Tuning Hearts. Training Minds. To the Glory of Christ.
At Kawartha Classical Christian School (KCCS), we believe that there is more to education than academics. Plato once said that education is “learning to love what is worth loving” (Republic). As Christians, we know that our highest aim is to love God with our whole being—heart, soul, mind, and strength.
We want to suggest that this looks like giving the next generation a Classical Christian education. In short, our aim is to tune hearts and to train minds to live and to love to the glory of Christ—hence the motto of our school.
Andrew Kern of the CiRCE Institute has helpfully said that children are not products to be measured, but souls to be nurtured. Our hearts were created to resonate with God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. Psalm 19 says: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork” and then, in verse 7, we read: “the instruction of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the heart.” When education teaches the truth of God’s Word and values what He deems lovely, thirsty hearts are refreshingly quenched.
At KCCS, we strive to shepherd children’s hearts in our educational endeavour by being:
True learning begins with acknowledging that all things have been created by and for Christ, and that it is through him that all things hold together (Col. 1:17). Consequently, there is a purpose and coherence to reality and we should not be surprised to find that so many subjects share a common thread of unity. In addition, we believe that all of God’s revealed knowledge can be discovered, organized and taught; thus, a Classical Christian education is the pursuit of a unifying principle, for all knowledge and action.
Since children are more than biological receptacles of data, we believe an appropriate education must be more than simply supplying information, but must extend to the shaping of a child’s character and the cultivation of virtue. We see this emphasis as integral to the wise and compassionate exercise of knowledge.
A Classical Christian education believes education should be motivated by a sense of wonder and that schools should serve to cultivate and guide its development and maturity. From this perspective, we believe a successful education not only focuses on the nuts and bolts of what a child is learning but on training them how to learn, which will equip and inspire them towards a lifelong love of learning.
Beauty is the loveliness that compels us towards what is true and good. A Classical Christian education recognizes that God has revealed Himself through the beauty of creation (Rom. 1:20) and that creation itself declares the glory of God (Ps. 19). We therefore prioritize being outdoors and experiencing nature in hands on ways, learning to attend to the details, colors and intricate beauty therein. Similarly, the limited creativity of human beings - whether expressed in music, fine arts or some other area - echoes the glory of our Creator God. We therefore prioritize the study of great works of art and music, and the practice of reproducing them in great detail as a means of “apprenticing with the masters” and thereby becoming capable of great art ourselves.
While we do not believe that education is most fundamentally about the mind, it is shaped by how the mind is used. Tuning hearts well requires that we train minds well. The head serves the heart. In order for students to live virtuously, they have to be trained to understand the world and live wisely. The Classical approach is thoughtfully structured and well suited to this end through being:
A Classical education focuses on the study of classic literature, time-tested books that have proven themselves worthy of this title. The Classical tradition has preserved the best and most inspiring written works (myths, stories, etc.) to pass onto future generations. Reading these great works allows students to join what Mortimer Adler calls the “Great Conversation” as they focus less on their own ideas (self expression, personal creativity, etc.) and the novel or “cutting edge” pontifications of the day, but instead enter into the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages.
In a Classical education, written and spoken words are the primary conduits of learning, rather than images (pictures, videos and television). This is because words are recognized as having immeasurable significance. By God’s word were all things created (Gen.1). Then He gave Adam the job of naming (with words!) creation. Jesus cast out demons and healed with words, and faith comes through hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). Thus, students are encouraged to apply their minds to the work of translating the words on a page into concepts, rather than passively receiving already-packaged information from a screen or image.
Consequently, Classical schools are known for teaching not only the English language, but the classical languages (primarily Latin, and sometimes Greek as well) from a young age. Although Latin is no longer a popular spoken language, the study of Latin provides students with the tools of language learning so that their mastery of English as well as the “Romance languages” (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian) is greatly enhanced.
True comprehension of any subject lies in mastering three elements. One must first know the facts, one must then understand the principles behind the facts, and finally, one must be able to articulate and apply those principles to life. Looking back into history, we see the Greeks had already arranged these three basic pillars into an educational paradigm that became known as the trivium. The three elements of this paradigm (Grammar, Dialectic/Logic, and Rhetoric) correspond roughly with the stages of mastery we have already mentioned (knowing the facts, understanding the principles, applying the principles to life and expressing them.)
Although each of these pillars are present to some degree at every stage throughout a child’s educational life, the trivium recognizes the natural stages of child development and seeks to educate in harmony with these stages. Thus, it can generally be said that children in the Grammar stage (grades K-4) are situated ideally for exposure to great literature, music, and language (both mathematical and linguistic). Their minds readily absorb information and thus their education focuses on acquiring facts and exposing them to beautiful truth in God’s world through chants, songs and other techniques. This early learning provides the building blocks for future learning. In the Logic/Dialectic phase (grades 5-8), the student’s capacity for abstract thoughts increases. Children are encouraged to investigate the “why’s” behind their “what’s” and are introduced to formal logic. The final stage (grades 9-12) is Rhetoric, where students will be taught to express their thoughts clearly, elegantly and persuasively in the public sphere.
A Classical Christian education views all knowledge as interrelated and shows many links between fields of study so that nothing is learned in isolation. This is done by taking History as the organizing outline and backdrop for all learning. History is divided into the following periods: Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern Times. One year is spent on each period, starting with the Ancients and working up to Modern Times by Grade 4. This is repeated from grades 5 to 8, and again from grades 9 to 12, with the material being covered in greater depth as a child moves up to higher grades. Other subjects are then linked to what is being studied in History. For example, sciences are studied in a way that connects scientific knowledge to the historical time period in which it was discovered. This systematic and cohesive approach to learning teaches the students to find their place in the larger story of the world, rather than viewing themselves as the center of the world.
A Classical education adopts a rigorous approach to learning that encourages students to persevere in order to master a subject. The virtue of self-discipline is developed as students are expected to do what is right (e.g. apply themselves to learning new subjects), even when it runs against their natural inclinations. This emphasis on mastery ensures competence in the basic tools of learning early on, which will work to increase confidence in later grades as more advanced principles are presented.
to the glory of christ
At the heart of our philosophy we believe that there is something, or rather someone, who brings everything worth enjoying and worth living-out together in one harmonious song. He is Christ.
Classical Christian education does not aimlessly suggest what is true and beautiful; it whole-heartedly demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the unifying theme in all things. All subjects are integrated because Jesus Christ holds them together.
We do not call ourselves a Christian school because we have a Bible class, but because we teach all things with the goal of showing the truth, goodness, and beauty of Christ.
By God’s grace, we seek to tune hearts and to train minds to see and savour Jesus, so that we and our children may cry out together with the apostle Paul:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Christopher A. Perrin’s “An Introduction to Classical Education”
Dorothy Sayers’ essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning”
Rebekah Merkle’s book, Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education
Monica Whatley’s book, Shaping Hearts and Minds: A Case For Classical Christian Education
Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans’ book, Wisdom and Eloquence