It is important to note that we have two separate and distinct programs. Our TUESDAY program is in partnership with Oxford Virtual Academy (OVA) , and we run non-religious elective classes that are open people of every race and religion. Our THURSDAY program, on the other hand, is completely separate from OVA, and is a Classical, Catholic Cooperative.
For more information on OVA partnerships, please go to www.oxfordvirtualacademy.org
On THURSDAY, for our core program, it is our intention to develop a program which is authentically Catholic. By this we mean a Catholic understanding of learning in the fullest sense. This means more than simply avoiding certain errors common in popular texts, and more even than teaching the standard subjects with a Catholic gloss, incorporating a Catholic Worldview at certain points.
Pursuing the formation of the whole person is necessary but also not sufficient. We must build Faith, Hope and Love on the foundation of wisdom, justice, temperance, and fortitude, but even this does not embody all that a Catholic education ought to be
Our intention to build our program around the Mass is central, since this is our supreme contemplative act. But even here we might miss the fullness: it would be possible to begin a day with Mass without structuring our teaching in a fully Catholic fashion.
The Catholic definition of learning which needs to be made explicit is this: learning, in the truest sense, is contemplative.
St Thomas Aquinas teaches that man’s final end is contemplation. In paradise, we rest in God’s presence. There is no longer any striving or struggling, no working to build or repair or cure. In the Eternal present, we are completely receptive to the Good, Beautiful, and True. Heaven is contemplation.
St Thomas also explains that we can participate in this contemplation our present life--anytime we do a good act for its own sake, rather than for some other end, our actions are in a sense contemplative. This is not essentially passive. Our festivals and celebrations, and even sports and games can in their truest forms be contemplative, when we are drawn fully into the moment and act for the sake of the action, rather than esteem or pay or some other end.
In this life, the Mass is our fullest participation in Heavenly contemplation. Sunday, in turn, is the day of contemplation. Sunday’s rest is not intended essentially to restore us for our work--rather, the other days exist for Sunday, which is an end in itself, inasmuch as we rest in God’s presence.
The Church has also recognized that learning and study of the greatest truths is contemplative. We do not study theology or philosophy, or derive from them mathematics and the natural sciences, or do poetry and other arts, for some other purpose. We do them for their own sake, without consideration of some other practical goal. Through them we approach God Himself and begin our participation in Heaven.
We cannot overlook the practical dimension of educating children. Many of them will provide for themselves and their families by means of their education. But we lose our way if we reduce their education essentially to considerations of test preparation and admissions criteria, opportunities for advanced degrees and employment, and so on, even if we include many fine Catholic elements.
Those of us who work at practical arts or trade, provide a service, or engage in business or production, act for some good outside the action: the object or service provided to a customer, the support of our family, and so forth. As parents, our end is the eternal destiny of our children. But when our children study, they participate actively in that destiny. In a certain respect this turns our lives upside down, yet it is precisely what the Church teaches us: if our children are lead to wonder at the True, Good, and Beautiful, then they are engaged in a higher activity than our temporal adult labors.
An educational approach built on this understanding will depend on the character of its students. An atmosphere of wonder can only flourish among people who live in hope and love what is true.
For this reason, it is absolutely necessary that the natural and supernatural virtues be deliberately cultivated. This is of course the first and chief responsibility of parents. But any Catholic educational community must also make this its object: only temperate and persevering children can properly advance in learning the truth and be justly ordered in themselves and towards others. This in turn forms the foundation of a lively Faith which can inspire Hope and its counterpart wonder. All of these are fully realized in Love for the Truth.
This is not to assume that students or even parents and tutors, will be perfect examples of the virtues. It is not what we are, but what we intend to be, that determines what we teach. Everyone involved in this project must be committed to developing faith, hope, and love on a foundation of temperance, fortitude, wisdom, and justice. This presumes both a curriculum which teaches the virtues, and families who are seeking to live St Thomas’ prayer:
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more
see Lord at thy service, low lies here a heart
lost all lost in wonder at the God thou art.