Curriculum Corner with Miss Leithart: Integrated Unity
Classical education understands all knowledge as unified and integrated. It nurtures and instructs the whole person insofar as you deal with not just technical but moral issues. In fourth grade, students learn to perceive this integrated unity even while practicing the technical aspects of writing.
To assist us in this endeavor, we use the writing curriculum from Classical Academic Press (Dr. Perrin's publishing house), which relies heavily on Aesop’s fables. A typical lesson includes students reading a fable, narration, which requires an immediate retelling of the story to the student’s best ability, and copy work, wherein students rewrite well-constructed sentences. These lessons often include poems that parallel the moral of the fable, which supplements poetry studies. John Henry Cardinal Newman, one of the exponents of classical education in the 19th century, commented on elementary students growing from infancy to adulthood. “Alas! What are we doing all through life both as a necessity and as a duty but unlearning the world’s poetry and attaining to its prose,” he wrote in The Idea of a University. We use poetry to teach them prose, in keeping with that observation.
The fables are especially appropriate to the curriculum of Immanuel Lutheran School, insofar as Martin Luther regarded them as the greatest moral instruction of all pagan writings. He quoted them more than any other work outside of Scripture, as Carl Springer noted in his study of Luther’s Aesop. There is a limit to the value of this education, as Aesop can only teach you of “the kingdom of the left hand of God.” However limited, it remains very good. Springer also quotes Luther as saying, “I am convinced that without literary training, pure theology is not able to stand upright,” At ILS, thankfully, we are blessed to teach both.
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