So...you understand our various program offerings - but we'd like you to understand more fully how we approach students and learning at each level. Below we lay out our Middle School - it looks different than most middle schools but it's purposeful and effective. In classical education, kids move from the grammar stage of learning (gathering fact and pieces) to the logic stage at around age 10, or 5th-6th grade. After observing our students for years in a different leveling approach, it became clear that our 5th graders were generally transitioning to this next development level and were stuck between their old and new ways of thinking. Likewise, our 6th graders were continuing this transition, chewing on more meaty ideas and logic, but not quite ready to run fully with the older middle school students. Thus, we gathered these two levels together to make our new lower middle school, where students are challenged to fully enter this stage, but protected from the full embodiment of the logic stage at upper middle school, grades 7-8. The logic stage is when all the facts and pieces are analyzed, compared, argued, connected and made sense of. It is a time of "aha!" moments, lots of questions, probing the answers and moving towards independence. Let's take a look at how we approach this fun and critical stage of learning!
Lower Middle School (grades 5 & 6): Emerging Independent Learner
The Lower Middle School of the SLO Classical Academy is a transitional period when students are moving from concrete thinkers in the grammar stage to burgeoning logical thinkers. Building on the foundation set in the primary and intermediate levels of our school, the Lower Middle School seeks to shepherd students through this time by introducing them to logical thinking through the use of English grammar, pre-logic exercises, and encouraging connections in history and literature. Students are challenged to seek the meaning behind the content they learn in all subjects.
Strong Academic Skills – Lower Middle School students continue to refine basic skills developed in the intermediate grades while being introduced to logical thinking skills that will translate into independent thought in Upper Middle School and High School. The goal of this stage of learning is to make use of the emerging independence of these students and translate their desire for independence into ownership of their own education. Students at this stage must begin to learn the why and how of the subjects they learn. While grammar continues to be important, students are ready to understand the system of English grammar and how the parts of speech work together to form well-crafted sentences. These sentences can then be developed into meaningful and purposeful paragraphs. Students will continue to sharpen basic math skills, but also strengthen their understanding of how these concepts work together and the relationships between numbers and how they work in space and time. Reading and writing go hand in hand throughout the curriculum at SLO Classical Academy, but in this stage students will learn that this relationship is integral to becoming part of the great conversation in which we learn from authors and historical figures of the past while communicating ideas in the present and into the future. Parents continue to reinforce the work done at school, but more and more students are encouraged to own their education.
Strong Organizational Skills - Emerging independence means that students will vary in the degree of organizational skills they possess. Some will have learned to apply these skills well while others will still have backpacks that look as though there is a blender at the bottom. It is important for teachers and parents to support growth in organization while continuing to train children in strategies that work for the personality of each child. Teachers will continue to provide written and oral prompts regarding the assignment, completion and turning in of work. Teachers will also teach students the logic of organization providing students with motivation to become and stay organized. The skill of note-taking and the keeping of a daily agenda for completing work will be emphasized at this level.
Strong Analytical Skills – Like the ability to speak, walk, talk, and read all require a combination of training and developmental readiness, logical thinking develops when teaching and logical readiness meet. Emerging independent learners need support from the adults in their lives to test the waters of reasonable thought. It does not require a teaching degree to recognize that middle school children want to exert their wills, but that their wills are not to a level of maturity to make them completely tolerable. Rather than fight against some of the unreasonable claims of these emerging thinkers, the teachers at SLO Classical Academy begin equipping students with the tools of reason. We call this instruction pre-logic. Students are exposed to logical fallacies, writing strategies, and Socratic questioning that all sharpen their abilities to think and communicate in an orderly and thoughtful way. Mastery of thinking skills is not the goal; but rather recognition of faulty thinking and practice in the tools of reasoning well.
Strong Character – With greater maturity, personal responsibility for one’s actions becomes more important. As emerging independent learners it is important for students to recognize how individual character fits within the greater community of learners at SLO Classical Academy and beyond. Teachers and parents will continue to partner in maintaining and implementing age-appropriate standards of excellence and personal responsibility. What is distinct about students entering into the logic stage is that they will likely test the waters and question the validity of boundaries. It is important to offer support through logical consequences and reasonable conversations regarding standards of behavior.
Upper Middle School (grades 7 & 8): The Independent Learner
The middle school of the SLO Classical Academy is a natural extension of the goals of the entire school, namely, to establish a foundation of learning that will nurture and motivate independent, analytical thinkers. These natural leaders can effectively communicate and support their ideas orally and in written form. In order to do achieve this, students, parents and teachers agree to work towards. . .
Strong Academic Skills – Continued support of basic skills in all areas of learning continues at this stage, but more emphasis is given to cultivating the students’ developing logical thinking skills. Students are taught formal logic at this level to strengthen their independent thought while grounding it in well-reasoned principles. English grammar will continue to be practiced on a daily basis to strengthen students’ abilities to communicate effectively. The goal of this stage of learning is to make use of the growing independence. Ownership of their own ideas will be emphasized even more at this stage as students grow in their independent, rational capacity. Students at this stage maintain a desire to understand the why and how of the subjects they learn. Students will continue to study English grammar and will be expected to use writing skills persuasively and with greater eloquence. Longer papers will be assigned at this level requiring planning and greater synthesis of ideas. In math, students will strengthen their abilities to think abstractly and logically through algebraic functions. Students will read more complex novels and primary texts and will be prepared to dialogue intelligently regarding major themes and ideas presented by the authors. While parents are still integral in motivating the Upper Middle School students, the goal for this stage is to enter high school as independent learners who appreciate the value of their own education.
Strong Organizational Skills – Independent learners will choose to utilize the organizational skills they possess to maximize their own learning. Some will have learned to apply these skills well while others will still need coaching from the adults in their lives. It is important for teachers and parents to support growth in organization while continuing to train children in strategies that work for the personality of each child. Teachers will continue to provide written and oral prompts regarding the assignment, completion and turning in of work. Teachers will also teach students the logic of organization providing students with motivation to become and stay organized. The skill of note-taking and the keeping of a daily agenda for completing work will be emphasized at this level.
Strong Analytical Skills - Using our history, literature and science as opportunities for discussion, students will be challenged to apply ideas from the past to the present. As students have mastered the simple absorption of information, they will be asked to critically analyze what they read, hear and speak. Parents will read the assigned literature with their student and help their student’s power of analysis grow through discussion. Teachers will create lessons that build on thoughtful processing and synthesis of conceptual understanding.
Strong Character - As they prepare to enter high school, the upper middle school students are the upcoming role models for rest of the student body. As such, how they act and treat others is of paramount importance. The foundation of this is responsibility for self and consideration for others. There are many opportunities to help students grow in this area from the simple (like completion of assignments on time and bringing of materials to school) to the profound (a discussion in history about owning slaves). Community service, behavior accountability and discussion will help the students grow towards autonomy and responsibility.