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Understanding Classical Christian Education

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Providence Christian School was founded as a classical Christian school.

Our founding families, Board of Directors and staff believe that this method of education was and is the best way to prepare young minds to not only succeed in a rapidly-changing world, but to develop the critical, principled thinking needed in a culture that is, in many ways, at odds with the teachings of scripture. Because classical, Christian education is a new concept for some families we've provided the following overview, and recommend the resources to the right for further reading.

Generally speaking, educational philosophies distill into one of two basic models: The cognitive-developmental model and the behavioral model. The cognitive-developmental model teaches a core of knowledge in a way that challenges the student’s thinking. The imparting of wisdom goes beyond the assimilation of facts to the teaching of values, truth, decision making, and critical thinking. This model was perfected in the 15th and 16th centuries and educated most of the great thinkers and artists of the Renaissance and early Reformation periods. It was used almost exclusively in schools until the early to middle part of the last century.

The model that most influences our country’s schools and teacher training today is the behavioral model. Developed early in the last century, this model is built upon the principle of communicating information to the students and measuring their “learning” by how they recall and report that information on a test. Practical application and depth of understanding are not as strongly emphasized with this model. This model of teaching has been said to create “technicians” designed to produce good test scores rather than students equipped with knowledge, wisdom, and truth.

PCS uses a cognitive-developmental model commonly referred to as the classical model. It best respects the developmental stages of a child’s learning abilities and teaches in such a way as to take advantage of and build upon those natural stages of cognitive maturation. Teaching and learning, therefore, follow a pattern from the more concrete to the more abstract.

Scripture teaches that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom” (Psalm 111:10) and that Christians are to “love the Lord with all our heart soul and mind” (Matthew 22:37). Accordingly, our approach to teaching integrates scripture with subject matter for the purpose of developing a thoroughly biblical worldview in all learners. Biblical integration goes far beyond simply adding a Bible class to our curriculum. It requires that all subjects be discussed and examined in light of the truth of God's word, from mathematics to literature.

The field of education is a major battlefield in the spiritual warfare that Christians will encounter. Believers are commanded to be diligent to provide a Christ-centered learning philosophy for their children. It is impossible to educate from a neutral perspective; some worldview, whether God honoring or not, will be taught and maintained. As Douglas Wilson states, “education is built on the foundation of the instructor’s worldview and the worldview of those who developed the curriculum.”

This classical model is a major departure from the behavioral style of learning that makes a student and his parents proud because of consistently high test scores and grades, when in fact, the student is actually gaining little understanding or practical application of the subject matter. Teaching at PCS will not sacrifice the mastering of a core of knowledge--just the opposite: Providence Christian School emphasizes this mastery, but adds a higher goal to expose the student to such a depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding that those who are so equipped and inclined would graduate as Renaissance people. These Renaissance men and women will have the opportunity to be creative and influential for Christ with the ability to think in an innovative, independent, and wise manner while understanding a broad range of subjects.

In conclusion, it is a parental responsibility, not one of the school or the church, to see that children are educated and brought up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Providence Christian School desires to build upon a firm foundation of faith that is practiced at home, and to cultivate a proper relationship between home, school, and church.