By now you may be wondering what this classical education thing is all about. Isn’t it just another method used in a long line of new alternative schools that seem to be cropping up everywhere? In truth, classical education is the method and philosophy of education that has trained many of the greatest minds in western history for over two millennia; although it is a foreign concept to many in this current age, it is recently beginning to take hold in our nation again as a compelling alternative to the widespread educational method. At SLO Classical Academy, we chose to adopt this philosophy because we know it to be the best method of education for bringing about the forging of character, the fostering of wisdom, and the nurturing of a lifelong passion for learning in our students.
The essence of a truly classical education, especially as employed here at SLOCA, is multi-faceted.
One of the golden threads of classical education is the understanding that a student’s learning progresses through three stages of what has been termed as the trivium: grammar, logic (otherwise referred to as dialectic), and rhetoric. These stages of the trivium can be viewed as connected to the developmental levels through which all children progress, as well as the phases for learning any subject. First, a student (child or adult) must learn the grammar or fundamentals of the concept or skill being learned. After mastering the grammar, the individual is able to fit the concepts together logically in the logic stage. Lastly, the student is able to move from the logical ordering of the subject to the beautiful and winsome expression of the related ideas in the rhetoric stage. A well-developed mind is able to utilize these learning strategies to approach any subject, skill, or new idea with confidence that mastery is attainable through the wise application of the trivium.
Classical education is probably most widely recognized for its commitment to the disciplines of history and literature, promoting the study of those written works that have stood the test of time. The reading and discussion of great books is a hallmark of SLOCA, where the whole family engages in the great conversation: the ongoing discussion that we hold with those from the past, who have written works that have stood the test of time; those in the present, as we dialogue about these great ideas; and those in the future, as we write and speak our own thoughts for those who will come after us. Just some of the authors we engage with in this great conversation at SLOCA include Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain, among many others. Right alongside this engaging literature, students and families at SLO Classical Academy are guided through a rich study of the historical narrative of our culture. We study history in a four-period cycle of ancient cultures (especially Greece and Rome), The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, and Early American History. We have found that, with some coaching, most students are capable of—and actually enjoy—reading the great works of these authors in their entirety at the appropriate age, understanding the historical context for those writings and experiencing the goodness, truth, and beauty contained within.
The study of Latin is essential to a classical education. Not only does it provide the student with an understanding of the essential structure and function of western languages, but it also allows the student to hone his/her analytical skills and build vocabulary. At the same time, the study of Latin exposes the student to the language, philosophy, religion, culture, and history of Roman Civilization, which has provided the foundation for our own nation’s system of government and law and has had an impact on many aspects of our culture due to the role played by Latin literature in Western educational tradition. Because of all these benefits, Latin is thoroughly integrated into the life of our school and the students are well prepared for advanced studies in many of the world’s modern languages.
While it may be that some classical schools emphasize history, literature and language at the expense of math and science, this is not the case at SLOCA, where math and science are areas of strength. In the same way that other subjects are approached through the use of the Trivium, math and science are taught in a logical and systematic way to build towards mastery of mathematical and scientific language and concepts. Students here are challenged beyond simply utilizing algorithms to solve problems; rather, they are taught to think mathematically and scientifically. As in all subjects, advanced students are expected to dialogue with the teacher and fellow students using vocabulary and conceptual ideas that demonstrate understanding. Essential to classical education, students are challenged to understand, think, and communicate their understanding in math and science as they do in all areas of study.
Classical education reawakens the individual who embraces it as their choice method and philosophy of learning. We at SLOCA love to learn because we have tasted what excellent education can be. The families involved in our school experience rich conversations that are rare in our current culture. These conversations are sparked by the timeless stories, the eye-opening history, and the thoughtfully designed curriculum and learning opportunities.
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