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What is a Classical, Christian Education

What is a Classical, Christian Education

Defining Classical, Christian Education

What is Classical, Christian education? Does it mean studying history? Reading boring old books?  Is it only for SUPER SMART students?  Six years ago, God gave me a passion for classical, Christian education, and during that time, I have shared the model with many, many families.  

 The classical, Christian education model is a simple, time-tested model that focuses on training the skills to learn anything, and nurtures the whole person to fulfill their calling as man-made in the image of a sovereign God, set apart for His glory,  in this life and the next.

Three Attributes of Classical, Christian Education

Three main attributes of classical, Christian education discussed here are skill-based learning, the interrelatedness of all subjects to all other subjects, and the recognition of the value of man, who is made in the image of God for a purpose.    There are other attributes of a classical, Christian education model, but these three provide a backbone for it.

Classical education is skill-based. 

These skills are collectively referred to as “The Trivium”, a Latin word meaning three ways.  The three ways are three stages of learning and development, each with its own tools:  the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages.

  • The first stage is the grammar stage. It starts at birth and developmentally extends until around age 11.   In this stage, students are learning vocabulary, facts, and principles of any subject in the world around them in a rote fashion.  Their understanding may be very limited at first, but they are becoming familiar with the world they encounter.  Students in this stage learn best by exploring, experiencing, observing, repetition, memorization, and dramatization.
  • The second stage, naturally occurring from around ages 11 – 14, is the dialectic or logic stage. At this point, the student develops a drive to understand and relate one to another all the experiences and facts they have and continue to collect.  This stage is characterized as a time of questions, challenging authority, and starting to rely on their own thinking. Students at this stage benefit from learning to ask good questions, reason logically, and debate ideas respectfully.
  • Finally, around age 14 students who have been trained to think well, will begin to emerge from the dialectic stage into the rhetoric stage. At this point, students can use their knowledge and skills to creatively relate information in new ways while practicing communicating information eloquently and winsomely. To learn new things they will delve back into the grammar and dialectic stages briefly, to learn the facts and process the information, but will be able to efficiently bring that information into a relationship with the other information they know hold, and continue to communicate their ideas.

Stages and Tools of Classical Education

The stages and tools of the Trivium function like a computer.   The grammar stage is input, the dialectic stage is processing, and the rhetorical stage is output.    Once a student has the skills from these three areas, they can spend a lifetime processing any and all information they encounter through their own “computer”, a working understanding of the tools of the Trivium.

While it may look like one has to be super smart to do well with a classical, Christian education model, the reverse is actually true: the classical, Christian education model goes with the grain of student development and is effective at equipping students with the skills they need to learn and understand anything in a faster, easier, and better way.

Developmentally Appropriate Skill Development is Fruitful

Often, in modern education, we see mismatches between assignments and developmental stages that create frustration.  Examples would be: asking a first grader to break apart math problems and relate different strategies to the same problem, asking the grade-schooler to invent something meaningful, asking a twelve-year-old to take a well-reasoned stand on a social justice issue, asking a high school student to memorize a bunch of facts with no need for application.

While there are always exceptions, and students may enter a stage early in an area of gifting, mostly mismatches like these needlessly create frustration and confusion that ultimately can drive students to think either too much of their own abilities or more often not enough.  Teaching the students skills that correspond with their developmental stage, and that are effective for learning, should reduce frustration and create confidence in learning.

An Interrelated World

After planting our roots in the model of the Trivium, classical, Christian education is focused on understanding the inter-relatedness of all subjects.    Since we believe that all of heaven and earth was created by one, sovereign God, it comes to make sense that all subjects would be interrelated in some way.

A Modern Education

A modern education student might be accustomed to being the center of a paradigm that asks them to learn math, then reading, then bible study, then history, and is interested in their reaction to those individual subjects, often independent of all else.  In a Christian, classical education the student is removed from the center of the model, and God is rightly reflected as the center of all creation, all knowledge, informing us about all things, and all things reflecting back information on Him.

The Classical Model of Education

The classical, Christian model continually asks one to consider how each subject relates to all other subjects.   Contemplating how the arts relate to the sciences, or how history relates to literature, will produce insights that studying either discipline alone would not likely produce.  Likewise, taking a single topic, for example, the topic of water, and considering how it is represented in science, art, music, math, or history, and how those representations connect one to another, will deepen understanding of all parts of that analysis.

One may even choose specific concerns to compare and relate: How is water conservation policy at your local river related to artistic freedom?  How is popular music related to current events?  How is the founding of Rome related to your curriculum decision? How does man relate to God?  How does the Old Testament relate to the New Testament?  How does a leader today relate to a leader in the past?  When you practice finding the connections and relationships between points like this, you will find these questions lead to ideas that lead to other questions, and each will continually reveal layers of understanding about the world around you.

