What is Christian education?
Without getting into a long list of Bible references, Christian education is a response to God’s Word to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This does not simply mean taking children to church and reading the Bible. It is, of course, much more than that. Since God created the world and all that is in it, a truly Christian education seeks to consider every area of knowledge and ethics in the context of biblical truth. This cultivation of a Christian worldview trains children to bring all thoughts captive in Christ, and to see the world from a God-centred perspective. Practically speaking, Tree of Life fosters a Christian education in its curriculum through regular interplay between Biblical truth and every other subject, as well as an emphasis on the roots, faith, and doctrine of the historic Christian Church.
What is classical education?
The term ‘classical education’ evokes different impressions, and carries with it various connotations depending on the source. It would be unfair to characterize it as old-fashioned education from the 19th century one-room schoolhouse, nor is classical education necessarily “humanistic” in nature. To give a fairly broad definition, classical education with Tree of Life has two goals:
1) Applying time-tested educational methods and learning skills. Sometimes the methods of classical education are defined by the medieval trivium of liberal arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Grammar teaches the structure of language, logic uncovers the processes of right thinking and of the science of argument, and rhetoric develops the skills of persuasive expression. Although the later 20th century resurgence of classical education saw these three arts as sequential with a child’s development (ie. first, the grammar “stage”, etc.), these arts can all be cultivated and blended throughout the course of a child’s education in different ways. For Tree of Life, these classical educational methods and skills include, but not limited to:
- memorizing/reciting literature
- narrating stories
- studying logic
- outlining and summarizing material
- developing and analyzing arguments
- learning classical languages (eg. Latin)
- Socratic discussions
- crafting persuasive essays
A student who has been taught through classical methods becomes capable of learning independently, thinking critically, and communicating gracefully and effectively.
2) Valuing the rich content, ideas, literature, and art from Western civilization. The content of classical education goes beyond the “traditional” (20th century) school subjects to help cultivate deeper historical knowledge, creativity, worldview awareness, and an appreciation for beautiful things and great ideas. The classical content includes the ideas and writings that have influenced our civilization to the present day, as well as great examples of human imagination and genius worthy of imitation; these are often the best masters and teachers to study. It should be said, however, that the aim is not to celebrate ancient pagan mythology, or to emulate a man-centred view of the world, or to copy the faults from man’s thinking. Instead, a familiarity with the course of Western civilization provides a powerful framework for Christian worldview formation. Tree of Life emphasizes ancient and world history, music and art appreciation, logic, rhetoric, classical literature, and biographies, in addition to other basic subjects including mathematics and sciences.
It should also be mentioned that classical education need not be seen as stiff and static, stuck in a previous century, allowing no changes in ideas. Instead, Tree of Life believes that classical education is accessible, exciting, open to improvement, and ready to equip young people for faith and service in the 21st century. Furthermore, we acknowledge that other methodologies of homeschooling education may have value for differing needs of children and families, and some often have significant common ground with the classical education we offer, such as the Charlotte Mason approach.
When taken together, Christian and Classical education provides for a rich and structured approach to homeschooling that gives children tools for learning, thinking, and communicating, as well as a biblical perspective in all areas of life.