A Classical Catholic School

Primary School Curriculum

In Primary School (PK-5th), a foundation is laid for a lifetime of learning. At St. Theresa’s Catholic School we try to develop good scholastic habits. No one will learn what they are not interested in and no one learns without concentrated effort. We try our utmost, therefore, to foster both inquisitiveness and discipline in our students. The classroom culture at STCS is one of constant, orderly engagement which insists that every child is capable of achieving our standards of excellence.

While offering an exceptionally high level of instruction in Mathematics and Language Arts, much care, from an early age, is given to developing well-rounded students. We use the Singapore Math Series (K-8th grade) at STCS because we believe that Singapore fosters real mathematical thinking. Our science program is designed specifically to develop the critical minds necessary to thrive in our unique middle school science department. We teach writing and reading through the Spalding Method. In addition to a concentrated focus on grammar, poetry, and public speaking, students take significant course work in Latin, Art, P.E., Music, Vocabulary Geography, Drama, and Religion.

ART

So many young people have little meaningful instruction in art; few experience that God in the satisfaction of making something with one’s own hands. At St. Theresa’s we are committed to the idea that everyone should be an artist—we have Art in every grade, Pre-K thru 8th. When our students are older, when they are 40 or 50, we want them to feel invigorated by their ability to paint, draw, or sculpt what a lifetime experience has enabled them to see and feel.

Our Art program focuses heavily on drawing, painting and sculpting. Historically, and developmentally, these disciplines are foundational to so many other forms of artistic expression. Through these mediums we give our students, “eyes to see” the multivalence of the world, to see deeply within themselves and within human experience, to see and mimic the artistry of God.

We think of Art as a mixture of work and play. Our classes dynamically move from collaborative to individual projects all under the gentle guidance of a mature and accomplished artist. We work hard to bring out the best in each student and every student showcases their best work in the two art exhibitions we put on every year.

At STCS students develop a taste for the finer things; they can appreciate excellence when they see it, and they truly find joy and satisfaction in creating a portfolio of meaningful work.

GEOGRAPHY

At STCS, students spend considerable time in Pre-K through third grade learning to locate all the countries of the world. Our thought is that children cannot be globally minded if they are unsure where countries are located.

In fourth through sixth grade, after students have mastered the global, geography lessons are geared to introduce students to the major cultures of the world. We focus on the language, religion, dress, food, music, history and customs of the major countries of the main regions of the world.

Seventh through eighth grade switches focus to the most pressing issues of contemporary global politics.  Students are asked to research competing viewpoints surrounding a particular issue, to take a side, and defend that position in a debate style format.

HISTORY

History is not a mere curious interest in the past; history instantiates models both noble and ignoble. We study history because we believe there are important lessons to learn from the past. The students of St. Theresa’s Catholic School will be well equipped to think through the challenges of the present precisely because they will have received an education that is so insistent on the importance of the past. At St. Theresa’s Catholic School, significant time, then, is devoted to Greek, Roman and Medieval history.

The Greek and Roman sequence of history at St. Theresa’s Catholic School is one that spirals every year covering old and new material with ever increasing complexity. Second and fourth grades are taught Greek history, while third and fifth grades take Roman history.

While much time is given to learning the facts of history and discussing in Socratic Seminars, their larger existential significance, the focus of our pedagogy, is directed heavily towards developing close reading and writing skills. We often engage students in learning modules which carefully analyze the logical flow and rhetorical form of well-chosen texts. This serves as writing models for students in our History class as we teach writing by directing students to emulate good writers.

LANGUAGE ARTS

Our Language Arts curriculum intends to engender a love for beautiful expression, whether written or spoken, and a love for the beauty of that thing which is beautifully expressed. That love affair is ignited, in primary and middle school, when teachers model the structure and elegance of the English language. We model such expression in a number of ways:

  • The Telling and Retelling of Fables and Fairy Tales
  • Phonics
  • Poetry Memorization and Recitation
  • Dictation and Copying
  • Rigorous Grammar Curriculum

St. Theresa’s Catholic School self-consciously guides students along the three-fold path of the Medieval curriculum of education called the Trivium. The Trivium consists of the three Liberal Arts (Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric) that are the focal points of education for children during the Primary, Middle School, and High School years. Our Primary School education is designed to move students into our Middle School Language Arts program which focuses heavily on writing, analysis, and logical expression.

LATIN

The study of Latin in Primary School is a time-honored tradition with a long track record of success. At STCS, Latin is taught as a living language in 2nd through 8th grade. We want our students to feel comfortable with Latin, believing that the best way to develop Latin readers is to develop their conversational skills. Our focus in studying Latin is primarily cultural. Through years of consistent Latin training, our children are being oriented in a powerful way to the classics of Western literature.

