Combining classical education teaching principles and a biblical worldview, Arma Dei Academy trains students to pursue excellence in all things by embracing healthy struggle, hard work, and recognizing that growth comes through perseverance and challenge. As students’ understanding of the providential outworking of God’s plan throughout history expands, their commitment to Christ and understanding of life deepens. By graduation, our students demonstrate noticeable depth of character, thought, and intellect. They love to learn and are ready to lead.
Understanding the Classical and Christian Difference
For education to be effective, it must convey more than fact. Truly effective education cultivates thoughtful, articulate students who are able to take facts, develop them into arguments, and convey those arguments clearly and persuasively. Vigorous academic standards, a dedication to order and discipline, and a focus on key, lost subjects is fueling the rapid growth of the nation’s classical schools.
There is no greater task for education than to teach students how to learn. The influence of progressive teaching methods and the oversimplification of textbooks make it difficult for students to acquire the mental discipline that traditional instruction methods once cultivated. The classical method develops independent learning and thinking skills based on the foundation of language, logic, and tangible fact. The classical difference is clear when students are taken beyond conventionally taught subjects and asked to apply their knowledge using logic and clear expression.
In 1947, Dorothy Sayers, a pioneer in the return to classical education, observed, “although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think.” Beyond subject matter, classical education develops those skills that are essential in higher education and throughout life – independent scholarship, critical thinking, logical analysis, and a love for learning.
One frequent question we hear from parents is, “What about a Bible class?” Some parents fear that the classical method will overshadow the importance of Christianity in their child’s education. Classical and Christian schools understand that a Bible class is not enough. Yes, most classical and Christian schools have Bible classes. However, the real power is in teaching ALL subjects from the perspective of the biblical worldview.
Classically educated students will not distinguish between God’s creation and science; between God’s order and mathematics; or between Church history and world history. Throughout the curriculum, an inseparable association exists between subject-matter and spiritual matters. Today, this association is only possible through private Christian education, as government schools have become increasingly unable to present the complete picture, including the spiritual viewpoint.
Conventional education operates on the philosophy that education is neutral – that it merely conveys fact and that facts do not require a spiritual context. We believe that facts, whether scientific, mathematical, historical, or otherwise, can only represent truth if they are taught in the context of a Christian worldview. There is no neutrality. For this reason, our classical curriculum is based on biblical truth providing an education that is pervasively Christian. Teaching a Christian worldview is more than a Bible class. Integrated into every subject, it shows the natural world and its history through the lens of God’s sovereign will and decree.
In 1947, Dorothy Sayers articulated the educational concept of the Trivium, an educational model that had been used for centuries. When Douglas Wilson helped found Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, during the 1980’s, he revived this framework to bring about the rebirth of classical education. Presently, over 230 classical schools are operating in the United States, most of which use the Trivium to set their foundational educational philosophy.
The Trivium is simply a means of describing the learning stages of children as they mature. Parents often recognize the stages through which their children pass as they mature. The Trivium focuses on educational methods that best develop a knowledgeable, thoughful, and articulate student at each stage of maturity. As the name implies, there are three stages represented in the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.
Grammar – Grades K-5
During the Grammar phase, children are particularly adept at memorization. Young children learn songs and rhymes, and recite facts with relative ease. Because young children are so eager to memorize that they will make up non-sensical playground rhymes, we challenge them by providing substantial subject matter for them to memorize. Each subject has its own grammar. In science, children memorize facts about nature. In math, children memorize times tables. In Latin, teachers emphasize vocabulary. Throughout each year in Grammar School, classically educated children learn the factual foundation of each subject. We use songs, chants, and rhymes to help children enjoy the learning experience.
Logic – Grades 6-8
The Logic phase involves ordering facts into organized statements and arguments. During the middle school years, children are beginning to think independently. They often develop a propensity for argument. Classical education teaches children in this phase to argue well. The study of formal logic helps students understand the fundamentals of a good argument. Practice in making written and oral arguments helps to further develop these skills. Teachers encourage the use of argumentation in each subject. Again, each subject has its own logic. In science, we use the development and testing of hypothesis. In math, we develop a student’s ability to logically orient numbers through the more abstract concepts of algebra and geometry.
Rhetoric – Grades 9-12
Rhetoric is the art of communicating well. Once a student has obtained a knowledge of the facts (grammar) and developed the skills necessary to arrange those facts into arguments (logic), he must develop the skill of communicating those arguments to others (rhetoric). During the high school years, students become concerned with what others think of them. Classical education helps students develop their minds to think and articulate concepts to others. Most of Arma Dei students join Valor Christian High School’s rhetoric track to complete their studies in the Trivium.
