If you have kids in the public school, by now you’ve had a week or two to get the feel of this year’s convoluted landscape. You’ve probably been asked for fork over money for device insurance. You’ve tried (with varying degrees of success) to opt your child out of statewide testing next spring by following your district’ opt out policy, if you’re lucky enough to have one.  You’ve seen the textbooks or the worrying lack of them. You’ve been hit with the pile of official forms that are asking for more and more personal data about your child and your family. Perhaps you’ve even seen the first couple of homework assignments and they have you smacking your forehead in disbelief. What is a parent to do?

Parents in St. Louis and Kansas City have the option of choosing a charter school, but charters are not yet allowed in other parts of the state. If you live somewhere else besides these two cities you have a choice between homeschooling and private school. If both parents work, a private school may be your only option. But is there reason to be optimistic if you choose to go private? There is if you are looking at a classical school.

In Naples Florida a Hillsdale Charter school offered students a classical education. For those who aren’t familiar, a classical school is, as their website describes, “language-focused where learning is accomplished through written and spoken words versus images such as videos and television. In a language-focused learning, the mind needs to work harder and ‘decode’ symbols (words) into concepts. Images, on the other hand, allow the mind to be passive and enjoy the translation from words into concepts already completed.”

The school is founded upon Hillsdale’s pillars of virtue which are: respect, perseverance, integrity, honesty, courage, citizenship and cooperation. They teach the trivium which are the first three rules-based subjects of the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences: grammar, rhetoric and logic. Grammar is taught in the early grades and addresses who, what, where and when. This builds a solid foundation of knowledge in language and facts. Logic focuses on the why, developing the faculty of systematic reason to establish valid [i.e., non-contradictory] relationships among facts to create understanding. Rhetoric provides the how of a subject so the student has usable knowledge and understanding.

What did this focus get the Florida students in Hillsdale’s Mason Academy? After only three years of operation they led the county in English Language Arts Achievement on the state’s FCAT tests. They are in the upper tier overall in Mathematics Achievement which is remarkable since they are not taught Common Core math but the assessment is aligned to Common Core math.  In a county where only 58% of third grade students are proficient in English Language Arts, 90% of the third-grade students at Mason Classical Academy scored proficient. In fact their ELA scores placed MCA third-graders in Florida’s top two percent, while fifth graders from the academy ranked in the state’s top one percent. For a school which does not teach Common Core standards, that should have everyone taking notice.

Great news for Florida parents, but what choice do Missouri parents have? The good news is that if you live in St. Charles County you will have the choice of a classical academy that is supported by Hillsdale. Meet the Classical Academy de Lafayette which opens this September for grades pre-K through 7. Its mission is “to develop the academic potential of each student through a rigorous, content-rich, classical liberal arts program while cultivating in them a virtuous character.” Their teachers have been trained by Hillsdale’s top trainers and they use the Hillsdale curriculum.

CADL’s program uses an overarching historical framework for its curriculum, focusing on particular historical eras. Each year they plan to include a trip to one of the significant places they study. This year the history will cover 1600-1850 and will culminate in a trip to Boston to see significant sites from our own American history like Bunker Hill, Old North Church and Plimoth Plantation. The annual tuition of $6700 will cover the student’s school supplies as well as the trip. Families are not only invited but encouraged to join the school on this trip (at their own expense).

Throughout the year parents will be encouraged to participate in their child’s learning by reading books recommended by CADL which cover the history being studied, but which are written for an adult’s perspective. This facilitates discussions at home about what the child is learning in school.

Katy McKinney is the head mistress of CADL. Her journey with her own children through public, private and homeschooling compelled her to open the Academy to provide other families with better options for their kids. A former teacher herself, she understands the challenges and limitations faced by public and publicly funded charter schools . She has seen some of those challenges creep into parochial schools which seem to be morphing into quasi public schools in a misguided attempt to not be left behind.

The success of the Hillsdale schools across the country gave her, and CADL’s Board, confidence that it is not necessary to follow the pack to succeed. Teaching phonics, Singapore math, Latin and E.D. Hirch’s Core Knowledge has worked well for the eight charter schools Hillsdale currently sponsors around the country. Their numbers are growing and they hope to have 50 by 2020. CADL is not a Hillsdale Charter because Missouri law does not allow charters outside of St. Louis and Kansas City. McKinney doesn’t see this as a negative as it means that their students will not be required to follow Missouri school regulations such as data reporting and standardized testing.

Her school is organized around four virtues: fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance. Like the school in Naples they don’t believe in turning over education to technology. Their goal is to produce well rounded students who are grounded in their rights and responsibilities as citizens. CADL’s open enrollment means that, when you have tired of fighting the public school system for their left leaning, global citizen, workforce training focus, there is a place you can send your child that will provide the framework to enable them to be the well informed, fully functioning adult you wish them to be.

Go to Classical Academy de Lafayette for more information on their program and enrollment.

 

 

“For if you [the rulers] suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves [and outlaws] and then punish them.”  – Sir Thomas More, Utopia.

 

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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