PCA and Common Core

If you are passionate about education, then the phrase “Common Core” is probably not a new one to you.  There is a lot being written about Common Core these days, and depending on whom you are listening to, it can sound like either the best thing or the worst thing ever to happen to schools across the U.S.  So what is Common Core, and, more importantly, how does it affect education at Pinnacle Classical Academy? Let’s tackle that second question first.

Common Core has absolutely no influence or authority regarding education at Pinnacle Classical Academy. That’s right. Because PCA is 100% privately funded by tuition and gifts, we are under no obligation at any state or federal level to adapt or conform our curriculum to the Common Core standards.  The same cannot be said for public schools, charter schools or any school that accepts government funds.

Some forward thinking individuals will point out that if Common Core gains more influence over time, that eventually standardized tests (such as the Stanford-9 and SAT) will be geared toward information emphasized in the Common Core curriculum. Moreover, they suggest that such emphasis may have an adverse effect on students’ ability to perform well on these tests if they have been educated outside of Common Core controlled schools.

At PCA we like to think of ourselves as being even more forward thinking than that- that is, with our sights set on nothing lower than Christ’s eternal kingdom, we attest along with I Timothy 4:8 that “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Our educational standards are rigorous, and our moral and intellectual compass is tuned to the Bible. Earthly standards will come and go, but PCA has never been primarily concerned with the applause of men. Our vision has always been to “graduate students instilled with a lifelong love of learning, equipped for service in love to God and man.” And, we suspect that even if standardized tests change over time that PCA educated students will continue to excel on them. More importantly, though, we aim for them to excel in living a life in obedience and love to the Maker of Everything.

But back to that first question, what exactly is Common Core? We’ll let you decide for yourself in the end, but as the very name “Common Core” implies, it is at its core an attempt to standardize curriculum across all K-12 schools in the U.S. Why was it undertaken? Largely because of the general consensus that many public schools are failing our children. Though it may have initially begun as a consortium of states attempting to adopt similar standards for their public schools, Common Core is now incentivized with federal “Race to the Top” government dollars. And this raises several important questions: if the federal government is going to influence curriculum at every institution of K-12 public education, then who will determine that curriculum, how rigorous will it be, what will be the dominant worldview taught through that curriculum and to what ultimate purpose will the curriculum be crafted?

To say that Common Core is an issue that has potentially far-reaching consequences is a bold understatement, and we encourage everyone interested in K-12 education to learn more about it.

To hear praise of the Common Core from its official website, click here.

To hear criticisms of the Common Core from a group of concerned mothers, click here.

We also recommend the following for more information about the classical, Christian approach to education. What indeed is the goal of education?

Why Classical Education? -by Luke Nieuwsma

The Classical Education of the Founding Fathers  -by Martin Cothran

 

Preschool Class Coming Fall 2013!

The Best

As a parent, I can say unashamedly that PCA is the best school I’ve seen in this area and I’m so grateful that my kids have had the opportunity to attend and learn atPCA since kindergarten. The vast amount of academic knowledge and biblical understanding that they have picked up at school is so impressive it is hard to believe. Both my 8-year-old and my 6-year old know far more scripture by heart than I have ever attempted to memorize, and the best part is that they find so much joy in reciting scripture, singing psalms and hymns, and learning all sorts of things in so many subjects. They love to learn, they love to read, they love their school, and best of all they love Jesus.

3-_DSC2709The New Class

It is because of this love, and because I have a young child who is not yet of kindergarten age, that I am so very excited to say PCA will be having a 4-year-old preschool class beginning this fall!

Tuesdays and Thursdays

Besides the wonderful education and fun songs and activities I’m sure the students will no doubt enjoy, one of the best parts about this preschool class is that it is offered two half days per week. I remember looking into preschools when my first child was 4-years-old and I couldn’t find any that were less than three half days per week, many were even three full days. I can’t speak for everyone, but I wasn’t ready for my daughter to be out of the house that much. Two half days sounded perfect, and that is what PCA is offering.

6-_DSC3641Logistics

The preschool class is for children who will be 4-years-old by August 1st. Children who are 5-years-old and not yet starting kindergarten will also enjoy this class. They will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Tuesday, September 3 from 8:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Unlike the rest of the school, the preschool class will not wear uniforms. However they will most likely eat lunch and even have recess with the rest of the school, which has always been a highlight in my kids’ days at PCA. They will also participate in our fall and spring recitation nights.

