Updated: Oct 30
Last week I described the significance of what we call things. Names, far from being arbitrary and meaningless, are truly significant and we see that in the Bible and in our history as human beings. This week I'd like to start turning our attention toward adjectives we have chosen to describe what we are here at Oaks; a classical, Christian, hybrid model school. Fear not, I'm not going to attempt to march through all of that in one post, in fact, let's just start with "classical." That term alone requires volumes to truly plumb the depths of.
If you called up Memoria Press, Classical Academic Press, Classical Conversations, and the Circe Institute and asked for a definition of "classical education" you would probably get some very good answers. However, they would all sound a little bit different from one another. Some may put special emphasis on the "ages and stages" of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Others may focus on the liberal arts tradition. Some may wax eloquently about pointing students to the true, good, and beautiful while training them in wisdom and virtue. Still others would emphasize the Great Books and the Great Conversation. One of the beautiful things about classical education is that there is room for all of those things because it is not a monolithic school of thought that is guarded by men with white beards wearing togas while speaking Latin.
To begin to describe our understanding of classical education I would say that it is, at once, an educational philosophy, a pedagogy, and a curriculum. That is, it informs why we teach, how we teach, and what we teach. Ultimately we teach in order to equip students to live wise and virtuous lives, and to partner with parents as they raise their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
As most of you know at Oaks we try to follow the educational philosophy described by Charlotte Mason who we believe was situated firmly in the classical tradition. Mason believed that children were actual people (radical idea!) and that forming their minds and souls was more than simply pumping them full of facts and figures. She placed a premium on reading good books because she understood that it is through story that we learn about virtue and vice. If you've read C.S Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader you may remember that Eustace Scrubb was very intelligent and had read many books, but when the situation demanded certain knowledge we are told that he hadn't read the "right kind of books." We want to ensure that, in a day in time when classic books are being cancelled and the world is in desperate need of biblical wisdom, our students are reading the "right kind" to prepare them for a life here and in eternity.
How we teach at Oaks is a direct consequence of that philosophy; we read great books, talk about the content of what we have read (narrate it), and have meaningful discussions about the ideas contained therein.
Our philosophy and pedagogy are supported by the material we choose to use. This is why we put an emphasis on things like nature study, music, languages, history, and so forth. The subjects that we teach are not disparate subjects that should never come in contact with one another; as if students gifted in science and math should not have to concern themselves with humanities. Instead they are all meant to serve the education of the whole person in truth, goodness, and beauty.
So there, I've added my two cents to the ongoing conversation about classical education. I hope that it may have given you a bit of insight into our understanding at Oaks. If not, sorry for muddying the waters! Next week we'll talk about what it means to be "Christian." That should be fun!
Soli Deo Gloria,