Every day there are more students and more schools that are joining the classical education movement. Just as there was a wide diversity of how students were educated in antiquity, there are many ways of expressing classical Christian education today. Diversity can be found from the classes taught, curriculum used, and books read to whether we organize our classes in circles or rows. So, how does Fortis Academy express classical Christian education? I think it can be summed up as preparing our children to join in the Great Conversation. If we really want to understand history or modern culture, we need to understand the ideas behind them. This is why the great books that confront us with the ideas that have shaped our world, especially of the Western canon (though being introduced to world religions is definitely in line with classical principles and education, for classicists studied everything), are a staple of classical education. Yet reading great books and familiarizing ourselves with the great ideas is only part of joining the Great Conversation. Our children need to learn to think for themselves, analyze what they read in light of biblical truth, and be able to communicate eloquently orally and through writing in order to truly join the Great Conversation. This type of education, called a liberal arts education, prepares our children to go into any profession including STEM vocations. That is the emphasis of a Fortis classical Christian education.
What does this practically mean for Christian parents? Let’s be honest, I think there are two fundamental goals we have as parents: that our children leave our homes strong in their faith (including conduct, character and responsibility) and prepared to succeed in the world. At the heart of this preparation is teaching our children to think, and not just telling them what to think. This is a very important distinction that gets at the heart of preparing our children to join the Great Conversation. Our children need to be prepared to face any moral and intellectual challenges by being able to analyze the logic, understand their relationship to the great ideas and to analyze them in light of scripture. In other words, we need to equip our children to be Christian thinkers and to be self-learners. The process of teaching children to think rather than what to think is truly classical and can also be considered common sense education. It the type of education that empowered our forefathers to be very industrious and to be fearless in the face of challenges. It gave them the confidence and creativity they needed to be successful in life. That is what we want for our children.
This year we have been looking at everything we do at Fortis Academy to see how it lines up with our classical Christian educational goals. It is very exciting to me that asking a Kindergartener to figure out which letter they wrote backwards (instead of telling them) is just as much a part of a classical education as asking students who have read a book if anyone was a good friend in in it. This type of thinking and self-learning at the foundational developmental years prepares our students wrestle with modern culture in light of the great ideas and scripture in the school of Rhetoric. The whole goal is to have them prepared to go out into this world fully prepared for life.