What is Classical Christian Education?
A friend of mine was once asked to give an overview of Classical Christian Education (CCE) in ten minutes. His response? “It can’t be done.” I agree. A sound byte explanation won’t do CCE justice, and you should have an accurate, “big-picture” view of what we do at Grace Lutheran School. So, I will give an introduction here, and then refer you to other articles, websites, and books on the subject. The best way to grasp CCE at GLS is to have an ongoing conversation with those who do understand and engage in it every day.
Classical Christian Education (CCE) was the most successful model of education until the 1800s when Progressive Education became fashionable. The view of man grew more mechanistic in light of the scientific revolution. Education shifted its focus from human development and flourishing to vocational training. Progressive Education (PE) is the dominant model of education in America today, whether public or private, Christian or secular.
The overall goal of CCE is to develop and shape the whole child for successful adult life, fitting him for service to his Creator and his neighbor. CCE seeks to cultivate a mind of wisdom, a heart for God, and a love for learning.
CCE uses a framework called the Trivium to structure its approach to teaching and learning. The Trivium has three phases called Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. These phases correspond to the natural developmental stages of a child. (Dorothy Sayer’s classic piece “The Lost Tools of Learning” goes into further detail about the stages of the Trivium. This is a must-read essay for understanding classical education.)
During the grammar stage, CCE recognizes the capability of a child’s mind for acquiring and retaining large amounts of information. CCE capitalizes on this stage by stocking the mind with facts such as history terms, science categories, math facts, parts of speech, and phonograms. These facts are put into the long-term memory with the help of history songs, grammar chants, time-lines, science sound-offs, and other memory aids.
The logic stage hits about sixth grade. Throughout this time, students, who are thinking more abstractly, take formal logic courses. The goal is to teach them to order their thoughts, reasoning through the associations of the facts they learned in the grammar stage. All things in the world are interrelated. There are causes and effects. Logic-stage students delve deeper into the relationships connecting the facts. Life makes sense when we understand the connections.
Rhetoric-stage students, while still learning facts in all subject areas and delving even deeper into their associations, learn to express their emerging conclusions and convictions clearly and winsomely. This stage culminates in the successful defense of a senior thesis on the student’s topic of choice.
In the Middle Ages, Latin was viewed as an essential ingredient in a true education. There is no question of its benefits for the modern English-speaking student. Over 70% of English words are derived either directly or indirectly from Latin. Considering English words of over two syllables, this percentage rises to over 90%! Because of the likelihood of encountering Latin-based words in reading, the student with a Latin background is well equipped to ascertain the meaning of the new word, thus quickly boosting his vocabulary and reading levels. Imagine how college SAT scores would profit! Learn more about the benefits of Latin here.
At GLS we recognize that the world belongs to God. He created it. He thoroughly understands His creation and can be found everywhere in it. The teacher’s primary job is to lead the students to discover Him where He already is. He is in the absolutes and mercies of math equations. He has governed and appointed the events of history and ordered the ages. He is the One who set the sun in its course above and established the boundary of the sea. He is the One who first used language to speak the world into existence. He has made man in His own image, and through His Son, Jesus Christ, He has rescued and reconciled His own people. Any academic program which leaves out the Creator or merely tips its hat to Him is not offering a true education and is doing a great disservice to students.
Grace Lutheran School seeks to adapt the most successful model of education to the modern day classroom and to teach children to think independently and beneficially for the glory of God and the furthering of His kingdom on earth.