classical education


What Were You Looking For?

Here’s a good word from a friend, Headmaster Ron Gilley, from Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola, Florida. I hope that if you haven’t already made the same discovery he did, you will one day.

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What Were You Looking For? 

When my wife and I first visited the school fourteen years ago, it wasn’t because we were looking for classical education. We were looking for Christian education to be sure, but we didn’t even know enough about classical education to ask a good question about it. Seeing was believing for us that day though, and one tour of the school during a normal day of classes convinced us that this classical education was worth a try.

The truth of the matter is, we had two things in mind for our children: safety and the best education our town had to offer. Our motives were similar to those of most parents, I think. It is a pretty safe bet that we all want our children in a safe and nurturing environment, and most would agree that a good education is important. At that time, though, we weren’t thinking about education as something that molds virtue into young people as they grow. We were thinking about the kind of education that would help our children get into good colleges so they could get good jobs. As time wore on, however, we began to see that not only was this classical Christian education backing up everything we were trying to do with our children at home, it was also taking them further in some ways than we ever could have taken them alone.

Even in the early years of Grammar School our boys were learning about events and characters from history and literature and the Bible that we had been robbed of in our own education. Their learning about these events and characters and biblical principles was challenging what we knew about the world and even challenging who we were. We embraced the challenges and began to learn alongside our boys, to read books we never knew existed, to dig deeper into Scripture, and to challenge our own shallow assumptions about God. We were amazed at the precision of thought our boys had acquired by the time they had worked their way through the Logic School. They were beginning to question what they saw in the world and to make arguments for and against. In the Rhetoric School, they began to mature in every way. Their thought processes began to be informed by more than just logic, more than simply winning an argument. It was as if they began to slowly realize that some questions were so big that the argument could never be won for either side in this life. They became gracious, aware of the fact that they could do nothing to save themselves, that they were dependent upon Christ. And this way of thinking began to shape the way they viewed others. They began to mature into young men who saw this life as something far more important than a time and place to chase what the world, indeed what their own parents only fourteen years earlier, would call success.

My boys are far from perfect, but they are headed in the right direction in many ways as are thousands of classically trained students who graduate every year. What’s more is that the journey our family has taken through classical education, an unexpected journey to be sure, has left us with a very different reward from the one we set out to get, and a far better one. Oh sure, getting into good colleges hasn’t been a problem, but it’s no longer the primary goal. I don’t know what you were looking for when you first came to our school, but I can promise you this: if you open yourself up to the process of classical education, to the goodness of being marinated in God’s holy Word and learning to view all of creation through it, then your reward will be great, even it is different from the one you set out in search of.

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Answering the Big Question

Fritz Hinrichs, in his article “Why Classical Education?”, does a great job of simply yet eloquently answering this question.

We live in the continuum of western history. In order to evaluate this stream of which we are part, we must step back from it and discern the ideas that have shaped it. To attempt to ignore the ideas that have shaped our cultural history is to guarantee ourselves not only cultural irrelevance but also entrenchment in the Christian ghetto. This position will not only lead to our own intellectual poverty but will also disgrace the Sovereign God who needs not be mocked by the cowardice of His children. The King’s children do not hide in the alleys but walk confidently knowing that the sun that shines belongs to their Father.

I would submit that this is a powerful answer to the question of why our school exists and why you and I and so many other parents are sacrificing to send their children to schools like Regents Academy. Our children are the King’s children, and we aim for them to walk confidently and purposefully, to His glory.

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Things You’ll Never Hear at Regents, Lord Willing

As we close out another school year, I offer my gratitude to God and my congratulations to you on a great year of learning, growth, perseverance, and peace. Here at the close of the year, it’s good to stop and consider just what our children are receiving in this distinctly Christian and classical education in which they are being nurtured.

So, here are a few things that in the years ahead you and your children, Lord willing, will never hear at Regents Academy.

“God is irrelevant. You know, 1+1 is still 2 even if you don’t worship Jesus.” In fact, your child will be told over and over again that we know reality only because the Triune God is, and His Son, the Divine Logos, is the meaning of all math and history and language and literature and science. We aim, unapologetically, for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the center of every lesson and every subject and every classroom.

