Q&A: Principle Approach

I wanted to get your opinion on the Principle Approach Curriculum.

 - Kim,

through contact form

I had to go rummaging through my homeschool catalog file for a while before I found my 2009 “Catalogue of The Noah Plan,” otherwise known as The Principle Approach.  The curriculum is offered in different formats: DVD courses; books and CDs for “self-study”; or large group study (like home groups or Sunday School classes).

From the website:

Q: What makes The Noah Plan classical in nature?
A: Why look to medieval Europe for classical education when the pinnacle of classical education was reached in our own nation with a Biblical and governmental mission two centuries ago? The tools of learning are ours. They’re not medieval, they’re Biblical and governmental.

The “classical Christian” education trend looks back to medieval practices for a classical adaptation for today’s education of tomorrow’s Christian leader. The medieval system, known as the trivium and the quadrivium, represents a sequence of learning in which raw data is logically analyzed and then derived principles are expressed. It adds on Latin, logic and classical methods such as rote memory, copy work, recitation, Bible and spiritual training.

The Principle Approach is bibliocentric, with the Bible at the heart of teaching and learning. It looks to the practices developed in America, based upon Reformation Christianity. The Principle Approach is Biblical-classical American education—the product of the educational practices of the founding era when literacy was at its peak, when all education was classical, and when the end result of schooling was in producing leaders of character, conscience, Christian self-government and governmental principles.

The Noah Plan curriculum is classical. Literature classics are taught beginning with the children’s classics in kindergarten and expanding through the grades giving language development the model and inspiration of classical literature. Children develop language and vocabulary skills that enable leadership and service. History is taught from the earliest grades with the providential approach showing the Hand of God in the affairs of men and nations and providing the Chain of Christianity as the structure of Western civilization. The curriculum practices methods that develop writers, speakers and leaders. All subjects employ the Notebook Approach which requires research, reasoning, recording and relating what is learned.

Most importantly, the Principle Approach is governmental, achieving the goal set forth by Samuel Adams, American patriot and founder, when he said, “that we should unite our endeavors to renovate the age by understanding the importance of educating our little boys and girls, of 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.”

The Principle Approach, as American classical education, is Biblical and governmental. It looks to leadership of the next generation to be well-educated in the Bible and its governmental principles. It acknowledges America’s Christian history and Biblical form of government, teaching them in every subject. It applies Biblical principles in scholarship, reasoning, character formation and developing Christian self-government. It values the worth and dignity of each student and nurtures each one to achieve his fullest potential in Christ. The Principle Approach produces a Biblical Christian worldview, holding the student accountable for his character and his learning. It places the responsibility for the character and preservation of our Christian constitutional republic upon the parent to teach children “the art of self-government.”

This quote explains where I would differ with the Noah Plan personally. I applaud their emphasis on biblical standards, morality and classicism (though I humbly suggest they have erred slightly in their definition of what it means to be classical). I most disagree that colonial or Revolutionary America is the epitomy of greatness to which we should point our children.

Now, before you shudder, gasp, and throw stones through your computer screen, let me say a few words in my own defense. I am, in this case, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. I am a pedigreed decedent of Pennsylvania colonists, pre-Revolution. I have two revolutionary grandfathers, one militia and one Continental army. My grandfather crossed the Rubicon with Washington. Later, those two grandfathers settled western Pennsylvania with their families when it was still wilderness.  I am also proud that I have a grandfather who fought, along with two of his brothers, to preserve the Union in the War between the States.  I am extremely proud to be an American, and was never more so than when standing beside my immigrant husband for his oath of naturalization 4 years ago.

So this is not about how great America is. America is great, and we are proud to live here and proud to be Americans.

But early Americans is not what I most aspire to my children to become. I want my children to be like Christ. I want them to see God in their studies.

Early America had its problems. Early American leaders – even the Adams family that I love so much – had their flaws. Americans had theological flaws; they had political flaws. I would not want to live in 1700 America or 1800 America if you paid me. Not everyone was free. It was Puritan Massachusetts who made public education compulsory and paid for by tax dollars. Many colonies did not enjoy religious freedom. Politicians made serious compromises for personal gain or expediency. When I look at the problems then and the problems now, I take the problems now. I am so thankful I can worship freely and teach my children unhindered.

I know many people have used this curriculum and enjoy it. More power to them; to each his own. I have said before, and I’ll say it again,

Books don’t teach children. Parents teach children.

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10 Responses to Q&A: Principle Approach

  1. Greg Howlett says:

    That is very true. Colonial America is not the epitome of greatness. The perspective that it is seems to be incredibly naive and obnoxiously America-centric. No wonder the world hates us.

  2. sungor says:

    There is no time in history that we can truly call the “epitome of greatness”. All men have flaws, and unless we are willing to honestly take note of each man’s strengths and weaknesses we are likely to fall in the same places that they fell.

