"Christian education has become something of a lost science. Not only have Christians done very little to prepare their children to become godly intellects, but intellectual incompetence has been seen as the true helpmate of vital spirituality. A soft mind has been seen as a vital tool in the pursuit of a soft heart. In our day, mental rigor and a vigorous intellectual pursuit have became equated with doctrinal rigidity and cold spirituality. " (Fritz Hinrichs)
This quote is reflective of the reason why we have opted for a classical education in our homeschool. We do not desire, nor aspire to raise kids who do not have a mental rigor and are intellectually incompetent.
We have lost our way through the ages as to what we as christian should be doing. We have turned our christianity into a set of rules, into moralism, instead of the proclamation of the kingdom of God, and of a reigning king that rules and owns all things.
"Until a hundred years ago, Christians were in the forefront of all cultural institutions shaping politics, business, philosophy, science, literature, music and art. The reasons for the decline of Christian influence are complex and varied, but the abdication of Christians in the field of education is a major contribution. In 1961, Harry Blamires could write, “There is no longer a Christian mind.” Since 1961, I am glad to say, there has been a good deal of ground regained, but nothing approaching what was once held. Classical educators are seeking to help recover the Christian mind and prepare extraordinarily-equipped leaders who “can take every thought captive for Christ” and shape and lead the cultural" (Christopher A. Perrin)Certainly, Scripture equips us to know God and His will but true knowledge does not stop there. As mentioned in my previous posts in this series, the world is God's world and our knowledge of God initiated and guided by His special revelation in Scripture is continued and enriched in our study of His world. God means for us to understand beauty, value, goodness. These are also found in His creation because it bears His imprint (common grace), but have been marred; and we as christians, who truly know God, are called to regain it and point others to it.
"In this engagement God's special revelation, centering on the person of Jesus Christ, is our starting point, for like our sun, not only can we see it, but by it we are enable to see everything else more clearly, so it is that we study not only God and His ways, but also what He has made: the natural world, History society, the arts, the realm of ideas, the church, culture, politics, the future, ourseles. Nothing is out of interest to us because nothing is without interest to Him. All these and more are dimensions of the world God has made, of the world he loves and is in the process of redeeming. We honor and learn of Him, by honoring and learning of it: the work of His hands." ( Duane Litfin - Liberal Arts for the Christian Mind)Now, that said, how does a classical education translate in our modern world and in a homeschool setting? We will look at a few elements that must be present for an education to be truly classical:
- A focus on language which includes structure and communication: the study of English grammar, spelling, proper writing and comprehension, as well as other languages, especially Latin and Greek, all make up for a well rounded foundation for good language skills. You cannot interact with what you cannot understand at the bare level of words and meaning. You cannot communicate to be understood if you do not know the basics of good communication. You do need to make sense to your audience, and you need to be able to understand them.
- A focus on History: History is the bed of what has happened and what is most likely bound to repeat itself. There is much to learn from civilizations before us, good and bad. At the same time History is a way to see the hands and plans of God at work. The Bible was written in time, within a historical context, and just for that, understanding History helps us understand certain passages of Scripture better.
- A focus on critical thinking and logic: This is where Mathematics comes in. Before studying formal logic and critical thinking, one must understand and have a high regard for the order and logic that exists in this world, which comes from it being created by creator who is the author of logic and order. Critical thinking is a skill that is cultivated and practiced over time, starting with the study of mathematics. In studying Math, kids can start developing thinking and reasoning skills, while discovering the beauty of it all in the process.
- A focus on the great books of literature: The reading and study of books that have passed the test of time, opens your minds to new realities, to human struggles and joys, to deepest longings, to values such as good and evil, heroism, friendship, courage, boldness, etc... It helps to understand and discern the influences that have shaped our culture. An other added benefit is that it also serves to open and cultivate the imagination.
So, in our homeschool these are the elements that we make sure are covered and taught consistently: Grammar, and the basics of the language arts, the reading of good books, Math study and practice, and History.
" Many ask why we need a classical education when we could exclusively study the scriptures. The question is understandable for if we forsake the study of the scriptures, we run the dangerous risk of developing thoughts that are uninformed by God’s truth. On the other hand, if we do not study the world, both past and present, we will read the scriptures without the context that God chose to speak them into. The more we study both the world and the Bible, the more we will understand both. Let us not confuse the Bible, which is the norm of knowledge, and the world, which is the stage whereon we accomplish the pursuit of knowledge."
"If we desire to raise a generation of young Christians who hold firmly to the truth of their faith, we must not forget to exhort them to study and remember what the Lord has done. The works of those authors who have looked most closely at human life and attempted to give expression to its profoundest mysteries provide our best opportunity to develop the experience in which wisdom can slowly take root." (Fritz Hinrichs)Tomorrow, we will turn to what I mean by relaxed homeschooling.
Other posts in the series:
A Philisophy of Education
What is Classical Education?
What is Relaxed Homeschooling
Combining Classical and Relaxed