“You have to decide for yourself what’s right and wrong.” In fact, your child’s teachers and administrators are under the authority of the Word of God, and they seek to apply the truth of Scripture to every heart and life, beginning with their own. God is the author of all that is right and just, and He alone decides what is right and wrong. It is our job, as His redeemed people, to know His truth and follow it in order to glorify Him. Your child will be told “No” when their actions, words, or attitudes are sinful, foolish, or unloving. This is what Christian love looks like.

“We’re spending class time getting ready for the STAAR test.” In fact, at Regents Academy standardized testing serves as an objective way to measure the learning we are already providing – something we believe accords with the actual educational value of standardized testing. In other words, we aim actually to teach the Trivium, not test scores. Every day in class, students are being trained and educated according to our school’s mission statement, not any standardized test.

“The only thing that matters, at the end of the day, is academics: test scores, college entrances, scholarships, and careers.” In fact, we are interested in so much more than the gray matter and future earning potential of your children. We desire to shape their virtue and habits and hearts and relationships as human beings and image bearers. Regents Academy is not a prep school, though we provide many of the same academic benefits of a prep school. Our vision for our students reaches far beyond academics to the character, passions, and personhood of our students. This is why we partner with parents.

“There’s a new educational fad that we’re going to try out next year. We hope it works!” In fact, the beauty of classical Christian is its embrace of what educator Christopher Perrin calls a well-walked path of the tried and proven. Theologian Thomas Oden referred to “the cheap promise of radical newness” which is “the most boring and repetitious of all modern ideas.” Classical Christian education rejects the whole notion of fads and instead seeks to embody an older, deeper way of educating that is more relevant than ever in our fragmenting culture.

Now, maybe you’re thinking of other things you’ll never hear at Regents Academy:

“Tuition is going down and there’s no more fundraising.”

“Homework is cancelled forever.”

“We are so over reading.”

Well, yes, in fact nothing is getting cheaper these days, and we do need to fundraise. Sorry, but homework is indispensable. And it’s true: we will never fall out of love with books!

But we hope you can continue to be such faithful parents who so lovingly support your children’s school and sacrifice daily to provide an excellent education for your most precious responsibilities – your children.

We look forward to keeping our end of the bargain, however imperfectly, in the years ahead and seeking to fulfill our mission of serving your family by providing a classical and Christian education and training your children to view all areas of life and faith from a Christian worldview and equipping them to lead lives of virtue, display mature character, love learning, and serve the Triune God.

May God bless your family this summer!

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Repairing the Ruins Conference 2018

What are your summer plans? I have a great idea for you, Regents parents. Come with us to the ACCS 2018 Repairing the Ruins Conference.

The Association of Classical and Christian Schools 2018 annual conference is in Frisco (near Dallas) this year. Most of our teachers, staff, and board will be attending the conference on June 21-23. The conference truly is an amazing experience for teachers, administrators, board members — and parents alike. You’ll catch the classical vision from inspiring and profoundly insightful speakers, connect with other parents and teachers, and learn more than you’d ever thought you could know about classical Christian education. At the conference you really get the sense that we are part of a movement that God is bringing about to renew and redeem education.

Please go to 2018.repairingtheruins.org to learn more and to register. Repairing the Ruins will be an investment in your children’s education and well worth your time and money.

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Regents featured on the Classic Learning Initiatives Facebook Page

Regents Academy is now a CLT-partnered school! If you haven’t gotten to know the Classical Learning Test, it’s time you did.

Learn more from the Classic Learning Initiatives Facebook page:

Regents Academy of Nacogdoches is now a CLT-partnered school! Take a look at their great approach to education. They…

Posted by Classic Learning Initiatives on Monday, January 8, 2018

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Less is More

One guiding principle of classical education is a commitment to cultivating not just knowledge and skills, but wisdom and understanding of the “deep springs of our culture,” that is, the big ideas and abiding truths that have shaped our civilization. Author Andrew Campbell explains this principle in terms of a Latin phrase articulated long ago by Pliny the Younger, “Multum non multa,” or “much, not many.” Our faculty read and discussed this article this week, and it is well worth the time and attention of parents also.