The Value of Man

As Christians we believe that man was created by God, in His image, to glorify Him. The world and everything in it, is to be brought into submission to this purpose.   While modern education is focused on science and the material world, classical, Christian education recognizes the physical world as well as the heart, mind, and soul, and that we live in with the tension and promise of a transcendent reality, beyond what our five senses can detect.

While modern education looks for the new, useful, and profitable, classical, Christian education considers what is good, true, and beautiful. While modern education considers man without meaning, nothing more than a primate with skills, a random, chance occurrence in nature, classical, Christian education knows that man is made for a purpose and can grow in wisdom, and virtue in order to further fulfill that purpose.

How does classical, Christian education achieve these lofty, yet abstract goals?  

Thankfully, this world has a long history of men and women considering these ideas in thought, word, and deed, and a modern student can join in The Great Conversation by reading classic literature and studying history.   The term “The Great Conversation” represents the ongoing process of writers and thinkers referencing, building on, and refining the works of their predecessors.

All the tools and skills of the classical, Christian model come together in The Great Conversation and work together to give one opportunities to refine their discernment of truth, goodness, and beauty, building wisdom and virtue. This is, of course, a lifetime journey, not necessarily a destination we fully arrive at in this life.   The constant refining of our reason and understanding, never being left stuck in as a prisoner to our selfish small world, is the true gift of a classical, Christian education.

(Interested in pursuing a Classical Homeschool Education for your child?  Check out our course offerings at True North Homeschool Academy.)


The classical, Christian education model uses the stages and skills of the Trivium, a vision for an inter-connected worldview, unified by one, sovereign God, creator of all things, and the knowledge that man is made in the image of God, to glorify Him in this world in the next, in order develop the whole person, able to participate in all this world and the next has to offer.  A classical, Christian education is for those who are interested in quality over quantity, timeless versus fleeting, and eternity versus the present moment.

By Natalie Micheel

Natalie lives in South Dakota with her husband and two awesome kids.  She has now homeschooled for over 10 years with Christian, classical and literature-based paradigms, including teaching for and leading faith-based homeschool groups locally.  Natalie speaks locally on all things classical, Christian ed.  She loves sharing the classical model and the hope and joy of homeschooling your own children with the next generation of homeschool mamas!  Natalie enjoys speaking and teaching and thinking, as well as reading and writing and dreaming.   She finds particular satisfaction in working with tweens and teens and moms to inspire them towards the good, true and beautiful, and walking beside them as they learn to equip themselves to fulfill their callings in this world.

Integration: The Benefits are Enormous

Integration: The Benefits are Enormous

(The following is a guest post from Marlin Detweiler, president and founder of Veritas Press.)

One of the most overlooked educational opportunities for the homeschool parent is integration. Let’s pause to be clear. We’re not talking about racial integration. We’re talking about integrating disciplines and content.

We come by the problem of not integrating—if it is one—as part of the DNA of the education we got. We were taught math in math class, literature in English and spelling in spelling. I went to a public (government) school all my life. Even in my elementary years when the teacher was the same for all classes, I don’t believe integration was an intentional part of my education.

From our earliest exposure to classical education in 1992, we have valued the idea of integration of content and concepts.

There are several reasons. Scripture teaches, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” Acts 17:28a. All things come to in Christ. The medieval educator understood theology— meaning that which is from the Scriptures—to be the queen of the sciences. By that they meant that theology was the overarching standard. It connected all other knowledge, informed all other knowledge and controlled all other knowledge. It was the integration point.


Today we see wonderful attempts to integrate in the education of many children. Here are a few to stimulate your imagination:


The study of history with the study of the Bible


Students learn to appreciate what was happening elsewhere during the Exodus or King David’s reign or the building of the pyramids. The list could go one.
Science and history; or

Math and history

Scientific developments had great impact on history—remember Copernicus? Ever considered how the Golden Mean has affected architecture?
Literature and writingLearning to write by modeling the writing of others is not new to many of us.
Any content subject and writingUsing writing assignments to develop student writing and their mastery of Bible, history, science, math, etc. is a tremendous integration technique.
History and historical fiction literatureHelps make history come alive and stimulates imaginations.
History/philosophy and artKnowing the time period, connecting it to the art of the day can help build an appreciation for the philosophy and thought of the day.
Geography and historyIt’s amazing how geography impacts history.
Logic and…you name itAlways, always, always bring logic into a discussion of any subject for students who are studying it.


Much of this may seem common sense. I hope so because much of it is. That’s not typically why more integration doesn’t happen. Most often it’s because of a lack of intent and planning. Good integration requires good planning.

There’s another great benefit to good integration. Efficiency. Good integration will save you time—lots of it.

Do yourself a favor and take some time today thinking about how you can prepare lessons that take advantage of integration opportunities. You’ll be amazed at all the benefits.

(Looking for a great Classical Education program?  Check out our selection at True North Homeschool Academy.)

