Often in education we see trends in curriculum, teaching methods, and philosophies. We hear buzzwords like grit, tech integration, and positive behavior management. In the race to be innovative, educators are constantly searching for what’s most effective.
At The Oaks, a classical Pre-K to 8th-grade school in Indianapolis, we take a different approach. We take what is tried and true from the past and use it to move forward.
For our first years we struggled with this idea of a classical school. Many of our educational distinctives are classical, such as an integrated humanities curriculum that follows a historical timeline. We use the trivium as a framework for childhood development. We introduce our students to Latin and then to formal logic. The fine arts, music, and physical education have always been important priorities.
But when we consider what makes us classical, these are curriculum distinctives—not our identity. Our identity is that we consider children as valued in who they are, and not in what they are becoming. We do not endeavor to give value to our students by teaching them to read or calculate, or by what they read and what they calculate. Nor does their value change when they learn to read or calculate. They are inherently valuable. This mystery, this mindset, is what makes The Oaks classical.
Secondly, we believe that learning happens most meaningfully in the context of relationships—relationships with people, ideas, the world, and God. “Relationships Come First” is one of our core values. Rather than gulping a meal of intellectual sawdust, we give our students an environment full of positive relationships, with a rich feast of ideas to savor, relish, and enjoy. We promote a world in which relationships are formed without a mediating screen. Classical doesn’t mean ancient. It means material, experiences, and texts that represent what is true, good, and beautiful. We apply the litmus test of asking: Is this worthy of our students? Is this experience prompting a growth in discernment among our students?
Lastly, what makes The Oaks classical is that the school experience is intended to raise the vision of our students to something beyond themselves. As Pope Francis commented last week, that our students would be “artisans for the common good . . .” renewing, rebuilding, and restoring not only for their own advancement, but for the community.
That broader vision for the purpose of an Oaks education—why we exist—is what makes The Oaks both classical and innovative.
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