Classical Christian Education: Teaching Truth, Goodness, and Beauty to the Glory of God

“School of Athens” by Raphael

Classical Education is a method of teaching children according to their developmental stages of learning, which correspond to the aspects of the Trivium, that is grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The Trivium has been around since the Middle Ages, but also find its roots in Ancient Greece. Classical Christian Education, however, is educating children in the Trivium with a distinct Christian worldview.

While modern education seeks to put the child in the center of all their learning, Classical Christian Education sees that God is the center of all learning. It recognizes that all truth is God’s truth, and that one cannot fully distinguish truth and error without understanding God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. Everything should then be examined through the lenses of Scripture, as it relates to God and His revelation. Children need not be shielded from the plethora of opposing philosophies and harsh realities of life. Rather, they need to be grounded firmly on the Word of God, which will then arm them with the grid whereby they can sift through different ideas that will come their way.

N.D. Wilson, son of Classical Christian Education proponent Doug Wilson, wrote this excellent piece on how to train children in his book Notes From The Tilt-The-Whirl:

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.

I truly believe that Classical Christian Education will give children the tools to do just that. Children will learn how to acquire information (grammar), how to think critically (logic), and how to communicate with clarity (rhetoric).

Francis Schaeffer once said about education:

If Christianity is not just one more religion, one more upper story kind of thing… then it has something to say about all the disciplines, and it certainly has something to say about the humanities and the arts and the appreciation of them. And I want to say quite firmly, if your Christian school does not do this, I do not believe it is giving a good education… True Christian education is not a negative thing; it is not a matter of isolating the student from the full scope of knowledge. Isolating the student from large sections of human knowledge is not the basis of a Christian education. Rather it is giving him or her the framework or total truth, rooted in the Creator’s existence and in the Bible’s teaching, so that in each step of the formal learning process the student will understand what is true and what is false and why it is true or false. It is not isolating students from human knowledge. It is teaching them in a framework of the total Biblical teaching, beginning with the tremendous central thing, that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It is teaching in this framework, so that on their own level, as they are introduced to all of human knowledge, they are not introduced in the midst of a vacuum, but they are taught each step along the way why what they are hearing is either true or false. That is true education. The student, then, is an educated person.

Classical Christian Education is where knowledge and virtue converge. But ultimately, the goal is for children to recognize and treasure truth, goodness, and beauty, to the glory of God.


Learn more about the Trivium and Christian Christian Education from these valuable resources:

The Ministry of Motherhood: Resting in Gospel Promises in the Season of Motherhood

“The Good Mother” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Never was I the girl who dreamt of unicorns, tiaras, and Prince Charming. Growing up, I was an “accidental feminist” who fought for women empowerment. In hindsight, it would seem that I have grossly misunderstood God’s design for women, as settling down was farthest from my mind when I entered seminary back in 2005. Homemaking and child rearing, I thought, would just slow me down if I allowed myself to fall victim to this oppressive male dominated society. Yet because of God’s providence, He allowed me to discover the true essence of femininity as taught in the Scriptures. The Lord also led me to find a kindred spirit, with whom I share the love for good coffee, good books, and good theology.

When my husband and I first got married, we faced the challenges of church planting together. It was a lot like caring for a baby, and we were both treading on new ground. We both faced the increasing demands of a fledgling ministry, and the prospect of another newborn in nine months.

A year into our marriage, the Lord was pleased to bless us with a daughter. It was also during those times that I, together with my husband, made the conscious decision that I will be setting aside formal ministry for a while, in order to become a full-time mom. While I understand that some women choose to walk both paths of family and career at the same time, it became my conviction that the best way to rear a child was to stay at home. Not surprisingly, I was cajoled more often than I can remember that my seminary degree would be put to waste if I did. However, knowing that the formative years are particularly crucial, I was neither convinced to allow somebody else to parent my child, while I concern myself with other “more important” duties. I took heed this caveat from an old venerable pastor,

The babe grows into the child; the child into the youth; the youth into the man; and the man into the immortal; and that immortal will be an heir of glory—or a child of perdition. Let this be remembered from the beginning and always acted upon.

