ALBANY — When officials at Byne Christian School decided to base the school’s method of education on a Classical Education model, they asked Cory Wise if he might take on the challenge of bringing about that change, at least on an interim basis. Wise had, after all, introduced not only Classical Education — based on the Greco-Roman concept of a more disciplined path to creating critical thinkers — but also a two-day university model that he headed at the nondenominational Lifegate Church.

Wise accepted the challenge at Byne in June of 2018, and it didn’t take long for school leadership to see he was moving in the right direction. By October, the school’s board asked Wise to stay on long enough to facilitate the transition to a Biblical-based Classical Christian Education.

Not long after Wise introduced the elements of the new educational method to teachers at Byne, the first steps in what he said was a “three- to five-year transition,” COVID came calling. Teachers and students were forced to adapt to online education, and after that, a hybrid, online and in-person, brand of education that slowed the integration process.

But with COVID on the wane in southwest Georgia, Byne just completed a full year of transition that included the introduction of a two-day model in which students take classes for two days a week and take part in guided study on their own for the other three days.

“The Classical Christian Education is a Trivium Structure; educators work with students the way God does,” Wise said. “You start at the grammar level with broad-based facts and memory pegs. Then students move to the dialectic/logic phase, which brings logical discussion into the equation.

“The rhetoric phase offers a new level of peer interaction. Teachers introduce the art of persuasion while implementing ‘Socratic circles,’ which lend themselves to more conversation, a new level of ownership, of understanding context. The teachers don’t teach to tests, they help the students develop critical thinking skills. Students learn to think outside the box, to become good communicators.”

Wise said the separation of subject matter to include integration of elements of the Bible throughout the curriculum is a primary difference in the “Christian” element of the education method now fully entrenched at Byne.

“Take a classic like ‘The Old Man and the Sea,’” Wise said. “Students will do a typical text analysis, but they’ll also make a cultural analysis and they’ll be directed to discover what the Bible says about that work. It’s full integration of subject matter.”

The unique two-day program offers parents options when it comes to their involvement in their child’s education.

“Talking with parents, they love the flexibility of the two-day model,” Amy Haynes, director of the two-day program at Byne, said. “For one thing, it’s affordable, less expensive than the typical five-day program. But for a lot of parents who want more than the typical homeschool education, but still want to work with their kids, it’s an opportunity for the students to be a part of something bigger (than a homeschool situation). Students get to compete in sports and other activities, be a part of pep rallies, go to proms.

“The program has proven to absolutely prepare students for the next phase of their lives. They learn that there’s value even in the things in life that raise eyebrows. With this type of Christ-centered education, teachers help the students learn to wrestle with sensitive subject matter and prepare for what they’ll be asked to do in college or other avenues.”

Wise warns, though, that the two-day program is not the best choice for all students.

“If parents are interested in the two-day program, we set up an evaluation to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses,” the Byne headmaster said. “If we feel this program is not best for the student, we have that conversation with parents. Their student might have special needs, may be struggling in a particular subject area — like math — and need (five days) in the classroom with the teacher.

“It depends on the situation, but our goal is always what’s best for the child.”

As word got around about the new program at Byne, interest grew at an exponential rate. Wise said the school started promoting the two-day program in March and April of 2020, and by July, 80 had registered for the program. By the first week of the school year, 150 students had signed up for the program.

While Byne offers a more student-centered Classical Education — its student/teacher ratio is 11:1 — the school’s headmaster said Byne works with parents to help them with costs. Scholarship funds are available for qualifying students, and outside funding comes from a “Pay It Forward” program. Tuition can be paid on 9-, 10- or 11-month payment plans.

“We’ll tailor a program for the individual family,” Wise said.

Byne, which is registering students now, offers, in addition to the unique Classical Education, Georgia Association of Christian School competition in golf, baseball, softball, volleyball and basketball and is planning to add archery and cross country. “Our girls won state in basketball last year, and our boys were runners-up in baseball,” Wise said.

And while Byne is a Christian school, Wise said students are not limited to any particular religious denomination.

“We have students from families whose worship is nondenominational; we have Baptists, Methodists and others,” he said. “And some are not even Christians. But we hold to the basic tenets of faith, and that is an important part of what we do here.”

The Byne headmaster notes that Byne opened in 1983, and its student body was educated under the traditional educational model for 35 years. Now, though, with the introduction of the Classical Education model, there is a new excitement surrounding the school, from its faculty to its students to their parents.

“We teach the rhetoric of love, not of domination,” Wise said. “We teach our students to ask questions, to debate, to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. We prepare our students to enter the world.”

To learn more about Byne’s programs, to set up a tour of the campus or to get an application for admission, call the school office at (229) 436-0173.

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