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Classical Catholic model brings joy at St. Francis Xavier School

At St. Francis Xavier School this May, 3rd graders discussed the difference between Gothic and Romanesque architecture, 6th graders summarized the unique contribution by the Phoenicians to the ancient world, 2nd graders contrasted Augustus and the last Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus, and 1st graders recounted main events of the Trojan war. These classroom activities are just a few snapshots of classical Catholic education at St. Francis Xavier School. During the past school year the curriculum was organized around historical time periods and students were engaged by teachers with a lovingly told story about their history. Lessons were taught using the time tested model of the Trivium characterized by learning outstanding factual knowledge, depth of thinking in questioning, and an emphasis on great communication through student responses, class discussions, and excellent writing instruction.  The school welcomed learning practices that grew intellectual virtues like close reading, reflection, making connections, and memory.  And the school dove into the treasury of the good, beautiful, and true for curricular content.  When asked about the results of these changes, principal Nathan Wright said, “Joy.  Our school theme this year was ‘A love for God brings joy.’ As students and teachers teach for love of the good, beautiful, and true, joy is the result.”  

This year the school will continue implementation of the classical Catholic model. For the 2019-2020 school year, all students Kindergarten through 8th grade will receive Latin in place of Spanish.   Latin will be substantively presented—not as an enrichment, but rather as part of the essential curriculum and foundation to educational formation. Music will also be added to the curriculum with classes for all students.  The move to add Music fits with a classical Catholic goal that students receive an education enabling a broad and full appreciation of truth and knowledge. Science will also be aligned to the classical model.  The school’s parent organization is allocating funds to make nature centers on campus. These centers fit the classical model by promoting learning by observation first, and having an appreciation and wonder for nature as God’s creation as an entry to further study.  Through the changes, teacher formation is essential. Recently the school’s teachers gathered for a 2 day training by Elisabeth Sullivan, the Executive Director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education.  She trained the faculty on Memetic instruction—a key teaching method for revealing truth to students.   
The flames from the Cathedral of Notre Dame had special significance to the 4th graders at St. Francis Xavier.  A few weeks earlier they began reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame by discussing features of Cathedral architecture, and looking specifically at Notre Dame.  The world’s realization of the great loss in the Notre Dame fire brought an awareness of Catholic history’s relevance.  The students at St. Francis Xavier School know the importance of this history, and they look forward to deepening joy and revelations of God’s Truth in continued studies grounded in the best of Western culture.  


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