How Do We Implement a Classical Education in our Upper School Humanities Curriculum?

  • December 18, 2014
  • By nsm

socrates Conversation artThe Upper School Humanities faculty is convinced that the Classical approach best enables students to achieve their own, as well as their parents’, educational goals. What is our rationale?

First of all, the Upper School Humanities department chooses its course content within the Classical context. We include the principles, goals, and forms of the ancients that display the lasting values of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Seventh and eighth graders, for example, study the epics of Homer and evaluate his poetic devices, as well as his heroes’ virtues of honor and loyalty. Our ninth graders engage with the Old Testament patriarchs and examine their ability (or inability) to live within God’s covenantal Law.

Secondly, the term Classical applies to teaching methods or “pedagogy.” In our humanities courses we focus on the mental reasoning and skills peculiar to the Logic and Rhetoric stages of development of students. For example, we frequently utilize the Socratic method of questioning at the Logic stage to promote critical thinking necessary for future learning in college and career. We require our upperclassmen to write complex essays or give presentations to their peers to demonstrate mastery of the material. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, our coursework fosters spiritual development through biblical integration with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Finally, a Classical Humanities education represents a philosophy of learning. We believe that the integration of content from one subject to another will give our students the broadest understanding of God’s supervision of the history and achievements of mankind. To this end, we have developed a Humanities curriculum that extensively integrates studies in history, literature, and Bible; a single teacher or team of teachers works to coordinate readings and assignments within a chronological framework. We believe that this avoidance of the typical compartmentalized approach enables our students to participate in the “Great Conversation” which has engaged thinkers through the ages. Ultimately, our Classical philosophy values learning as a lifelong goal…a task encouraged by our great Creator in His Word.

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What Does Classical Education Look Like in Our Lower School?

  • December 11, 2014
  • By nsm


The first years of schooling are the “Grammar Stage” of the Trivium, not because students spend the entire time studying English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all learning are laid. In the Grammar stage, students enjoy memorizing and naturally absorb information. Therefore, during this period, education involves not just self-expression and self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts with a heavy emphasis placed on mastering the basic concepts of each subject area. Students learn the rules of phonics, spelling, and grammar, and memorize the foundational vocabulary of math, science and foreign language. History is taught on a timeline. By the time students exit the Lower School at Hill Country, they have memorized eighty key events and dates, which serves as a foundation for continued study in the Upper School. As students learn foundational mathematical concepts, mastery of math facts is required; therefore, students participate in daily math drills to build automaticity, which serves as a critical foundation for higher-level math.

We use teaching methods in the Lower School that are also uniquely Classical, including chanting, singing, rhyming, drills, and games. Hands-on work and the integration of subject areas are also used to facilitate comprehension. Learning through discovery brings units of study to life as students participate in grade-level events like Egyptian Day and the Renaissance Festival. Quality literature that has stood the test of time builds strong reading skills and enriches the study of many subjects.

The Classical approach also promotes development of logic and rhetoric skills at all stages. Through the use of questioning techniques and hands-on learning, teachers help students think logically and develop higher-order thinking skills. Even very young students are led to make applications, analyze and evaluate information, and create. Rhetoric skills are developed as students regularly participate in oral presentations and Bible recitations in class and in Speech Meet.

To learn more about the Lower School at Hill Country, visit the Lower School Academics page of our website.

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Isn’t a Classical Education Strong in Humanities But Weak in Math & Science?

  • December 4, 2014
  • By nsm

math science tree

During medieval times, educated people in the West studied a broad liberal arts curriculum designed to prepare students to think and learn for themselves, and to actively participate in the Great Conversation of their day. This Classical Liberal Arts Curriculum defined what it meant to be an educated person who was well versed in all topics of the day. Such a person was prepared for life, including further education, which in medieval times usually meant advanced study in theology or philosophy. The curriculum was vocational only in the sense that it provided students a requisite breadth of primary knowledge.

You may be surprised to know that a medieval classical education consisted of much more than the Trivium. The second part of the curriculum was called the Quadrivium and included arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Borrowing Trivium language, arithmetic may be considered the fundamental, “Grammar stage” content of the Quadrivium, followed by application in space (geometry), then in time (astronomy), then in space and time (music). Classical scholars recognized the importance of arithmetic and the value of its application in understanding human existence and participating in the Great Conversation. Math and science were highly esteemed and required topics of study in the medieval classical tradition. Today, when someone receives a liberal arts education, it is often strong in language arts and humanities but weak in math and science. This is an incomplete implementation of a Classical Liberal Arts Curriculum.

At Hill Country, we believe that math and science are critically important components of a Classical education. Our Upper School math program aims for student mastery of a finite list of core skills by requiring a higher standard along with placement options and extra practice for those who need it. We encourage curiosity and exploration in our science program in the same awe-inspiring spirit as David professed in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” We are committed to fostering excellence in math and science as well as in the humanities.

To learn more about the math and science program at Hill Country, visit the Academics section of our website.

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