The Classical Approach to Education in the Christian Home


A Classical Approach to Education in the Christian Home

Innovation and novelty are two mind weapons used against children in the typical, public classroom. As teachers attempt to keep their broken vessel of Humanism afloat their desperation is pumped up, extending from buying computers (supposed to solve all problems) all the way to resurrecting older, discarded methodologies. Christians should know how to keep their teaching sails full and avoid being drawn in to crazy trends. Many are doing it by means of homeschooling.

Our Lord, the Author of all learning, has provided a blueprint for effective teaching. His strategy and pedagogy is embodied in the "classical" approach to education.

The Starting Point
God made the mind of a child to grow and operate according to a discernible pattern. Basic principles provide the solid block foundation for later curiosity and investigation to build upon. Later still, competence to analyze ideas and ability to communicate them develops so that data and issues may be debated and presented to others. These three stages of learning are sometimes discussed under the designation of the Trivium.

The Learning Process
The trivium refers to a three part educational grid. In this proven and effective program the child is first taught the grammar of learning. This means the basic foundation that supports any given subject. The rules of phonics are the grammar of reading and spelling. Memorization of addition and subtraction facts and the times-tables, the grammar of mathematics, prepares the way for learning the calculus.

Second place involves a period of questioning and challenging the facts. This often begins sometime during the 5th or 6th grades. Basics are still being learned, but now the child may initiate some thinking on his own. Proofs are needed. Trial and examination may be called for to spark further learning.

Eventually, a third stage is reached. Here students are ready, in some degree, to express their thinking. This is a time of striking out on one's own, taking a positive stand and communicating ideas that have been formed.

Alternative Methodology
How do current teaching methods differ? Why is most of the educational world in turmoil and embarrassment? What is the error being made in American schools?

Negative reasons center around the elimination of subjects such as Latin and the teaching of phonics. They have to do with an over use of inductive methodology, a "just do the exercise your way" and we will try to correct the errors later mentality. The error is the extreme aversion to rules and standards. Resultant academic failure is then quickened by the Humanistic antipathy to real discipline.

The root cause of the educational paralysis is, of course, theological. Mankind positively chooses for himself decline and death, in preference to submission to God. The policies of Horace Mann, John Dewey and others have taken their toll and the diabolical design of those who wish to "level the economic playing field" have come true.2 The "tender mercies of the wicked" indeed, "are cruel."3 Humanism, the religion of man, attempts to eradicate all that flows from Christ and Christian influence in the Western nations.

A Better Way
Why is the Classical approach a better way? What makes it more biblical, more effective? There are at least two controlling reasons! First, the disciplined style that is built in and, second, the simple fact that it works better for almost all children.

"Classical" Works Better For More Children
Other methodologies, such as unit studies, may be more interesting for parents and packaged curriculums are easier to use, but the eclectic, classical approach really works best for all kinds of learners.

It provides the broader base upon which to build a logical structure of knowledge. If something was missed or not clearly understood, you can go back and cover it again. You always know where you are on the scale. Also, you are learning to employ principles that will apply all along the line. You are not simply specializing here and there. Deductive teaching gives the tools and the raw material, then encourages inquiry and experimentation. Finally, based on learned data and experience, the student begins with a measure of confidence, to communicate ideas to others.

Another strong factor is the authoritative base note that resounds throughout the program. This reflects its superior faithfulness to the biblical method. Children, all learners, need to hear a steady note on the instructional trumpet. Opposing programs tend to be too free-wheeling, too inductively oriented, seeking direction and answers from the child, instead of from the authority source.

The Key Role of Discipline
This leads into the disciplinary aspect of the "Classical Approach." At the core of all education is the requirement of order. Families without dependable and consistent discipline cannot be successful in homeschooling. The Classical method helps greatly in achieving this goal by its obvious line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept structure.

Innovation, novelty and an intelligent use of inductive methodology can work effectively if an orderly and precise educational base is already in place. They are often destructive, however, when used exclusively.

Some especially intelligent children can learn under any system. A few could learn even if they were forbidden to study, but the great majority of youngsters respond best to the Classical model.

Rev. Dale K. Dykema

End Notes

  1. Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning, Methuen & Co., Ltd., London. Originally read by D. Sayers at Oxford, 1947. [back to text]
  2. Samuel L. Blumenfeld, NEA Trojan Horse In American Education, The Paradigm Co., Boise, ID, 1984, p.112. [back to text]
  3. Proverbs 12:10 [back to text]
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Covenant Home Curriculum - All rights reserved. Created and maintained WSI
This site is optimized for Netscape 4 and Internet Explorer 5 or higher. Please download an updated version.