The lower school, collectively called the grammar stage, provides the foundation for all that follows it. It is during these years that children will first encounter many topics and concepts. They will learn facts and information. They will learn to work and manage their time effectively. It is upon these foundations of information and skills that all new instruction will be based, “the known leading to the unknown,” as John Milton Gregory states in his book, The Seven Laws of Teaching. The lower school is comprised of the K-2 (often called the pre-polly or pre-grammar stage) and the 3-5th/6th grades (polly or upper grammar stage).
The pre-polly stage introduces the children to new concepts of language and mathematics. Here the children will learn their numbers, counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, etc. They will learn to recognize and put letters together. The children will learn rules for phonics and spelling, and will be increasingly encouraged in their independent reading and learning. The students will formally encounter the rules of the English language in their grammar courses and will learn the parts of speech and how to construct sentences. The teaching methods which are most effective here are singing, chanting, repetition and games. There are ample opportunities for reviewing old concepts and learning new ones.
During the 3rd-5th grade years, the children will continue building on the skills and knowledge they have acquired. Many of the teaching methods will remain, though they will eventually phase out to be replaced with those more in line with the age and tastes of the students. The students will be asked more discussion and thought-provoking questions which require them to interpret information and draw a conclusion. This helps them transition to the logic stage which follows. The students are required to work more independently and will write longer assignments, solve more difficult math problems and express themselves more clearly. It is also during these years that Latin begins its formal instruction.
Specific examples of resources are:
- Saxon Math
- A Beka Science
- Saxon Phonics and Spelling (grades K-2)
- Shurley Grammar (grades 2-3)
- Hake Grammar and Writing (grades 4-5)
- Latin for Children (grades 3-5)
- Veritas Press history (grades 3-5)
- Writing Tales by Amy Hastings Olsen (grades 2-3)
- Institute for Excellence in Writing – writing and spelling programs (grades 4-5)
Upper School Tutorial
Upper school includes students at both the logic (6th/7th-8th/9th) and rhetoric (9th/10th-12th) stages of learning. At the logic level of spiritual, academic and moral development a student is ready to make connections between subjects of learning, to ask questions about the topics raised in a class and to relate with classmates as more than playmates. They will be less afraid to challenge the teacher and the ideas she presents, which shows the development of the identity with which God has blessed the individual. However, these needful changes need to be channeled in the classroom effectively, since even Dorothy Sayers calls this the ‘pert’ period. When built upon an intentional program at the grammar stage, the logic stage allows teachers to make use of the inquisitiveness and energy of their students in debates, skits, discussions and written arguments. More responsibility is expected of students in this new paradigm.
The final stage of secondary education is the rhetoric or poetic stage. Students in the rhetoric stage are called upon to marshal facts into arguments, and to move beyond peer-level competition into mature relationships. In other words, students are trained to exhibit wisdom as learning is applied; they are to give proof to the Hebrew translation of wisdom as “skillful fingers.” With these ends in view, students learn to identify and analyze assumptions made by peers, texts and teachers, learning along the way that they must take captive every thought for Christ. A successfully trained rhetoric student should know, by the grace of our Lord, how to think God’s thoughts after him.
At TCA, the Upper School Tutorial includes the Omnibus curriculum. Omnibus is centered on reading great works of theology, history, and literature from the Church Fathers through the Reformation. Some of the texts include; Augustine’s Confessions; Beowulf; Shakespeare; The Divine Comedy: Inferno; selections from The Canterbury Tales and more. The students are challenged to grow in the exercise of logic; thinking through the substance of the text, its cultural application and wherein it coincides with the truth of Scripture. The class will endeavor to develop the students’ rhetorical skills through class discussions, oral presentations and debate, as well as seek to hone their writing abilities through various forms of compositions.