Did you know that the grade levels at ACA are divided into distinctive groups? If you are well-versed in classical education or just learning about it, you learn from the beginning that classical education is divided into three distinct stages: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. These stages drive the curriculum and instruction for the teachers and shape how they approach teaching. At ACA, we follow these divisions, but we add in another division in the grammar stage. ACA places kindergarten through second grade into what is called the primary grades. Some classical schools refer to this stage as the pre-grammar or pre-polly stage. Why is this division made within the grammar stage? Think about the differences between a kindergartener and a second grader, or a five and eight year old. Pretty different, right? Recognizing this difference is at the root of dividing grammar into two stages. The primary stage at ACA focuses on primary skills, such as reading, writing, ciphering, and math. Once a student enters the second grade, that student is expected to be able to read in order to learn. In other words, students are expected to start getting information from reading. However, before students can read-to-learn, they must know how to read very well. At ACA, our goal is for our k-2 students not merely to pass a reading test, but to have mastery of reading before being expected to read-to-learn. This standard is higher than what would be found at a non-classical schools and public schools.
The same applies to the other primary subjects. Students need a solid foundation in these basic subjects in order to be built upon in the later grades. How can students be expected to learn critical thinking skills if their reservoir of knowledge is shallow? Or what if they lack basic reading, writing, and ciphering skills? They must have a solid foundation to draw from and from which to build. Recognizing the unique growing stage of a 5-7 year old makes this possible. There is a tendency to rush kids along in their education. If this foundational stage is skipped or shortened, the foundation will crack further down the road.
A few months ago, Alex Parker (kindergarten teacher) passed along a 2-part essay from Classis, the newsletter published by the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, and is posted on the Parents' Page of our website. I'm attaching both articles here again. Please take about 15 minutes to read these. Here, the primary stage is referred to pre-polly. If you have a 5-7 year old, please read this as it explains the importance of this stage before moving on to the grammar stage.
As parents, we are the primary educators of our children. We can't pass the torch completely to ACA once our little ones are enrolled in school! It's crucial to understand what ACA is doing and why, so we can further their education at home and, in turn, support our teachers.
“The Particular Prospects of the Pre-Polly Stage, Part I” by Tom Garfield, Classis.
“The Particular Prospects of the Pre-Polly Stage, Part II” by Tom Garfield, Classis.