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3 Reasons Why Your Child Needs the Rigor of Classical Christian Education

Written by Ty Fischer
3 Reasons Why Your Child Needs the Rigor of Classical Christian Education

It’s like clockwork. During the first month of students' college freshmen year, I get feedback. Usually, it is feedback that makes me smile. It’s a recognition that what we did with the students is paying off. One college freshman said something like this: The first paper was assigned– I finished it and headed down to the library to study. I heard a lot of crying, so I talked with freshmen struggling because they had never written a paper. I helped them. It was a great way to make friends.” An earlier graduate said, “The other freshmen and I were assigned a 5-page paper. There was a lot of crying. I finished mine up and went on a picnic. I had no idea why you were making us write so much—thank you.”

Classical Christian education works hard. It does not work hard to be ready for college. It is more interested in making students prepared for life. Still, people ask, “Can my child do this rigorous curriculum?” I wanted to provide three reasons in this post why the rigor of a classical Christian education is something your child might need.

Reason 1: The Beginning of the “Veritas Project” was Historical, not Theoretical.

Bigger. Faster. Stronger. It sounds like a formula for a Russian Olympic athlete or a serious high school football team. Those words, however, were not too helpful because they were vague. How much bigger? How much faster? How might stronger? Thankfully, the “Veritas Project” includes Veritas Scholars Academy, and VSA does not involve these questions. Instead, the “Veritas Project” started with a much more authentic and exciting question “What have students been able to do historically?”

This makes the question much easier to consider. The question flips. Why are our kids not able to do what kids have done historically? Legitimate concerns could explain this like a student might have a learning problem or a physical handicap that makes learning challenging. Yet, we know that other students of this same age have been able to do this sort of work historically. If they can, why not us? The most important question is why we can’t do what kids historically have been able to do.

As parents, we need to consider the price of inaction. If children have been able to meet standards for centuries, why are our children overmatched by the same means, and what will accepting these standards do for their future?

Now, rigorous work is going to seem challenging initially. This happens almost every time a student transfers to a classical Christian school. Helping him or her adjust, build up the academic fortitude they need, and thrive. It is a blessing that will give them significant advantages as they grow, mature, and follow God’s calling.

Reason 2: Kids Rise to Expectations

The second reason kids should be involved in a rigorous education is that students rise to expectations. I have seen it every year, and I see it more each year. The school I oversee is in Lancaster, PA. Lancaster is a place many people believe they know, but the accurate picture is more complicated. Lancaster is, of course, the home of many Amish people. But Lancaster is much more than just Amish people! Lancaster is, per capita, the largest concentration of Christian refugees in America. Those Christian families have sent their children, with the help of local churches, to Veritas. They thrive—especially if we can get them in the lowest grade: Kindergarten, 1, and 2. Hard work pays off, and the payoff for these students fleeing persecution is glorious.

If you listened to the public schools in our area, you would believe these children could not be taught. Thankfully, we can provide an education with high expectations, and the students are rising to meet them. Interestingly, this seems to be the truth: if you mix a few remedial students into healthy classes, the remedial will often catch up because they are in a healthy environment.

One hindrance to this pattern is a problem that we have noted coming more from American than refugee families. Refugee families, mainly from Myanmar and the Congo, often learn English. When we ask them about their desires for their child’s education, they often say something like 1) I want my son or daughter to love Jesus; 2) I want them to have a better life than I had. Some American families are tempted to make educational decisions based on their children's desires. Children, especially boys, don’t want to work hard unless they have been well-trained. Rigor trains students to value accomplishments rather than feelings. This gives them an immense advantage over many of their peers.

Reason 3: The Key to Accomplishment Is Loving Teachers

Finally, the key to accomplishment is not just in the curriculum. Thriving occurs when a good curriculum is mediated through exceptional teachers. Great teachers stir the hearts of students to love what they are learning.

It is incredible to watch a master teacher work. Good teachers won’t do the work for students but inspire students to do extraordinary work. One of my master teachers always starts the first class in which second graders are introduced to long division by pausing and saying, “Today, we are going to learn something really fun, but it might be too tough for you.” This catches the attention of her students. They don’t want anyone to think that anything is too hard for them. She begins to teach and then pauses again, “I don’t know. It might be too hard.” I have heard students pleading for instruction in long division. Her praise, when they master it (usually very quickly), fills the class with joy.

James says, “Let few be teachers.” This is not because teaching is an ignoble profession. It can be one of the most extraordinary and most spiritually powerful callings. This is true for teachers in classical Christian schools, but maybe even more true for homeschool parents teaching and parenting. The key to being the right teacher is not lesson planning (which helps) but love. You need to find teachers that are called to inspire the students.

The work in classical education is not easy, but it is achievable. Students can meet historical standards. They will rise to the challenge as we expect more of them. They will thrive in the midst of rigor as they are guided by gifted teachers into deep interest and love of the lessons that they are learning, so embrace rigor, but not rigor mortis. We want the rigor of measuring up to standards that students have met historically; we want the rigor of high expectations lovingly supported and met; we want to embrace the rigor that comes from great teachers loving their students and the subject matter they are loving before the students.