Educational Philosophy and Distinctives
Since the Bible places primary responsibility for a child’s education upon parents, Riverwood Classical School exists to assist parents in fulfilling this responsibility. Riverwood Classical School employs a refined classical method informed by an orthodox and reformed Christian tradition to teach students how to learn, to love learning, to reason precisely and logically, and to communicate clearly and persuasively. Essential to the methods employed is our recognition that God’s truth, as revealed in Scripture, is the core of all learning and knowledge. This truth unites all disciplines and allows the traditional subject areas of education to be taught as an integrated whole. The goal of education at Riverwood Classical School is to prepare each student for a lifetime of learning, living in submission to the principles of Scripture, knowing and loving God with his mind as well as his heart, and utilizing his individual gifts for the glory of God.
Riverwood Classical School distinguishes itself both from state schools and from other private and Christian schools. In contrast to the approach of state schools, Riverwood Classical School both acknowledges and expects that children are their parents’ responsibility. Particularly, the Bible instructs the father to bring up his child in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4. Therefore, this school is designed to assist parents who wish to have their children well educated from a Christian and Biblical perspective in all disciplines. In contrast to other Christian schools, the classical model does not simply seek to create a Christian environment by adding a class in Bible to what would otherwise be an acceptable curriculum at a state operated school. Rather, the Biblical worldview is central to every aspect of a classical Christian education.
Before the Biblical worldview can infuse the curriculum, it must be modeled in the educational environment. The school must exist as a covenant community within itself before it can truly be of assistance to the greater covenant community. All adults within the school, including faculty, staff, and administration, must realize the necessity of caring for and shepherding each other as well as the students entrusted to them. This means that in all matters between the school personnel and students and amongst the personnel themselves, interactions must be guided by Biblical principles. All of those associated with the school must respect the dignity of others as beings created in the image of God who share the common trait of being sinners in need of the redemptive power of Christ. Therefore, we must keep each other accountable for our sins as prescribed in the Book of Matthew, 18: 15-17, showing Christ’s love to each other and seeking one another’s highest good.
Once it is acknowledged that the educational community of the school is in fact a covenant community under Christ, there must also be the common acknowledgement that God is the source of all truth. This recognition provides common ground for all that is taught in the school. Once this sole source of the substance of education is confessed, subjects can no longer be taught in isolation. In a classical Christian curriculum, subjects are united in order to present a more coherent picture of reality, allowing disciplines to overlap and intertwine as they actually do. Nowhere is this reflected more than in the teaching of Latin. Despite it’s lack of evident usefulness for day to day communication, the knowledge of Latin provides tools for learning in all disciplines and is a common and unifying element of the Western cultural tradition to which we belong.
Specifically, the classical method utilizes the Trivium, a three-part sequence to education which coincides with the natural developmental stages of childhood. The sequence of the Trivium includes a Grammar phase, a Logic phase, and a Rhetoric phase.
The Grammar phase encompasses the first years of education, usually from the Kindergarten through the fifth or sixth grade, when children are good at and enjoy memorizing, particularly through rhyme and song. Grammar, in the classical model, refers not only to the rules of language but to the rules and data of all areas of learning. For example, the grammar of history would be the sequence and dates of events, and the grammar of mathematics would be addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables.
In the sixth grade year, a classically educated student begins to make the transition to the Logic or Dialectic phase of his education. At this time, the student’s natural tendencies turn from a propensity for memorization to an interest in argumentation. The Logic phase takes advantage of the junior high student’s natural inquisitiveness and argumentativeness to teach the student how the facts of the Grammar phase may be logically connected and analyzed. The ability to discern good arguments from flawed ones is emphasized, and tools for determining the truth and validity of assumed relationships are honed.
Finally, during the high school years, known as the Rhetoric stage, the classically trained student is taught the art of effectively communicating the logical conclusions he has learned to derive. The culmination of the Trivium is the mastery of rhetoric, or the ability to convey ideas and conclusions in a coherent, persuasive, and winsome manner, through speaking and writing.
Ultimately, we seek to recognize and teach God’s complete sovereignty over the world, individuals, and events. Because the success of our endeavors depends upon His guidance and blessing, we believe prayer to be integral to all we do. For this reason, all participants of the school community must commit to praying fervently for one another, the school, and God’s direct and constant intervention. Only by Gods grace will this school be able to serve the covenant community by imparting the heart and mind of Christ to each student while training him to think with discernment, to communicate clearly, and to love the process of learning. Our desire is to encourage in each individual a robust faith in Christ which inspires the pursuit and defense of His truth, beauty, and goodness through all of life, for His glory and the advance of His kingdom.