Christians prize children as precious souls made in God’s image whom God deemed worthy of sacrificing himself to redeem eternally.
So a Christian school and culture aims to imitate Christ by taking great care for the all students, even the smallest. The youngest students are not merely biding time with make-work until their brains develop enough to tackle “the big things.” While small children may seem simple, their mental, emotional, and spiritual development is moving astonishingly quickly.
Early childhood is in fact the time of a person’s most rapid brain growth. It also sets the stage for a child’s lifetime habits of emotional regulation and sense of stability and love.
Underneath the surface of little kids’ high distractibility, couch-jumping, and difficulty in holding a pencil correctly are massively important building blocks for their adult lives. So it is important to lay these blocks carefully. Here are some distinctive ways we help parents do just that at Redeemer Classical School.
1. A Life Immersed in a Christian Culture
In the book of Matthew, Jesus defends children by quoting the Psalms: “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise.” Even the smallest children in our school likewise learn to pray and praise.
Not only do Redeemer children participate in a daily historic prayer service, in just their first two years in school they also learn 50 key Bible verses, and historic, faith-confessing prayers and hymns. This all allows them as Christians to participate in the life of the church.
Young Redeemer students also read a faithfully adapted children’s Bible daily in class, allowing them to read the Bible through more than once together every year. This practice not only prioritizes God’s word as of prime importance in a Christian’s life, it also teaches the children their own faith.
A habit of going to a daily prayer service from the time they are six years old, and receiving daily instruction from a pastor, helps children stay in the faith. This is especially true when role models, such as parents, teachers, and older students are doing it too.
Sociological studies have found that faithful church attendance and Christian role models help children keep their faith as adults. Far more importantly, God himself promises that his Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). God’s word is living and active, and it does what it says (Hebrews 4:12). So when children pray, sing scripture, and hear God’s Word every day with fellow believers, it has a real effect on their souls.
2. Developing a Strong Habit of Memorization
A good memory is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Children who start their school careers at Redeemer typically outpace the kids who start later. The latter do well, of course, but children can go farther faster if they start this habit early, just as with everything else.
In their first two years at Redeemer, students also memorize more than 30 classic poems, at least 12 foundational hymns, and a treasure chest of math facts and scientific concepts. They also memorize several historic Christian liturgies, which teem with additional scripture and songs as old as the church fathers.
Along with attention, memory is a foundational academic and life skill that benefits children for the rest of their lives, in almost every endeavor. A quick and strong memory is not a random gift but is strengthened like a muscle that expands and strengthens with use, especially when begun with a child’s first entrance into school. Repeating and remembering things is natural to young children, so we put that tendency to good use, filling their minds and souls with beautiful, true, honest, and noble things.
3. Write Well in Both Print and Cursive
Handwriting is a hugely important skill that is often misunderstood and pooh-poohed as unfit for a digital era. Indiana no longer requires schoolchildren to learn cursive, so it is taught in only 20 percent of Hoosier school districts, according to the Associated Press. Many local schools don’t even teach children the proper way to hold a pencil, which damages their writing ability.
Not teaching handwriting well is shortsighted and not best for children. Brain science shows that both print and cursive are hugely important skills for helping children read and think fluently.
Writing is deeply connected to reading, and reading well usually makes or breaks a child’s academic career. Writing also gives a physical and tactile element to reading that is very important for related brain development, especially for boys.
Handwriting helps children’s brains understand language and connect their thinking to the physical world. Cursive is especially important and helpful for children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, but it is also typically easier for children to use, which helps remove obstacles to writing papers and stories. When children’s hands are trained well, it sets their brains free to focus on ideas.
4. Tested, Effective Reading Instruction
Our reading instruction is phonics-based, which is supported by decades of the best research. Phonics means teaching children how to decode every word with relatively few basic rules rather than cluttering their brains with the burden of having to memorize every single word independently. Children taught to read with phonics almost never have reading-related learning disabilities.
Reading, writing, and language are the pre-eminent marks of an educated person, so getting a careful, thorough, and scientifically grounded start in these skills is absolutely crucial for children. Needing remediation in these areas can handicap children for years and destroy their enthusiasm for learning through no fault of their own, so it saves children much suffering and time to be well-instructed the first time.
5. Core Art and Music Instruction
When children learn art and music basics early, it prepares them to achieve more in these fields. This is why there are dance schools for young ballerinas and conservatories for young pianists. In fact, studies have shown that exposure to live and complicated music earlier in a child’s life makes that child able to physically hear a greater range of sounds than people who were not exposed to such music young.
While it is of course possible to make up for lost time, it is not as likely. Usually the greatest artists began early, with careful and long-term guidance. Even those not destined to become professional artists will have great joy their entire lives from the ability to sing and play an instrument, and to create beauty with pencils or paint.
So we give students explicit art and music instruction starting with their first days in school. We are deliberately enriching their life-long capacity to see, think, hear, sing, and play.
6. Attentive, Personalized Instruction
Our school offers small, intimate class sizes. This allows for personalized instruction that is simply not humanly possible for even a wonderful teacher who has 25 or 35 students, or more. So rather than that, or one-to-one screens that can only offer mechanized, mass instruction, we offer high-quality, individualized human interaction and guidance.
Children thrive on a family-like atmosphere where they have both role models ahead of them and younger children looking up to them.
At Redeemer, students also have the freedom to excel and to accelerate at their own pace in reading and math. So our students are academically ahead of their peers in other schools, and happily so.
The children feel a great sense of accomplishment in earning their own success. Students encourage and dare each other to do more and better. This creates a positive, affirming school culture of joyous excellence in service to their neighbors and Creator. All these treasures are available to children from their very first day in school at Redeemer.