Good Shepherd School has for 30 years remained committed to an educational vision that is both Christian and Classical. This model for education not only shaped the ideals embodied in our nation’s founding, but nurtured our nation’s growth to greatness.

The four pillars of education

The truth that God does not change implies that, in a world under God, there are some things that also ought not to change. The four pillars of a Good Shepherd education—oratio, studium, labor, recreatio—reflect this abiding truth.


The first pillar of a Good Shepherd education is oratio, the Latin word for prayer. Each school day begins and ends with the Daily Offices of prayer. Teacher and student alike acknowledge dependence on and accountability to God. These offices, called Matins and Evensong, are the sung Anglican worship services that have been prayed for centuries. This daily routine nurtures orderliness, respect, and a continual awareness of God’s presence in the culture of the school. It reinforces traditional Christian virtues so vital to our school families and the many church traditions represented at Good Shepherd.

As they sing the Daily Offices of prayer, students gain confidence in their voices, learn to read music, and learn to love many ancient hymns, psalms, and canticles of the Church. High school students have the opportunity to tour England as part of the Good Shepherd Chorale, singing choral evensong in parish churches, some over 500 years old. Students return amazed at the rich and beautiful heritage common to English-speaking Christians, while English parishioners, many of them elderly, are moved as they see the faith not dying out, but vigorously embodied in young men and women.

Daily oratio in the school teaches our students, as nothing else can, that the “fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).


The second pillar is studium, from which English derives the word study. But the word studium has a far richer meaning than this. It also carries the ideas of zeal and eager pursuit. At Good Shepherd School we understand that learning only takes place when students are eagerly and actively engaged. Mere exposure to information is never the same thing as learning. At the same time we know that the young student, no matter his eagerness, zeal, and hard work, is unable to educate himself efficiently or thoroughly. He is too young to know how to educate himself well. He needs coaching from someone who has mastered the art of learning.

No doubt, a non-swimmer can learn, after much effort to dog paddle across a wide river. But he will not learn to swim efficiently, powerfully, or gracefully without coaching in the art of swimming. So, too, people learn many things in the course of their lives, but they are always “dog paddling” in the ocean of knowledge if they have never gained the art of learning.

At Good Shepherd School we believe one of the most important purposes of elementary and high school education is learning how to learn—efficiently, powerfully, thoroughly. Because of this, the Good Shepherd academic curriculum follows the Medieval Trivium—a carefully developed plan for learning to learn. By design, the Trivium is not so much focused upon the acquisition of subject matter as upon the cultivation of the tools of learning. These tools enable students to educate themselves effectively through the rest of life, no matter what they take in hand to learn.


The third pillar is labor, the Latin word for work, struggle, and effort. Good Shepherd students learn that their studies are their primary work, a labor done for the glory of God. They begin to understand that education has a much higher goal than providing a pathway to a high paying job. Through effort and struggle talents are disciplined and skills are acquired. These then, applied to the service of God and man, join toil with pleasure, and yield the deep satisfaction of work well done. Besides classwork, additional venues for labor include: gardening in Good Shepherd’s community garden, bee-keeping, debating in cross-examination tournaments through the National Forensic League, acting in a Shakespearean play each year, engaging in service projects, or simply doing work on campus for the school.


The rhythm of work and rest in God’s world suggests the importance of the fourth pillar, recreatio, Latin for restoration or refreshment, from which the English word recreation is derived. Beyond enjoying the refreshing beauty of God’s created works through field trips and nature study, students themselves experience and display beauty through choral singing, athletics, drama, and dance. Good Shepherd School hosts, usually in conjunction with the celebrations of Christmastide and Eastertide, English contra dancing—a type of community celebration enjoyed by our nation’s founding fathers. Not only are these enjoyable events in which old and young join together in group dances, but they become the occasion for practicing social proprieties and the courtesies of good etiquette.

A Good Shepherd Education

These four pillars—oratio, studium, labor, recreatio—set the framework in which Good Shepherd’s teachers educate. For a fuller explanation of these four pillars, see the sidebar. We make great effort to give such a Christian and Classical education to every child we receive, even those who have been schooled poorly, or those who suffer from moderate learning disabilities. To such students, who may not be ready for our full program, we offer an individualized tutoring class designed to help them in their particular area of difficulty until they can function well in the regular classroom setting.

For over 30 years, Good Shepherd’s seasoned teachers have worked to help their students master the challenge of true learning. While Good Shepherd graduates have been accepted by many prestigious colleges and universities, the real measure of their education from Good Shepherd is their own notable collegiate achievements and post-graduate pursuits. We have found that when family, church, and school reinforce, support, and agree with each other in the Christian and Classical training of children, these young people, without fail, become outstanding members of their communities, to the glory of God.

There is no more enduring gift a parent can give a child than a sound Christian upbringing, including a Christian education. Education at Good Shepherd School begins in preschool with the three R’s—Reading, [w]Riting, and [a]Rithmetic—and strives to equip its graduates with the Tools of Learning, seasoned by three more R’s—Respect, Responsibility, and Resourcefulness. We aim to see our students use this educational foundation to “cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).