What is Catholic classical education?
Catholic classical education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty. When affections are turned toward what is beautiful and good, we are better able to perceive what is true.
St. Ireneus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” We were made to know Him. When we know God, we will love Him. When we know and love Him, we will joyfully serve Him because it makes us fully human.
How does Aquinas Learning teach in a classical style?
Aquinas Learning teaches the liberal arts (the artes – skills for the liber – free man). We are free when we we wonder about truth, seek Truth, and finally learn to act based on Truth.
Our pedagogy starts with wonder. As John Senior of the Kansas University IHP once said, “Let them be born in wonder.” We frame our pedagogy with the TRIVIUM (from the Latin tri – three, vium – roads) as traditionally understood. At every stage, we teach all three skills of the trivium: Grammar (parts), Logic (organization), and Rhetoric (expression). Even in the Pre-K level, we teach parts of things (the alphabet), we organize them logically (in a story), and we ask the students to express or re-present what they’ve learned (show & tell, retell a story, illustrate the story, make an oral presentation, etc.) As they progress into the upper levels, the expectations are greater in the way they learn, the “parts”, “organize/categorize the parts,” and “represent/express” what they’ve learned. We teach the curriculum in three cycles so that a student can return to the same lessons every three years in order to absorb it even more deeply and the new level.
The specifics of how we teach the trivium is based on Mortimer Adler’s three pillars of teaching:
1. FACTS – We learn the “parts” or “facts” that embody the ideas we are learning. We teach facts that help us pass on our tradition.
2. SKILLS – We practice “organization” by learning skills: thinking, reading, writing, listening & speaking. In some cases, beholding, illustrating, presenting, experimenting, and delighting.
3. IDEAS – We discuss ideas (“expression”) in order to learn to perceive Truth. Ideas are actually the central pillar which informs the rest of the curriculum.
What subjects do we teach?
The foundation for our curriculum is based on St. Paul’s writing in Philippians 4:6-9
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
We teach an integrated curriculum because, ultimately, all knowledge is one, pointing always to what is true, good, and beautiful. Even if we label each topic under its subject heading, we try to connect them to unifying ideas that are central to the week’s lessons.
Elementary Years: PK-6
Saint of the week
Virtue of the week
Memory Subjects: Catechism, Science, History, Timeline, Geography, Civics, Latin or Greek, and Math Facts
Oral Presentations – on topics we are currently learning about
Group Class – Music, Art, or Science Investigations
Language Arts: K-3 – early composition (IEW PAL), copy work, handwriting; 4-6 – Grammar Intensive, and IEW
Intermediate Years: 7-12 – Integrated Humanities Program
Oral Presentations – re-presentations of current topics
Theology: Scriptures, Tradition, and Catechism
Literature: Integrated to the historical time frame being studied
History: Ancient Era, Christian Era, Modern Era
Composition: LTW (Lost Tools of Writing) thinking/composition program integrated with the Literature being read.
Logic: Informal Fallacies, Traditional Logic, Beginning Philosophy, Speech & Debate
Latin: Introduction to Latin, Latin I (to get them ready for the National Latin Exam)
Is this an authentically Catholic program that is loyal to the Magisterium?
Yes, it is authentically Catholic in that it conveys the truths that are passed down to us through Sacred Scripture and Tradition (through revelation and the teachings of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church). All our directors and mentors sign the Oath to Fidelity to the Magisterium. When it comes to our Catechism program, we only use materials that are approved by the Catholic Church. We use resources for History and Science that explain the Catholic perspective. Lastly, we keep Christ at the center of our day and in our dealings with each other.
What are the different age/grade levels at Aquinas Learning?
Schola Parva Grades Pre-K/K
Schola Prima I: Grades K-3
Schola Prima II: Grades 4-6
Schola Alta I: Grades 7-8
Schola Alta II: Grades 9-12
Why do you have mixed-age classrooms?
