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A Timeless Classical Education and How It All Begins in Grammar School

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One of the goals for classical education is to develop students into scholars and patriotic citizens.  In the Western tradition, and before the 1900’s, our country’s leaders in philosophy, theology, and government were classically trained in the liberal arts.  In today’s world, we are lacking such leadership, and thus, see the turn toward classical schooling as our hope to train wise leaders for the future.

The teaching of wise leaders begins in the grammar school, where the overarching goal is to build a foundation for future learning, which we know is a lifelong endeavor.  At the grammar level, the greatest focus is on reading, because it is the source of knowledge in all other disciplines.  Writing also receives great attention in grammar because the written word is the main way ideas are expressed.  Instruction in writing may be taught in English class, but it is practiced in all subject areas.

In the tradition of the trivium, during the early grammar stage there is much memorization of phonograms, math facts, history dates/events/famous people, and the basic vocabulary of the sciences.  This absorption of facts provides that foundation for logical analysis and critical thinking which come at the next level.  By the later stages of grammar, students demonstrate mastery of this body of knowledge and begin to show readiness for the logic stage of classical schooling.  Classical students learn the interconnectedness of all disciplines and viewing them in unison rather than separately.

At a grammar level, study of the fine arts provides a place for self-expression and knowledge of great artists and music in the past. Study of the virtues in a classical grammar school is greatly connected to the characters students read about in classical literature or learn about in history class.  If the end goal of education is to build a mind that seeks truth, then we would be lost without the moral compass provided by learning the virtues.

Although the grammar contribution to developing wise leaders is the initial stage, we feel that it must be done right, with classical methods, developing lifetime habits that serve others well.  Finally, we see the grammar school as the springboard to further learning in the liberal arts, fine arts, and character education.  In a Christian school setting such as Sterling, we set our youngest students up for success with a firm foundation and faith in God as they move into the logic stage where they begin to question the “why” and “how.”

 

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Christian, Classical, and Charlotte Mason

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The origin of classical education is in the ancients who lived in Greece and Rome.  By the Middle Ages and Renaissance, classical education had been formalized into much of what we draw on today.  Both Plato and Aristotle desired to teach children to love what was good, true, and beautiful in order for their conduct to reflect wise understanding.  One of the hallmarks of classical education is the interconnectedness of new to old, one subject to another, and man to all things.

We are so fortunate at Sterling to be able to provide students the type of education that is Christian and classical, and following the philosophy of Charlotte Mason, who valued classical education for its primary purpose being to develop wisdom and virtue in the learner.  Charlotte Mason lived in the late 1800s and recognized that a classical education was tried and true, and that this approach to knowledge was relational or synergistic, providing the learner with an understanding of the unity of all knowledge and our place in the universe. 

While the intellectual aspects of the classical tradition are apparent in a rigorous curriculum which teaches history chronologically, includes the study of Latin, as well as reading from great works of literature, the center of the classical tradition is Christianity.  This is what makes a classical education whole and complete.

If truth is our end goal in a classical education, then God's revelation of Himself through Christ's humanity ensures that our faith is rooted in reason.  A classical education is one that teaches us that truth is real through the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In this knowledge, we learn what it is to be more fully human as we strive to become more Christ-like.

If ever there was an age that needed wise, Godly leaders, who love this nation and desire to serve, this is that time.  I am so proud to be part of our efforts at Sterling to raise up just such leaders for the future.

I will leave you with a scriptural passage...

Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

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