When I joined the Fortis family this year, I was excited to discover the curriculum aligning mottos of the Academy: multum non multa (much, not many) and from Charlotte Mason: “I am, I can, I ought, I will.” I’d like to reaffirm the value of these two mottos and encourage the understanding that, indeed, it is the less is more philosophy of Fortis that creates and fosters a knowledge within the students of their own abilities and allows them to make the second motto – “I am, I can, I ought, I will” – not just a school motto, but their own.
A common misunderstanding of Classical Christian Education is due to the misuse of the term rigor. While often thought to be appropriately applied as meaning extremely thorough or exhaustive, a more appropriate definition in terms of a Fortis education would be demanding. But even that definition requires understanding that the education is rigorous in quality, not quantity; that less is more – multum non multa.
As the school year begins, parents, students, and even teachers may feel overwhelmed and rushed – there is much to do to settle into the new routine and many changes have occurred and will continue to occur. However, what will become evident as we travel down this road is that the changes in both curriculum and philosophy are working together to gradually achieve the desired goal of depth, not breadth; quality over quantity.
Teach a man to fish…
This road is based on the understanding that if you teach students to think and learn, their education will continue throughout their lives.
Depth provides the opportunity for our children to learn for themselves; to develop skills while struggling with the how’s and the whys. When students learn only what they are taught, they are as limited as the information they are provided. When students are trained in how to learn, there is nothing that will be denied them. Their education is limited only by their interest and desire.
Also known as active learning, the opportunity to struggle with difficult concepts, discover solutions for themselves, and develop strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as develop the ability to communicate well through both the spoken and written word allows students to own their education. Knowledge is no longer simply provided or required, but becomes instead an opportunity to discover and hone their interests, abilities, values, and purpose: “I am, I can, I ought, I will.”
So how does this play out in the classical curriculum?
First, the number of subjects is limited to a few key disciplines allowing for creativity and depth. Time is now available for active learning; tools such as narration, Socratic dialogue, discussion and student led learning which create an environment of active engagement and provide opportunities for the required skills of learning to develop.
Second, integrated learning can occur. The classical mind understands that all knowledge is interrelated. An example in practice: a first-grade class narration exercise that the teacher writes on the board as the students contribute ideas may include spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension lessons while also developing collaborative and group etiquette skills. Or perhaps the reading of the Odyssey may lead to class discussion of Greek history and man’s understanding of the divine, the nature of heroism, and the development of the epic poetry. Just as the story of the world is all one story – God’s story – so integrated learning provides an opportunity for students to see the connections that bring about a more authentic understanding of God’s creation and their place within.
What you won’t see at Fortis Academy is busywork—workbook overload, redundant curricula, compartmentalized learning and excessive “escape” reading (a practice for getting students to read where book choices are based on the assumption that students can and will only read books that will not overtax their patience or vocabulary.) Instead the students’ work time is streamlined. Rolling subjects together further reduces wasted time and mental energy. The time savings provides the students time to pursue additional interests such as sports, dance, or cooking. Parents will find that their preparation time is much reduced as they eliminate redundant subjects and learn alongside their children.
The principle of less is more has been subordinated in modern education to what may be termed multum optimum in se – more is necessarily better. You, the parents and educators of Fortis Academy, have chosen differently. Multum non multa is the road you have chosen. And because of that choice, “I am, I can, I ought, I will” is the journey of your children.