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In the same manner, Martin Luther, too, asserted the importance of child-rearing as each parent’s supreme gospel work to children:

Now the ones who recognise the estate of marriage are those who firmly believe that God himself instituted it, brought husband and wife together, and ordained that they should beget children and care for them… But the greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labour worth while, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him. In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls. Now since we are all duty bound to suffer death, if need be, that we might bring a single soul to God, you can see how rich the estate of marriage is in good works. God has entrusted to its bosom souls begotten of its own body, on whom it can lavish all manner of Christian works. Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops, and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel. In short, there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children, for this authority is both spiritual and temporal. Whoever teaches the gospel to another is truly his apostle and bishop… See therefore how good and great is God’s work and ordinance!

My primary role as a mother of my child is to raise her in the instruction of the Lord, for she has been gifted to me for that very purpose. This I was determined to do, by God’s grace, in the home that He has blessed us with.

Yet the more I journey in this season of motherhood, the more I realize that there are even more bridges to cross. Without understanding the beauty and blessings of the Gospel daily, I would never be able to embrace and exercise the role of wife, mother, and homemaker, at the same time. It is a constant dying to the desires of doing “more relevant” work, of acquiring another academic degree, or pursuing other vain pursuits and paths to glory. But as a wife to my husband, the Gospel assures me a dignity that is no less than his. We are co-heirs in the grace of Christ. It is vital that I daily recognize and recall my divine calling to assist him in his own mission from the Lord. One of the ways of doing this is to fulfill my responsibility as a mother to our child in the home no matter how seemingly mundane it can be. As a mother, I am called to instruct my child in the Word of God by seeking to show her that the Bible is not a compendium of separate stories or mere examples of moral principles that she can follow, instead God’s plan of redemption is on every page of Scripture. The Gospel also allows me to take comfort in the fact that even though I have not gotten every single thing right, my covenant child’s salvation rests in God’s unfailing mercy and the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ. As a homemaker, my identity is neither found in how beautifully ornate nor how effectively organized my home is, rather it is in the promise of the Gospel, that our Redeemer will come again and make all things new. And He will bring His imperfect children, including stress-driven and sleep-deprived mothers, to glory, as they bask in his perfections for all eternity.

The late Elisabeth Elliot once said, “A mother is a chalice, the vessel without which no human being has ever been born. She is created to be a life-bearer, cooperating with her husband and with God in the making of a child. What a solemn responsibility. What an unspeakable privilege—a vessel divinely prepared for the Master’s use.” This is my calling. This is my mission. This is my ministry.

Omnia pro Dei gloria.


NOTE: This article is intended for the next issue (July-September 2015 edition) of the Biblical Seminary of the Philippines Alumni Association E-Journal. This article is republished in this blog with permission from the editor.

Three ways to read with children

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Photo from Universityofcalifornia.edu

[Y]ou can deepen your own understanding of literature while helping your children learn to read. Children need to spend time with books in three ways:

  1. Being read to from books above their reading level to increase speaking vocabulary. A good reader of any age benefits by being read to, as it will also broaden their listening skills. We have an easier time reading hard words that we are used to hearing and saying.
  2. Reading easy books below level in order to master common words. Reading below level increases speed and accuracy and should be the type of reading any of us spend the most time on. It is slow work to read a book that requires you to use a dictionary on every page. Children are naturally drawn to chapter books as they become advanced readers. I think it is important to let them read the entire Star Wars or Nancy Drew series if your children enjoy them because it makes them over-practice easy words. Being able to read easy words without expending energy frees their brain to tackle more difficult vocabulary.
  3. Reading books at a comfortable level to gently increase the child’s reading skills. Students need to read in short stints at grade level in order to stretch their reading ability. This type of reading requires a dictionary or an older reader listening nearby to help with new words. This type of reading should be read out loud or discussed to evaluate the students’ comprehension. Reading at this level also compensates for all the easy literature as it forces the student to incrementally mature his or her reading selection.

—Leigh A. Bortins, The Core: Teaching Your Child The Foundations of Classical Education, 90-91.

Another way to put it is, Read Aloud, Read Along, and then they’ll learn to Read Alone.