There’s a plethora of classical programs and curricula on the homeschool market. And it’s super appealing to many homeschoolers. But what’s the difference between all of these options? In short, this article addresses Greek Classical, Christian Classical, and Biblical Classical. While the last two may sound like one and the same, they do differ from each other. As we take a quick jog through history, you’ll come to learn how we Christians received a Biblical Classical Education— a principled approach.
Before I continue, don’t assume that I’m addressing any one classical curriculum or program. As I mention, there are several out there. Seek counsel, do your research, pray, and go with the Lord’s leading for our family.
Greek Classical Education
As many people know, this begins with the Ancient Greeks. And its description is an education that teaches with the Trivium and the Quadrivium. Additionally, students read materials of Greek philosophers and Greek literature and discussions take place about them.
In case the Trivium is new territory to some of my readers, it’s seen as three stages of learning:
- Grammar: facts about a subject (birth through 12 years)
- Logic: knowledge about a subject (13 through 15 years)
- Rhetoric: express and practice what is learned (16 and above)
Additionally, the Quadrivium is taught:
- Other subjects
- Emphasis on Greek Classic Literature
Historical Intermission: How We got a Biblical Classical Education
During the Medieval period, Greek Classical Education continues. But God does something amazing. By His Grace and Providence, John Wycliffe is deeply impressed in his heart that individuals need copies of the Bible. Therefore, he begins to hand copy them from Latin into English. As a result, this Morning Star of the Reformation helps the Bible come into the hands of individuals.
Carrying onward, by God’s Grace and Providence, Martin Luther attempts to reform the Church of Rome. But that wasn’t to be. As such, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of Wittenberg Church. And, unknowingly to Luther, this begins the Protestant Reformation.
Moving along the His Story timeline a little further, God makes provision through Johannes Gutenberg for the printing press invention. As a result, more individuals are able to receive copies of the Bible in their own language.
In spite of opposition, these and other reformers risked their lives to make provision for their fellow men and future generations.
As we journey a little farther on the “His Story” timeline, we learn of the Separatists who separate themselves from the Church of England (which branches off from the Church of Rome). For they want to worship God according to the Scriptures. Notably, they flee England to Holland and we now know them as the Pilgrims.
Markedly, these chain of events usher in a Biblical Classical Education. Because of the Bible in the hands of individuals, we see a surge of wisdom in education. And it purposefully intertwines with the Gospel spreading westward. Indeed, part of God’s plan is to have His Word carry across the ocean to North America. As such, the Bible is the textbook for generations. Explicitly, this is how Christian character is developing in the colonies. And this is what gives us the Biblical founding of our nation. Because it’s the education our Founding Fathers receive and exercise in our government.
Biblical Classical is a form of education that is historically Christian and it’s more fully expressed in America’s history.
Christian Classical Education
Moving forward in history, we arrive in 1947 and we meet Dorothy Sayers. Of note, she’s a Christian who shows concern for education in Brittan. As a writer, she influences educators in her circle with her essay, The Lost Tools of Learning. In her estimation, a Greek-Classical Education. In other words, the “lost tools of learning” are the Trivium and the Quadrivium. From SayersClassical.org we read:
“This approach teaches students to think well in all of areas knowledge and to come to the realization that all areas of knowledge are interconnected. Although the aim of the medieval scholars was not to understand God, these “subjects,” or pieces of knowledge, teach some of the communicable attributes of God in a way that His finite image-bearers can, whether intentionally or unintentionally, reflect His character.”
Since she’s a Christian, Dorothy wants to incorporate a Biblical worldview alongside the Greek Classical model. And that is good. For it’s always good when a Biblical worldview is taught because it has to do with the foundations of the Christian faith.
In comparison, a Christian-Classical Education teaches with:
- The Trivium
- Greek Classics
- Other language of choice
- Other subjects as well
In contrast, a Christian Classical Education teaches:
- A Biblical worldview
- Emphasis on Christian Literature
A Biblical Classical Education
Biblical Classical homeschoolers acknowledge God’s Hand in education via the Protestant Reformation. That is to say, we see the intertwining of every subject with the Gospel spreading westward. Additionally, since God is Sovereign over everything, we see that this includes subjects as He is the Creator of them. Therefore, there are Bible Principles (Truths) in each subject.
In Comparison, a Biblical Classical Education teaches with:
- A Biblical-Worldview and Bible Principles (see the results)
- Emphasis on Christian Literature
- And other subjects
- Other language of choice
In Contrast, a Biblical Classical Education teaches with:
- Researching a subject or topic and defining the subjects’ vocabulary and principles from the Bible in each subject and all grades
- Biblical reasoning in each subject and in all grades
- Reflecting on God’s Truths, how they apply to life, and telling back/narration in each subject and all grades
- Notebooking one’s Biblical reasoning in each subject in all grades
- Teaching with a Providential, historical narrative in all grades vs. simply facts in all grades (because facts alone are disconnected information.)
- In addition to the Providential, historical narrative, students learn to think and see internal-to-external and cause-to-effect (if this, then that) in all grades.
In short, I see this as a growth mindset in that the plasticity of the brain is acknowledged. What individuals learn and how much they learn isn’t determined by their ages.
If we see the wisdom that stems from what God did in education through the Protestant Reformation, why skip over that to a Medieval form of Classical Education? Especially when we recognize the historical fruit we see from a Biblical Classical Education in our own nation?
Visit here for more on Why the Principle Approach.
What Defines a Classical Education?
Firstly, as I research about the Trivium I learn that it’s a natural way of learning. As explained already, Greek Classical and Christian Classical education sees the Trivium divided up into three stages. And these three stages are grouped by three age ranges.
However, in a Biblical Classical Education, we see it differently. We see that all three stages, if you will, take place in all age ranges.
- Researching Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and the Bible define the Grammar in each subject in each grade.
- Biblical reasoning has to do with the knowledge about a subject (Logic) according to the narrative and the Bible is taught in each subject in each grade.
- Reflecting on God’s Truths, how they apply to life, and telling one’s thoughts is expressing and practicing what they learn is done in each subject in each grade (Rhetoric).
- Notebooking one’s thoughts as a record of their education reveals their individuality.
Of course, this will look different among the span of ages. But this is true of individuals anyway.
If this is a natural way of learning, then it isn’t unique to a Classical Education, whether it be Greek Classical, Christian Classical, or Biblical Classical.
Perhaps it boils down to:
- What classics we read and what we do with what we read
- Perhaps it comes down to how we go about researching and reasoning
- Differences in our philosophies
- The unique role of America
- And teaching, “America’s Christian history and method of education by Biblical principles to restore Christian self- government and character to the individual, to families, to the church and to the nations.” Foundation for American Christian Education
As Christian parents, we all want to raise our children:
- In the fear and admonition of the Lord
- To be Christian leaders of tomorrow in whatever sphere the Lord leads them
- A strong Biblical worldview
- A Christian view of government and man
In the end, the tools for learning were never lost to us Christians. To be sure, they stem from what God gives us through the Protestant Reformation. And they’re ours for the keeping. Therefore, let’s ask: How much greater of an education can we teach and learn with when using a Biblical Classical Education? And let’s ask: How do we teach with the Bible?
As you prayerfully consider which form of education to teach and learn with, may the Lord bless you on your homeschool journey.