Do you use the concept of integration in your homeschool? Integration is a time saving concept that is vital for the homeschool mom. Check out, Marlin Detweiler, President of Vertias Press, thoughts on Integration. #homeschool #classicaleducation #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #integratedlearning

Bio of Marlin Detweiler

Marlin has been a leader in the effort to recover classical education from a Christian worldview since 1992. Together with his wife, Laurie, he was instrumental in the foundation of three classical schools: Veritas Scholars Academy an online school based in Lancaster, PA (2006); Veritas Academy, Leola, PA (1996); and The Geneva School, Orlando, FL (1992).

He serves as the president and founder of Veritas Press which provides classical educational materials worldwide for homeschools and Christian schools and operates Veritas Scholars Academy, an online school with more than 10,000 students. He has spoken in dozens of cities on classical education in both school and conference settings. He served on the National Board of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools as a founding board member for 22 years and served as its initial chairman for two years.

Marlin has written, edited, published and participated in the creative process for many of the leading curricular works serving the classical education communities. He has a B.A. in Business Management from North Carolina State University where he played on the university golf team.

He and his wife Laurie were blessed to be raised by Christian parents and have raised four Christian sons; Jameson, Brandon, Travis and Parker. They are further blessed with three daughters-in law and four grandchildren.

You can find out more about Veritas Press Here

A Homeschool Graduate’s Tips for College

A Homeschool Graduate’s Tips for College

A Homeschool Graduate’s Tips for College

Looking Back: a Homeschool Graduate’s Tips for College, while it’s still fresh in my memory! I still remember that day in the fall of my junior year when I realized that college was actually approaching, and I had to make my own decision about a major step in my life. I felt unable to choose from all the options; being the introvert that I am I planned to be cautious by choosing a small Bible college close to home. It had nothing unique to what I was interested in, didn’t offer my chosen major, and was really just a cop-out because I wanted to attend college. However, my entire perspective on what college could be for me was changed when I attended a college fair and found out about Patrick Henry College.

Getting into a college like PHC

PHC is small (less than 300 students), classical, and (in my opinion) one of the few Christian colleges in the United States that still follows true Biblical doctrine. After finding my dream school back in 2016, the next step was the application process. I submitted the required materials and then spent two and a half hours on the phone with my admissions counselor discussing my spiritual life, high school classes, community involvement, life goals, and biggest failures. Next, my counselor committed to push for my acceptance. The day I was accepted is one of my favorites even now.

What do classical colleges look for?

When I visited the school, I learned from current students and my admissions counselor that PHC was looking for a specific type of person—not necessarily the person with the best SAT score or the longest list of AP classes. This was what I heard when I visited Grove City College in Pennsylvania as well. Private classical liberal arts schools often prioritize phone interviews over submitted work.

Patrick Henry was interested in the fact that I worked at Chick-fil-A, taught a kindergarten class at my church, and had a passion for classical education. They appreciated that I played the violin and participated in a couple mock trials. I realized that the team at PHC focused on the character of the students they accepted more than the standardized test scores they received. This became a new draw for me to attend the school because I knew that they valued full people, not just numbers.

Did my education equip me for life at PHC?

As a second-semester college freshman, I can’t say that I always fully appreciated my classical homeschooling journey back in high school. The hours I spent wrestling with Latin homework, digesting classic literature, and discussing philosophy were taken for granted when they passed by, but they are definitely paying off now. Instead of drowning in my first semester of college Latin, I was able to enjoy it most days.

Attending a classical academy one day each week equipped me to be comfortable with participating in class discussions at PHC. Reading many of the Great Books back in high school gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding in my second read here at PHC. My freshman year has still been the hardest venture I’ve ever attempted, but I can’t imagine going into it without the high school experience I had.

If I could send one message to high schoolers and their parents at this point, I think it’d be the cliché saying repeated to students all the time: fight the good fight. What you are doing now may seem mundane and insignificant. It may feel like you’re peddling only to come around a bend to more of the same.

However, one day you’ll sit down to reflect and realize that in those seasons of hustling to and from activities and squeezing schoolwork in between it all you were doing good, true, and beautiful work to further your earthly walk and, more importantly, to further the kingdom.hustling to and from activities and squeezing schoolwork in between it all you were doing good, true, and beautiful work to further your earthly walk and, more importantly, to further the kingdom.

Author bio:

Olivia, or Livvy, Dennison is an 18-year-old freshman at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. A native of Mt. Hope, WV, she plans to major in History with a minor in Classics. When not working on school, Livvy loves reading, playing basketball, and living life with her two younger brothers and her dog, Amos. Livvy was always homeschooled by her mom and, for her last two years of high school, attended Appalachian Classical Academy, a Christian homeschool tutoring program that meets one day each week.

Are you wondering what life after homeschool may look like for your child? Check out this former homeschool student's experience with a classical college. #homeschool #lifeafterhomeschool #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #classicallearning