Classical Program

Classical Program

Classical Education Defined: 

What is it? How is it different from typical public schools? 

How is it different from typical Christian schools?

A) A classical education refers to traditional content and teaching styles that would have been experienced by most American children up until about a hundred years ago. It seeks to cultivate wisdom and virtue through the practice of the liberal and common arts. 

Examples to consider: Socrates and the Socratic Method. Tutors and governesses that lived in the home and instructed the family’s children in all manner of things from reading and math to sewing and navigation. Laura Ingalls’ description of how she taught her one-room schoolhouse on the prairie.

B) It prioritizes the Great Books, works that have stood the test of time; and engaging in the Great Conversation; reading, listening, writing and speaking to deepen understanding of concepts that have shaped human civilization. It prioritizes habits of learning that will support each child’s life-long pursuit of the good, the beautiful, and the true. 

Examples of texts: the Bible, Shakespeare, Plutarch, Euclid. Great poets. Classic historical fiction rather than history textbooks. Works of art. Hymnals. 

Examples of habits: focus, attention to detail, memorization, discussion, note-taking, responsibility, time-management, creating order from disorder

Examples of skills: penmanship, public speaking, writing, mathematical thinking, drawing, singing, carpentry, gardening and food preservation, sewing, animal husbandry, sports and games

C) Its pace of instruction is markedly slower because the learning experience is designed to go deeper. This concept is exemplified by the term “scholé” which means restful learning. It values intellectual rigor over short-term performative assessments.

An Upper School example to consider: An 11th grade Literature class in the typical public school would read excerpts from many books, skimming through one or two sources per week for the purpose of touching on any reading skill that might appear on a standardized test. In contrast, the 11th grade classical school class would read fewer books but they would read the entire work, while engaging in discussion and written reflection, for the purpose of considering how this work was important to the development of a civilization.

A Grammar School example to consider: A 3rd grader in the typical public school brings home math worksheets for homework. The worksheet covers five different math concepts and requires 30 minutes of parental support to complete. The 3rd grade math class in the classical school sends home no homework. Math is taught via manipulatives and teacher demonstration. Students practice concepts, working directly with the teacher, until they demonstrate deep understanding of them. Mastery and real-world application are priorities over rapid exposure and review. 

D) The classical education is characterized by the pursuit of that which is good, that which is true, and that which is beautiful. Using these guidelines it teaches children virtues and responsibilities in line with Christ’s commands to, “love your neighbor as yourself”. It teaches children to be stewards of the earth and caretakers of their fellow man. In these ways many families seeking a Christian education are at home with a truly classical education. Families who do not practice a religion but value this worldview are also at home in a classical education setting. Typical religious activities such as chapel or a Bible class may be offered as optional but attendance is not be required.

Sundial Classical Program follows a cottage instruction model in the Charlotte Mason tradition. Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) lived in England and, like Maria Montessori (1870-1952) in Italy, developed an educational pedagogy to correct ills arising from the increasing industrialization of schools. Resisting the movement for schools to be reduced to training grounds for the factory, both of these women sought a return to the classical model, teaching literature and the arts and the pursuit of a rich, thoughtful life. Mason, in particular, believed a successful classical education required children to spend large amounts of time outside learning from the natural world and to read only good literature, or “living books” as she called them. She believed that if these two factors were emphasized then the child would learn the habits of a healthy, balanced life with a desire for beauty and truth that would motivate all future learning. 

The cottage school model bridges the gap between the homeschool co-op and the traditional, full-time school. Whereas a homeschool co-op is staffed by volunteers and meets 1-2 days a week, the cottage school is staffed by a mixture of salaried employees and volunteers and meets 4-5 days a week. Whereas the traditional school usually meets from about 8am to 3pm every weekday, the cottage school has more flexible scheduling options available to families in order to offer either shorter or longer school days, according to individual preferences.

Sundial Classical Program is located at Woldumar Nature Center. All students will spend part of their week working in the garden, greenhouse, forest, or with farm animals. We believe making farm work an integral part of our day will do many things. Here are just some of the things it provides:

  • Tangible opportunities for responsibility.
  • Experiences with the cyclical nature of seasons as it pertains to agriculture.
  • Observation and application of biological science principles in action.
  • Opportunities for contributions to the community– especially meaningful to students who are not academically gifted.
  • Daily outdoor activity to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Another  important part of the identity of our Classical Program is its supportive community. All students will contribute to the day-to-day functioning of the community. For example:

  • Guiding younger students
  • Cleaning portions of the building at the end of the day
  • Assisting staff with preparation of materials
  • Leading or maintaining farm projects and activities