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Classical education does not follow an established canon or regimen of textbooks, sources and copywritten material. There is no standardized curriculum that defines or characterizes classical education. Thus, a classical curriculum is not purchased off the shelf. A classical education, however, will concern itself with rigorous training of the mind and thorough knowledge of the “great books” of enduring quality. It is rooted in the liberal arts, and it employs a curriculum that introduces a student to the language and conversation of the great minds of men and women who speak to us through the books they left behind.

Curriculum is a tool for furthering this approach, and curriculum choices at New Covenant Schools are chosen according to how they best reflect that which is good, true, and beautiful. In some cases particular selections are explicitly secular; in other cases they may be explicitly Christian. All are chosen because they are best suited to our objectives and comport with our teaching methods.

A classical education exposes a student to the wealth of literature and thought that has endured in our cultural and religious heritage. It may be likened to a long conversation in which each succeeding generation takes part, both learning and eventually contributing. Thus, we begin by teaching students the languages in which the conversation has been conducted, primarily English, Greek and Latin, preparing them to appreciate and enjoy the richness of a liberal arts education.

Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric – Modes of Learning

Classical, Christian education is built around the ancient idea of the Trivium, or, “three ways.” These ways are grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, and should not only be understood as subjects, but as modes of understanding. Grammar refers to that which is elemental; hence “elementary” school is another way of referring to this mode. However, modern education often departs radically from the content and methods of classical education. In the Grammar School we are teaching children not only what to know, but also how to acquire new information, a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.

As students change they move into the middle school or dialectic years. In this mode classical educators recognize their need for more independence – and responsibilty. The natural contrari-wise thinking we see in young adolescents is the same development that makes them ready to tackle logic and higher order analysis. New Covenant organizes students in grades 5-8 into a middle school characterized by limited non-coed classes, advisory programs, Latin and Logic, as well as music and drama. In the dialectic mode, we are encouraging students to question recorded fact, and thus to acquire habits of clear and critical thinking, a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.

In the rhetoric mode students rather specialize in being misunderstood. It’s a dramatic time of life as students come to terms with their intellectual and physical abilities. New Covenant’s School of Rhetoric seeks to develop students by taking advantage of their natural inclination to be expressive (or over reactive!). By this time in their education they have many skills in language, accompanied by emerging writing skills. We continue to develop these, emphasizing research and original thought. At the end of their high school career, they will research, write, present and defend a senior thesis, the culminating achievement of their education at New Covenant.

New Covenant Schools is a college preparatory program that follows a classical model of education, rooted in the liberal arts, with a rigorous curriculum at all levels. The ERB CTP4 is administered annually, and test scores are consistently far above the national average.

Class sizes are small and there is a high level of personal attention to students. The faculty is well qualified, with all faculty members holding at least the B.A. or B.S., and nearly half holding the M.A.

Classical languages are required for all students from kindergarten through high school, and students in grades 7-12 typically take four years of Latin and/or Greek.  Instruction in logic is required and classical rhetoric is taught in grades 10 through 12.

Many educators recognize that Dorothy L. Sayers’ essay, entitled “The Lost Tools of Learning,” has provided impetus for the revival of classical education. First delivered as a speech at Oxford in 1947, this essay is a compelling call for a return to the enduring approach and values that a classical education provides. While it is by no means the first word – or the last – New Covenant Schools has constructed its curriculum using it as a framework for guidance on broad points.