It was during one of my heavier semesters, taking yet another level of Calculus, along with a slew of specialized engineering courses, that I remember sitting to talk to my dad one afternoon. He was the one who had encouraged me to study engineering, having seen in me some of the skills and curiosities that had led him into an engineering career as well. I was nearing the end of my undergraduate program, and I was having a hard time feeling prepared to enter the “real world” of engineering that (despite doing well in my studies) still seemed so foreign and unnerving to me.
“The real purpose of all of these courses and your education is to teach you how to learn”, he told me. He explained that the real learning would begin once I had a job, and it was time to apply my acquired skills to solve real-world problems that didn’t always have a set equation - or an answer key - to follow.
Today as I sat to teach my own littles, I stopped to ponder how important this is and why a Catholic Classical curriculum like Kolbe’s is so important in providing this solid educational foundation.
A classical education focuses on engraining virtues, critical thinking, and wisdom through the liberal arts.
These are divided into the classical trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music), based on a child’s natural development. In a Catholic classical curriculum, such as Kolbe’s, our faith is beautifully intertwined within each subject and therefore a natural part of everyday learning. The primary goal is to form a whole person in Truth and Goodness so that every student may find salvation in Jesus Christ, capable of being a Christian leader in the world.
As the students grow, the classical curriculum gives them the skills necessary to grow deeply in wisdom, communication, and critical thinking as they interconnect different subjects or learn to recognize similarities between the ancient and the modern. It encourages asking questions, looking for original sources, and connecting our faith to all that is learned. These skills are essential and highly valuable for any career, mission, or role.
It also fosters a true love of learning. In my own family’s experience, this has been especially evident. Kolbe’s classical curriculum has encouraged more critical thinking, honest questions, and deep conversations around our table than I ever expected (and that is a lot to say with three kiddos who fancy the word “why”). Reading original stories in what many would call “outdated” English has opened my children’s imaginations, expanded their vocabulary, and improved their reading comprehension skills so much more than the textbooks they had been reading before we began homeschooling. The excitement in their eyes when something we learned in one subject pops up in another is truly priceless… but it is the little moments and conversations that I get to overhear every so often that express the true value of our curriculum... As my youngest lovingly explains her religion lesson to her little cousin, two of them excitedly discuss our latest history lesson with their grandparents, my oldest begs to read aloud the AMAZING story in his English lesson, or we spend an entire lunch discussing their favorite subjects.
There are sure hard days too, some too long, some sleepy, some grumpy, but in these noteworthy moments that can slip by so easily without notice if I’m not paying close attention, I see the true value of this classical curriculum that is flexible (another major highlight in Kolbe’s curriculum), grows with my children, encourages Truth and Wisdom at every turn, teaches them hard work and skills needed in life, and most of all leads them to Christ.
My dad’s words of wisdom that afternoon have always stayed with me. Through the years as the Lord has fluidly changed my “job title” to vary quite a bit from what my own plans were, I am ever more thankful for the skills and lessons learned (both in school and at home) that I have been able to carry with me and apply as needed.
May the Lord guide and inspire each of us as we teach our own children the skills and lessons that they will carry with them in their own lives.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
Mary our Good Mother, pray for us.
Vanessa grew up and resides in South Florida. She received a Catholic education and became a youth group leader within her archdiocese, where she met her husband. After graduating with her BS in Civil Engineering (FIU), she began her career. Several blessed years and three wonderful children later, Vanessa felt called to transition her work into Catholic education, focusing on STEM. She started an Engineering Academy at her alma mater, and taught middle and high school before joining Kolbe Academy.