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Principled Pedagogy: Teaching Grounded in Classical Study and Joyful Discovery

August 10, 2018
By Amy Butcher, Head of School

Throughout this year, the Board of Trustees and I have studied and discussed each of the Lorien Wood seven Distinctives. These Distinctives make Lorien Wood unique and are what guide us in our shepherding of the school. In addition to the Board considerations, the faculty and I have used a monthly meeting all year to study and fully understand this Distinctive. How does it inform our practice? In what ways are we fulfilling this Distinctive in and out of the classroom?  What do “Classical Study and Joyful Discovery” mean at Lorien Wood? We’ve all enjoyed expanding our understanding of the educational philosophies that undergird our practice.

Reading through the Distinctive considerations, I imagine you’ve noticed the myriad of ways they are integral to one another. In fact, we cannot have one without the other! The last Leader article on Integral Curriculum articulated this well: “this integral approach to educating children extends from the curriculum itself and the many ways our children explore topics, to Lorien Wood’s general culture. As a school, we are very intentional about recess and lunch, music and art, before school recess time, the use of the bell, etc. We seek and desire to be intentional about all pieces of the students’ day here at Lorien Wood, because all those pieces are integral, just as the students themselves are.”

Using this integral lens, it is clear that Teaching Grounded in Classical Study and Joyful Discovery cannot be separated fully from Integral Curriculum, Character Development, or Nurturing the Uniqueness of Each Child. It is, rather, the way we articulate the “how” (teaching methodology) we do the “what” (curriculum, character development, differentiation, etc). Flowing out of our commitment to God’s Word, our teaching methods place great importance on providing our students with a varied and edifying diet of ideas, books, music, scientific theories and artwork.

Extending from our belief that children are made in the image of God for the purpose of serving him, we equip our students to engage in the joy of lifelong learning.

We utilize the Classical approach to education in several ways. Our teachers make the most of time-tested works from history and literature. Our pedagogy includes the use of seminar to teach critical thinking skills, oral expression, and the ability to debate graciously and respectfully. In addition, teachers make some use of the lecture format as a means of relaying information to develop a student’s ability to listen attentively and to take notes. Teachers also coach students as they practice skills and engage in projects. This is how we are “Grounded in Classical Study.”

In addition, Lorien Wood recognizes the way Charlotte Mason, a 19th-century educator, found the highly intellect-focused methodology of the Classical approach (memorizing and drills) to be lacking in developing a child’s love of learning. We share her great respect for the child as a learner, taking advantage of a child’s natural curiosity and delight in discovery. We seek to engage the whole child through many of her methodologies: the use of “living books” rather than textbooks; the recitation of Scripture and poetry; the use of narration to remember specific details from a passage of literature; and the implementation of nature and picture studies, which involves looking attentively at a work of art or specimen from nature. Children are encouraged to develop the habits that honor God and their neighbor as they live out the call to serve one another in love.  This is how we are “Grounded in Joyful Discovery.”

Integral not only to our curriculum, Biblical worldview, and nurturing of each child, this Distinctive is also integral to our understanding of Character Development.  Our faculty seeks to bring grace alongside truth in their various methods of instruction. Recognizing that children are both “fearfully and wonderfully made” and sinners in need of a savior, we equip our faculty to see their relationship with children as one of discipleship. In this, the teacher strives to differentiate instruction based on each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and to speak words that are both true and gracious. Because of our relational approach to teaching, students are known, loved, and encouraged to foster a thirst for learning.

Teaching Grounded in Classical Study and Joyful Discovery is a comprehensive approach to education that embodies our understanding of what it means to be a lifelong learner.  We know and practice a balance between educating the mind and heart: we are disciplined and experiential, foster intellect and curiosity, and always seek to engage and meet the needs of the whole child.