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Classical Education On-line Tutorials

An Interview with Fritz Hinrichs of Escondido Tutorial Service

August 2001

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Fritz Hinrichs: We live in Escondido, California, and were married in 2000. We have one daughter in heaven and three boisterous boys with us- Benjamin,Christian and Dante. Fritz attended St. John's College in Annapolis and loved the Great Books program they are so well known for. Christy attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara and studied English literature.

What gave you the idea for doing tutorials over the internet? How long have you been doing this?

Fritz Hinrichs: Fritz was teaching local homeschoolers and saw that many had the ability to study the Great Books. However, there were not enough locally for him to support himself teaching, so he began to look for ways to connect with students around the country. At one point, he used conference calls as a method of doing this, but discoved that the internet was much easier and more economical. He has been teaching online and locally since 1993.

For what subjects do you offer tutorials? Who teaches the tutorials and what are their qualifications?

Fritz Hinrichs: Fritz teaches a five year Great Books program which is a survey of Western literature starting with the Greeks and ending with the moderns. It covers philosophy, theology, history, and poetry, among other things. He also teaches a one year course in Geometry using Euclid's Elements, a two year course in classical Greek and a course on the plays of Shakespeare. He has a B.A. from St. John's College and an M.A. in Religion with a Theology emphasis from Westminster Seminary. Christy teaches an English literature survey course. She has a B.A. from Westmont College and taught in a public high school for five years.

How do you address a student's learning style for on-line tutorials?

Fritz Hinrichs: We give each student an opportunity to read and discuss great literature. Not all students are ready for this task, as it involves a great deal of reading and writing, along with higher level thinking skills; however, we do our best to teach the literature in an engaging manner. Each of the books we teach contains ideas that are profound and offer many opportunities for engaging discussion and reflection.

How old should a student be to take best advantage of a tutorial?

Fritz Hinrichs: We do not accept students for the Great Books program until they are 12 years old. Some parents choose to wait until their child is 13 or 14 to begin GBT-it really depends on the child and we trust that the parents know their children much better than we do, so they know when their child is ready.

What skills should a student have to study the "Great Books"? How will a parent know that the child is ready?

Fritz Hinrichs: A student should be a strong reader with at least a year of Latin or Greek (recommended, but not required) and basic writing skills. A parent can test his or her child's readiness by having the child read The Iliad or The Odyssey and ask comprehension questions.

What are the goals for a tutorial and what preparation is required by the student?

Fritz Hinrichs: Our goal is give assistance to parents homeschooling their children. Our series of tutorials offers a student the opportunity to examine the ideas that have shaped our cultural history, to learn from them and apply a Christian worldview to their understanding. Students are required to read the works assigned to them, write essays throughout the semester, and contribute during class discussion.

How much involvement do you expect parents to have?

Fritz Hinrichs: We expect that parents will keep abreast of the material their children are reading, as well as whether or not the child is keeping up in class. Students are greatly benefitted by parents who help them continue our class discussions in the home. We have yearly "Flings" which are four days of Shakespeare reading, debating, dancing, and fellowship and we heartily welcome parents to attend along with their children. We also have balls a couple of times a year, which are opportunities for homeschoolers to become civilized while having an enjoyable time doing old country dances. When people ask us about "socialization", we like to ask them, "Would you rather have your child socialized or civilized?"

Would you explain how the tutorial works?

Fritz Hinrichs: Students log on at an appointed time to one of our classrooms. During classtime, the instructor lectures, asks questions, and starts discussions. Students are expected to contribute during class and will be called on if they are not contributing. The instructor has a number of technologies available to enrich the classroom experience- video, online testing, application sharing, interactive whiteboard, etc. Each student needs a computer with broadband Internet connection.

May a student receive college credit for any of your tutorials?

Fritz Hinrichs: We do not give credit because we are not accredited, so parents and their ISPs (Independent Study Program) determine how to assign credit. We have had a number students receive credit individually from college professors for their work in GBT. Further, GBT students have been accepted to Harvard, Washington and Lee, Oxford, University of Chicago, Westmont, Hillsdale, PHC, Stanford, Cornell and Biola Torrey Honors.

What particular doctrine, if any, do your tutorials support?

Fritz Hinrichs: We support the truth of the Bible and though we do not teach doctrine as a separate subject, it often comes up in the context of our readings. Fritz and Christy attend a Reformed Baptist church but consider ourselves followers of Christ first. Our affiliate tutors are from a range of evangelical backgrounds, but we support any denomination that believes in biblical Christianity.

What sort of "great books" do you study? Should Christians study books written by Greek and Roman pagans and if so, why?

Fritz Hinrichs: We study the great books of the Western world, as mentioned above. For the five year list, please see our website. We believe that Christians should study books by pagans, so that they may refute the philosophies of the world with understanding. We want students to learn how to test everything with Scripture. Paul, who helped write the New Testament, was a very well-educated man who quoted pagan poets in Scripture and was able to evangelize the very pagan cultures of his day. We believe that the world needs well-educated Christians who can present the Gospel while having knowledge of the full spectrum of the history of ideas. On the other hand, our aims should not be seen as narrowly apologetical. There is much beauty and truth one can find in the works of the pagans and an honest Christian does well to love all that is good.

How do you handle something like Shakespeare over the internet? Do you just discuss the play or do you recommend study using other media like movies or audiobooks?

Fritz Hinrichs: Students are given parts and we read the plays during class as you would in a local reading group. When we are done, we discuss what has been read and attempt to develop understanding of the major themes. Students must also memorize 20 lines per play and recite them for the class. I also recommend DVD versions of the plays that can be rented or purchased.

Several other tutorial groups (Oxford, Alexandria, Schola) are mentioned on your site. Would you explain the relationship between Escondido Tutorial Service and the others?

Fritz Hinrichs: These other tutorial services use our server to teach their classes and provide courses that will also be of interest to classical Christian homeschoolers. Each service is a separate entity and each tutor is responsible for the content of his or her own teaching.

How much does a tutorial cost?

Fritz Hinrichs: ETS charges $250 per tutorial but the Greek and Shakespeare tutorials are free to current students. Please see the website for current details.

Many thanks to Fritz Hinrichs for sharing his thoughts with us here at HomeschoolChristian.com!

Visit Escondido's Tutorial Service for more information.

HomeschoolChristian.com Resources Related to this Interview:

HomeschoolChristian.com's Classical and Charlotte Mason Resource Section