We are often asked, "This makes sense in theory, but what does it actually look like in practice." Here are some examples of what Catholic Classical education looks like at Our Lady of Lourdes.
The authentic purpose of education and of life drives every decision and lesson. Lesson plan objectives are based not on what "students will be able to do", but rather, on what "truth students will behold." Students are constantly reminded that we are training for heaven.
"I thought we were learning math, not religion," can often be heard in our classrooms. Every class is "religion" class. The study of math and science is the discovery of beauty and rational order, which is a discovery of God. From a simple equation to a simple machine, to behold a truth, no matter how small, leads students to the Truth Incarnate, the person of Jesus Christ. This integration also recognizes this person, His Incarnation, as the center of human history. The study of salvation and world history is always in relation to Him and His Church. Content in literature, music, and art also match the historical time period being studied.
Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are also integrated throughout the curriculum. Students cycle through the four pillars of the Catechism (Creed, Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer) at a level appropriate to their development. Frequent and faithful participation in the Sacramental life is emphasized - especially the Mass - as the frequency of daily Mass attendance increases as students grow in their ability to enter into the Holy Sacrifice. The fullness of the faith is always presented in an age-appropriate manner, but never watered down. With love and reverence, teachers introduce students to the real Jesus Christ, who both comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. Through virtue, faith, and reason, we seek to form intentional disciples, faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, who are prepared to defend what is true, good, and beautiful and expose what is not. In order to respond to the practical atheism and philosophical skepticism of our day, we need students well-equipped to display the beauty of truth acting in love. Catechesis at Lourdes Classical concludes at the rhetoric stage by preparing students to not only "survive" in a culture increasingly hostile to Christianity, but boldly witness to the authentic meaning of life, love, freedom, and the dignity of the human person.
EMPHASIS ON WESTERN CIVILIZATION
The stories of Western civilization and Christianity are so intertwined that one cannot be understood apart from the other. In contrast to our society's "multicultural" educational experiment, classical students are taught to love their own culture, which will actually help them understand why other people love theirs. From Kindergarten through 8th grade students will cycle through Ancient (Egypt, Greece, Rome), European, and American history two times, with additional study of the Romans during Latin class. As members of Western Civilization, we have the responsibility to preserve it.
Latin studies begin in Kindergarten and are given increased emphasis in middle school. Why study a dead language? Learn more here.
The key to freedom and human excellence is order, particularly in the way we think. Authentic education is only possible when set free from what Pope Benedict XVI referred to as the "dictatorship of relativism". Classical education trains the mind to think orderly in all subjects (the focus on English and Latin grammar is critical).
Walk through our halls and more often than not you will hear students reciting poetry. Despite "progressive" efforts to deny the unique cognitive benefits of memorizing poetry, internalizing the rhythmic beauty of prose awakens the mind, stocking it with new sets of language patterns. At the end of each trimester, our students recite the poems they've learned at our Lions Showcase of Learning. See our Events page for the dates, and feel free to join us. The unofficial record so far is a Shakespeare excerpt recited by our 7th graders in 2014 that lasted just shy of seven minutes!
Primary source documents - Classic literature
Outside of math, we rarely use textbooks. Rather than reading second-hand accounts of history, we read the original source when students are ready. How many students ever fall in love with literature by reading the stories in a literature textbook? Instead, our students are immersed in the wonderful worlds of classic fairytale, myth, folklore, and poetry. While Common Core Standards seek to turn reading into research, our students are encouraged to delight in and engage with a great story, building up their sense of wonder and imagination.
Integral formation in Virtue
While the trend in education is toward the Close Reading/New Criticism approach to literature, our teachers use Moral Criticism, which guides students through an analysis of what the text teaches us about beauty, wisdom, grace, and, especially, virtue. A similar approach is taken in other subjects like history (including Church history), theology, Scripture, and science, as stories provide rich and powerful examples of heroic virtue. Across the curriculum and throughout the stages of the Trivium, our students are immersed in the Aristotelian/Thomistic worldview of virtue being the key to the good life, with the grace of Jesus Christ remaining as our vital principle, pointing towards eternal life.
GREATER EMPHASIS ON THE ARTS
Eliminating the Humanities makes us less human, because the arts are more conducive to the end for which we were created. The imitation of beautiful art leads us to God, and nothing trains the mind to think in an orderly fashion like the study of music. In a culture so ignorant of or hostile to Truth and Goodness, it is often argued that Beauty is the key to evangelization. Learn more about our visual and performing arts programs here.
Socratic Discussion/mimetic instruction
You will not see our lesson objective spelled out on classroom walls. Classical education does not seek to give answers to a question that was never asked. In order for students to behold a truth, they must first be led to behold an intriguing question. Then through a series of additional questions, a Socratic-style teacher can draw the answer out of students, sitting back and watching the "light bulbs" go on naturally. Students are also led to own a truth via mimetic instruction, where the various "types" are put before students, allowing them to naturally differentiate and come to know something new. For example, rather than asking students to simply copy down and memorize the definition of covenant, students are given examples of similar types - a promise, agreement, contract, covenant - and after a careful examination and discussion, students are able to construct the correct definition of covenant on their own, giving them a much better chance of retaining and applying the information. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once lamented that education often becomes "the transferring of information from the teacher's manual to the student's notebook without passing through the mind of either." Not at Lourdes Classical!
Technology as a means, not an end
At Lourdes Classical we are not opposed to using any tool that helps us achieve our mission. Digital technology is one such tool, but its usefulness is limited. We reject the modern notion that the computer is on its way to replacing the teacher. We also reject the movement towards, as Martin Cothran put it, burying students further "under the the modern avalanche of disordered information" by handing out iPads to every student. Our focus is equipping students with an ability to order things correctly, including an ability to put science and technology at the service of man (and God), not the other way around. Again, technology can and does serve our purpose, as evidenced by the digital screen you are reading right now, and our teachers utilize it in a limited number of ways. But studies reveal an inverse relationship between technology use and student well-being and performance. (Even Time Magazine calls screens in schools a "$60 billion hoax.") So we avoid screens as much as possible and do not teach technology as an end itself.