Whitefield Academy Blog
Classical Christian Education: Why is it Successful?
At Whitefield Academy we teach from an eternal perspective. Our motto “Omnis Scientia Ad Dei Gloriam” means “All Knowledge to the Glory of God.” True knowledge begins with a reverent and loving desire to please and serve God as He is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. We believe that, as Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
John Milton synthesized this truth when he wrote:
“The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.” – On Education
What schools teach accounts for much of a student’s success, but how schools teach is equally as important. Our classical and Christian methods are time-tested—going back over two thousand years. Yet even though these methods are old, current brain research shows that these methods are the most successful.
The Seven Liberal Arts
We focus on discrete or specific skills that make up the combined seven liberal arts. These arts come from the Trivium which includes Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric; and the Quadrivium which traditionally includes Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. Using the three Trivium Arts we train the mind to comprehend and to write (Grammar), analyze and make judgments (Logic) and then to synthesize and compose (Rhetoric) texts in order to solve particular problems with wisdom. The Quadrivium Arts have been expanded in our modern day to also include Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus. These Arts teach the quantitative skills and explore all aspects of Matter. They require students to learn about numbers, to understand concepts of math and science, to engage with the specific vocabulary of those concepts, and to read the unique related texts.
How We Teach
Classical education builds precept upon precept. We use the Language Arts (Trivium) and the Mathematical Arts (Quadrivium), mentioned above, to pursue wisdom and understanding. In all the Arts, students begin with the basic building blocks and advance to more complex skills. For example, younger students begin their study of the English language by studying phonograms, the 70 sounds that make up all English words. As they master these basic skills they acquire the ability to “decode” words, that is to read. They build upon their decoding ability to attain fluency, which then leads to the skill of comprehending ever more difficult texts. When they advance to the Logic stage, students begin to analyze the writing and speaking of others; they learn to create persuasive arguments through more and more difficult exercises, eventually advancing to the Rhetoric stage where they are able to create and defend their own writing. With this method, we provide a variety of unique contexts for the exploration of new areas of learning and the ongoing review of the skills mastered in earlier years and reinforced through our vertically integrated curriculum.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Because we use a variety of contexts to apply what students learn, this causes our students to think deeply about the use of these skills. We can say this in another way: learning requires practice and practice is effective in multiple settings. Practice includes standards of excellence, rules of obedience, and the production of goods. These goods are both external and internal. For example, the external is a well-written paragraph. The internal is the fortitude the student draws on to complete the exercise. Mastery of skills in this manner creates fluency in both verbal and quantitative reasoning. This allows the transference of these skills to new and unique situations.
The fundamental difference between our classical model of education and a “modern” approach lies in whether the mental skills of each student are assumed or are explicitly developed. While the contemporary approach assumes verbal and quantitative skills are already present or that they will emerge on their own, our methodology recognizes that the skills associated with learning must be gradually, explicitly, and thoroughly taught. The latter produces students who are well-rounded, logical reasoners, ready to apply their knowledge and wisdom to a variety of careers and opportunities. The difference is profound in a student’s learning experience.