It is all well and good to talk about traditional classical education, but how do we put it into practice today? Don’t we have far more history to learn other than classical history, not to mention science, modern languages, and common school subjects like health and driver’s ed.? After all, we’re not preparing our children to be Greek philosophers, Roman orators, or (most of us) British statesmen. We have practical matters to consider: government requirements, standardized tests, college admissions.

Yes, all that is true, at least to a certain extent. But we can still derive some important principles from the history of classical education. One of these principles was articulated by Pliny the Younger; that principle is multum non multa: not many things (multa), but much (multum). Formal education should not merely introduce us to many things, the “multa,” which can, by necessity, lead only to superficial knowledge, but should encourage us to drink deeply at the springs of our culture. Much, not many.

How does this play out in the classical curriculum? First, the number of subjects is limited to a few key disciplines. We are accustomed to schools expanding their offerings to include vocational and technical subjects such as home economics, wood shop, and computer keyboarding. In the wry words of Jacques Barzun, we expect our schools to turn out “ideal citizens, super tolerant neighbors, agents of world peace, and happy family folk, at once sexually adept and flawless drivers of cars.” The classical curriculum, on the other hand, insists on a limited number of demanding subjects taught in depth. Moreover, formal study of certain subjects, especially science and modern languages, is reserved for high school. As we’ll see, this is actually an efficient use of the student’s time and effort.

Second, whenever possible, subjects are taught in relation to one another and in the context of broader intellectual concerns. For example, as the student gains proficiency in Latin translation, some historical, literary, and theological readings may be undertaken in the original language. The student doesn’t just read a chapter about Julius Caesar or Cicero in a history textbook; she reads Caesar’s and Cicero’s own writings in Latin. The study of selections from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica is at once a lesson in Latin, logic, history, and theology. Further, one of the key “intelligences” is lateral thinking, the ability to make connections between seemingly disparate fields and ideas, and the classical curriculum encourages this skill. In all subjects, students should be led to ask big questions: What is Man? What is the good life? How, then, should we live?

Third, the core readings in English and history (Classical, Christian, and Modern Studies) consist of a very few representative masterpieces that the student reads slowly and studies in depth. Does such a pared-down program sufficiently prepare students for college work, let alone life?

The verdict of history is yes. The great Renaissance educator Vittorio da Feltre assigned only four authors to his young students: Virgil, Homer, Cicero, and Demosthenes. (These were, of course, read in the original Latin and Greek.) The traditional classical model emphasizes the slow, careful reading of a small corpus of great literature, especially the epic poets.

Contrast this with the typical approach of contemporary American schools. One cannot help but observe the trend in modern schools to substitute light “escape” reading for the more difficult classics. The practice is defended in the name of getting students to read. The assumption is that because students learn to read by reading, schools must provide books that students will want to read, books that will not overtax their patience, their limited vocabulary, or even their more limited education. A corollary to this assumption, as we have seen, is that students cannot enjoy reading serious classics with their demanding styles and remote contents. Clearly, the classical academy rejects this thesis. Not only does it refute the notion that classics are inaccessible or unenjoyable to young readers, but it reminds us that the purpose of learning is discovery, not escape. Substituting the literature of escape for the classics is not education, but an attack on learning; it is not intellectual, but anti-intellectual. It represents a capitulation to the adolescent appetites of our students and our race.

In his book, Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin, Tracy Lee Simmons minces no words on this subject:

“Most public schools in America now strive to be cut rate educational malls for the intellectually lame, whether or not students first darken the school doors that way, so most of them leave, while even some private schools pose as little more than colorful felt boards for the earnestly shallow, commonly confusing pious or patriotic piffle with real education.”

Unfortunately, this trend is noticeable even among homeschoolers. While truly “good books” are an excellent and necessary preparation for the Great Books, in most cases they may most profitably be read independently or within the family circle, not as part of formal schooling. Later, students are rushed through the whole Western canon in a few years of Great Books, with reading lists based on those of university programs. For example, the formal reading list for the seventh grade presented in one popular guide includes a dizzying twenty-one books, ranging from Don Quixote (an abridged version is permitted) to Pilgrim’s Progress to the Grimms’ Fairy Tales to Pride and Prejudice. And this is only for English! Another publisher’s recommendations for the same year include eighteen titles, taking the student through Genesis in a week and the whole of the Iliad in five. At the same time, the students are also reading a work of theology, a study on ancient cities, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a challenging adult novel by C. S. Lewis.