    I would definitely not have wanted to live in Massachusetts in the colonial days. They were very religiously exclusive, had a state church (which you were required by law to tithe to) and sometimes even required attendance at said church. Many of the southern colonies had a state church as well (often the Anglican church). The only two colonies that really had religious freedom were Pennsylvania (started by the Quakers) and Rhode Island (started by a Baptist).

    • You see why I’m so proud to be of Pennsylvania colonial ancestry (though, from what I read, it was no walk in the park).

      Since no man-made civilization is the perfection of learning and achievement, I hope classicists can focus instead upon the biblical model of education. God’s way is always superior, as His thoughts are higher than ours.

  3. Thought provoking post! I have to say: I am a card carrying member of the DAR. My mother is a member of the Mayflower Society (I am not because I don’t want to pay the dues right now!) and yet, I think we can talk about the greatness of America without making it sound like America is “The Promised Land” or Canaan or whatever. I have a real problem with the mixing of politics and religious hyperbole.

    • I am working on my DAR certification, Karen. We aren’t Mayflower, sorry to say. My good friend is. *sigh*. Pedigree will only get me SO FAR in this discussion. : P

      I think, then, that we agree. Like you, I respect our ancestors who made us what we are. But even they knew they weren’t sinless perfection personified.

      Great to meet you, Karen! {curtsey}

  4. Becca Beard says:

    I’ve only read through the Noah Plan Lessons for Kindergarten and the Literature and History curriculum guides, but from what I’ve read, I haven’t found anything in the actual teaching in the Principle Approach that puts the Founding Fathers in an awkward, unearned position. From what I’ve read, the only goal seems to be to point the kids to Christ. Here’s an example from the History, Week 2 plan:

    Biblical Principle: Remember God, His Ways, and His Word.
    Leading Idea: God provides, prepares, and protects individuals in His Story.
    Day 1: Define history as Christ, His Story
    Why do we study history?
    - To learn about God’s work in men and nations.
    - To learn about God’s purpose in our nation.
    - To recognize God’s plan for us and our responsibility to carry out that plan.
    Day 2: Read aloud Nehemiah 9:6
    - Define and discuss providential history.
    - God provides for every detail of His Story.
    - God calls individuals and nations to forward His Story.
    - God prepares and protects individuals in His Story.
    - Share a personal example of God’s Providential Hand in your life.
    Day 3: Guide student to restate the definition of history and providence and to share a personal example of God’s Providential Hand in his life.
    - Color notebook page. “His Story”

    I certainly don’t put the founding fathers on some freaky pedestal, either, and am quick to give a sideways glance to those who do. I used to give sideways glances to The Principle Approach, but really, from what I’ve read, I don’t think they do this. They seem to understand that the Founding Fathers were flawed, but in HIS plan, those men had a purpose. That purpose – God’s purpose (to show His glory to us and draw us to Him), is what The Principle Approach peeps illustrate through what they call “The Chain of History.” It’s really very fascinating stuff.

    The downside is that The Principle Approach and even The Noah Plan materials were not written for homeschoolers. It is written for a private school setting. Something they should make more clear on their website, but unfortunately, their website is very short on what I would consider necessary details. I firmly believe that homeschoolers should stay REAL FAR AWAY ;-) from materials not written for homeschoolers because of the work it takes to adapt for the home setting.
    But in my spare time (I almost choked on my drink on that one – I crack myself up), I plan on reading the curriculum guides just for the great info that I can learn and maybe over time share with the kids as we go about our school days.

    • Becca,

      I really appreciate your taking the time to explain your experience with the Noah Plan. It appears there are a few issues the developers and writers may want to address from a marketing point of view and for homeschool ease of use.

      I agree with you, especially, on your last point. So many products developed for institutional use are simply a waste of time at best and harmful at worst. It takes a lot of discernment and effort on the part of a biblical home educating mother to comb through all the procedure, lecture, and busywork to find the meat of the message.

  5. Lori says:

    Greetings! As I am only a customer who has used the Foundation for American Christian Education’s materials, I cannot speak for them officially, but I have heard (or read) that they consider themselves Hebraic classical (as opposed to Greek / Roman classical). They believe that the ‘classical’ education that was found in America was ultimately due to the founders understanding of the Scriptures. (The Bluedorns in their book, TEACHING THE TRIVIUM, provide a positive review of the Principle Approach(R), a registered trademark of the Foundation for American Christian Education). FACE, I believe, would be the first to tell us that we are to put the biblical principle on the pedestal, and not the fallible human founding father or mother. They believe that America did and does have its problems. It is through the Foundation that I learned of the proper spheres of government, and that fundamentally, it is the responsibility of the parents and not the government to educate their youth.

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