In 2011 Zion Lutheran School formally adopted a classical model of education. What does this mean? It means that we follow a format of instruction and curriculum that includes the teaching of Latin, Logic, and Rhetoric. We teach children more than just facts and what to learn; but how to learn, how to think, and how to solve problems.
Classical education is not a new method of learning. In fact, it has been a sound and proven philosophy of education for hundreds of years and has produced some of the greatest minds in history. It can be understood in part by its methodology called the Trivium. The Trivium includes the teaching of Latin, Logic and Rhetoric. It has three stages of instruction:
1. The Grammar Stage is the study of fundamentals of various subjects like history, science, math, and language arts, in order to build a framework of knowledge on which later information can be hung. Latin is the paradigm discipline of the Grammar Stage and begins in the third grade. The goal is to teach the students from K-5th grade facts of who, what, where and when, at a time when memorization of facts is easy and fun.
2. The Dialectic or Logic Stage begins in the middle school and brings the data of the Grammar Stage into ordered relationship. Formal and informal logic is taught with the goal of equipping the students with thinking skills, making them capable of detecting sound and fallacious arguments. Questions of how and why are thoroughly addressed with this age group.
3. The Rhetoric Stage makes use of the data of the Grammar Stage and the reasoning skills of the Dialectic Stage. Combined they teach our junior high students (7th & 8th grades) how to express what they think eloquently and persuasively. These are the years when we offer confirmation instruction. This stage continues into the high school years. Because of this method, two goals are achieved. The first goal is that basics of sound education are successfully imparted. What a joy to see children who can read well and problem solve! The second is to see our young graduates go into high school and college with a firm grasp on the tools of learning. It will be a pleasure to see young men and women who can think.
At the focus of all teaching and learning is the Word of God. We unapologetically and unashamedly stand firm on God’s revelation of Himself and all of His creation. His Law and Gospel, which permeate all of Scripture, will be revealed. How can you have true learning without the truth at the base? God’s Word gives us this foundation. Learning that takes place without a Biblical worldview builds a hollow structure, weak at its very foundations and destined to collapse. Because God created the heavens and the earth, its orders and rules, it is impossible to teach any truth or any knowledge without Him. Therefore, we seek to teach all subjects as parts of an integrated whole with the Scriptures at the center.
To many, the term Classical Education conjures images of ivy-covered institutions with more interest in striking a child’s knuckles and teaching dry subjects than in educating. As with any “image” truth is determined not by the angle or spin applied by Hollywood producers in movies like the Dead Poets Society, but by the real and tested results proven through centuries of educating children with the classical method.
Not only do we want to teach our students the skills necessary to make a living, we also want our students to be able to live richer and fuller lives. For education to be effective, it must go beyond conveying facts. Truly effective education cultivates thinking, articulate students, who are able to develop facts into arguments and convey those arguments clearly and persuasively.
There is no greater task for education than to teach students how to learn. The influence of “progressive” teaching methods and the oversimplification of textbooks make it difficult for students to acquire the mental discipline that traditional instruction methods once cultivated. The classical method develops independent learning skills on the foundation of language, logic, and tangible fact. The Lutheran classical school will develop these same skills built on the foundation of God’s Holy Word. Add to this the catechesis instruction of the Lutheran faith and you have a sound education foundation.