What is Classical Christian Education?

Teaching Truth, Goodness, and Beauty to the Glory of God

What is classical education?

Classical Education is language-focused, and it has a lot to do with content instead of images or visuals. It is a method of teaching children according to the medieval understanding of how children develop. Dorothy Sayers defines these three stages as Parrot, Pert, and Poet in her wonderful essay, The Lost Tools of Learning.

Grammar (Parrot)

The first stage calls for the storing of knowledge, often referred to as the Grammar Stage. Children find it easy to memorize facts and rules. It’s all about filling up the “sponges” with as much content as possible. Ages 4-10.

Logic (Pert)

The second stage calls for understanding, otherwise known as the Logic Stage. Children now begin to make sense of what they have learned. They will start to reason and analyze the information they have accumulated. Ages 10-14.

Rhetoric (Poet)

And the last stage calls for wisdom, what Classical educators call the Rhetoric stage. Most children at this age yearn for self-expression and independence. It is also at this stage where they acquire communication skills so that they apply and integrate the things they have learned. Ages 14-18.

Distinctly Christian WORLDVIEW

While modern education seeks to put the child in the center of all learning, Classical Christian Education sees that God is the center of all learning. It recognizes that all truth is God’s truth, and that one cannot fully distinguish truth and error without understanding God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. Everything should then be examined through the lenses of Scripture, as it relates to God and His revelation. Children need not be shielded from the plethora of opposing philosophies and harsh realities of life. Rather, they need to be grounded firmly on the Word of God, which will then arm them with the grid whereby they can sift through different ideas that will come their way.

N.D. Wilson, son of Classical Christian Education proponent Doug Wilson, wrote this excellent piece on how to train children in his book Notes From The Tilt-The-Whirl:

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.

I truly believe that Classical Christian Education will give children the tools to do just that. Children will learn how to acquire information (Grammar), how to think critically (Logic), and how to communicate with clarity (Rhetoric).

Francis Schaeffer once said about education:

If Christianity is not just one more religion, one more upper story kind of thing… then it has something to say about all the disciplines, and it certainly has something to say about the humanities and the arts and the appreciation of them. And I want to say quite firmly, if your Christian school does not do this, I do not believe it is giving a good education… True Christian education is not a negative thing; it is not a matter of isolating the student from the full scope of knowledge. Isolating the student from large sections of human knowledge is not the basis of a Christian education. Rather it is giving him or her the framework or total truth, rooted in the Creator’s existence and in the Bible’s teaching, so that in each step of the formal learning process the student will understand what is true and what is false and why it is true or false. It is not isolating students from human knowledge. It is teaching them in a framework of the total Biblical teaching, beginning with the tremendous central thing, that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It is teaching in this framework, so that on their own level, as they are introduced to all of human knowledge, they are not introduced in the midst of a vacuum, but they are taught each step along the way why what they are hearing is either true or false. That is true education. The student, then, is an educated person.

Classical Christian Education is where knowledge and virtue converge. But ultimately, the goal is for children to recognize and treasure truth, goodness, and beauty, to the glory of God.

 

Resources

Learn more about the Trivium and Christian Christian Education from these valuable resources:

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