Defining Curriculum

Curriculum Defined

The word “curriculum” means “what is intended to be taught.” It actually comes from the Latin word currere, meaning to run. It is the same root from which we get the word course, as in a running track. This view of curriculum, as a set course, helps us to view our curriculum in a somewhat different way than exists in most public schools. While the popular fad in education is to individualize instruction, classical education defines a course, or curriculum, through which every student progresses. Our curriculum is deliberately chosen, based on what has been tried and true and taught to children across the centuries. Of course, there are always adjustments to content as new knowledge is discovered, but the basic truths and methods do not change.

There are, however, some categories of curriculum which must be considered when discussing a school’s curriculum. This guide is intended to spell out the “written curriculum,” the documentation that describes the scope and sequence of what students will be taught in each subject. There are two more kinds of curriculum that certainly exist but are not usually described in written form. They are the “living curriculum” and the “cultural curriculum.” The “living curriculum” is the result of what an individual teacher brings to the “written curriculum.” While each teacher may be provided with the same list of learning objectives, she brings her own experience and teaching flair to that topic. So, the “written curriculum” may be taught in a slightly different way and to a slightly varying level of detail depending on who is teaching it.

The “cultural curriculum” refers to the atmosphere in which the “written curriculum” is taught. The culture of the school itself (and each classroom) provides a foundation upon which the learning experience is created. Therefore, the written curriculum described in this document must be considered in light of the living and cultural curricula of the school.

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