Few investments have more potential than your children’s education. The way they see the world, the way they approach life, and the depth of their character are all influenced by education. The choice of where and how to educate your children can be challenging and complicated.
Classical Christian education is unique in that it seeks to faithfully restore the most proven form of education ever developed. This education produced the greatest thinkers, leaders, and scientists in the Western world from the time of the Greeks until the late 19th century, including America’s founding fathers. From the heritage of America’s Ivy League colleges and classical day schools, leaders in every field continue to emerge from the fragmented legacy of classical education. Unfortunately, its pure form, including a Christian worldview, has been lost until its revival in the early 1980’s.
What makes classical Christian education so effective? First, it is based on what has been called the Trivium. No matter how your child learns, he or she goes through three phases. In grades K-5, students are excellent at memorizing. In grades 6-8, students become more argument-oriented. They are ready to be taught logic and critical thinking. In grades 9-12, students become independent thinkers and communicators particularly concerned with their appearance to others. To this end, classical education teaches them rhetoric, the art of speaking, communicating, and writing.
Arma Dei Academy integrates subjects like literature, history, language, art, math, and science. Students read the great works of Western literature and philosophy. Classical languages (Latin and Greek) help students understand and think with greater depth about the world around them. Formal logic and rhetoric help students become great leaders and communicators. Classical teaching methods range from class lectures, to debates, to Socratic (discussion-oriented) teaching. Independent learning skills are sharpened at all grade levels.
Is classical Christian education still relevant? Yes, more now than ever. Our world is accelerating as technological, cultural, and geo-political forces reshape our daily lives. The subject matter and skills required in the market are evolving and changing rapidly. However, thinking, articulate people are always in demand. Those who are able to acquire new skills rapidly and independently are sought after regardless of the field. Classical Christian education has a proven track record of turning out these types of students.
Occasionally, parents who are interested in classical education express concern that it will be too difficult or too demanding for their children. Disciplining and challenging students is certainly part of the classical method. However, we believe that education is inherently enjoyable for children. The classical method is based on the philosophy that students should be encouraged to do what they naturally enjoy during particular phases of their life.
In Dorothy Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” she promotes teaching in ways which complement children’s natural behavior. For example, young children in grammar school are very adept at memorizing. They enjoy repeating songs, rhymes, and chants to the extent that they often make up their own. In classical education, the “Grammar” phase corresponds with this tendency by focusing on the teaching of facts. During the middle school years, children often become prone to question and argue. Classical education leverages this tendency by teaching students how to argue well based on the facts they have learned. We call this the “Logic” phase. During the high school years, students’ interests shift from internal concerns to the external. Teenagers become concerned with how others perceive them. This stage fits well into the “Rhetoric” phase of classical education, where students are taught to convey their thoughts so that they are well received and understood by others.
Finally, we believe that learning, hard work, and fun are not mutually exclusive. Learning should be a joyful endeavor – one that presents a challenge. A visit to Arma Dei Academy quickly demonstrates the delight of students who love to learn. Learning is exciting, especially for children. In our experience, children who transfer from a conventional classroom to a classical classroom usually develop an increased appreciation for education and for the pursuit of knowledge.
The most frequently questioned piece of classical education is its use of Latin. Considering the number of quality schools that for centuries taught Latin as an integral part of any good academic training, the instruction in Latin should need no defense. However, like many traditions lost in the name of “progressive” education, Latin’s advantages have been neglected and forgotten by recent generations. Latin was widely taught even in American high schools as late as the 1940’s. It was considered necessary to the fundamental understanding of English, the history and writings of Western Civilization, and the understanding of Romance languages.
Arma Dei Academy teaches Latin for two major reasons:
Latin is a language that lives on today in almost all major Western languages, including English. Over 50 percent of English vocabulary comes from Latin. Training in Latin not only gives the student a better understanding of the roots of English vocabulary, it also lays the foundation for learning other Latin-based languages.
Learning the grammar of Latin reinforces the student’s understanding of the reasons for, and the use of, the parts of speech being taught in our traditional English classwork (e.g., plurals, nouns, verbs, prepositions, direct objects, tenses).
In the past 50 years, the academic study of Western Civilization has taken quite a turn. A fundamental belief of classical educators is that studying Western Civilization, with its triumphs and its failures, must be central to education. For the Christian, Western Civilization teaches us much about our origins and our theology. Our origins must be studied if we are to understand what makes us who we are and what factors will influence our future. Most theological matters have been decided within the backdrop of Western Civilization. Without a knowledge of our history, we are left to re-experience age-old heresies. From economic systems to mathematics to music, Western Civilization provides a rich context in which to build knowledge and wisdom. History offers us much if we will only make the effort to learn its lessons.
