Our Methods

We aim to equip students with useful skills which make learning a joy instead of a burden. Our content is family-centered, so that everyone in the family is studying the same general time period. The materials we choose are user-friendly for students and teachers at home, and our weekly class meetings are geared to give students opportunity for discussion and recitation, as well as accountability to keep progressing through the subject matter.

Our methods at Providence Prep are organized around the classical trivium—literally three ways—which focuses on learning to understand and use language. The three parts of the trivium are grammar, dialectic (or logic), and rhetoric. The grammar of a language has to do with its structure, vocabulary, and rules, as well as the conventions governing usage. Logic is primarily concerned with learning to think and reason in that language, and rhetoric teaches a student to communicate using the language in a persuasive and winsome way. As Dorothy Sayers points out in her helpful essay The Lost Tools of Learning, the trivium is “by its nature not learning, but a preparation for learning.”

This idea of the trivium stands in opposition to the modern paradigm of education with students bombarded with a large number of subjects without any apparent connection. As we focus on just the few core disciplines of the liberal arts, our aim is to give students the content and the tools to make vital connections between language, literature, and history, and to do so in a way that is age-appropriate.

At Providence Prep, academic rigor is provided chiefly by the content of the courses, rather than by tests and assessments. We provide the positive benefits of classroom interaction, presentations, and recitations. We also provide assignment checklists and complete course syllabi in order to free parents from the need to plan and prepare for each subject. We differ from many other co-ops in that many of our classes are more tutorial in nature, and provide grades or assessments of student work only as a separate paid service. We do provide parents at home the resources to check homework, give tests and other assessments if desired, and mentor their students in composition. (In the high school classes, there are a few exceptions to this; please see Class Descriptions for details.) It is necessary that students be motivated to complete their work and come to class prepared. Many students will be very motivated by classroom teacher expectations, commitment to an effective classroom ethos, and even the positive peer pressure of the presence of other students. However, we do recognize that not all students have this kind of internal motivation, and in that case, we do request that they be externally motivated by parent expectations and requirements.

Lower School – Primer and Grammar

In the elementary years, children are masters of memory; they love to learn and recite all kinds of things—facts, stories, poems, lists. So memorization, and its counterpart, recitation, are key methods for this level. Students work on memorizing a timeline of history—people, places, and events. Other memory work includes Scripture memory, poetry, and speeches.

Literature selections are chosen with the aim to fill our children’s minds and imaginations with a “storehouse” of stories. Narration and copywork enhance reading comprehension using models drawn from Scripture, classic children’s literature and poetry, fables, historical stories, and fairy tales. Composition focuses on imitation of models from the same kinds of sources, and English grammar will be taught in a natural and comprehensive manner using these models. Geography is addressed in the context of history and literature. Observation and classification skills are developed using methods developed by nineteenth century educator Charlotte Mason, including picture study and nature study. Latin studies focus on memorization of vocabulary, chanting of paradigms, and systematic study of grammar concepts, as well as some translation and integration with English grammar.

Upper School – Jr. High

As students begin to transition from the primary grades into high school, many of the methods used in the primary grades continue to be appropriate—narration, memory work, geography in context with history and literature, and English grammar and composition skills based on imitation of models from literature and history. In addition, junior high students are given tools to strengthen analysis skills in the content areas of history and literature, and to hone communication skills, both oral and written. Classroom discussion becomes more central. One main aim for this level is to prepare students to study the great books of the Western tradition as they move into high school. Another aim is to encourage students to begin to follow the development of the “City of God” along with the “City of Man” as they consider the flow of history, and to look for the sovereign hand of God in each and every event. Latin studies also tend toward the analytical at this level, as we help students organize the grammar knowledge they are gleaning. We also dig into derivatives as students are gaining the skills and knowledge to understand the connections Latin, literature, and history have with our own English language. Translation and reading comprehension are emphasized.

Upper School – High School

Analytical skills continue to be developed, along with memory work, geography in context with literature and history, Latin grammar and translation, and English grammar and composition based on analysis and imitation of models from literature and history. Assignments and classroom discussion are crafted to help students begin to interact with some of the ideas and great books that have shaped Western civilization. The aim of this kind of interaction is to prepare students to take their own place in this Great Conversation which has been ongoing for two thousand years. Students are not reading these important works with the expectation of mastery of a particular work, or with the intention of giving them an exhaustive introduction to all of the best works of Western literature, if it were even possible to come to a consensus about every book to be included in such a pursuit. Instead, we are aiming for four things for our students:

  • To see that “classics” have endured precisely because they are readable, understandable, and yes, enjoyable.
  • To gain familiarity with representative works from each major period of history.
  • To avoid the “chronological snobbery” which C.S. Lewis warned against: thinking that modern culture and thought is far superior to earlier civilization, and failing to see the common frailties and glories shared by mankind through the ages.
  • To whet the students’ appetites for the pursuit of lifelong learning.

In all of these areas, we want to challenge students to winsomely and persuasively defend the traditions of the Western Civilization, and ultimately, the gospel that has animated those traditions. This final aim is summed up in the inspiring charge from Arthur Quiller-Couch, the great classical scholar, editor of the Oxford Book of English Verse, and mentor of C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and J.R.R. Tolkien:

“You are the heirs of a remarkable legacy—a legacy that has passed into your hands after no little tumult and travail; a legacy that is the happy result of sacrificial human relations, no less than of stupendous human achievements; a legacy that demands of you a lifetime of vigilance and diligence so that you may in turn pass the fruits of Christian civilization on to succeeding generations. This is the essence of the biblical view, the covenantal view, and the classical view of education. This is the great legacy of truth of which you are now the chief beneficiaries. And this is the great legacy of truth which you are now called upon to bequest to the world.”