By contrast, Simmons reminds us that “schools of the best kind have always aimed high while keeping feet to the ground. They didn’t try to do too much; they tried to do the most important things.”

The core readings suggested in The Latin-Centered Curriculum focus on those “important things” the few truly enduring and representative literary monuments of the past 2,500 years. Ample time is given for students to read, reread, and “live into” their schoolbooks. As will be seen in the following discussion, the ancients possessed an effective method for approaching their great classics, which were no easier for the schoolboys of A.D. 100 than they are for our daughters and sons. The difference is that the grammarians and rhetors were highly selective in the texts they placed before their students. These works were models both of style and of their culture’s aesthetic and moral norms. We would do well to take seriously their approach.

Does this mean that students will go through thirteen years of schooling never cracking an English novel? Are we denying our children the pleasure of floating down the river with Rat and Mole, bursting with excitement when Almanzo wins first prize for his milk fed pumpkin, or pushing past a row of old coats to step into the Narnian winter? Of course not. What it does mean is that we apply the principle of multum non multa in selecting schoolbooks. The streamlined classical curriculum leaves plenty of time for other pursuits, including reading for pleasure and discovery. It is in these hours that students can sail the seas to Treasure Island, sit in the drawing rooms of Austen and Trollope, thrill to the daring escapades of the Scarlet Pimpernel, march with the Roman legions in Eagle of the Ninth, circle the globe with Phileas Fogg, or experience the angst of modern dystopias in 1984 and Brave New World.

In addition to studying the core readings in depth, the student is expected to read independently everyday, and families are strongly encouraged to read aloud for at least one hour three times a week. Daily is better. If time does not permit parents and children to read together regularly, high quality audio books and dramatizations may prove helpful. Independent and family reading is linked to schoolwork and enriches it, but should not be considered part of the formal school day. Rather, this time introduces the student to a wide range of English literature and foreign works in translation, establishes the habit of daily reading, and draws families together.

The advantages of the multum non multa approach are many. Eliminating busywork, workbooks, redundant curricula, excessive “escape” reading, from the school day cuts the student’s work time tremendously. Rolling subjects together, Latin and logic, Greek and geometry, history and literature, further reduces wasted time and mental energy. The time savings may be applied to the student’s own interests and to enrichment subjects 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. Parents may also enjoy considerable savings on formal curricula, perhaps freeing funds for music lessons, building a quality home library, or other family needs.

The principle of multum non multa, which could be translated, “less is more,” has been subordinated in recent years to what may be termed multum optimum in se -“more is necessarily better.” The educational well-being of our children may depend on which approach we, as parents and educators, choose.

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Living in a Circle

He was called the gadfly of Athens for good reason, pestering 5th century Greeks with endless questions. Ultimately, the Athenians shut him up by giving him hemlock to drink, ostensibly for polluting the minds of Athenian youth. But his quest for wisdom remains and is embodied in anyone who admits ignorance in order to find truth.

Imagine Socrates having a conversation with a college student on the campus of a contemporary American university. Author Peter Kreeft envisions just this scenario in The Best Things in Life. Here we pick up in the middle of a conversation between Socrates and college student Peter Pragma (Pragma – get it?):

Socrates: What do you need money for?

Peter: Everything! Everything I want costs money.

Socrates: For instance?

Peter: Do you know how much it costs to raise a family nowadays?

Socrates: And what would you say is the largest expense in raising a family nowadays?

Peter: Probably sending the kids to college.

Socrates: I see. Let’s review what you have said. You are reading this book to study for your exam, so that you can pass it and your course, to graduate and get a degree, to get a good job, to make a lot of money, to raise a family and send your children to college.

Peter: Right.

Socrates: And why will they go to college?

Peter: Same reason I’m here. To get good jobs, of course.

Socrates: So they can send their children to college?

Peter: Yes.

Socrates: Have you ever heard the expression “arguing in a circle”?

Peter: No, I never took logic.

Socrates: Really? I never would have guessed it.

Peter: You’re teasing me.

Socrates: Really?

Peter: I’m a practical man. I don’t care about logic, just life.

Socrates: Then perhaps we should call what you are doing “living in a circle.” Have you ever asked yourself a terrifying question? What is the whole circle there for?