5-_DSC3517Curriculum

The focus of the preschool class will be kindergarten preparation with a classical focus. This will include phonics, writing, literature, basic math, Bible study, Bible verse memorization, art and music. The class’s curriculum will be compiled from a variety of sources including Spell to Write and Read (an especially effective phonics program that our students continue to use throughout their education at PCA), My ABC Bible Verses, and Slow and Steady Get Me Ready. The students will complete themed units of study based on the seasons, holidays, and letters.

1-_DSC4804Applications

If you are interested in having your child attend preschool at Pinnacle Classical Academy in the fall, please let the school know! There will only be 6-8 students in the class, so I suggest you reserve your child’s spot today by filling out an application and mailing it to PCA. The application has more information about the class as well as contact information if you have questions. We’re all looking forward to the addition of our preschool class in the fall!

My Kind of School

This week’s post comes to us from our very own Mrs. Bush, who is one of our upper grade teachers.

Our Beginning

There is at PCA a core group of varied professionals on the board. Upon looking at the options for schooling their children, these parents decided there must be a better way.  It turns out a better way is not the newest, the most novel, or the “progressive” approach, but a time tested approach that has proven its effectiveness over and over again – classical teaching. In an era that seems to say, “we know better” and “let’s reinvent the wheel,” these parents have boldly embraced the old paths of teaching that seeks to impart knowledge, yes, but also teaches children to think deeply and exhibit great character by training the mind to think God’s thoughts after Him.

girls studyingOur Teachers

As a new teacher at the school this year, I know I risk sounding arrogant when I say the teachers at Pinnacle are exceptional. They are exceptional in the shared desire to see all students succeed and grow to their fullest godly potential. As an example, we have teachers like Renee Reed who does all that she can to see that her kindergarteners have interesting and meaningful experiences all day, every day. She realizes that a child’s innate desire to learn needs to be nurtured and disciplined to ensure their natural curiosity is not stifled by mundane lessons. She also does all this in a way that honors God and truly out of love for these children. God has great plans for all of His children and we want what God wants for them.

Creative coloring Kind.Our Parents

The success of our school depends heavily on the involvement of parents and families of our students. Something this grand doesn’t just happen because people will it to happen. No, it takes everyone working toward the goal. Pinnacle parents are very involved in the school. Besides keeping close contact with teachers and doing their part at home, parents are at the school reading, helping with reading, creating bulletin boards, decorating for special events, planning parties and incentive activities, speaking about areas of expertise, and more. For example, two fathers recently came to science classes at the school to speak to students about the research that they do everyday. They amazed students with drawings and visual aides. Naturally not every parent contributes to the same degree or in the same way, but it takes everyone doing what they can, realizing their help is vital.

parent directing gameOur Students

Finally, our students are regular kids. They are kids with a unique opportunity to make the most of their school-age years by embracing this method and using it for God’s glory. They are as varied in background and interest and as different in personality and ability as any other group of their peers, but these kids will benefit their entire lives by learning about the world from God the Creator’s perspective. They will have the privilege to worship the Holy Trinity every day in assembly and they will be blessed to hear the gospel of Christ taught to them daily also.

upper grade students sittingOur Highest Hope

So, by saying all of this, am I saying we have the perfect school? No, we don’t claim to be perfect, but we do have a unique and excellent school. We are working daily to be all God wants us to be, and it is our highest hope that God is glorified by our school, the education we offer, and the people who make up Pinnacle Classical Academy.

Why We Partner With PCA

The Question

I find myself talking about PCA to other parents frequently. Usually the conversation starts with the question of where my kids go to school followed by a look of confusion because they’ve never heard of Pinnacle Classical Academy. From there we typically talk about how the school has only been around for a few years and it’s small but great and what grades my kids are in. At this point in the conversation, the classical approach to education tends to come up and all the great things PCA does to implement a classical Christian education in an effective way. After the basics have been covered, there are a couple questions that I’m finding parents ask me repeatedly. I’d like to address one today.

The question usually goes something like this: You seem to really know your stuff and the school is so small, why don’t you just homeschool your kids? An excellent question that I can’t wait to answer! I could homeschool my kids. I know I could do it, I know it can be a great choice for many families, I even think I could do it well. But there are a few key reasons my husband and I have intentionally chosen not to homeschool our kids.