In a mixed-age classroom, the older students are expected to be models for the younger students. We encourage students to have a servant’s heart in both leading and helping the younger students. The younger students look forward to being able to accomplish tasks and learn things that their older counterparts have done or learned. Lastly, in a mixed class, since there are varying levels of skill and knowledge, students are not automatically labeled and singled out as “slow learners” or “special students”.
Why do you have single-sex classrooms?
We have single-sex classrooms whenever space and enrollment allow it, in order to honor the nature by which students learn. We teach the same content to both boys and girls.
What is the dress code?
Schola Parva and Schola Prima students wear light blue, collared polo shirts and dark blue/navy pants or skirts. Schola Alta students wear white, collared polo or oxford button-down shirts with with the AL emblem and navy pants or skirts. All students should wear white plain socks and either black or brown comfortable school shoes. For your convenience, we have partnered with Cookies Kids to provide uniforms based on our needs at very reasonable prices. www.cookieskids.com (for Schola Parva and Prima, enter the school code: SPP; for Schola Alta, enter the school code: ALSA).
Is Aquinas Learning a full curriculum?
Yes it is! Our core curriculum is taught in three cycles and it includes: Catechism (Scriptures, Creed & Sacraments, Moral & Prayer Life), History (Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Times), Science (Biology & Earth, Physics & Astronomy, and Chemistry & Anatomy), Timeline from Creation to Pope JPII (same each year), Geography (integrated to History lessons), Literature (family read-alouds, good books in class read-a-loud, & poetry – each year), Civics (integrated to History), Latin & Greek (sayings, roots, and Latin prayers), Music, Art, Science investigations, Language arts (spelling, copy work, handwriting for K-3; grammar intensive, and IEW for 4-6), and rhetoric (oral presentations, writing, discussing).
Due to the nature of our mixed-age classrooms, we cannot teach Math and Reading (decoding) Lesson at the center (the skill levels are too varied). However, we have partnered with Little Angel Readers to provide a Phonics Reading program and recommend both Life of Fred or Ray’s Arithmetic as a formal Math program. These programs teach in line with our philosophy of education. Each of these programs already have lesson plans and a scope and sequence to be used by the students, so we recommend that they be used as specified.
Do I have to buy additional books?
Yes. We do provide parent guides that include a plan for the year, weekly plans, checklists, and suggested home study schedules. For the Prima level, we have also created activity sheets (a chance for re-presentation) for both the Schola Prima I and Schola Prima II in the form of pre-printed workbooks for purchase. They also double as a year-end portfolio that you can keep for your records.
There are additional required books for each level. They are all listed under “Books & Supplies” on the website. In addition, there is a short “School Supplies” list for each level.
Lastly, there are recommended supplementary books listed for those who wanted to do even more of an extended lesson on a given subject. These are generally the books we’ve used in developing the program or are recommended as additional resources.
What school supplies do I need to buy?
These are listed under “Books & Supplies”
What about the at-home enrichment?
The Aquinas Learning program works best when lessons are reinforced at home by you, the main educator. Registered families will receive the CURRICULUM OVERVIEW (a 28-week lay out of the scope and sequence for each subject), a SAMPLE DAILY SCHEDULE, as well as a SAMPLE WEEKLY SCHEDULE as models for how you can continue the Aquinas Learning program at home for the rest of the week. These are samples because everyone has a unique home life and schedule so, within the first couple of months, each family is expected to customize these schedules to fit their specific needs. On the online course site, there are forums for parents to post questions and give comments about the curriculum. In your GUIDES, you will also have check boxes that list the items that need to be completed each week. This will help parents keep track. Workbooks have a list of work completed at the end of each book as well. This will help students stay on track.
Do we have to complete homework and turn it in?
Because participation is vital in the Aquinas Learning classroom, your children are expected to be prepared for classes by having completed any assigned work or reading, particularly their IEW writing assignments as well as the Family Read-Aloud books. If the parent does not read the family read-aloud novel, for example, they will not be able to participate in the discussion. This affects the entire classroom, when a few students have no idea what to discuss. Our form of assessment is through review and games. Again, if the students don’t practice their memory work or fulfill their assignments, they will do poorly during these “assessments.”
