From the beginning of time societies sought and implemented an education or paideia that reflected reality and the culture, they lived in. Each society’s paideia sought to build up men and women who would be torch bearers of their cultures, capable of passing down the legacy and traditions of one’s society. Paideia is the Greek word for education and refers to an education that cultivates the entire person towards completeness. This idea of paideia is also at the heart of Christian classical education. Therefore, let’s take a brief look at its roots.
Ancient Greek paideia sought to cultivate the whole man by cultivating the intellect, the morals, and the physical body. They used music, poetry, and literature to form the morals. They believed music came from the muses; therefore, music and poems were divine and had the ability to touch the spirit of a man and from it, making it love what it ought. They used sports and Olympic style games for training the body. Lastly, the Greeks studied grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, harmonics, astronomy to cultivate the intellect. The four branches of the sciences (natural, moral, philosophy, and theology) were the truths they would study within each liberal art.
The Greeks put an enormously high value on perfecting the body as well as the immaterial part of man. During the Middle Ages, there was a resurgence of Greek paideia. In fact, it is from the Middle Ages that we get the terms Trivium and Quadrivium. The Medieval scholars took the traditions of ancient Greek paideia and re-imagined it through Christ. In fact, I believe the medieval scholars saw how Christ fulfilled the idea of paideia and, therefore, finally made it possible. One component of paideia/classical education is the idea of there being one central image for all truth. One truth or logos that harmonizes everything. The Greeks had gotten as far as recognizing love as this central truth and harmonizer, but they did not have Christ, so that is as far as they could go. Christian paideia recognizes that Christ, who is love, is the central image of the good, the true, and the beautiful in every subject, discipline, and art. Instead of perfecting oneself for life in polis, the Christian classical student and teacher are committing themselves to a way. A way that leads to wholeness and completeness, but not until they see their Savior face-to-face, it is a more glorious perfection, the one we were created for but lost as a result of the fall. Christian paideia embraces a lifelong journey of becoming more like Christ, and in doing so, being made complete in body, soul, and spirit. (1 Thes. 5:23)
Another important idea to consider as we look at the Christian classical curriculum is the unique nature of the seven liberal arts and the four sciences when taught classically releases power to cultivate the intellectual virtues and enable those arts and sciences to become tools that work together for freedom, not just sterile subjects to put on a transcript. In addition, just like the soul, spirit, and body are integrated and need each other, these arts and sciences are all integrated, they are like living organs that give the person who studies them new eyes to see reality and truth with greater clarity. If a person can see the truth more clearly, he can align his life with that truth and the Truth is what sets a man free. This man can rule himself. The virtues and abilities we so desperately want to see cultivated in our kids do not have to be left to chance. We can intentionally cultivate those things through the Christian classical curriculum.
Lastly, it is also important to consider that even though the seven liberal arts and the four sciences interact with the whole person in body, soul, and spirit special attention should still be given to both the spirit and the body. The human spirit is what became dead after the fall. We need Jesus Christ to bring it back to life. With out an alive spirit we are like the natural man, who thinks the things of the Spirit are foolish. (1 Corinthians 2-3) Because of this we will not be able to discern many things if we do not have our spiritual eyes opened. Even though we have already been justified because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, daily practice of prayer, repentance, worship, connection with our church family, and time in the Scriptures is vital to a vibrant life in the spirit and the continuing of our sanctification. Each family will differ in how this plays out in your home, and that is okay. The important part is that we are leading our children to Christ and taking time to acknowledge and participate with the Lord’s presence everyday.
The body needs some attention to. 1 Timothy 4:8 tells us that physical training is of some value. While it is not the most important thing and taking time to do it should not compromise training in the spirit, it should be attended to. By training the body we are taking care of the temple and are being good stewards. One of the resources God gave us to manage is our bodies. Making a choice to eat right, exercise, and be active are some great ideas to get us started on this journey. This is a process and the important thing is that we are moving forward in this. My family has been making small changes over the course of 3 years. We would never have been able to jump to right where we are today, I personally still have a lot of other changes to make, and I will make them at the right time.
For us who have not experienced this kind of education, it will require faith. The restoration and freedom and the mental and spiritual capacity that can be opened up in the life of a student who learns like this is beyond what we could ask or imagine. My soul is bursting at the seams as I contemplate the possibilities. We have no idea the depth, width, length, and breadth of the Father’s love who spoke all of these things into being. His ways are so much higher than our ways and it is His pleasure to hide them and let us seek them out. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2 Why in the world would we think that a God as big as ours would have put no greater depth throughout creation outside of utilitarian methods and content. His word is living and active and, therefore, so is His creation, both the tangible and intangible parts of creation. All of it is given to us and made available to us for becoming like Christ. Through the seven liberal arts and the four sciences, combined with training the body and the spirit, we have the opportunity to energize every single area of our lives to be everything it was created to be.
The Christian classical curriculum cultivates the whole person in body, soul, and spirit by gazing on Christ, the central logos, through the seven liberal arts (grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, harmonics, and astronomy), the four sciences (natural sciences, moral sciences, philosophical sciences, and theological sciences), the spiritual disciplines, and physical training.
Examples from my homeschool
K-12th Year at Glance Charts (Charts included in the free Short & Sweet Guide Download)
Book: The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education, by Jain and Clark
Free PDF: An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents, by Dr. Christopher Perrin
Website: What is Classical Education (Definitions & Terms), by The CiRCE Institute
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