Classical Christian School Adds Ninth Grade
By Suzy Gyles
Special to The Pilot
The Board of Sandhills Classical Christian School (SCCS) has announced the addition of ninth grade to its outstanding curriculum, which currently serves preschool through eighth grade.
The change is effective for the 2013-2014 school year. Grades 10 through 12 will be added in successive years.
“We cannot tell you how exciting this is,” says Joanna Martin, principal of the thriving, 14-year-old school in Southern Pines. “The addition of the high school meets our goal of seeing students through all phases of the challenging classical Christian curriculum from start to finish.
“The rewards are tangible and measurable. This is the fulfillment of a vision.”
This vision dates back to 1998, when SCCS was founded as a small, private, classical Christian school. Enrollment has increased by 330 percent in the last 10 years, with a 50 percent increase between 2008 and 2010. Last year, enrollment grew by more than 20 percent.
Little Friends, the companion preschool, has also seen rapid expansion. It has grown 300 percent — from 26 to 105 students — in the last five years and is now operating across four satellite campuses.
Parents and administrators are working with the school board to expand facilities to keep up with student growth. To that end, they have purchased a new classroom building and will be hosting a silent cake auction April 13 to help raise the needed funds to move it on-site as they continue to seek other development opportunities.
Roger Marx, a longtime parent at the school, has been looking forward to this day. Three of his children attend the school now, and two others have gone on to high school elsewhere. He says that the quality of the education is what makes this school unique.
“You’d expect to get this type of education in Raleigh or Greensboro, where there are large classical schools,” says Marx, “but we have it right here in our own backyard. This is clearly the time for it, and there is great enthusiasm in the community for what we are doing.”
A Three-Part Approach
Martin attributes SCCS’s rapid growth to demand for an educational alternative to public and traditional private schools. A classical education is not new, just different.
There are 233 classical schools across the country, including 10 in North Carolina. In classical schools, subjects are taught through a methodology known as the “trivium,” a three-part approach that follows the development of students’ young minds. It focuses on teaching students how to think clearly and on their own, but not necessarily what to think.
Starting in the elementary years, learning surrounds the grammar of a subject. “The basic facts, the building blocks, are taught and learned in a creative setting of memorization, song, dramatizations, field trips and hands-on activities,” says Martin. “This is a time when we are building a solid foundation in every subject.”
The middle school years are known as the “logic” stage, as children naturally begin to question and reason. Adding to the students’ toolbox of basic knowledge, children this age are taught how to listen carefully and reason logically. Students are challenged to give support to arguments as they articulate, debate and write persuasively.
High school is called the “rhetoric” stage, when students are ready to interpret and apply complex ideas through creative, effective, well-formed spoken and written communication. The older students at SCCS are fast approaching this point.
“This is when their learning gets put into the fabric of their lives, and their ideas have consequences for themselves and their families, churches and community,” says Marx. “We are getting ready to see the beginnings of the fruit of their educational maturing.”
Language and learning skills are strengthened and honed in classical schools from kindergarten through the high school years. “At Sandhills Classical, they read the great books of literature,” says Dan Askins, parent of a fourth-grader and a seventh-grader. “They also read a great deal of historical fiction, which creates an interdisciplinary approach to learning. It’s notable what these kids can read and how they are learning to analyze and discuss deeper issues.”
A Force for the Good
A Christian worldview is at the core and an inherent part of the education at SCCS. “We place the Bible in its rightful place as the foundation of what we teach,” says Joy Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher and former member of the school’s board. “All subjects are studied in the light of biblical Christianity and its impact on culture. We believe that a Christian school education is a force for good in the lives of children.”
Lisa Wilson, who has two children at the school, looks to the outcome of a classical Christian education, which she describes as “confident, thoughtful and articulate young adults who are deeply rooted in biblical truth and understanding.”
She adds, “The high school is the fulfillment of all that has preceded it.”
“Another exciting thing we are doing is emphasizing our math and science curriculum,” says Martin. Math is offered during the same period for all grades at SCCS, so students are placed according to ability rather than by grade level. This allows acceleration for students who are advanced.
Although test scores are not the focus of SCCS teaching, Martin says the school’s scores demonstrate the classical curriculum’s success. “Our students consistently place far beyond grade level in standardized tests on a broad range of subjects,” she says. The classical methods clearly pay off.
“We are very, very excited about our future,” addss Martin.
To learn more about SCCS, call the school at (910) 695-1874, or visit the school website, www.sandhillsccs.org.
More like this story