NCA’s classical education model, inherently rigorous, uses methods and content that are a certain route to success for students from every background. Ironically, because its time-honored methods have fallen out of use in education over the past 60 years, this formerly typical academic model has now become innovative. In his essay, “A Classical Education for Modern Times,” Dr. Terrence Moore aptly observed that classical education “feeds and directs and strengthens children’s mental capacities in the same way that sports exercise their physical abilities. The mind, like the body, atrophies when not well-trained. The emphasis on rigorous mental training is an important difference between classical education and modern, progressive education.”
The BCSI classical curriculum offers a survey of the best intellectual and cultural traditions of the West, developed and refined throughout many generations. Students are challenged with rigorous work and given the structure, support, and scaffolding necessary for mastery. This mastery of the fundamentals reinforces the hard work and habits of character that lead to that success and creates the confidence that comes from achieving truly hard goals, thus setting the stage for the positive attitude and work ethic needed for lifelong success. NCA’s program lays the foundation essential to build on those basics, with time-tested, research-based methods that apply the principles of cognitive development, matching material and methods to students’ abilities. Many practices seen in contemporary education run counter to the way children’s brains are wired to absorb, process, and master information at various stages of development. While some children succeed in spite of this, many are left with gaps that are difficult to bridge once a critical period of learning capacity has passed. At NCA, during the early elementary years, when students’ brains are wired to absorb concrete information and to learn and memorize facts, such as rules of phonics, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, stories, and math facts, they will enjoy and master doing just that. These facts are the building blocks for the next stage in our education model when students develop the capacity for abstract thinking. They will enjoy and master analyzing, organizing, and synthesizing the concrete information they have learned. To analyze information well, the child must have a vast store of good information to analyze. To think critically, the child must have worthy and important things to think critically about. Finally, in high school, the students will have developed the cognitive ability to apply the rules of logic to the foundational information mastered earlier. They will benefit from developing and uniquely articulating their own conclusions. This three-part pattern, aligned with cognitive development, is the best model for student success.
This curriculum possesses a core focus on science, math, English language arts, and history, supplemented by art, music, and foreign language. In high school, study of government, economics, and moral philosophy complements these areas of study. In the earliest grades, NCA’s curriculum focuses primarily on language, with the bulk of the school day given to teaching literacy and numeracy. Both subjects are foundational to a student’s education, so the resources and methods deployed in each case must be consistent and excellent. Therefore, the curriculum for Kindergarten through 8th grade is the renowned Core Knowledge Sequence published by the Core Knowledge Foundation, supplemented with the proven Orton-Gillingham based phonics approach and Singapore Math Programs. As students mature in their facility with language, the curriculum directs their time and intellectual energy into more content-based (as opposed to skill-based) aspects of the curriculum. The Sequence is distinguished by a planned progression of specific knowledge in world history and geography, American history and geography, mathematics, science, language arts, visual arts, and music. NCA will feature Latin instruction, beginning on a formal basis in 6th grade, preceded by the teaching of Latin and Greek roots in grades 4 and 5. In high school, NCA will follow the BCSI course sequence: four and a half years of history; four years of literature, math, and science; three years of foreign language; one year of composition, and a semester each of government, economics, and moral philosophy.