Friends, I am so on fire with what this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday held for me as a Catholic educator and mother. I've written about classical here all year, but I can't express it enough that classical liberal Catholic education model that strives to walk in line with Catholic Church teachings on what Catholic education should be. And what should Catholic education do?
It should educate the whole person.
""Holy Mother Church must be concerned with the whole of man's life, even the secular part of it insofar as it has a bearing on his heavenly calling. Therefore she has a role in the progress and development of education." (Gravissimum Educationis, Preface)"
Culture today pushes the Church to the side, relegating it only Sunday mornings and the occasional holy day. But the truth is, while an overarching separating of church and state as entities protects a country from dissolving into tumultuous theocracy, the family and the church have become so misaligned that the Church is no longer able to support families and families no longer support the Church. As Mark's Gospel warns us, a house divided cannot stand. The Church and family, which was created to protect and provide for one another, cannot stand without the other,
We, as the primary educators of our children, need Mother Church to help us. Just like our children, we require help discerning right from wrong and best from just okay. And good educators, committed to the Catholic faith and its teachings, can help moms and dads who labor daily to provide the best for their children in all areas (not just the material) in a way that is so clearly lacking in greater communities across the United States.
As I look at my own toddler, I am thankful knowing that I am not alone in the development of his character and morality. He is not punished as school for biting; rather, he is disciplined and taught. They remind him that biting hurts and it is never okay to hurt our friends. He placed kindly in a safe space, removed from his friends but not shunned from the group until he is ready to play gently again. And, more importantly, every day, he enters his school with warm greetings and big smiles that he returns eagerly. His school is just as much a home to him as our own home is. And that is only possible because of his teachers' commitment to partnering with us, his parents, to educate our little one with the dignity and respect of the whole person deserves.
Classical is likely to become an educational buzz word in the coming years, similar to differentiation or spelling to learn to read or blah blah blah... but the truth is, if classical education is employed with a sincere marriage to the purpose and intention of Catholic education. Our mission, bestowed on us by the Church through Christ is to create disciples. At the end of the day, we have been given a sacred mission to help these little people become saints.
In the classical curriculum model, one of the inherent pieces is constantly bringing our scholars back to the Truth. As followers of Christ, we know that the Truth can only be found in God and God's Word. Obviously, this means that the Bible needs to be a frequent (if not constant) component of the classroom. Working in Catholic school enables us to do more than just pray or talk about God in the classroom, it also means we can teach about God regardless of our content area.
Our guiding light at St. Regis Academy is to cultivate our scholars natural desire for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. We can only do that by offering them God's Truth found in the Scripture. In my classroom, I try to offer exposure to God's Word as frequently as possible. Our cursive workbooks are brilliant for this; they use different verses to reinforce the letters being taught! As students practice a particular set of letters, they are reinforced through the copying of verses that use that particular letter often. Scholars don't have to memorize or talk about the Bible to feel the positive impact of it Similar to how we believe that Beauty in our churches help us connect to God's wonder and love, the simple act of copying down God's Word can help scholars be more inundated in God's Truth. We need to be mindful of what we consume of adults, intentionally choosing positive things to read, watch, and listen to. Similarly, when we are mindful of what expose are students to as educators, it becomes easier to share the Truth with our scholars, even with something as simple practice cursive using Scripture.
Classical curriculum relies on primary texts; reading real books, not just excerpts or pieces. So far, 8th grade has read two and is almost done with their third. We are currently reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. As we read about the budding relationships, I frequently return our conversations to St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Although often misinterpreted, St. Paul's description of a Christian marriage is an excellent north star for young Christians who are starting discern their vocation. St. Paul instructs his readers that wives should be obedient to their husbands and that husbands should love their wives "as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her". My scholars are slowly able to apply the concept of the verses to their characters, considering which relationships are selfless and giving, willing to serve and trust the other with total abandon.
Other opportunities to incorporate Scripture arrive often. Answering questions about a particular verse makes for good morning work or a Talk About It Tuesday. Philippians 4:8 (my all time favorite verse) makes for a good guiding light when we need a reminder for behavioral expectations. I try to model text-to-text connections by comparing Sundiata to Solomon or Mercy to Ruth. I'm looking forward to using it more this coming month as we explore God's great promise of Christ through the Jesse Tree tradition. Classical curriculum provides space for us to go off in many different directions, pulling whatever we've learned back to our faith. God is the divine inspiration for everything; there's no reason why we can't return everything we learn back to God and God's Truth.
Pray for me as we enter the last few weeks of the semester, I want to do my best to prepare my scholars for Jesus' birthday (even if they don't learn much about grammar this month). After all, at the end of the day, our ultimate goal is to get them to Heaven and how can they do that without the Truth?
First year Catholic educator in the Classical curriculum style. I teach middle school English-Language Arts.