North Hills Christian School utilizes a classical curriculum model of education for our Junior Kindergarten through twelfth grade program. NHCS began a phased approach of instituting classical five years ago. While elements of the classical model exist within all grades, our current sixth grade class is our first group of students classified as “fully classical”. Our lower school (Junior Kindergarten – 5th grade) is now fully classical. Although we will continue to phase in appropriate elements of classical education in upper grades, it will not be until the current sixth grade progresses through the remaining grades that the school will have a fully integrated classical model.
For those interested, there is an extensive article about classical education on our website, but briefly, classical education places a great deal of emphasis upon well-roundedness and the students' participation in the "Great Conversation" that has developed Western Civilization. The classical approach provides a genuinely broad liberal arts education with rich selections in the study of language and literature, chronological history, theology, and the arts.
It also includes extensive study of math, science and technology. A quality liberal arts education embraces all of these areas, rejecting the popular current notion suggesting that one must choose between either the intellectual rigors of the humanities or good training in the sciences, maths, and technology.
A classical curriculum is thoroughly grounded in the truths of God revealed both in His Word (special revelation) and His world (general revelation). Classical Christian schools thoroughly integrate Bible into all subject areas. Often history, literature, and the fine arts are taught in tandem with the appropriate Biblical time. For example, while students read about Egyptian history, they also study the life of Moses in Bible class. When they read the Epic of Gilgamesh in literature class, they will also reference the Great Flood in Genesis.
The basic structural framework of a classical education is referred to as The Trivium. The Trivium provides a model of developmentally appropriate learning for students. Our junior Kindergarten through the fifth grade students are in the first part of the trivium, referred to as the grammar stage. In the grammar stage, students are taught the "pieces" of learning. Because young children enjoy and take pride in the process of memorization, our young students are immersed in rich facts, stories, and information. Teachers extensively use songs, chants, and repetition to ensure students obtain a broad base of knowledge that will be foundational for the later stages of their education. By the time they reach the second stage of the trivium, the school of logic (grades 6-8), students have already obtained the "building blocks of learning," and are ready to put them together. While students enjoy debate and argumentation, they are encouraged to think through the "Why?" of their studies, beginning to connect the dots of what they learned in the grammar stage. By the time students have reached high school, they are beginning the final phase of a classical education, the school of rhetoric. Students are encouraged to put an emphasis upon expression, both oral and written, of the knowledge they have assembled in the school of logic. Students are taught how to articulate what they have learned and are taught to respectfully listen to and debate differing viewpoints. They are taught how to defend their viewpoint with intellectual rigor and grace. Another hallmark of the classical methodology of teaching is to use repetition to expose students to content multiple times and at progressively deepening levels. For instance, NHCS has designed its history program so that students will participate in a chronological study of history from grades one through four, and then repeat the same chronological study at a deeper level in grades five through eight. Students will be exposed to children's versions of Homer in grades one and five so that they know the main players, themes, and details of the story line. In turn, our high school freshmen will not be caught off guard or intimidated when we place an unabridged version of Illiad or Odyssey in their hands.
We believe that our classical approach to education at NHCS provides the most systematic, holistic approach to primary education. Subject matters are aligned and integrated. God’s truth is taught through all classes with intentional and thoughtful Biblical integration where possible. We believe that students completing twelve or more years at North Hills Christian School should be well-prepared to not only recite facts and figures, but to be intellectually curious lifelong learners capable of articulating their thoughts as God has gifted them.
Scorecarding /Advocate System
As we continue to evaluate ways to improve student outcomes, one of the processes we implemented is the score-carding / advocate system. We have seen improvement in individual student outcomes with the implementation of the system. Each student at NHCS has an individualized scorecard that measures academic opportunities, both strengths and weaknesses. Every child, regardless of ability, has room to improve, grow and develop. In addition to the scorecards, middle school and high school students have houses and faculty members per house that look at the entire profile of a student across all subject areas. Since lower school students typically have one specific teacher, that teacher is aware of a student’s progress in all subjects. The combination of the scorecard plus an advocate (or teacher in lower school) ensures there is one person reviewing and evaluating the individual scorecards of their students. The scorecards give the advocate of each student valuable information about student developmental opportunities based on prior year end of grade testing results as well as feedback from prior teachers. The holistic approach to evaluating a student’s progress has been valuable and effective in improving student outcomes.