classical education

Reading Well: An Invitation to Empathy

Guest Blogger ~ Michael Hornbaker, Upper School Teacher

At the heart of reading well is empathy: the ability and willingness to enter into the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of another person.  Reading is not simply passive comprehension of information, but is an active conversation with another voice.  In a selection recently read by our 10th grade Literature students, Mortimer Adler reminds us that “completely passive reading is impossible.” Reading is the process by which we interpret texts, making decisions about meaning and value.  In some sense, reading is an appropriate metaphor for our shared task of understanding ourselves and our world.  We “read” circumstances, experiences, and even one another.  In this sense, we never stop reading.  At Logos Academy, we realize that reading is not only the recognition of words and computation of symbols.  In this context, reading is not simply an academic exercise but an invitation to grow and develop as a person through encountering other people, places, and ideas, whether historical or fictional.  Our students are invited not only to use texts to prepare for quizzes and tests, but to grow in holistic ways as they practice reading together in the Vibrant Learning Communities of our classrooms.  Reading well requires that we practice discipline, patience, charity, openness, and critical thinking.      

In our fast-paced and technological society, we are conditioned to process information quickly and efficiently. Reading well requires that we intentionally slow down: it requires that we go deeper and not faster.  In the classroom, this means that we take time.  We take time to re-read, define terms, explore concepts, and discuss ideas.  Reading well requires that you listen first and speak second.  When you visit our classrooms, you will find that reading is not only attached to comprehension worksheets, but is the starting point for class conversation and dialogue.  During discussions Logos students are evaluated on how often and accurately they refer to the text as they learn to first listen closely to the voice of the author.   

One of the ways that we intentionally slow down and provide space for extended reflection in Bible class is by viewing artwork.  Biblical scenes and characters have been the subject of painted masterpieces for centuries.  While reading through the final chapters of the gospel of Luke, students view different paintings of the crucifixion.  Each painting offers another perspective, another interpretation of the text we read.  In their own way, each painting also invites a response from the viewer.  Messina’s Christ Crucified depicts Christ raised on an elongated cross, positioned above the horizon.  In comparing the reading and viewing experience, one of our 7th grade students, Daniel James, wrote “It really is unsettling to see Jesus…The account tells you what happened and the painting shows how it happened.”  Tissot, What Our Lord Saw From the CrossJames Tissot’s What Our Lord Saw from the Cross invites students to change their perspective entirely.  Instead of seeing Jesus on the cross, centered in the foreground, viewers are turned around and lifted onto the cross and given Jesus’ view.  After reflecting on Tissot’s work, Daniel wrote “Now that I have seen this painting, I’ve realized how much Jesus was hurt… Now, I think of Jesus as one who has suffered inside and out.”  

As a teacher, it is encouraging to see the way that interacting with artwork makes space for students to return to the Biblical text with fresh eyes.  It is also a helpful and humbling reminder that as we study the New Testament together we are joining a centuries-long reflection on the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Over time, all of these encounters shape a disposition that is empathetic. This is the heart of what we hope for our students, that they will enter deeply and thoughtfully into the lives of their communities, ready to “read” their world.  

Classical Education Can Transform Urban Communities

Guest Blogger – Nancy Snyder, K-12 Student Support Services Coordinator

A beautiful little girl, only seven years old, sat in my office weeping. A beloved family friend had just been killed. One more young man gunned down in our city. One more family with a bullet hole in their family picture. One more neighborhood in mourning. One more city rent by violence. One more little girl weeping.

After we talked and prayed, I asked this child if she knew why Logos was founded. Through her tears, she said, “So people would respect each other, instead of…“ Her voice trailed off.

At our Christ-centered school, one of the things our Vibrant Learning Community practices is respect for each person made in the image of God. In partnership with the Holy Spirit, teachers and students labor to work out problems in ways that make and maintain peace. Even a second grader can see this is what our city needs.

Because our second grade curriculum opens with ancient Egypt, even before this death caused her tears, my young friend understood the contrast between the land of the living lit by the eastern sky and the city of the dead spilling into the underworld. She understood the difference between Narmer, who united Upper and Lower Egypt to rule a great country, and Abraham, who waited for God to provide a better country (Hebrews 11:16). She saw Christ as a better treasure than the glittering gold of King Tutankhamen. A class discussion, about the God who prepares a home for His people, in contrast with the Egyptian practice of stockpiling possessions for life after death, provided the framework and foundation for our hard but healing discussion of her grief.

Soon, my young friend was ready to return to class, where she is now studying ancient Greece. This little girl and her classmates are learning that God is a better poet than Homer, and he is making each of them His poiéma (Ephesians 2:10). She is seeing that Christ is better than Greek military heroes because He has conquered our greatest enemies: sin, Satan, and death. Through our classical curriculum, children of our city are being shaped to love a different kind of courage. Not an angry bravado that shoots down, but a hope-filled bravery that loves.

Soon, as they study ancient Rome together, these second graders will learn that God is building a city far greater than Rome—a truly eternal city (Hebrews 11:10). Fueled by that hope, may these children spread the shalom of God in our city.

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Drawings by the student to her friendphoto1 (2)

What is the Classical Tradition of Education?

Jesse blog

Education in ancient Greece aimed at the formation of free individuals who were in control of their own thoughts and feelings and who loved to search for beauty and truth in all areas of life and the world. We get our modern word “school” from the Greek word scholé which means “leisure time spent in contemplation, study, prayer, celebration or worship.”

In contrast to this tradition, today’s prevailing models of education have their origin in Prussian educational reforms during the 1800s. These were inspired by the factories of the industrial revolution and ideas of mass production. They had the goal of creating a national workforce for a growing industrial state, and American educational reformers such as Horace Mann brought these ideas and practices to public schools in the United States. Even with the work of later school reformers such as John Dewey and the current quest for technological solutions in the classroom, American public education has continued to focus on “large-scale” and “efficient” responses to personal and human needs.

Our classical tradition of education at Logos Academy keeps us focused on the development of the most important human capacities within each individual student. We love the whole and diverse human story and what it means for each child in our school.

So how does this classical tradition look in our classrooms?

  • Teachers use the natural love of children for song, movement, and story to encourage wonder while teaching basic skills and giving their students a rich treasury of information about the Bible, science, world geography and folk stories from many cultures.
  • Our curriculum map integrates the curriculum horizontally from year to year, with students covering the entire human story twice between kindergarten and graduation. We also integrate horizontally across subject areas at each grade level. For example, second grade students investigate Nile River flood patterns, create models and give reports to their classmates, using the human story to integrate across earth science, history, and writing.
  • All students master critical thinking and conversation skills through exercises such as debate and Socratic dialogue where they are regularly expected to ask creative and meaningful questions.
  • Our middle school students parse Latin sentences while they learn about the roots of modern languages such as Spanish and English and gain valuable self-discipline as students.
  • We teach math and science at all grade levels as a great story of collaborative problem solving across time as well as a way to showcase God’s glory throughout creation.
  • All students spend time enjoying and imitating great works from the visual and performing arts (in music, poetry, painting, sculpture, digital design, and theater).
  • Our high school students study logic and rhetoric as they master writing, communication, and presentation skills. Their education culminates in a senior thesis project where they share research and deliver a constructive challenge to our learning community before school board members, community partners, and peers.

We are grateful to have you partnering with us in this exciting venture. To learn more about the classical tradition of education, consider some of these resources:

  1. A Student’s Guide to Classical Education: One Student’s K-12 Journey by Zoë Perrin
  2. Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans
  3. The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer
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