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 An Integrated Curriculum

​As the vision states, the goal of education is the student himself, to form his mind and his character in such a way that he can live his whole life, so far as possible, in a way that is consistent with the truth about himself as a human being created in the image and likeness of God. We often say that we aim to achieve this through an integrated curriculum. But what does this mean? And how is the curriculum integrated?

Just as there were two complementary dimensions to our vision of education—conveying a definite body of knowledge and forming certain aptitudes, qualities of character and habits of mind in the student—so too is the curriculum integrated in a similar, twofold way.

Integrated1.jpgThe first is through the content of a historically based curriculum, rooted in an understanding of the human person as a creature, created in the image and likeness of God. From this starting point, the curriculum presents history as a coherent story propelled by the human desire for God, and God's coming to meet, inflame and satisfy that desire in Christ. This is what the Vision Statement means by "incorporating our students into the wisdom of two thousand years of Catholic thought, history, culture and arts." This means placing special emphasis on the Greek, Roman, Jewish and other ancient Near East cultures that make up the Western tradition. This understanding of the person as a creature provides a basis for exploring and appreciating these and other pre-Christian cultures in their own right, for seeking to understand them as they understood themselves.

But rooting history in the understanding of the human person as a creature with a natural desire for God also orients those cultures toward the coming of Christ, after which they are taken up, transformed, into a new Christian culture in which the deepest of human longings and the highest of human aspirations are met by a gift from God which surpasses all these. Other subjects such as literature, art, music, and even math and nature studies complement this understanding and deepen it. For instance, a class studying Greek culture in the Grammar stage might read and discuss stories from Greek mythology to think along with the Greeks 'from the inside'. A class studying the Middle-Ages in the Logic stage might learn Gregorian chant in music, or consider the symbolism of Gothic architecture in art or the symbolism of shapes in medieval stained glass in conjunction with their knowledge of basic geometry.

The students will study history chronologically. In grades K-5, they will devote one year of study to Egypt and the Ancient Near East, Greece, Rome, the Middle-Ages, the Modern Age, and America respectively. In grade 6, they will recapitulate this history by studying the ancient civilizations, followed by Greece and Rome.  In grade 7, students will revisit the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation.  By completing this cycle, students will reinforce what they have previously learned as well as penetrate the meaning of history more deeply.

The second dimension integrates the curriculum in the student himself, by cultivating in the student aptitudes, habits, and qualities that shape his approach to all subjects, and bind them together into a unity in what the Vision Statement calls "wonder and love for all that is genuinely true, good and beautiful." For instance, the curriculum emphasizes observation and rendering in subjects as varied as art, music and nature studies. The purpose of this emphasis is also to cultivate within the students habits and powers of looking, seeing and noticing, the development of which makes us most human and most alive. These, in turn, imply a capacity for concentration, whole-hearted attention, silence, and stillness of both body and soul. The study of music seeks to cultivate the same power of attention and understanding with the sense of hearing as observation does with the sense of sight. In this way, the qualities and habits needed to read beyond the surface level of a story, to notice mathematical patterns in nature, to distinguish one bird from another, to hear parts of a harmony in music, or to recognize how shadows are affected in a painting by lines, geometrical shapes, and gradations of color are not unlike the qualities needed to recognize the presence of God which, like light, always invisibly surrounds us.

Approached in this way, the study of nature, music and art is a kind of preparation for contemplative prayer or adoration, and these, in turn, prepare the student to study the world and to live in it in a fully human way.

In these two ways this approach to education forms a unified whole. The core subjects studied at each stage of the curriculum each have peculiar objectives which, taken together, combine for building up the whole. We will look at each of these in very general terms, asking in each case what skills, aptitudes, and knowledge we want our students to come away with at the end of their time at Christ the Divine Teacher School, in order to see how each subject combines with the others to serve the overall vision and its twofold aim.