In the classical model we follow at ACA, the elementary years (known as Grammar School) are, quite literally, foundational. For one thing, these are the years when children learn the facts and fundamentals, (aka “grammars”) of language, critical thinking, and knowledge acquisition. The classical approach recognizes that children learn through interaction with and discovery of the world around them, and that at this age they can learn quickly when given the right tools and the right environment, one that fosters their natural curiosity while giving them enough structure to make sense of it all.
When that happens, they also learn a second fundamental—that learning is an amazing thing! So we teach the foundational facts—the grammars, if you will—that all children need to learn while fostering the equally important foundational skill of learning to love learning.
Wonder and Delight
Grammar School should be a time of delighting at new understanding, of discovering the wonder of God’s creation, and of increasing confidence as students learn new things every day. Our Grammar School teachers remember the thrill of writing their name for the first time (with all the letters facing the right direction!) at the top of a page, of discovering the beauty that 2+2=4 every time, and the wonder of seeing that bean sprout peek its way out of the soil in a Dixie cup.
Our motto for Grammar School is wonder and delight because we know that it is a wonderful thing as students are introduced to the world around them and delight in becoming more knowledgeable about it. Some of the ways we help develop wonder and delight include the following:
Scientifically based reading and language curricula that approaches reading and writing in a way that instills confidence and fosters love of learning
Broad-based use of story, song, rhyme, rhythm, memorization, and recitation to make learning fundamentals fun and engage all learning modalities
Early introduction of Latin to help students acquire language holistically and develop a sense of the universal consistencies of language construction
Integrated, grade appropriate use of movement, active learning, discovery, and play as part of the overall learning environment
Opportunities for and appreciation of visual arts, performing arts, music, theatre, dance and more
Partners with Parents
We believe that parents are a child’s first and best teachers, and that our job as professional educators is to “come alongside” and help bring out the best in students. Since we recognize the importance of the parents’ role in all areas of our students’ lives, we seek to keep an open line of communication between parents and teacher. We encourage parents to coordinate with their child’s teacher to visit the classroom or schedule a meeting or conference. We depend on active parent volunteers.
But at ACA we go a bit farther than just extending an open invitation to parents to be involved. We foster a community of mutual interdependence where parents and teachers work cooperatively and collaboratively. For example, our integrated, online learning system (“Gradenet”) allows parents to see “just in time” student performance on classroom activities and alerts them to upcoming assignments or special events. Additionally, parents and teachers can communicate directly via the built-in messaging system, so if parents have a question about their student’s performance, they can check Gradenet for specifics about the assignment and contact the teacher if necessary, all within the complimentary online learning system available exclusively to ACA families.
Our approach to education at ACA is grounded in time-proven methods, but we certainly keep up with the times in technological communication and take advantage of the innovation provided by cutting-edge classroom technology. Of course all faculty, administration, and staff have school email addresses, and parents (or students) can communicate through email in addition to using Gradenet. Moreover, Grammar School faculty often use multi-media presentations or computer-based modules as part of their lesson plans, which particularly appeals to tactile/kinesthetic learners and dovetails well with the reality of students who have never known a world without the Internet.
Further, classes in the Grammar School use iPads from ACA’s mobile iPad classroom on a regular basis. Students at this level do everything from practicing basic math skills or taking virtual web tours, to creating multi-media projects using state-of-the-art presentation software. Finally, ACA’s technology team works directly with Grammar School teachers to help integrate the advantages of technology into their lesson plans, enabling students and faculty alike to reap the benefits of technology while maintaining the integrity and authenticity of the classical model.
The foundation on which we base all we do at ACA is that of Christian faith and practice. We take seriously the writing in Mark’s gospel that asks what it profits anyone to gain the world if he loses his soul (Mark 8), so we do not take lightly our responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ in everything we do. Part of that includes weekly chapel services for Grammar School students where they sing, recite Bible verses, and learn of the work of God going on throughout the world (and how they are part of it!).
More important than chapel, all lessons are taught within a Christian framework. The order in mathematics, the intricate design in science, the beauty in art and music, and the greater purposes in history each point toward a loving, all-powerful God who knows us and wants good for us. Studying them with that mindset helps students learn more about the God who created all things, including them. Teachers freely share their testimony, pray for and with students, and encourage them to “delight in the Lord.”