“Why don’t my students have basic facts memorized?” As a sixth-grade teacher, year after year I was asking myself this question and the answer was coming up short. I wanted them to know the building blocks — basic history, parts of speech, and math facts to name a few — but many didn’t have these facts in their repertoire. As I talked to other teachers about my frustration, a wise and brave first-year teacher at my school asked me if I’d heard of Classical Education. She felt this approach was the solution to filling in our students’ knowledge gaps and for understanding why they existed in the first place. My response was, “I know they teach Latin.” She sent me a few articles on Classical Education, and thus began my Classical education journey.
Classical education matches child development.
After reading just one article on the depths of Classical education, I was enthralled and needed to know more. I learned about the “parrot stage” of development in which children learn best through repetition. This aligns with Classical pedagogy of having students memorize facts as building blocks of knowledge. This approach in many elementary programs has gone by the wayside for a more investigative approach. Finally I had my answer: this was why so many students didn’t know their math facts, parts of speech or spelling! The system had failed them. Despite being an education major in college, I had only read about the parrot stage when studying Classical education.
Classical education offers a sage and a guide.
From experience, I knew teachers were being told to be “a guide on the side instead of a sage on the stage.” That approach never computed for me and now I knew why: students need a sage that focuses them on what they must know and a guide leading them. Teachers need to be both a guide and a sage. None of us, students and adults alike, can simply be left to our own devices or we will fall into temptation and sin — but that’s another post for another time.
Classical education helps form a Christian worldview.
Classical Christian Education offers a truth rooted in the Bible that is different from all other school curriculum, including other Christian Schools. As students progress through the grammar stage and start entering the logic stage, they take those Bible verses, the ABC’s, math facts and the basics of time-tested literature to really start questioning the world around them. We continue to guide them in their writing, reading and divulging of all subjects so that they can properly compose an essay, speak about what they have read, and start to question its significance. The focused study of founding an argument and logic classes are key to this movement so that students gain the tools necessary to not simply be passive consumers but critical thinkers about what they are consuming, thus fitting it into a wider base of knowledge. Students apply their head knowledge and it transforms into the basis of heart knowledge for their faith and the beginnings of a Christian Worldview.
Classical education gives students tools to impact culture for Christ.
The Rhetoric stage is where students take all they have been learning and focus on expressing it. They practice writing well-composed essays and speeches so that they can positively work to impact the culture around them from their grounding in a Biblical Christian worldview. Students know how to present and defend a thesis through a Christian lens, they can speak persuasively, and they have the tools to advance the Kingdom for the glory of God!
As I became a parent and watch my own children learn, I have seen so much of what I’ve learned by studying the pedagogy of Classical education play out in their lives. I can’t believe how much of what I was seeing in my own children was not being developed in school settings. When we moved to Sioux Falls, Abiding Savior Academy offered the Classical Christian Education we wanted for our boys.
Why Classical Education? It ensures that a full body of knowledge is obtained before asking students to piece all the information together. It works with child development in asking students to do what is at their ability instead of introducing and asking for higher level conceptual thinking of early elementary students. It fills in the gaps that so many students experience. It is a time-tested education over hundreds of years. It is rooted in a Biblical Christian Worldview which students learn to articulate and defend.