We do, however, like to point out the secondary and tertiary benefits of a solid Latin education. It is well documented that Latin students are better able to understand the English language because they have learned that language in a Latin curriculum which contextualizes the English vocabulary and grammar that students are learning in Primary School. Also, as the mother tongue of so many of European languages, Latin is a great introduction to all the Romance languages. If one has had a rigorous Latin education, one already knows around 80% of each of the romance languages. At STCS, we begin a very intense Spanish program that builds on what has already been acquired through a student’s Latin studies.

LITERATURE

At STCS, we read a lot. Avoiding textbooks crafted to standardized tests, our students read the classics. In the younger years we teach phonics through the Writing Road to Reading, moving students to Early Readers in Kindergarten and First Grade.

In Second through Eighth Grade, our students regularly discuss Literature through Socratic Seminars. Everyone reads the same works and, under the suggestive guidance of a teacher, wrestles with the larger questions of life that good Literature raises. Below are some examples of classics read and discussed by students at STCS.

  • 2nd Grade: Amos and Boris, The Adventures of Bob White, One Hundred Dresses, The Velveteen Rabbit, Rabbit Hill
  • 3rd Grade: Charlotte’s Web, Pinocchio, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Princess and the Goblin
  • 4th Grade: The Hobbit, The Magician’s Nephew, The Silver Chair, The Last Battle
  • 5th Grade: Eagle of the Ninth, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Johnny Tremain
MATH

Math is a subject that is highly prized at St. Theresa’s Catholic School. Our students typically average within the top 15% of the country in their math scores.

Given the highly abstract and conceptual nature of Mathematics, we teach the subject in a conceptual as opposed to a formulaic manner. We use the Singapore Math Series (K-8th grade) because we believe that the program fosters real mathematical thinking. We also implement Singapore Math because of the strong curricular connection the series makes between concepts and manipulatives. In short, the best way for children to grasp concepts is to allow them to grasp things. The Singapore curriculum is built on that important educational insight.

MUSIC

At St. Theresa’s Catholic School, our Music program primarily consists of vocal instruction through the Ward Method. The Ward Method was developed to teach American Catholic school children the fundamentals of Music so that they would be able to sing the vast repertoire of Sacred Music which is a part of the Roman Catholic Church’s tradition. The Ward Method is unique in that it has a basis in Gregorian chant. The Ward Method also teaches modern musical notation and song. We have multiple after-school choirs (Little Flowers, Chamber Choir, and Flos Cantuum) that enable students to build on the vocal instruction they receive during the school day.

We also offer instrumental lessons to our student body after school. For example, we offer piano, violin, cello, flute, and organ, with many public performance opportunities. In short, we want to develop a culture of music at St. Theresa’s Catholic School and we fully believe that Music, like math and science, should be a part of the lives of all our students.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION

At STCS, Physical Education is an essential part of our mission to educate the whole child. It is important in the younger years to develop healthy habits of an active life which will enrich their lives for years to come. While some schools are reducing physical education to improve performance in “core subjects”, at STCS we insist on P.E. every day. Our motto is mens sana in corpore sano for we believe that an active physical life aids a healthy mind.

Physical Education is also intended to introduce our students to the value of sports. Sports, if engaged in the right way, is a wonderful venue for character formation. Through sports we learn endurance, patience, sacrifice, and teamwork. At St. Theresa’s Catholic School, Physical Education is an essential part of our mission to educate the whole person.

RELIGION

St. Theresa’s Catholic School takes its mission statement quite seriously.

St. Theresa Catholic School exists to give glory to God and to lead its students and faculty to Heaven by the contemplation of eternal truth through a harmonious expression of faith and reason.

Therefore, it is somewhat misleading to think of Religion as one subject among many. Religion pervades all that we are and everything that we hope to do. Students attend weekly mass and frequently visit our Lord in the Emmaus Chapel. Through his Eucharistic Body, our Lord is constantly calling our students to the deeper life. At STCS, teachers feel a calling to cooperate with our Lord in cultivating a religion of the heart. But as an academic institution, STCS insists that religion is also a matter of the intellect. We have, therefore, Religion classes daily. Students are catechized to know the Mass, their prayers, Holy Scripture, moral theology, church history—in short, the Holy Catholic Faith.

SCIENCE

The Primary School Science curriculum offers graduated and systematic exposure to many scientific disciplines (e.g. Physical, Biological and Astronomical Sciences), but the curriculum is unified in a number of ways. First and foremost, we are concerned to help our students think scientifically. This, of course, involves weekly science labs that develop the skill of scientific discovery and verification. But as the curriculum develops in the upper grades (5th through 8th grade), Mathematics and technology are intentionally integrated into the classroom. The history of Science is one of advancement through the mutual exchange of theory and technology, and our Science curriculum is a unique blend of STEM, and what in earlier generations was called “Natural Philosophy.”