What is Christian Classical Education?
What is Christian Classical Education?
Classical education varies depending on the person that you ask.
Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations, considers classical education to be, ”Education is the key that unlocks doors to infinite possibilities for everyone in a free society. This is the classical model of education that was used by the great thinkers and leaders of the past, including Aristotle, Plato, C.S. Lewis, and Thomas Jefferson.”
Julia Duin, published a piece for CNN on classical education, reporting that, “They generally aim to cultivate wisdom and virtue through teaching students Latin, exposing them to great books of Western civilization and focusing on appreciation of truth, goodness and beauty. Students are typically held to strict behavioral standards in terms of conduct and politeness, and given examples of characters from history to copy, ranging from the Roman nobleman Cincinnatus to St. Augustine of Hippo.”
Susan Wise Bauer, author of the book The Well Trained Mind, comments her idea of classical education as, “Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts and systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.”
In the book The Liberal Arts Tradition, the authors Clark and Jain, produced a widespread view of Classical education within all areas. The command that, “The ancients believed that these seven “arts” were not merely subjects to be mastered, but sure and certain ways of forming in the soul the intellectual virtue necessary for acquiring true wisdom. The seven liberal arts were never meant to stand on their own as the entire curriculum, for they are designed particularly for cultivating intellectual virtue.”
The most blunt and all-inclusive answer I have found was by Andrew Kern, who states that, “Classical education, I tell them, is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful”
Kathy Becker from Memoria Press derives her theory of classical education by stating that, “As classical educators, we understand that God is a God of order. Classical education implements God’s design of order, and in so doing develops in the learner a well-trained mind. Parents must be the directors of the homeschooled student, and in doing so they must understand that theirs is a grave responsibility, not to be taken lightly. It is imperative that not only our studies are chosen with care, but also our daily behavior. We are training great minds to do great things and think great thoughts.”
So after reading each writer’s idea of what classical education is, let’s break it down into more manageable chunks.
God has to be in the center of all that you do in your homeschooling journey. Not just during family Bible time, but personally. Wisdom and virtue come from God. It is hard to learn what is right or wrong without a guide. What one person thinks is right another person may not, and so this leads to a confusion as to where the line is draw for right and wrong. Since, the Bible is God’s Word, written in truth, then its’ laws constitute the absolute meaning of what is right and wrong. In reading the Bible, meditating on it, and finding the answers to our lives, we learn wisdom and virtue.
Truth, goodness and beauty also revel in the pages of the Bible.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
We would be wise to heed the words that are written within this verse. If you could have a child that thought about only things that are honest, just, pure, lovely, good, how amazingly would their lives affect others. Truth and goodness would pour out of their soul, creating a better society.
“Through Him all things were made that was made; without Him nothing
was made that was made.” (John 1:3)
“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works
of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine
nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
Hidden in the world around us is the beauty God created. Everything was created by Him. Within everything lies the answer to a God who created it all. We would be sensible to strive to learn about His creation, which allows us to learn about the one who created it all. Leading us on His path of beauty to find true answers in His existence.
The trivium consists of three stages of learning, deriving from Latin, meaning the three ways. The trivium is composed of the Grammar stage, Dialectic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. These three stages lay out the reasoning behind how a child learns. Using this facet within your homeschooling journey allows our children to be ready to thrive in any circumstance that comes their way in life.
“All things that can be known have number; for it is not possible that without number anything can either be conceived or known.” (Philolaus the Pythgorean, fifth century BC). Thus creating the quadrivium, the equivalence to our modern day curriculum. Their quadrivium consisted of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.
Arithmetic is the study of numbers and operations. The ancient mathematicians treated numbers as relational, holding wonder and mystery as the ultimate tool to truly understanding arithmetic. Realizing that within all the objects around them, numbers were present to help you understand our world. For example, if you were to look at a tree, you could discover the circumference of a circle. How about within plants, finding their leaves to have a certain pattern, which leads to veins, which directs you to understanding why so many veins in each leaf, to help if stay alive. Arithmetic is the foundational level for all of mathematical understanding. Being able to create equations, use the laws, and be able to produce solutions to the many different types of mathematical qualms that will come your child’s way, is why arithmetic is so important.
Geometry is the branch of mathematics concerned with the properties and relations of points, lines, surfaces, solids and higher dimensional analogs. From geometry we have a concrete way to develop equations. The ancients used a book called Euclid’s Elements. We would be wise to heed the traditional geometric forms used within this book. Geometry should be taught before algebra. Considering that equations themselves are a very abstract idea. Wouldn’t it do us and our children great justice to find equations from a more concrete subject. One that allows them to see evidence in a solid form of why that equation is created the way that it is. Being able to create an equation allows you to easily solve them and produce a correct equation within a new situation, because your child recognizes what equations are used for.
In 2009 The Economist, published an article relishing that, “our modern culture may owe as much to astronomy as to any other natural science. Through men such as Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton, ushered in the modern science.” Just as Psalm 19:1 declares God’s glory within the skies, the ancients believed in the regular star patterns that were revealed to them every night, to be the answer to the great mysteries. Astronomy joins mathematics with natural philosophy (physical science).
The last part of the quadrivium is music. Most of us remember music as the study of instruments (musica instrumentalis), notes, harmonies and melodies. But that is not what classical music was all about. Musica mundana is the music of the cosmos. It is the greatest level of all three levels within the music section of classical education. It is the mathematical proportions within the world around us. Musica humana is the part of music that resonates within the human body when it is in harmony with the music of spheres. Allowing us to understand the greater meaning of the artist taste within the piece of music we are listening to. Music was considered to be the greatest area for learning within the classical education model. Music brought everything together.
Understanding that God needs to come first in all areas of our homeschooling journey is the first step to following a christian classical education model. Recognizing that within God our family will find wisdom and virtue, abounding on the subjects of truth, goodness and beauty. Once, you have God in the center, then you can start to understand the trivium and how it helps your children to learn in a way, that will help to unlock doors to boundless opportunities. Finally, realizing that the quadrivium are the arts that we should pay the most attention to. All of these facets together create a christian classical education.