Personal Bent

The first and most personal reason is simply that I know the personal bent of each of my family members, including myself, and I do not believe homeschool would be a recipe for better things in our home. Quite the contrary. I thrive on having personal space and time to be alone with my thoughts and meditations and prayers. It’s like pressing a reset button. Without it, I get overloaded and tend to not be such a nice mommy or wife. Having my kids at school, even though I still have one at home, gives me a little bit more space to recharge so that I have more to give to my family.

My daughter started school in Kindergarten very shy and withdrawn. Going to school has encouraged her to blossom in her social skills while simultaneously being challenged academically. I knew from the beginning I could not provide that for her, no matter how many weekly clubs and classes we joined. School has been very valuable for her academically and socially. Learning social skills is not something schools teach intentionally, but they are learned experientially.

Outside Influence

The second reason we chose not to homeschool our kids is because we believe it is good and healthy for our kids to be regularly exposed and influenced by people outside of our family who hold the same values and beliefs that we teach our kids. At PCA, they have teachers who love them and teach them through their words and actions to love Scripture and prayer and Jesus. They also have peers who teach them that singing about Jesus is cool, that making games to teach people about Jesus is fun, and that being kind to others is valuable. Kids don’t look to Mom to tell them what is cool. I love having a school that is full of families who help promote the messages we try to teach our kids at home, which means our kids are influencing each other and our values are suddenly “cool.”

Personal Ownership

I’ve watched both of my children start Kindergarten at PCA now and each one of them did something I had never seen them do before. They got to a point very quickly where they loved going to school and their chin lifted. It was like someone had given them the keys to the car and told them they could drive. They had a world of their own, responsibility, a place outside of our home that was their own. “Mom, guess what I get to do this week? I get to change the calendar,” they say with great pride and a sense of accomplishment. I give my kids responsibilities at home, but this is different.

At home, Mom is in charge. At school, Mom is not present and they have a little part of world that they can navigate on their own. This is the third reason I do not homeschool my children. I love watching them take personal ownership of their actions away from home. I also love that they are “test-driving their cars,” or exploring their freedoms in an environment where I know their teachers are going to steer them in the same directions I would if I were with them, which leads me to my fourth reason.

Partnership in Education

PCA holds the belief that education is ultimately the parents’ responsibility and I agree. PCA also values training our children to think well and to be equipped to love the Lord our God with all our minds (Matthew 22:37), which I also agree with. In effort to take responsibility for my kids’ education, and do my best to equip them to love God with their hearts and souls and minds, while changing diapers and preparing food and washing sheets, and have a little space to remain sane, I need help!

My husband and I have chosen to partner with PCA in educating our children. Having help means we can aid in the rough patches when they’re learning something complicated or need extra study time. It also means we have enough distance from their day-to-day learning that we can see when there are holes in their education, whether that’s academically, socially or spiritually, and we can add extra emphasis to those areas at home. As one homeschool mom told me several years ago, I am homeschooling my kids all the time even though it may not be intentional. Except now I have PCA as a partner. Together we make a great team!

Why I Chose PCA – Part 2

Public or Private?

I used to think it was silly to spend money on Kindergarten. What complex subject matter could possibly be taught that would be worth the tuition of private school? I mean really, how hard is it to teach a kid about basic numbers and the calendar and cutting and pasting and how to read. Shouldn’t we have our kids go to public school to start with and then potentially switch to a Christian school when their minds are tackling more complex matters? That’s what I used to think at least, but that was before I really understood that school does not just teach knowledge.

Worldview

True, knowledge is gained by going to any decent school. But kids learn a lot more than how to read and write in their first year of school. They learn how to interact with a new group of people. They learn how to obey new adult authority-figures. They learn how to change the calendar and laugh at recess and tuck their shirt in. But most important of all, they learn the way the world works – according to those around them. It’s called worldview. It’s like a colored lens that shades the way a person sees and perceives everything; like the old saying that everything looks better through rose-colored glasses. That’s a worldview. Everyone has a worldview or a lens by which they perceive the world around them, and every school teaches a worldview, whether intentionally or accidentally. And when the worldview at school doesn’t match up with the worldview at home, even a 5 year old notices and starts to question which one is true and which one they prefer. Mom and Dad do not always win.

