One of the goals of classical Christian education is to train students to see relationships between ideas. This is an analytical skill as well as a philosophy. Everything that exists shares a common creator who is still active in His creation. It is our job as educators and Christians to seek out the relationships between issues and to seek God’s hand in it all.
I led my Challenge A class through this kind of thinking today. We had all read Carry on Mr. Bowditch, a classic novel describing the life of a mathematician who was a child in Massachusetts during the American Revolution. His contributions to math, science, and navigation affected the lives of many sailors and students. To practice seeking relationships between ideas, I addressed the book using each of our six areas of study.
In logic, we used mental math to practice figuring out the speed of a sailboat the way Nat Bowditch did, using log, lead, and ciphered problems described in the book.
In rhetoric, I asked the students to list all the trials Mr. Bowditch experienced and how he persevered. I shared with them 2 Chronicles 15:7, “…be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
In debate (geography), the students each drew a world map from memory, then plotted the five sailing voyages described in the book. We also looked at a timeline and marked on the map other important world events during Mr. Bowditch’s lifetime, such as a revolution in France and George Washington becoming president in New York.
In grammar, we tried Mr. Bowditch’s language study method. I gave them John 1:1 in Latin and a Bible and they translated. Even those who had memorized the passage in both Latin and English gave some serious thought to Latin endings and the differences between the two languages. I was thrilled to see several “light bulb moments” as students discovered some of the patterns on their own.
In research, we discussed navigation using geometry, astronomy, and geography. We also discussed the pros and cons of whaling and sealing, and the importance of whale oil at that time.
In exposition, we discussed the differences between Nat Bowditch and modern teens, and how one could construct a compare/contrast essay which would explore those differences.
The main character in the story studied languages, mathematics, navigation, astronomy, and even teaching methods. I hope my students embrace the idea that we do not have to specialize; we can appreciate many subjects. “Specialization is for the insects,” said Robert A. Heinlein, an award-winning writer.
Separating subjects is not natural, they are all interconnected. It just takes a little time to explore and discuss the relationships. Hopefully, we can educate a generation of nonspecialists who can see relationships between science and ethics or politics and economics. That is classical education. If they can see God’s hand in it all…that is classical Christian education.