The Principle Approach provides a well-developed philosophy of Christian education, and a challenging one. It includes elements of classical education, ideas from Charlotte Mason, cultural literacy, and other ideas, as it offers a foundation that really makes the teacher think about why you do what you're doing in education.
To really "do" a Principle approach, the teacher/parent will need to do much study and planning in preparation, but the results can be worth the effort. Most people who use the Principle approach have children keep a notebook for recording information that has been researched, studied and applied. The "principles" being applied with this approach vary slightly from person to person, but the following list from Rus Walton's Fundamentals for American Christians is typical:
- God's sovereignty
- Personal property
- Family government
- Local autonomy
- Voluntary association
History is an important aspect of the Principle Approach—primarily America's Christian History—but the approach can be applied to all subject areas. A key idea of the approach is the westward chain of movement of Christianity. This involves some theological assumptions and historical conclusions that are debatable, so parents will want to study the underlying principles of the approach and materials themselves before deciding on the approach.
If you decide to use the Principle Approach, we recommend using it in intermediate and high school grades, as children in those grades are better able to grasp abstract ideas. However, there are families using this approach very successfully with younger students.
(we thank Cathy Duffy for much of this content)
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