For Schola Alta, the level of expectation rises. In the 7th and 8th grade, students are starting to get accustomed to managing their own time. These are the handholding years when we start slowly letting go. Parents coach their children on keeping track with their schedule by watching over the student while they fill in their personal weekly planners. We request that parents allow the students do it themselves with their supervision. In the High School years, they should be adept at time management and they are expected to complete their assignments fully and on time.
Is Aquinas Learning a flexible program?
Yes. One of the benefits of this hybrid model is that the parent has some flexibility. However, in order to receive an exemplary progress report, there are expectations to be met. We have to ask ourselves, what is an Aquinas Learning graduate? How do we exemplify this picture of a graduate? First and foremost, we want everyone leaving our program to have grown in intellectual and moral virtue, to show respect, restraint, and responsibility, and (especially from the upper grades) to have nobility, dignity, honor, and integrity. Ultimately, a human fully alive as God intended, who can, as John Adams says, “sail his ship in many directions when conversing with others.” It sounds complicated, but it’s simply the goal of learning to listen to God and fulfilling His plan for us.
Should we enroll with another program to use in concert with Aquinas Learning?
Although we are flexible within our curriculum, it would be too intense to participate in Aquinas Learning while enrolled in another curriculum. It would be similar to doing Seton Homeschool and Kolbe Homeschool at the same time. They may all be wonderful programs but doing several together is definite overkill.
As Mortimer Adler once put it, “it is not how many books you can get through, it is how many books can get through you.”
What is the price per student?
Pricing may vary slightly at different centers licensed to offer the Aquinas Learning program. Please contact your center director for details.
Generally speaking, there is a $250 registration fee for access to the curriculum for both center students and at-home students. In addition, each center charges tuition, facility, and materials fee to cover their expenses. We endeavor to create a professional environment where mentors are paid for their hard work and parents pay a tuition and fees in order to enjoy the benefits of a center. Often times, in co-op situations where they rely purely on volunteer moms to teach a lesson, there is a greater attrition by the middle of the year. That is the reason why we elected to create a more professional hybrid school model versus the normal homeschool co-op, which rely on a few individuals who often do the lion share of the work and the volunteering.
Are there scholarship funds available?
We offer a very affordable rate that equals $16 per day for the Schola Parva/Prima and $141 per course in the Schola Alta. The registration fees are discounted for multiple children. Ask your director about any additional financial assistance and scholarship forms.
Do I have to volunteer at the center?
In-service hours are necessary in every school. Some of the centers providing the Aquinas Learning program are not drop-offs and parents are required to come each week. At other centers, they offer a drop-off situation with an in-service schedule for volunteering/learning. We call it in-service because the parents at home are the main mentors for the PK-6 curriculum, and are guides to the teachers in the 7-12th grade level.
It is vital that parents get to sit in on a few classes in order to learn the system, to learn the actual curriculum, and to align their home school with our approach and philosophy.
In addition, some centers have almost 100 students present each week. It would be both unfair and unsafe to rely on their mentors to be responsible for hallway monitoring or lunch and playground monitoring as well. So, in the cases where parents aren’t required to stay for the entire day every week, in-service sign ups are required.
Who are the teachers?
Aquinas Learning uses the term “mentor” for the classroom teachers in the Parva through Schola Prima II (PK-6th grade) level because they should, above all, guide your children in wisdom and virtue. All mentors are paid for their work. Most are experienced homeschoolers and moms of the students in the program.
In the Schola Alta levels, we refer to them as teachers. There is a shift that happens at this level where the center teacher becomes the main teacher and mom becomes the mentor, the guide, and the enforcer. We need the homeschool mom to monitor the work being done and making sure that their students are on track and comprehend their work.