What is classical education?
Classical education has been around since the Greeks and Romans. It trains students how to think so they have tools for learning and can think deeply about all issues of life. It cultivates a life-long love of learning and trains students to think clearly and to reason persuasively with the true wisdom found in Jesus Christ.
Classical and Christian education is often referred to as an education that emphasizes the seemingly outdated virtues of truth, beauty, and goodness. Modern educational trends have left these much-needed virtues behind so that ideological tolerance, multiculturalism, and freedom of choice in our culture trump truth, beauty and goodness. Pursuing classical virtues through education requires a prioritization both in what is taught and how it’s taught. Learning is a path to grow in character and Godly virtue so that the focus is on imitating Christ in our attitudes, our work, our speech, and our character, instead of mere grades or other outcomes. As children pursue the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, they seek to become more like Christ.
Classical education transcends grades, programs, and even the worthy goal of preparing students for college. Education is not a means to an end (e.g., “to get into a good college.”). Rather, education becomes an end in itself when the goals converge on being like Christ.
To accomplish this, the three parts (“trivium”) of a classical education concentrate on the liberal arts and match students’ cognitive development and teach grammar, logic, and rhetoric so that students first gain knowledge, then understanding, and finally wisdom in accordance with their maturing abilities.
Grammar (Pre-K – 6)
Students receive the necessary tools and facts of learning in a variety of subjects such as history, science, Latin, math, music, grammar, and reading. Memorizing through chants and songs equips students with the foundational building blocks of learning while their minds are most receptive to memorization and observation.
Logic (7 – 9)
Students take the mastered information from the Grammar Stage and bring it into ordered relationships. They begin to apply logic to assess the validity of arguments and learn to view information critically with a more discerning mind. This stage of dialectic learning takes advantage of a student’s need to know how and why in addition to what.
Rhetoric (10 – 12)
Students learn to articulate eloquently and persuasively, and to use the tools of knowledge and understanding acquired in the earlier stages. This is the point at which the strength of a classical education is made fully visible. In addition, students take a tour through Europe as a capstone experience to their rhetoric years, and conclude their senior year by writing, presenting, and defending a thesis to a panel of faculty and expert judges.
Along with the trivium approach, a classical education at Providence incorporates a strong core liberal arts curriculum as students study the great works of the Western World. Our focus on the core curriculum includes Latin in grades 4-10; ancient and modern history; science classes including biology, chemistry, and physics; math courses including calculus; logic; 2 years of rhetoric; 6 years of art; music theory and choral music at every grade level; and literature including Homer, Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain.
To learn more about the foundation of the Classical Education movement, read how others describe it:
- “The Lost Tools of Learning” essay, by Dorothy Sayers
- A Parent’s Guide to Classical Education
- What is Classical Education? (blog post by Providence Headmaster, Ryan Evans)
- Common Objections to Christian Classical Education (Peter Hansen, Headmaster, Annapolis Christian Academy)