Catholic Liberal Arts Education

We are a member of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education.

St. Monica Catholic School follows a Catholic Liberal Arts model. One key component of our curriculum is our classical time period. Each grade focuses on a specific era in history. They are as follows:

  • Kindergarten – The Cradle of Civilization Year
  • First Grade – The Greek Year
  • Second Grade – The Roman Year
  • Third Grade – The Medieval Year
  • Fourth Grade – The Modern Year and Washington State History
  • Fifth Grade – The American Year
  • Sixth Grade – The Ancient Year
  • Seventh Grade – The Medieval Year and Washington State History
  • Eighth Grade – The Modern Year
How is a “classical” curriculum different from what they’re doing in other schools?

Classical schools teach all of the subjects in an integrated manner. History, literature, philosophy, and theology are pursued together to create a rich experience with history throughout time.

Classical schools aim to cultivate wisdom and virtue by teaching students Latin, exposing them to “Great Books,” and focusing on appreciating “beauty, goodness, and truth.”

Classical versus Secular
Ordered toward eternal happiness  Ordered toward material ends 
Integration of subjects, knowledge, faith Fragmented, industrialized   
Restores meaning and purpose  Focus on practical skills 
Awakes wonder  Emphasis on information   
Nurtures the moral imagination  Ignores the moral imagination   
Cultivates habits of rigorous thinking    One mile wide, one inch deep 
Constant discussion = active learning Lectures + testing = passive learning
Develops intellectual freedom Limits theological exposure
Q. What is our mission at St. Monica Catholic School and the ultimate mission of Catholic education?

A. To assist in developing the whole child so that they may realize their full potential, fulfill their God-given purpose, and flourish in a Christ-centered, rigorous learning environment with Gospel values as the central foundation.

Q. How does a Catholic Classical Liberal model of education support our mission?

A. Catholic Liberal Education accomplishes this by:

  1. Revealing the true nature of God, His creation, the human person and our dignity, and God’s work throughout salvation history…which gives way to awe, wonder, joy, confidence, and the perspective required to discern purpose.
  2. Nurturing wisdom and virtue enlivens moral ethics and provides the foundation for understanding, compassion, and authentic love necessary for living as a disciple of Christ.
  3. Fostering recognition and love for truth, beauty, and goodness instills a desire to know, defend, and participate in God’s work and strive for excellence in all things.
  4. Providing every child with the tools of learning, thinking, and communicating necessary for mastery…which results in a well-trained mind able to accomplish great works, serve, influence, and lead.
Q. What is unique to the Catholic Liberal Arts Education methodology?

A. Elements of Catholic Liberal Arts Education methodology:

  1. A program of study modeled after the Trivium based on grammar, logic, and rhetoric engages the natural stages of a child’s development and their desire to learn. It encourages them to rigorously learn fundamental facts and truths, ask questions, think deeply and critically, and effectively communicate what they discover.
  2. A curriculum that is integrated (inter-disciplinary) and scaffolded (frequent return to concepts and deepening of knowledge and understanding) aids in establishing connections, cementing concepts, and promoting relational thinking.
  3. A chronological history of Catholic history and Christian anthropology provides the curriculum’s backbone to enrich all subject matter and provide perspective and relevancy.
  4. Exposure to excellence and the work of the greatest thinkers, creators, and communicators in history inspires students to great purpose and achievement.
  5. The study and development of wisdom and virtue are at the core of building character in every child to grow fully and with integrity.
  6. Strong grammar skills emphasize a structure for understanding and conveying knowledge, the foundation for a well-formed intellect and mastery in all subject matter.
Q. What are the proven results of a Catholic Liberal Arts Education regarding academics?

A. Results:

  1. Many of the greatest minds in our history were classically educated: Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO), Susan Wojcicki (YouTube CEO), Jack Ma (Alibaba Chairman), Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs (Apple).
  2. Students that have been classically educated typically perform in the top 15 percent on standardized tests.
  3. Classically educated students are well prepared to be accepted into good colleges, and many qualify for highly selective colleges and universities.
  4. People like Steve Jobs have insisted that classically educated people are more successful in their careers (even in high tech fields) and make better entrepreneurs, CEO’s and business persons as they are more equipped to think and communicate well.
Q. What are other testaments to the success of this educational philosophy and model?

A. Encouraging facts:

  1. It is the fastest-growing educational model in the nation (including Catholic schools, Christian private schools, and charter public schools).
  2. In some cases, entire Catholic dioceses have successfully transitioned to this model, the Michigan Diocese of Marquette.
  3. Many Catholic schools are experiencing a boost in enrollment due to the intentionality of the methodology and the tried and true nature of the model.
  4. Mary Pat Donahue, a founder of the “Institute for Liberal Education,” was recently hired by the USCCB to oversee Catholic Education in the United States.
Q. How will a new focus on Catholic Liberal Education affect how STEM subjects are integrated?

A. Science/Engineering and Math will continue to be strong subjects that integrate well into a Catholic Liberal Arts cross-disciplinary program. Quality STEM learning experiences require students of life to pause and wonder and engage spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically.

With a Catholic lens, STEM subjects at St. Monica focus on showing appreciation, care, and reverence for God’s creation. We continue to encourage investigation and creativity as responsible stewards of our planet. As stewards of God’s creation, quality STEM learning experiences challenge students to develop higher-order thinking skills through inquiry, problem-solving, and creative thinking processes. Students are regularly challenged by complex problems that are related to real-world scenarios.

We plan to place a greater emphasis on the language of technology and computer programming as part of our curriculum. As our philosophy on incorporating technology evolves and as we learn more about the developmental needs of our students, we will assess and put forward a renewed effort to be good stewards of the available resources and provide a strong foundation for our students in an ever-changing technological world.

Q. What is St. Monica’s approach to homework in light of a Catholic Liberal Education?

A. At the Grammar level (K-5), learning takes place largely in the relationship between student and teacher. That means schoolwork should, for the most part, be done at school. Homework that is assigned will be age-appropriate, subject, and goal-oriented.
However, students will need some amount of extra practice in specific or new concepts, skills, or facts. In certain subjects (e.g., math or languages), regular practice at home may be necessary for mastery. We also recognize that parents are the primary educators of their child and that our collaboration and communication with parents is essential. Our teachers will keep parents informed as to the current topics of study in the class.