Let us first define what education is. According to Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, “Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.” Webster continues with this admonition: “To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”
The Principle Approach is America’s Christian method of Biblical reasoning which makes the truths of God’s Word the basis of every subject in the school curriculum.
The renewing of the mind takes time and thought, “reasoning with revelation,” in order to attain wisdom. The mind renewed for Christian education is a mind that practices 2 Corinthians 10:5 – “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” This mind is intent upon developing a thorough and inclusive Biblical worldview, internalizing the Biblical principles of education and government, beholding Providential History and the Chain of Christianity as the backdrop of every subject and every life, understanding the purpose and goal of education for the Kingdom of God, developing the Christian idea of the child, understanding the relationship between education and government, and possessing a living curriculum and its methodology in the Principle Approach.
The Principle Approach to education inculcates in students the ability to reason from the Bible and relate its principles to every area of life, which is true Biblical scholarship. A “principle” is an absolute truth that is reduced to its most basic form (in seed form). The Principle Approach reveals that the source, origin, and purpose of all knowledge is to reveal Christ and revolves around God and His plan for man. It is a “Christ-centric” perspective and approach rather than being “eccentric” or off center.
The Principle Approach is a Biblical manner of teaching and learning which lays Christ at the foundation of all sound knowledge and learning and cuts through anti-Christian philosophies and methods of socialism and progressive education.
It is modeled after the education of the founding period of America’s history and restores this historic, Biblical model by placing God’s principles at the heart of every subject and applying them to teaching and learning. We agree with the mission statement of Harvard College in 1643, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”
Verna M. Hall, one of the co-founders of the Foundation for American Christian Education, encouraged every Christian school in this regard. We strongly agree with her that the role of Christian schools today should be to re-identify and re-affirm those Biblical principles of liberty which alone can ensure the continuance of our religious and civil liberties:
“To ignore the centuries of the progress of the Gospel and of Christianity’s westward course is to deny the power of Christ in bringing forth liberty for the individual in both civil and religious spheres. Nor should we ignore the one hundred and fifty years of Biblical education in colonial America which produced a new standard of literacy for the world and astounded Europe with the ‘lucid exposition of constitutional principles’ in the American State Papers….The blessings of liberty in America cannot be perpetuated unless the principles of that liberty are re-identified and re-affirmed in each generation. This is the role of Christian schools and colleges. America’s founding and establishment was the result of a people educated in Christian principles. Only a knowledge of these Biblical principles can ensure the continuance of them in the civil and religious spheres. It is my prayer that Christian schools and colleges will separate from secularism and construct a truly distinctive curricula that includes America’s Christian history.”
The Principle Approach is based upon God’s Word, which establishes Biblical reasoning, gives purpose for studying each subject, and reveals the nature and character of God in each subject. The study of each subject always begins with the Word of God, and each subject is illuminated through its Biblical principles and the pathway of reasoning is directed toward true understanding. This Principle Approach challenges teachers and students to continually research God’s Word and primary sources, rather than being dependent upon textbooks, most of which reflect a secular, humanistic, and socialist view of education, government, and history. In addition, Principle Approach education applies the methods that honor the child’s innate value in Christ and lays a foundation of Biblical principle and precept in every subject while forging the character that is Christian – Christ within. This is the Christian idea of the child.
WHY IS THE PRINCIPLE APPROACH UNIQUE?
The Principle Approach is a philosophy and method of education based upon Biblical reasoning and a Biblical worldview which requires considering and pondering the purpose of everything in God’s universe. The Principle Approach has been called “reflective teaching and learning.” It is America’s historic method of Biblical reasoning which places the principles of God’s Word at the heart of education. Each subject is predicated upon God’s Biblical principles and students are taught to think and reason from principles and leading ideas using the Notebook Method to Research, Reason, Relate, and Record.
What Distinguishes a Principle Approach School from Other Schools?
* [See Nehemiah Institute’s PEERS Trend Chart for a Comparison]
- Acknowledging America’s Christian history and Biblical form of government.
- Teaching and learning America’s Christian providential history in every subject through its Biblical principles of government and education.
- Practicing the Principle Approach as a way of life – of Biblical living – in scholarship, character formation, and the art of self-government.
- Training teachers whose lives and scholarship become a living textbook to their students, cultivating a love of learning, and inspiring leadership and service.
- A curriculum of distinct subjects in classical learning, unified by Biblical principles and a providential history framework, with an individualized mentor emphasis.
- Students nurtured in God’s Word and the Christian idea of the child.
- Families forming a community of learning in bringing their children to the fullest expression of their value in Christ.
