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Charter school uses Classical method



Published: Sat, October 9, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



By JULIE A. WAGNER

VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR

WARREN -- "Ande a la mesa," Lori Smith tells kindergartner Daniel Golar.

With only a moment's hesitation, Daniel walks to the table.

"Toque la mesa," Smith tells her pupil, and Daniel touches the table.

Just four weeks into their first year of school Daniel and his only fellow kindergartner, Taylor, are comprehending another language, as they sit in class with five others, who are in first, second and third grades.

Next year, they will add Latin to their curriculum at Holy Trinity Orthodox School on Laird Avenue. In a few years, they'll add classical Greek and by high school will be studying Hebrew and a modern conversational language other than Spanish.

The kindergartners have basic classes by themselves but join with the older pupils for such courses as Spanish and music.

The school uses a Classical curriculum, a centuries-old Greek method, to instruct pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade. The core of the curriculum is reading, language and history, said Headmaster David Trace, who also teaches fourth and fifth grade. Math and science are also essential.

Besides Spanish, Smith, a part-time teacher and a reading specialist, teaches second and third grade and administers skills tests. Zenia Goodge, the other full-time teacher, teaches kindergarten and first grade.

National movement

The private charter school, in its second year, is part of a national movement among Orthodox churches, which have not traditionally run day schools, Trace said.

"We're instructing future leaders of the church to carry our church into the future," he said of the new schools.

The movement began in Northeast Ohio five years ago with the opening of St. Nicholas Orthodox School in Mogadore near Akron, which now has 43 pupils, Trace said. He and the headmaster of that school traveled to New York City last summer to talk with churches that want to start schools.

Members of Warren area-Orthodox churches began planning Holy Trinity three years ago and opened last year with 11 pupils at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Warren. It moved this year to its more spacious, current location in the hall of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church, and now has 12 pupils.

Also this year, Youngstown congregations joined the effort. Pupils come mostly from Warren, with some from Youngstown and one from West Middlesex, Pa. The annual tuition is $2,000 plus $250 for books. Holy Trinity already has five kindergarten pupils lined up to attend next fall, and it will add a sixth grade for current pupils, Trace said.

All pupils attend religious services in the morning and afternoon in the school's chapel, but it is not required that pupils be Orthodox, Trace said. One pupil is not, and two others are becoming Orthodox.

Four-year cycles

The Classical form of schooling is broken down into three four-year cycles, Trace said. In the first, young pupils focus on acquiring information such as math facts and language basics. The second cycle, which includes the traditional middle school years, is the logic stage, when pupils begin to ask a lot of "why" questions, he said.

The final cycle is the rhetoric stage, which stresses oral and written communication, debate, and acquiring, analyzing and sharing knowledge.

History is taught in two six-year cycles ranging from ancient to modern times, Trace said. In seventh grade, a pupil begins the cycle again. Science is taught in three four-year cycles, with one year each of biology, earth science, chemistry and physics.

The use of phonics, which is the sounding-out of parts of words, is stressed in reading and spelling. Repetition also is stressed.

Pupils take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills annually, and this year the two kindergarten pupils and the three first-graders scored in the 99th percentile, Trace said.




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