Christian families have intuitively embraced classical and Christian education across the nation. Over 230 member schools of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS) are working to give their students an education that rises to meet a higher standard. Academic success has certainly been characteristic of schools using the classical method. For example, at Logos School (a classical and Christian K-12 school in Moscow, Idaho), three out of four students consistently achieve scores in the highest possible range in the standardized tests. Arma Dei students score well above average in standardized achievement tests, our assessments are aligned well with College Prep High Schools, and most of our students are invited to join honors classes.
Arma Dei Academy is committed to the premise that students will work harder to meet a higher standard. A structured environment, including uniform dress, contributes to the order and discipline expected in the classroom.
Arma Dei Academy is a collaborative learning community of parents and teachers who share the same commitment for training children to love learning and grow in godliness.
Small classes and dedicated teachers ensure that teachers know their students and are better able to serve them individually. Students know they are loved and not just another face in the crowd while openly manifesting deep appreciation and respect for their parents and teachers.
Parents Guide to Classical Christian Education
Learn why parents like you are pursuing a classical Christian education for their children, and how this is transforming students into future leaders.
The mission of ACCS is to promote, establish and equip schools committed to a classical approach to education with a Biblically-based Christian worldview.
- The Introduction to Classical Christian Education – A Guide for Parents by Dr. Christopher A. Perrin. To receive the download link
- The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson
- Lost Tools of Learning by Dorthy Sayers
- Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson
- The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Gregory
What do Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther and George Washington all have in common? They were educated through a distinctly classical model of education. Arma Dei Academy equips students to be lifelong learners by teaching a body of knowledge in a chronological, orderly fashion that cooperates with the student’s developing mind and body. Used for hundreds of years, this classical method produced many great thinkers with a long history of success. Graduates are familiar with history, composition, Latin, logic, math, science, rhetoric, and the fine arts, resulting in gracious, knowledgeable, thoughtful men and women.
The classical method was born in ancient Greece and Rome, was used throughout the Western world by the 16th century, and remained the norm until at least 1850. The reason for its widespread use? It works. With its preoccupation with measurable and speedy results, modern education theory has abandoned classical theory for more scientific methodologies. Ironically, students trained classically score in the top 10% of students nationally.
Tools of Learning
Modern education has generally put the proverbial cart before the horse, expecting students to master a great number of specialized subjects before they have mastered essential learning skills. In contrast, classical education strives first and foremost to impart to its students the “tools of learning”—skill in knowledge, skill in logical analysis, and skill in oral and written communication. These tools are then applied to specific subject matter until they are mastered. The intellectual skills that form the basis of classical education is provide a broad foundation that gives students the freedom to pursue any career path they desire, thus living up to its name “liberal” (or freeing) arts.
Chronological Study of History
Classical education uses history – from ancients to moderns — as its organizing theme. Other subject areas are linked to history. For example, a student studying ancient Greece in history will read the literature of ancient Greeks, such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, works of the ancient poet Homer. Art class might focus on drawing perspective using examples of classical Greek architecture. Related math and science topics could include a discussion of prolific Greek mathematician Archimedes’ inventions. While history is the backbone of a classical education, no core subject is neglected.
Arma Dei Academy pursues a chronological study of history. It is our desire for each student to not only know the who, what, where, when and why of events, but that they are able to place themselves on God’s timeline and connect and relate the events to their lives. Each year every grade level has an opportunity to share their excitement and bring to life their historical time period through hands-on experiences, celebrations, and festivals.
Classical education follows a three-part pattern known as the trivium: the mind first must be supplied with facts; then given the logical tools for organizing those facts; and finally equipped to express conclusions. The trivium is based on a developmental view of the learner—that children develop in stages and that teaching should be tailored to each stage. Therefore, classical education works because it focuses on the way children learn best at each stage of life, then builds on the foundation of previous stages.
With a classical education, students learn through written and spoken words instead of through images such as pictures and videos. Such language-based learning requires the mind to work harder. Classical curriculum allows even the youngest student a chance to make connections and exercise his mind in a scholarly way.
Limited Use of Technology
Arma Dei Academy takes a measured approach to the usage of technology in the classroom and believes that students need more foundational skills than those acquired by technology alone. Technology is one of many tools; we carefully select the tools utilized in the classroom as they have the ability to make and shape us.
The Washington Post cited a recent study that found, “the more children use computers at school, the more their reading abilities seem to suffer.”
Technology is strong in handling data and locating, accessing, relaying, processing, and handling certain types of communication. Technology is not good for encouraging contemplation and reflection, socialization, or identifying and valuing truth, goodness, and beauty – all things Arma Dei desires to cultivate in our students.