What is Classical & Christian?

The One-Minute Version

Classical liberal arts education has through the centuries sought to train minds to be free. For the ancient Greeks, a liberal education was reserved for free men. Those so educated were the leaders in the community and were actively engaged in the democratic process. Likewise, a classical and Christian education seeks to free minds and train the next generation of leaders.

More importantly, it seeks to do this for the glory of God and the spread of the truth. Its methods and its content are anchored in the time tested educational practices of our forefathers. Its foundation is the Word of God, and its function is to bring every discipline under the light of scripture and the rule of Christ.

The Five-Minute Version

A Christian school operates to aid parents fulfill their duty to children to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). It forms a community that can cooperatively develop a method to provide an educational experience that closely matches the expectations of Christian parents. It is not a substitute for the parent who is ultimately responsible, but it is an ideal service to parents. Its goal is to help train children to see the world as a great and beautiful work of the Almighty God. It labors to reveal the problems we face in this fallen world and foster a heart of compassion and develop the skills to take action. Furthermore, the Christian school strives to bring all things under the dominion of our loving Savior. He is the ultimate goal.

A classical Christian school is an institution that goes about its distinct Christian mission with a definite methodology and curricular approach. One would expect it to emphasize rigorous academics and “old books,” but it is much more. When we talk about a classical education, we have several features in mind:

Culture and Worldview

A classical education unashamedly places an emphasis on Western culture. The material that makes up its curriculum will focus on the canon of “Great Books” and seeks to understand the ideas that have shaped our present culture. Providentially, Christianity was born in the classical world and then grew throughout medieval Europe and the Reformation. Knowledge and appreciation of our own heritage is worth passing on to our children. At the same time, a respect for Western culture is not reverence for it. All things must be judged by a higher standard. There are plenty of ideas and activities in Western culture that will provide students the opportunity to practice discerning that which is good, lovely, and true. Our worldview is thoroughly Christ centered, built on the Word of God… Sola Deo Gloria! “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Col 1:16-17, NIV. We confess an appreciation for the wonderful blessings that have been historically a part of Western culture, but our worldview transcends culture.

Method

In a climate of educational innovation, it is good to know that there is a method that has proven successful throughout the ages. The ancients divided all of learning into seven liberal arts. The first three were known as the TRIVIUM. According to Oxford scholar Dorothy Sayers, the Trivium provides a structure and methodology for a strong elementary through high school education. It can be summarized as follows:

  • Grammar (K-5th) – Emphasis on rote memorization and accumulation of basic facts and skill sets. Students find enjoyment in singing, chanting, and reciting.
  • Logic (6th-8th) – Emphasis on the understanding of the relationships among facts and information. Students enjoy arguing, so they are taught how to do it correctly. Formal logic is included in this stage of learning. Students are taught to take the knowledge learned in the previous stage, work with it, and deepen their own understanding.
  • Rhetoric (9th-12th) – Emphasis on creating and expressing one’s self beautifully and persuasively. Students are taught to build upon the knowledge they have acquired, reason through implications, and form and present original thoughts.

Subjects

You will find many of the same classes in a classical school that correspond to traditional schools. Each will have its own grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Additionally, the classical school will include the following:

  • Latin – A classical education teaches Latin as the foundation for language learning, for development of thinking skills, and for connecting modern children to the scholars of the past. It helps develop thinking skills, and strengthens grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. Latin instruction will typically begin in third grade.
  • Logic – Formal symbolic logic in the second stage of the trivium is used to develop habits of proper reason. In logic class, students also learn to identify and refute fallacies in structured arguments, casual conversation, and even T.V. ads!
  • Rhetoric – Like logic, rhetoric not only describes a stage in the process but is a specific class as well. Rhetoric class teaches students how to present and defend ideas in a way that is pleasant and persuasive.

Where to Go From Here?

In 1947, the author and scholar, Dorothy Sayers, wrote an essay titled the “Lost Tools of Learning.” It describes this approach to education in detail. You may read more about this approach at: The Lost Tools of Learning, courtesy of the Escondido Tutorial Service.

Following are some other resources if you want to pursue this further.

* Read Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, by Douglas Wilson
* Read Repairing the Ruins, edited by Douglas Wilson