Trying to explain classical education can be really difficult, because it’s so different from what most people think of as school, even though some of its outside appearance is the same. We study math, languages, writing, and history. We have teachers and classrooms. So what makes classical education so distinct that it’s worth choosing above all the other options?
In a word, everything. Briefly, Christian classical education’s differences can be summed up as philosophy, instruction, and aims.
Classical education is different from conventional education from the inside out. It starts with our philosophy, which at Redeemer stems directly from our Christianity. We believe, teach, and confess that God is the author of all truth, goodness, and beauty. That what is true, good, and beautiful is objective, not relative. It can be known, and God has communicated it to us both in his word and throughout his creation. It is an awesome, wondrous thing to explore.
We also believe, teach, and confess that humans are both made in God’s image and great sinners in need of Christ’s redemption to receive eternal salvation.
Of course, this is merely Christianity 101, but at Redeemer, unlike at all public schools and even many other Christian schools, these truths transform what and how we teach. Because students are sinful and parents and other adults are given authority over them by God, for example, we do not offer a “passion-driven” education, or letting children determine what they will learn and when, approaches that are sometimes called “unschooling” or “student-centered learning.”
We believe that adults should help children examine, refine, and direct their impulses towards what is truly good. We do this by teaching and requiring the highest standards of behavior of students. After all, it is impossible to learn anything if one cannot or will not pay attention.
Adhering to the order God has placed into the world gives us true freedom and joy. A disciplined person is the one truly free to love and do what is right, rather than be enslaved to his desires. Self-control is a key mark of maturity, and maturity should be a chief aim of a child’s education: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
We also believe God’s children deserve to have the very best instruction. They should not be subject to a third-rate curriculum, or treated like parts on a conveyor belt, or placed in an education environment that either ignores God or actively derides his commands.
That means our curriculum includes no so-so or “good enough” books and materials. It is consciously centered on God as the author of all that is good and the proper object of every pursuit. We avidly scour everything available to offer Redeemer students “the best which has been thought and said,” which is how the poet Matthew Arnold defined culture. Our goal is to enculturate children into the best of their Christian and American heritage. We do this with high academic standards, living books and curricula, and high expectations for staff, parents, and students.
We do not give children snippets of disconnected information, books and materials of little literary, cultural, or moral value, or low-grade instruction. We do not waste their time with make-work projects and tests. We do not tire them needlessly with long school days and meaningless exercises. We do not teach them that God is trivial by cutesying up Christianity.
Our school actively aims to prepare children for a life that honors God in every respect. We believe that man does not live by money or a career alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We believe that if we seek the kingdom of God first, then all our body’s needs will be provided as well.