For example, let’s say at home Mom and Dad tell their son Jason that God created the world and Adam and Eve. This is a story they have presented as truth. During share time at public school, classmate Billy talks about his understanding that the world went “Bang!” and appeared and that we used to be apes a long time ago. This is also a story that Billy has presented as truth. Let’s say best case scenario, the teacher responds by saying it’s okay for Billy to believe that (as opposed to a very realistic scenario where she tells Billy he’s right and shows him “evidence” in an illustrated book). Now Jason has heard two opposing stories that were presented as truth. He now has a choice. He can believe Mom and Dad, he can believe Billy, or he can remain unsure and believe some combination of the two. All of this is about what Jason believes, which is important, but I want to talk about Jason’s worldview.

Truth vs. Belief

The teacher has started to teach Jason and Billy an important (and false) worldview all in one conversation. It’s the worldview that teachers in public school are required by law to teach, even if accidentally; the worldview that says truth is relative, and belief is permissible but personal. And although Mom and Dad’s story may come out as the winner in Jason’s mind, the infallible truth of the Bible has been compromised in his little worldview. That little worldview is going to develop more and more every day until his little worldview becomes a big solid worldview that was accidentally (and sometimes purposefully) taught to him by law by a handful of individuals who were probably genuinely wonderful teachers. The result is a grown Jason who may be lucky enough to have held tight to the true stories of the Bible, but who perceives them through a secular lens, leaving him at times confused and even skeptical. I know because I am like Jason. After 12 years in public school in Oregon, I am having to retrain my mind to see the world through a Biblical lens as opposed to the relativistic, postmodern perspective that I naturally (unfortunately) filter everything through.

Shaping a worldview is something that happens subtly and it’s hard to see, but it paints our perspective on everything we hear and say and believe to be true for the rest of our lives. Worldview is our perspective on everything and everyone. So would I pay money to ensure that my child grows up with a Biblically sound worldview? Because in reality a worldview is something precious that money CAN buy. Yes! Ten times over, yes. And 2 years later, it has been worth every penny.

Why I Chose PCA – Part 1

The Background

Every parent has their own reasons for choosing their child’s school, these are simply mine. This is the first of several posts describing the major reasons why my husband and I chose Pinnacle Classical Academy for our kids’ education.

Let me start by saying that I grew up going to public schools and always thought my kids would do the same. I believe there is great value in learning to face the world and be a witness as a child, so public school was the plan. But before the time came for our first child to enter Kindergarten, I discovered another way to accomplish this goal, one that I now prefer and believe to be more effective.

The first thing that caught my attention happened before we had children while we lived in Franklin, Tennessee. We worked with the middle and high school students at our church, a ministry of several hundred students. There were always a handful of students in the ministry that stood out. The majority of the students in the church were from solid Christian homes, and many had been Christians since childhood, but this group that stood out was noticeably exceptional.

The Cream of the Crop

They communicated their ideas clearly with confidence. They answered questions logically; their thought processes made sense and could easily have come out of the mouth of someone four years older. They asked questions that demonstrated a deep understanding of spiritual matters. At the same time, they weren’t just scholarly about their faith, they were bold to share their faith and engage with unbelievers. These attributes distinguished this group of students, but it gets better.

As we got to know these students, we began to see them as the students who knew their Bibles and Bible stories and verses better than we did. They added helpful Biblical content and context to our small group lessons regularly and my favorite part of all, these were the students that stood out as having the most fun, being the most innocent, and valuing modesty and friendship over dating and fashion. They were the cream of the crop, the best you could ask for, and they all went to a Classical school. As you can imagine, my interest in Classical Education peaked.

The Heart Issue

My husband and I have kept up with a handful of the students from that school. They’re in college now, and it’s no surprise that they are at Samford, Auburn, UT Chattanooga, and other well respected colleges and universities. To this day, what I love most about these students is not the schools they have gone on to study at, but the quotes and posts on their Facebook pages that scream of their higher intellect, compassion for the lost, and deep love for the Lord. The students from the Classical school in Franklin are impressive because they glorify God with their lives. The aim at Pinnacle Classical Academy is to train and inspire our children to do the same. I feel so fortunate to have my kids at PCA, where the priority in education is to”love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).