What is a Classical Education?

A Classical Education is an education purposed toward the cultivation of wisdom and virtue. Originating with the Greeks and Romans as an education for the “free man,” (hence, the name “liberal arts”) the tradition passed to the Church Fathers who oriented it in Christ as the one who truly makes men free.

At Dominion Academy, our students are deeply rooted in the Liberal Arts. All students are required to take classes in the Trivium (or the verbal arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric) as well as the Quadrivium (or the mathematical arts: Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, & Astronomy). We also generally teach according to Dorothy Sayers’ description of the Trivium as stages of knowledge.

Our students learn in dialogue with primary sources and the great ideas of western and non-western civilization. They learn that these great ideas are not static and relegated to the past, but that they have life and wisdom for today. Our teachers creatively engage with their material and seek to help their students learn experientially.

What does a classical education look like in practice at Dominion? The following are a selection of examples:

History

Dominion Academy’s entire curriculum is organized according to the timeline of history, recognizing God’s providence within time.

  • For grades 1 through 8, history, geography, and social studies are integrated as students use their imaginations to travel back in time. Students make timelines together throughout the year to visualize the narrative of history, discovering concurrent events as well as the art and music that flowed out of each period. Our history teachers plan creative simulations like “The Feudal System” and “First, Second, and Third Estate.”
  • In the High School, our teachers convey history as more than a random series of dates, but as the outworking of ideas and ingrained sensibilities. For example, students in European History engage with the medieval mind and soul through an in-class performance of the morality play Everyman and likewise with the Enlightenment through Voltaire’s Candide . They interact with primary sources such as Athanasius’s On the Incarnation and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, etc.  Our history classes culminate in upper level AP courses, studying history like historians with theme-based analysis, comparing and contrasting cultures and civilizations, admiring their achievements and learning from their mistakes.

The Arts of Language

The Trivium is formed by the three verbal arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. We have all of our students focus on these subjects in order that they can become compelling and wise communicators in our world. Dominion Academy students are known for being strong and confident written communicators, frequently drawing praise from their college professors.

  • Grammar: Prep School students focus on reading skills, reinforced by grade-appropriate vocabulary, spelling lists, phonetic essentials, and Latin Roots. Our High School students systematically continue their study of grammar with classes every year that continue to solidify the building blocks of the English language.
  • Logic: 7-9th grade students take Logic class, learning how to correctly build formal syllogisms and identify invalid arguments.
  • Rhetoric: Rhetoric, the art of eloquent persuasion, is the apex of our language classes. In rhetoric, upperclassmen learn to identify and analyze the messages all around them, whether they be formal written arguments, corporate images and stories, or common cultural milieu. Once they learn how to identify these narratives, they craft their own arguments, utilizing ethos, pathos, and logos to engage the public square with a thoroughly Christian imagination.

Literature

At Dominion Academy, students are immersed in literature, as a means of not only becoming acquainted with the classics but as a way to deepen their Christian imagination.

  • Prep School students read “living books” — books not diluted for children, but that are vivid and well-written. Classic age-appropriate selections acquaint students with the English canon and teach literary devices such as characterization, plot and point of view. In the Buttress days, students interact with more great literature in reading circles.
  • High School students read over 35 novels in high school and then have lively discussion in class, learning how to read closely with attention to themes and literary devices. Titles include classics such as T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, The Odyssey, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Students are also exposed to more modern works and non-Western selections such as Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. 

The Humanities: Art, Music, & Drama

The Humanities are interwoven into the fabric of Dominion Academy throughout all grade levels.

  • In the Humanities Vault, Prep School students are introduced to the basic plots of Shakespeare through acting in adapted Shakespeare plays. They also learn the fundamentals of  Art & Music, using their new skills to create art (such as sets and costumes) and music for the plays that they write! Included in the Friday Spire Day field trips, students attend live performances in the arts, music and theatre.  They get to experience the concrete examples of truth, goodness, and beauty in the Dayton area.
  • Every High School student who graduates from Dominion Academy is required to act in one of Shakespeare’s comedies, in addition to taking Shakespeare’s literature. This is not just a rite of passage for our students, but gives them to gain an insider’s appreciation for the human insight and wit of ‘the bard.’
  • During Wednesday morning assembly, our High School students participate in the Assembly Choir, learning how to sight read and sing properly so that they can better contribute to the ‘songs, hymns, and spiritual songs’ of the church.
  • In the High School humanities class, students learn music history and art history in conjunction with each other — with one day focused on art history taught by an art historian and the next class day on music history taught by a musician. AP Art History, Studio Art, and AP Studio Art are also available for our students.