PRINCIPLE APPROACH TEACHING METHODOLOGY & CHRIST-CENTERED CURRICULUM
Christ Jesus is the reason for everything that exists and He is revealed in everything that was created. We choose to place Christ and the written Word of God at the heart of every subject in our curriculum, and we aim to apply its eternal Kingdom principles to all of life and learning. We believe in restoring the Bible to its rightful central place in education, “The Word of God is perfect, converting the soul; it is sure, making wise the simple; it is right, rejoicing the heart; it is pure, enlightening the eyes; it is true and righteous altogether; more to be desired than gold; sweeter than honey; and in keeping it there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7–11).
The curriculum includes all the courses of study in a school. The curriculum is made up of subjects (body of knowledge and revelation taught), scope and sequence (how it is ordered), and methods and tools (the means for teaching). The Principle Approach produces a “living curriculum” because it is based on the living and active Word of God, the living Christ and His anointing within each teacher/mentor, the living Spirit of Truth within each teacher and student, and the living Biblical Kingdom principles of God that are absolute and established forever in God’s creation.
All subjects in our curriculum are unified Biblically, historically, & governmentally. Our Academy integrates a Christ-centered spiritual foundation emphasis and godly character formation, with a challenging scholastic program, community service to others, hands on learning of practical life skills, and meaningful real life work apprenticeships, all of which enable students to develop moral character, virtue, wisdom, godliness, faith, love, diligence, responsibility, productivity, originality, creativity, initiative, cooperation, self-control, and good will towards others.
Restoring the Four Steps of Teaching & Learning [the four “R’s”]:
Research, Reason, Relate, & Record
- RESEARCH – the subjects of interest from the Bible & other primary sources to identify basic principles. Each learner develops the habit of research by beginning with God’s Word through the word study method. This process gives pre-eminence to the Word of God by deducing the Biblical principles of the subject and clothes the learner’s ideas with truth. This is the foundation upon which the pathway of logical thinking and just reasoning is established. It produces the acquired habits of Biblical scholarship, reasoning cause to effect, and the precise, lucid communication of ideas to others.
- REASON – As we research, we must continually ask ourselves what God’s perspective and purpose for the subjects are and what this information reveals about God and His purposes. We learn to reason from these Biblical principles to their identification in the subjects of the curriculum.
- RELATE – As we research and reason, we learn to relate and apply the Biblical principles uncovered to each student, to Christian character, to Christian self-government, and to the stewardship of God-given talents.
- RECORD – The principles and the individual application of these principles are then recorded in a notebook to accurately and permanently preserve them.
This four “R’s” process of researching, reasoning, relating, and recording is the best way to implant truth within our hearts, to get it from our minds to our hearts so that it becomes a part of our character and convictions, and to truly learn and become educated.
Practical Ways to Implement the 4 R’s in the Educational Curriculum
- The Notebook Method – Record one’s learning in notebooks. This tool assures the student acquires knowledge, but it also teaches self-government, industry, orderliness, organization, discipline, and the ability to communicate and reason – all by developing one’s own personal textbook from research, lectures, resources, life lessons & experiences, interviews, etc. This tool employs the 4 R’s as a tool of scholarship that fully employs reasoning and rhetoric to produce a permanent record of learning.
- The Bible is the primary source for all learning and research. We always prefer primary sources rather than secondary texts to identify the purest stream of knowledge. The recurrence of underlying bedrock principles forms a unity of truth in the Bible. The use of providential history teaches the love and character of God. The “chain of Christianity” forms the structure of all knowledge in every subject as it reveals God’s dealings with men and nations from creation to the present.
- The emphasis in the Bible and from Jesus’ teaching is on reasoning from cause to effect, from the internal to the external, in understanding and applying truth. Reasoning with leading ideas and principles is the art of learning.
- Writing Essays: teaches students how to reason and think for themselves, and then to precisely communicate what they know and believe.
- Verbal Reports & Oral Tests: teaches students how to communicate verbally, think on their feet, and defend what they know.
- Word Study Method & the 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary: a tool of Biblical scholarship that builds vocabulary, reflective thinking, deductive reasoning, and illumination of the understanding; it reveals the Biblical meaning of words and God’s principles for application to all of life. We use the 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary and others.
- Using Stories to Teach Truth: Stories help students understand principles in life situations and help them remember what they learn.
- Emphasis on Student Participation: presentations through discussions, debates, recitation, essays, etc.
- Tutorial Mentor Approach: respect for individuality and uniqueness through tutorial practice of identification, individualization, record-keeping, and accountability in a spirit of love and acceptance and truth/honesty.
10. Biographies of Great Leaders: Teach character by introducing students to leaders who were significant in every subject. Students discover role models to emulate in all fields & learn conscience and character as causative (not circumstances & environment). Study providential background, forces of character formation, and the contributions of their lives.
11. Useful & Meaningful Projects: focus on projects that have real value.
12. Christian & Significant Western Classics: Reading, Discussing, Relating, & Writing: teaches critical thinking. Study the lives & writings of great statesmen from original and primary sources. Read numerous Christian & significant Western classics.
