What is Classical Christian Education?
To clearly explain the classical Christian model of education, we must define both classical and Christian education.
Classical education has inspired great thinkers beginning with the Golden Age of Greece and the Roman Empire. It influenced great kings and reformers of the Middle Ages and philosophers and artists of the Renaissance. It galvanized the Pilgrims and our Founding Fathers in their determination to build a new government. Today, we see the influence of classical education in every academic discipline including science, politics, mathematics, art, and astronomy.
What is Classical Education? It is the process of helping students become great thinkers.
Classical education refers to the content and the methodology of instruction. At Sandhills Classical Christian School, the curriculum is classical in content as distinguished by the integrated study of scripture, Latin, logic, literature, philosophy, and rhetoric in addition to history, mathematics, science, and physical education. The school is classical in methodology, as distinguished by its embracing of the Trivium (a three-pronged approach to learning: grammar, logic, and rhetoric) which coincides with the God-given stage of development in a child’s brain.
The classically educated student begins to study Latin in the third grade. The study of Latin increases students’ vocabulary. It not only gives the students a better understanding of the English language, but it also lays the foundation for learning other languages as well. Its benefits are also seen in math and science because it trains the mind in logic, detail, and problem solving.
Not Just Another Christian School
Deuteronomy 6 instructs us to use the Bible as a guide to teach our children all about life. A classical Christian school does not simply add Bible courses and Bible memorization to the students’ day. It views all subjects through the lens of Scripture. The Lord challenges the faithful to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) In this way, students can address and impact their culture. As Paul appealed to Athenians based on what he knew of their poets and gods, so classical Christian education will prepare students to address the people and issues of their times.
Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Classical Christian education is a time-proven way to accomplish this.
What is an Integrated Curriculum?
Most contemporary American high school education programs consist of “subjects”: math, science, English, and history. These subjects are taught by teachers who know their individual disciplines. For example, in Algebra class, students learn mathematical terms, how to solve equations, and graphing; in Civics, students study the War for Independence, the Constitution, and the three branches of government; English students are taught to write complete sentences with subject and verb agreement, proper modifiers, and punctuation while reading some interesting fiction and poetry.
The problem in these compartmentalized subjects is this: equations have nothing to do with history; punctuation is irrelevant to the Constitution; and Thomas Jefferson is disconnected from Greek city-states. Perhaps most regrettably, morality and ethics are not part of the curriculum; whether or not the colonists should have fought the war against Britain is never addressed. The modern high schooler learns how to study for tests and subsequently forgets the material because it is not needed again. The result is that each subject is an air-tight compartment from the next, never overlapping or relating.
Secular education is missing a very important component, one which classical and Christian education provides: integration. Contemporary education is the outworking of a philosophy that views everything as a machine through which science teaches us to dissect, looking for how things are made. The compartmentalization of subjects is a dissection and without a synthesis, a bringing back together, the subject dies and beauty is lost. What a tragedy!
Classical education, on the other hand, seeks not only to take things apart to see how they work but also to bring them together again. The Socratic method breaks ideas, information, and subjects down to see how the constituent parts relate, and then it brings them back together to discover how the learner can apply the lesson.
In classical Christian education all school subjects are related, and a classical teacher helps the student to discover the connections in two ways: concepts within subjects and concepts between subjects. For example, Julius Caesar being assassinated in 44 B.C. is connected to Octavian becoming Caesar Augustus which has direct bearing on Virgil writing the epic, The Aeneid, which inspired Dante in his writing of The Divine Comedy. All of this has theological implications for Christianity. Furthermore, as Christians, we see all things in God’s world as related and under the Lord’s authority.
“Whatever the modern educator’s reasons for rejecting the classical curriculum, his classrooms suffer from its absence in three notable ways. In them, human experience tends to be dealt with narrowly and reductively, broken down into isolated, unconnected units; students ignorant of what questions to ask are presented with uninvited and consequently meaningless information; and there is no basis for making moral and aesthetic judgments or for attaching learning to behavior.” David Hicks, Norms and Nobility