Our mission is guided by a Christian and Classical philosophy of education, the latter rooted in ancient Greece. Plato, called the “father of education” because of his extraordinary treatise on education, The Republic, designed a model of education to train youth to become leaders and rulers in his theoretical “just and noble city.” Remarkably, some of the themes first raised by Plato were expressed more completely hundreds of years later by Jesus Christ. This makes Christian faith and classical education powerful allies in building strong foundations for our students’ lives.
People who visit Covenant are frequently curious to learn more about Christian and Classical education, often asking the very practical question: “What difference will this make for my child?” This excellent question is best answered by the pillars of Christian and Classical education:
1. THE CONVICTION OF ABSOLUTE TRUTH
The goal of education is to teach children to know truth. Truth, by its very definition, corresponds to reality, and therefore applies to all people in every place and time. This includes general truth in the world around us that is known by means of disciplined reason, as well as special truth that is known by “faithful reason” or reason illumined and informed by Christian faith.
This means that throughout their standard course of study, students at Covenant are challenged to explore an added dimension of truth that is excluded from other educational models. This pursuit of truth extends into every academic discipline and school activity, and is important because it shapes our students’ understanding of ethics (that which is right and good), as well as their conception of aesthetics (that which is lovely and admirable). In this way, we provide children with instruction that is consistent with the instruction they receive from their parents at home and/or their leaders at church.
2. THE PATTERN OF THE TRIVIUM
Children in ancient Greece attended each of three schools: grammar, logic, then rhetoric, which Covenant also models. Students begin in the Grammar School where they learn to master the elementary truths, content and basic skills of each academic discipline. We are familiar with the grammar of language, however each discipline has its own grammar. The grammar of art, for example, includes the elements of color, line, shape and form, while the grammar of math includes number, place value and the basic operations of addition, subtraction, etc. The strong content and skills learned in the grammar stage become the useful material of the logic stage.
In the Logic School, which begins in traditional upper elementary grades and continues through middle school, students learn to order the knowledge acquired in the Grammar School with increasing depth and according to the principles of logic and reason. While many educational models rightly tout the value of “critical thinking skills” and “higher order reasoning,” without the content of the Grammar School, the logic stage has less to work with. For example, in mathematics as students progress toward the complex equations of algebra and calculus, we have found that if they have not mastered math facts and basic computation, their progress is slowed and they often make simple errors.
The final stage of classical learning in ancient Greece was the Rhetoric School where students learned to communicate persuasively, inspiring their audience toward truth and wisdom. This stage begins roughly in late middle school and continues into adulthood. Every discipline has an end stage corresponding to rhetoric. A great work of art does more than please the eye; it communicates a message inspiring action. Great feats of athleticism inspire awe, and those who grasp calculus see its elegance. These rewards are made possible by the preparation of the stages of grammar and logic.
In the pattern of the Trivium, every level of instruction at Covenant is preparatory. Each stage anticipates the one to come, ultimately preparing students to reach the highest level in every discipline. The power and value of this pattern is the carefully crafted scope and sequence that forms a cohesive Pre-K through 12th grade program that challenges students to realize their full potential according to their developing capacities.
3. EDUCATING THE WHOLE PERSON: MINDS, HEARTS & ACTIONS
Merely knowing truth is not enough. We seek to inspire students to love truth in their hearts and practice truth in relationship with others. In this way students are taught to fulfill the two greatest commandments as spoken by Jesus:
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, SOUL, MIND AND STRENGTH, AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.- MATTHEW 22:37-40
4. A STRONG COMMITMENT TO THE LIBERAL ARTS
Aristotle was the first to use the term “liberal education” to describe the broad course of study that includes mastery of all the academic disciplines. Through a study of the liberal arts students are able to hold conversations with great minds through the classic texts which have shaped western civilization. This means that we see art, music, drama and physical education as equally essential to a complete education as mathematics, science, computer, language arts, literature, history, Bible and foreign languages.
5. MASTERY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
We seek to graduate students who are able to read widely, think deeply, write clearly, and communicate effectively. Mastering the English language is a highly transferable skill that prepares students for life and is useful for any profession.
This means that from the first day of Pre-K, students begin a phonics-based approach to reading. English language instruction throughout the Grammar School program emphasizes building vocabulary, proper spelling, mastery of grammar, parts of speech and writing skills. To reinforce and expand this learning, students in Grades 3 through 12 learn classical Latin.
6. THE VALUE OF ACADEMIC RIGOR
The progressive educational movement in America over the past 100 years has made a number of valuable contributions to educational theory and practice. However, some of its philosophical assumptions have resulted in deeply entrenched educational practices that, for fear of being “developmentally inappropriate,” leave vast amounts of children’s aptitude under-utilized. The tragedy of this conspiracy of low expectations is the incalculable lost potential and a lot of bored kids. Covenant seeks to avoid this error, believing that children are stimulated by challenging work and receive true satisfaction when, with the help of the teacher, they are able to rise beyond where they thought they could, meeting these high expectations through disciplined study.
7. THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER
Classical education emphasizes the critical role of the teacher in directing a child’s learning and encouraging his or her success. The teacher is the “living curriculum,” an example for students to follow, guiding students toward truth and wisdom. Covenant’s teachers seek to know their students as individuals, with the goal of helping students identify their strengths and abilities while nurturing growth in areas of weakness.
Built upon these pillars, which have stood the test of millennia, Covenant’s Christian and Classical Education provides families with a distinctive schooling choice that challenges the mind, inspires the heart and nourishes the soul.