13. Field Trips of Discovery, Exploration, & Adventure: Learning is fun and most of it is outside the classroom and explorative in nature.
14. Apprenticeship Programs: Learn job skills, responsibility, accountability, discipline, initiative, etc.
15. Creative Expression through the Performing Arts & Fine Arts: students are given instruction and experience in all the visual arts, dance, music, photography, etc. The arts are integrated into the curriculum.
16. Community Service: Provide students with the opportunity to interact with their community and serve others with a servant’s heart.
17. Simulations: Practice in order to prepare. Simulate realistic scenarios in a non-threatening environment where coaching can help students prepare effectively for the real thing.
TTHE SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN CHRISTIAN HISTORY & GOVERNMENT
Samuel Adams, that great patriot and Father of the American Revolution, strongly encourages us to train our children in the fear and love of God, in self-government, and the Christian faith:
“Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, or inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system…”
Similarly, Noah Websterreminds us that the principles of liberty, law, and government come from the authority and influence of the Scriptures:
“It is extremely important to our nation in a political as well as religious view, that all possible authority and influence should be given to the Scriptures; for these furnish the best principles of civil liberty and the most effectual support of republican government….The Scriptures were intended by God to be the guide of human reason. The Creator of man established a moral order of the universe; knowing that human reason, left without a divine guide or rule of action, would fill the world with disorder, crime, and misery….The Principles of all genuine liberty and wise laws and administrations are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man, therefore, who weakens or destroys the divine authority of that book may be accessory to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer.”
The Principle Approach was rediscovered and restored to twentieth century American Christian education by the Foundation for American Christian Education (FACE) co-founder, Rosalie Slater, who identified seven principles of American Christian history and government in her foundational book, Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History: The Principle Approach.
- God’s Principle of INDIVIDUALITY: Everything in God’s universe reveals His infinity & diversity. Each person is a unique creation of God, designed to express the nature of Christ individually in society. The parent & teacher cultivate the development and flowering of the talents & uniqueness, which God has placed within each child and they appreciate how special each child is.
- The Christian Principle of SELF-GOVERNMENT: Simply stated, this means God ruling internally from the heart of the individual or “self-governed under God.” In order to have true liberty, man must be governed internally by the Spirit of God rather than by external forces. Government is first individual, & only then extends to the home, the church, the community, and the nation.
- America’s Heritage of CHRISTIAN CHARACTER: The image of God engraved upon the individual within, brings dominion and change to his external environment. The model of American Christian character is the Pilgrim character, which demonstrates the qualities of faith and steadfastness, brotherly love, Christian care, diligence and industry, and liberty of conscience. Learning work habits begins at home and extends into the classroom. Becoming accountable for one’s learning and productivity is the fruit of Christian character.
- “CONSCIENCE Is the Most Sacred of All PROPERTY.” (James Madison): God requires faithful stewardship of all His gifts, especially the internal property of conscience. This is a tool for self-government as each child learns the revelation of consent. Each individual governs his life through the voluntary consent to do right or wrong. It means to value your Christian conviction and conscience above all external possessions, even life itself, as Christian martyrs have done. We learn from our Founding Fathers that property begins with individual responsibility and productivity – stewardship first, then ownership. In the home or school setting, property is learned as both internal & external. Convictions, as well as possessions, need to be protected & safeguarded. Property is an individual responsibility & an individual stewardship. Only as it is learned individually will it be mutually valued.
- The CHRISTIAN FORM OF OUR GOVERNMENT: This is the divine flow of spiritual power and force through self-governing individuals, whose God-given rights are protected by laws established by their elected representatives. Proper government requires a balance of internal power and its external form as seen in the separation of powers & its dual form with checks & balances. The Christian form of our government finds its source in “the American political textbook” – the Holy Bible, and its principles embody both the law and the Gospel. To make Christian constitutional government effective, the power of government – sovereignty – must be restored to the individual. How important then, to accustom our young children to think of the importance of individual action and influence.
- How the SEED OF LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT Is PLANTED: Christian self-government begins with salvation and education in God’s Law and Love, and flows in governing oneself, one’s home, one’s church, and one’s community. The Chain of Christianity is made up of individual links. Even in the family group or the classroom, individuals must take responsibility or blame, in order to discover & correct errors. “Liberty is an individual responsibility.” (Samuel Adams)
- The Christian Principle of AMERICAN POLITICAL UNION: Internal agreement or unity, which is invisible, produces an external union, which is visible in the spheres of government, economics, home, and community life. Before two or more individuals can act effectively together, they must first be united in spirit in their purposes & convictions. The entire program of teaching & learning America’s Christian history & form of government is to encourage families & schools to teach with a positive emphasis upon what is right, true, & changeless. The purpose is to provide young people with a clearly defined American Christian standard of reference for their lives. This is “built-in” Christian self-government predicated upon the Word of God.