Presuppositions for our Method and Practice of Teaching
A "pedagogy" is a teacher or school's method and practice of instruction. An intentional pedagogy must align with a school's fundamental convictions. We believe our students are created in the image of God. Scripture describes mankind as uniquely created beings made in the image of God, male and female, with a commission to exercise dominion over the created order (Gen. 1:1, 26-31). Due to sin, the image of God has been distorted and his work made more difficult, yet the image and the commission remain (Gen. 5:1; 9:6). Because God the Son revealed to man the exact imprint of God’s image through His incarnation and has brought redemption, His people are able to conform to His image by the power of the Spirit through sanctification (2 Cor. 3:18). For the educator to teach his students humanely then, he must understand the teleology of man as a created image-bearer of God.
Being informed by the biblical account of man, the counsel of Scripture in general, and Ephesians 6, Deuteronomy 6, and Proverbs particularly, our school affirms the following beliefs when considering students and teachers in the classroom:
The nature of the learner and teacher: man is an intellectual, physical, and spiritual being created in the image of God, impacted by the fall, formed through daily practices, and called to fight against the effects of the fall in order to exercise dominion over creation to the glory of God.
The learner’s role is to pursue academic and moral excellence while coming to know more about the Creator and His creation. The learner is to respect the authority of his parents, his teacher, and the tradition under which he sits.
The role of the teacher is to participate in God’s mission to reconcile all things to Himself. The teacher is an authority and a guide (more authority with younger/immature students and more of a guide with older/mature students); a mental, physical, and spiritual disciplinarian who teaches with humble authority and leads the student to discover the truth. The teacher must never cease being a student himself.
Some distinguishing teaching practices of a classical Christian education are the use of liturgy, catechism, narration, mimetic teaching, and Socratic dialogue.
The use of a daily liturgy intentionally orients the child’s understanding of life toward their Creator. Upon arrival at school children enter the sanctuary, recite a prayer, sign a hymn, and participate in scripture reading. The school prays and sings together before lunch and at the end of the day. Every classroom has a mini liturgy throughout the day which includes prayer, chants, singing, and memorization. These school and class liturgies are intentionally done with beauty, joy, and order as they shape the child’s soul daily.
Catechism is used for learning the doctrines of the Christian faith by exercising their "memory muscles", but teachers also develop their own for each class. As children in the "Grammar Stage" or Lower School are already doing a lot of memorization work, class catechisms will be used more often in the older grades. The class catechism typically contains the most important questions and answers which will be covered throughout the year, so that if the child were to forget everything else he learned in class that year but the catechism questions, he would still have some important and beautiful things in his soul. These class catechisms may include timelines, facts, important quotes, or poetry related to the class.
Related to catechism is the practice of narration. After telling a story, hearing a poem, or learning a lesson, the teacher instructs students to narrate or retell what was just heard or read. Teachers may use oral narration (telling it back), string narration (students retell the lesson back to the teacher in front of the class and others pick up where one leaves off until all parts of the story or important parts of the lesson are covered), partner or group narration (small groups form, one student narrates while others add to or correct narration), and written narration (students rewrite what they learned).
Classroom instruction may be summarized as the teacher incarnating little “l” logos’ with the hope that one day the student will be able to recognize the big “L” Logos. That is to say, if all things live, move, and have their being in Christ, He is the ultimate form to which all of our learning points. In line with Christ incarnating Himself so that we might understand God, teachers take ideas and make them understandable for their students, increasing their ability to understand more abstract ideas as they progress toward the science of theology. This is done through mimetic and Socratic teaching.
Mimetic teaching helps the student learn through imitation. Humans learn by moving from the concrete to abstract ideas. So the teacher must take the idea (small “l” logos) which they wish to teach and incarnate it, providing a model/type/lesson which the student can understand. The student must demonstrate that they can imitate the lesson (master it) before they can move on to a more difficult or abstract type to imitate. Socratic dialogue is used when a student is unable to replicate what is being taught or to clarify the student’s understanding. Never answering a question which a student is able to discover himself, the teacher guides the student through a deconstruction of what they already know and then guides them toward answering the problem themselves. Mimetic teaching then resumes, and the student demonstrates the ability to imitate the lesson before progressing to something more difficult.
Seven Laws of Teaching
Originally written for Sunday School teacher’s in 1884, John Milton Gregory’s Seven Laws of Teaching serve as a model pedagogy within the classical Christian schools. Note, there are a few editions and even free editions on the internet but some of Gregory’s colleagues at the University of Illinois made revisions, including taking out references to Christ and Scripture. We recommend the edition printed by Veritas Press which is the original work. Now, to summarize Gregory’s work:
The Law of the Teacher: The teacher must know that which he would teach and teach from a full mind and clear understanding.
The Law of the Learner: A learner is one who attends with interest to the lesson. The teacher works to attract attention at the start of the lesson and works to maintain it throughout; do not teach without the learner’s attention.
The Law of Language: The teacher uses clear language and vocabulary common to both and appropriate to the level of the student’s understanding.
The Law of the Lesson: The lesson to be mastered must be explicable in the terms of truth already known by the learner. The teacher structures the lesson so that the unknown is taught from the known.
The Law of Teaching: Teaching is arousing and using the pupil’s mind to grasp the desired thought or to master the desired art. The teacher allows the pupil to discover the truth for himself and tells him nothing which he cannot learn for himself.
The Law of Learning: Learning is thinking into one’s own understanding a new idea or truth, or working into habit a new art or skill. The teacher requires the pupil to reproduce in thought the lesson he is learning – thinking it out in its various phases and applications till he can express it in his own language.
The Law of Review: The test and proof of teaching done – the finishing and fastening process – is reviewing, rethinking, reknowing, reproducing, and applying material that has been taught. The teacher then, must review, review, review, reproducing the old, deepening its impression with new thought, linking it with added meanings, finding new applications, correcting any false views, and completing the true.
 Andrew Kern, “Teaching Like Christ,” unpublished notes (Circe Institute Pre-Conference, Summer, 2019).
 John Milton Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching (Lancaster, PA: Veritas Press, 2004), 100.