Kreeft, through the voice of Socrates, is exposing a great flaw of modern thinking about education: pragmatism. A pragmatic philosophy of education puts people on the hamster wheel of passing tests to pass classes to get degrees to get jobs to make money to have children who will start the vicious cycle all over again.

There is certainly a practical dimension to education. We need jobs that will pay bills, and our children need them also. But something we need more than jobs and money is an answer to Socrates’ question: “What is the whole circle there for?” And that is precisely what classical Christian education brings to the table.

The wealth of wisdom bequeathed to us from the Great Tradition and a robust Christian worldview show us the way. And when children are immersed in the wisdom and virtue and worldview-shaping influences of the Great Conversation, under the tutelage of godly teachers committed to Christian truth, then our children learn not just skills that will get them jobs and money but receive eternal gifts that surpass these things beyond measure.

“What is the whole circle there for?” We strive to take this question into account every day as we educate children at Regents Academy. We are glad to partner with you to do so.

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Music and Memorization: Tried-and-True Methods

Recently the Imaginative Conservative published an article titled “How Music and Memorization Can Save Our Failing Schools.” The article, by Annie Holmquist, suggests that tried-and-true methods such as rote learning are a big part of the cure for what is ailing contemporary education. Indeed, classical Christian education goes “back to the future,” with its rediscovery of practices used for centuries but largely abandoned in most contemporary settings. Holmquist’s article is well worth your time.

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How Music and Memorization Can Save Our Failing Schools

By Annie Holmquist

We all want the best for our kids. Because of this desire, it’s quite discouraging to see when efforts to boost progress in reading, math, and other subjects flatline in schools across the country.

On the other hand, this perpetual stagnation causes us to sit up and notice when a school manages to boost its achievement in dramatic fashion.

Such is the case with Feversham Primary Academy in Great Britain. According to The Guardian, Feversham was a failure a few years ago. Achievement was low and seemed unlikely to improve given that many students hail from disadvantaged backgrounds or are English Language Learners.

But as The Guardian explains, the school began using the “Kodály approach, which involves teaching children to learn, subconsciously at first, through playing musical games.” By teaching these musical games and encouraging memorization of classic works such as Shakespeare, the school has experienced the following change:

Seven years ago Feversham was in special measures and making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Today it is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted and is in the top 10% nationally for pupil progress in reading, writing and maths, according to the most recent data. In 2011, the school was 3.2 percentage points behind the national average in English. This year 74% of its pupils achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, against a national average of 53%. It is 7.1 points above the average for reading and 3.4 above for writing. In maths, the school was 2.4 points behind the national average in 2011 and is now 6.5 above it. Its results for disadvantaged pupils are well above average.

Such increases are quite impressive and appear to mirror the forty percent achievement gains another British school experienced after incorporating Shakespeare into lesson plans.

So why is it that these simple techniques appear to produce such stellar results?

The answer to that question may be found in what music and memorization appear to do the brain. Research suggests that exposing children to music fosters brain development and boosts their “vocabulary and reading ability.” Likewise, memorization “exercises” a child’s brain, training children to pay attention while also laying a foundation upon which they can build future facts and insights.

These components are core elements of classical education. In the grade school years, also known as the grammar stage, classical education capitalizes on the love children have for rote learning, using songs and rhymes to instill historical dates, scientific facts, and famous literature in their brains. When they move beyond these years, they find they have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips from which they can draw, make connections, and spin off new thoughts.

The funny thing is, while this common-sense approach to early childhood education was standard practice for centuries, it has been abandoned in recent years. Shunning rote learning, we have instead told young children to draw on their own (limited) experience or feelings when completing school assignments.

Classical education methods of music and rote learning have been experiencing a revival in many home and private schools in recent years and have enjoyed a good deal of success. The dramatic turnaround in the Feversham school suggests the success of these methods is not limited to those of a “privileged” status.

Is it time we ask ourselves if modern schools have been too hasty in tossing out the rote learning methods of music and memorization?

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Thanksgiving Dress-Up Days

1st grade celebrated Thanksgiving with their Thanksgiving Feast while 5th grade had their yearly Colonial Day. Great costumes, great food, great teachers, and great students!

1stindians

 

5thpilgrims

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