Books will be covered, but only excerpts will be selected as required reading. You can be sure those are the excerpts that are worth your time.


The lectures, or rather, delightful monologues as I like to call them, are presented on DVDs with 12 lectures per DVD.


There is required reading for each lecture which is where the Readers become very handy. The Readers for each unit are the selected readings all compiled into one volume. Sure, you could buy the individual works of Augustine, Anselm, or Aquinas. But you could also buy just the one volume published as the Reader for each unit which will contain all the required reading. If you’re like me that will save time both in hunting down texts and organizing them so you can find them when you need them.


Finally, if you want to engage with the content you can purchase the workbook applicable to each unit which will help you to ask questions and further digest the content.


It’s easy to look at this entire program and get overwhelmed once again. Even bite-sized lessons, when piled high can look like a mountain. Yes, it’s nicely organized and arranged, but even this is a commitment beyond our ability. It’s our dream to have each of our kids do something like this program during their high school years, but what if we are homeschooling from one year to the next? What about wanting to do this for ourselves so we can at least engage with our teenagers on these issues?

I suggest that we don’t let those questions hold you back. This program is perfectly organized, as we established, so maybe you need to take it one unit at a time. Pick something you want to learn. Is it Nicene Christianity? Poetry and Politics in the Modern Era? Or the writings of the Reformation? Even one of these units would be an amazing course. Maybe you can find time for two. Three? It’s possible.

We could even take this further. This doesn’t need to be about your homeschool or your own education. This could be a unit study for your youth group at Church. Or a study group with other adults. This is a fully credited high school course, but it can be anything you want it to be.

Each of us wishes we could have the education that our children will have. Well, I’m suggesting that we don’t have to wish any longer. We can start right here. It’s only 12 units, and a good time with our teenagers as we learn together in community with our Church, our homeschool group, or just as a family.

Quick facts:
  • Each unit includes a DVD, Reader, and Workbook.
  • You don’t need to do the workbook.
  • An option is to just watch the DVD.
  • Watch reviews on Youtube of Dr. Callihan’s teaching style here.
  • This is not a four-year commitment. It is only a commitment to one unit (and then the next…).
  • The Readers provide easy access to the text.
  • The Workbook completes the program as a course for high school.
  • Each lecture is around 30 minutes long.

by Hester VanBraeden

Hester is a second-generation home educating parent who is keenly aware that her own education is not complete, and comfortable that it probably never will be. She has many years of experience with children, books, and curriculum. She loves to travel to worlds and times beyond the present with her children through many books. Hester and her husband have four children and live in the lower mainland of BC.


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