Philosophy of Education
Education is always about formation. It shapes the mind and affections of the student, teaching him or her what is worth thinking and loving. Left to themselves, students would certainly think and love, but they would do so wrongly, in a way that would lead to their becoming self-centered. That is why our model of education at The Geneva School is thoroughly Christian, from the ground up. Our teachers are Christian men and women who teach and interact with students relationally, serving as living examples and mentors of faithfulness. Our curriculum is governed by our theological commitments and is always flowing from or leading to the truths of Scripture. Students need their minds renewed and their loves properly ordered so that they might live in the fullness of what they actually are, image bearers of God who were created to worship him and participate in his kingdom.
When children start school at a young age, they typically have a robust sense of wonder about the world. An education that is renewing minds and ordering loves will pay attention to the young student’s sense of wonder, being careful to cultivate it and not stunt its growth, because a student who does not wonder or imagine will become apathetic and cynical. Two of the best ways for encouraging and expanding a student’s sense of wonder are found in great stories and in nature.
Experience with great stories shapes the student’s horizons of possibility and action. In hearing and reading stories, students can then imitate them through re-telling, re-writing, acting, memorizing, and singing. In these practices, the student learns how to be creative and acquires a strong moral imagination. Similarly, when a student is exposed to the natural world and can interact with it, he or she learns how to observe, ask questions, identify patterns, and create categories. Furthermore, the student gains a deeper understanding and respect for the majesty of God and finds that nature, in its beauty and orderliness, contains a moral sense. In stories and nature alike, the student’s ability to wonder is nourished and strengthened with noble ideas.
As the student matures, his or her cultivated wonder will lead to a desire to think, know, understand, and analyze in a more structured and detailed way. The best training for a student at this point is to teach him or her the skills of learning, also known as the classical liberal arts. There are seven of these in total, three in the category of verbal arts and four in the category of mathematical arts. In teaching the verbal arts of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, along with the arts of math and science, priority is given to training the student how to think. As the student hones these skills, he or she will be better equipped and more confident when encountering new or complex information and ideas. In focusing on the skills of learning, the student will more readily see the integration of ideas and facts, across subjects, so that he or she sees how biology is connected to literature and how physics is connected to history. It is in seeing such relationships that the student begins to have real understanding.
In renewing minds and ordering affections, our education at TGS aims to move the student toward wisdom. By encouraging and modeling proper love and fear of God and neighbor, cultivating wonder, training according to the skills of learning, and teaching the best content in every subject, the conditions are well-suited for the student to become mature, responsible and faithful. Instead of using knowledge as an instrument for pride, the student can use it as a means for loving God. Instead of desiring selfish gain, the student will be drawn toward noble service.