Classical Education

As parents considering the foundational years for the growth of our children, choosing the right kind of education is of paramount importance. Classical Christian schools are using the philosophy and methodology of a form of education that has a long history of success. It is a wonderful melding of the kind of discovery and challenge typical of education from hundreds of years ago when classical education was the only education. Education was, and should still be, viewed as “liberating” or a path to “freedom” for those who were given the gift of an education as opposed to hard labor in fields every day.

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Today we can take the same approach for our children: challenging scholarly efforts based on the developmental stages, combined with seeking God and glorifying Him in all subjects of learning. The resurgence and recovering of this tradition has been described as “rediscovering the lost tools of learning.”

Some of the centuries-old classical tenants are “Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.” When we think of a typical school and a typical classroom, these are not the first words that come to mind. At St. Abraham’s, we strive to build character alongside academics. In every subject we seek the Truth that God has revealed in His Word, we seek the goodness and righteousness that He has established as a result of His Truth, and we find His beauty displayed in His children, in nature, and in the knowledge He brings us.

 

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." Zechariah 4:10a NLT


 

Why Saint Abraham’s?

St. Abraham’s, along with most classical Christian schools in the nation, believes that students are capable of aiming and working towards a high standard academically. Many schools today set the bar low and teach directly to tests, hoping for high scores. St. Abraham’s sees education as much more than passing tests and cramming for facts that will disappear in the memory in a short amount of time. Classical Christian schools desire to not only challenge students to reach for a higher level of success every day in the classroom, but to actually love learning. We want our children to be equipped with tools to be lifelong learners. We want their hearts to be strengthened by God and their minds to be enlightened by Him. We see every stage of education as an opportunity to challenge them to grow as a whole person.

Because we believe that God is our Creator, everything we learn directs us back to Him. He is in fact teaching us every day, surrounding us with knowledge if we will see it. We make sure that through a classical and Christian education, that Christ is glorified in every subject. The Christian worldview is not just relegated to “Bible class” or “chapel time” but is integrated on a daily basis throughout the day by every teacher. St. Abraham’s is a member of the ACCS: the Association of Classical Christian Schools.

 

Classical education is like a very large museum with many beautiful, wonder-filled rooms that could be studied over a lifetime. It is a long tradition of education that has emphasized the seeking after of truth, goodness, and beauty and the study of the liberal arts and the great books.
— Classical Academic Press
A Classical graduate is familiar with reading, writing, Latin, logic, math, science, rhetoric, and the fine arts resulting in gracious, knowledgeable, and thoughtful men and women.
— Association of Classical Christian Schools
We teach differently because we have a different perspective on the Child. We don’t believe that a child is a fortuitous blob of protoplasm waiting to be decomposed. We believe that she is nothing less than the Divine Image, an icon of the invisible God. She must not, therefore, be taught following techniques developed to instruct beasts. She must not be reduced to mere chemical responses to electrical stimuli. She must be taught personally, in relationship.
— The CIRCE Institute
Classical Christian schools use the children’s God-given strengths at each stage of growth to help them learn; young children enjoy memorizing, singing, and rhymes, so a solid foundation is laid in each subject of study at this age; junior high students are inquisitive, so we develop their ability to reason and discern truth; high school students want to talk, so we teach them how to present their ideas persuasively. The result is a graduate who knows what they believe and why, and can positively impact the community around them.
— The Classical Difference
 

The Trivium—Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric

The Trivium, education divided into three stages, consists of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. It was Dorothy Sayers who first connected the established values of the Trivium to the stages of child development during school years. The Grammar stage coordinates with elementary school, the Logic stage, also known as the Didactic stage, coordinates with middle school, and the Rhetoric stage coordinates with high school. We encourage any family who is seriously considering enrolling students in St. Abraham’s to read Dorothy Sayers’ original paper that can be found here.

 

Grammar stage (grades K-6)

The first stage, Grammar, is not the subject of grammar; rather, it is the study of the basic facts of different subjects. Focus is placed on reading, writing, and spelling; an elementary study of Latin; basic math skills; and developing observation, listening, and memorization skills.

Students are given a general overview of history through a biblical worldview as well as a study of the major stories of the Bible. Science is taught through observation of the world so that the students can appreciate the vastness of God’s creation around them.

The aim at this stage is to give the students the tools to master the elements of language and to develop a general framework of knowledge (Sayers’ Classical Academy).

Logic stage (grades 7-8)

Students of the Logic stage often express sincere questions and a desire to search for the reasons behind long-held principles and truths. Building upon the foundational skills, the wise teacher will recognize this tendency to question and to debate, and utilize it as a tool to mold and to shape. This will be done by teaching logical discussion, engaging in debates and demonstrating how to draw correct conclusions and support them with facts.

Students begin to develop the skills to define their terms, to make accurate statements, to construct an argument, and, at times, much to the chagrin of parents, to see fallacies in the arguments of others. This molding of thought and communication skills is not to promote in students a superior, critical, or negative attitude, but to cultivate discerning and thoughtful students, students who know when to follow and when to lead (Classical Academic Press, Sayers Classical Academy).

Rhetoric stage (grades 9-12)

As a student advances in the Trivium, they can use language, both written and spoken, eloquently and persuasively, to express what they think; a natural yearning for young adults. The maturing students have some leading as to where their real interest lies in this world.

And hopefully, as Christians, they will want to use this knowledge to further advance the Kingdom of God, their primary goal being to persuade others to follow Christ.

For the Christian, a life of holiness and sacrifice will always speak louder than words. However, when such a life has been properly equipped to use the great tools of communication - persuasive speech and writing - God’s glory is known all the more (Classical Academic Press).


Curriculum

Education is not merely “informational” but “formational.” In other words, it forms us not only to know certain things but to desire certain things. Secular education places man at the center of all things. Christian education places the God/man at the center. What does this mean?

There is no such thing as neutrality in education. Every fact, every truth is understood in the light of a certain world view. This means that history, art, music, mathematics, etc., must all be taught in the light of God’s existence and His revelation of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because the Scriptures occupy a crucial role in teaching us about this revelation, they must also occupy a critical role in Christian education.

This is not to say that the Bible was meant to be read as a science or mathematics text. It was not. It does, however, provide a framework for understanding these things. Without such a framework for understanding, all subjects will degenerate into chaotic absurdity. Christian education is teaching our children how to think Biblically.

As R.L. Dabney stated, “Every line of true knowledge must find its completeness in its convergency to God, even as every beam of daylight leads the eye to the sun. If religion be excluded from our study, every process of thought will be arrested before it reaches its proper goal. The structure of thought must remain a truncated cone, with its proper apex lacking.”

As Christian educators our goal is not to require the students to spend all their time gazing at the sun. We want them to examine everything else in the light the sun provides. For C. S. Lewis, the sunlight by which he viewed everything else was Christianity. It would be invincible folly to try to blacken the sun in order to be able to study the world around us objectively.

That said, our academic program from K-12 builds on knowledge and skills of traditional cores subjects, with objectives for each subject as tools of learning.


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but why latin?

Please take a moment to read why we take Latin seriously. Our favorite essay (by author Karen Moore) on the subject.


 

Additional Resources

We understand the format of classical Christian education can be novel to some, so please take time to review the below resources. We hope this gives you a richer, more full perspective of the ideology of our academy.

Classical Academic Press

Circe Institute

Association of Classical and Christian Schools

Inside Classical Education

The Classical Difference

A Free Course on C.S. Lewis: The Greatest Christian Apologist of the Modern Era