1) Is your family committed to a rigorous, formal, language-based classical trivium program?
Parnassus Preparatory School upholds high academic standards for all students regardless of their background, socioeconomic status, or ability. The curriculum is rigorous and content-rich, following the classical trivium-liberal arts, traditional education model with provisions to challenge all students to fulfill and expand their individual academic potential. Parnassus has a language-focused program where learning is accomplished through written and spoken words versus images such as videos and television. In a language-focused learning setting, the mind needs to work harder and ‘”decode” a symbol (words) into concepts. Images, on the other hand, allow the mind to be passive and enjoy the translation from words into concepts already completed. Parnassus students begin studying Spanish in kindergarten, adding Latin to their language studies in Grade 3, and Greek in Grade 9. Additionally, they will have other language choices in high school.
Technology is used minimally to enhance learning when appropriate, but not as a foundation to gain wisdom. Our Classical Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) is intended to provide a foundation for further, more specialized subject study as students complete their studies at Parnassus. In an age of increasing technological specialization, it is even more important to provide a strong base of common knowledge as well as the tools of learning so students will have the capacity to think across these divisions. Even in a world with technology and a plethora of information at students’ fingertips, students must still possess a strong body of knowledge based teacher-led instruction. That, in combination with learning to read widely, will give students the tools they need to be lifelong scholars. We tend to assume that technology has not altered human nature in any fundamental way: children learn mostly from teachers, who do at times use some technological tools to help them teach. That is not to say, however, that our students will not have access to computers from time to time in the upper levels of the School of Grammar and in the Schools of Logic and Rhetoric. Students will use computers for research and presentations and will have a general understanding of basic computer programs such as Word, PowerPoint, etc. How would this program reconcile with your academic goals for your child? How would your family adapt to the school’s program?
2) Do you value academics and a work ethic as a priority?
Parnassus was developed with high academic standards from its inception as the foundation of the school. The community recognizes Parnassus for the academic standards it upholds. This comes with a discipline of work that most likely requires more from students and parents alike. Parents are often called upon to be actively involved with their young children as they do homework, track reading minutes, practice their Latin, or memorize the rules of grammar. As Parnassus scholars advance in their studies, parents will find that the depth of the Latin, history, and other subjects will eventually exceed parents’ ability to help. However, parents still remain actively involved to ensure that scholars are diligently working to prevent frustration from poor study habits and to foster a learning environment at home. Some families may find it difficult to trade some recreational or entertainment time to focus on academics, and for that reason, we ask parents to give that serious consideration before sending their children to Parnassus. For those who wonder why we have higher expectations, we respond that the school’s expectations do not rise to the level of two or three generations ago, or even the standards in most other developed countries today. Children at Parnassus are already enjoying the challenge and becoming curious learners. What expectations characterize your family? If you are serious about finding an educational partner in preparing your child for life, we would invite you to visit and see what’s possible.
3) Do you value a broad, liberal arts-based education?
Some families want a mainstream education like they had. If you were satisfied with your education (assuming you were educated in a mainstream public or private school) and don’t see any reason to want more, then you probably won’t find our form of education appealing. From our uniforms to our study of the great books to our emphasis on reading and writing, we are different than most schools.
Often, the people who most identify with classical education are those who researched or experienced the program themselves or through a relative. Because classical education takes time to appreciate, those with a background in traditional Western education more quickly identify with the advantages gained in what has been called a “Western liberal arts” education.
If you are attracted to education that reaches beyond training to enrich the minds of students as they learn to truly enjoy learning and become educated beings versus skilled, trained individuals, then you should consider Parnassus.
4) Do you support the “Intellectualist” (knowledge-centered) or “Anti-Intellectualist” (student-centered) approach for the role of the teacher?
Because all of us have had educational experiences and most have attended school, we have been immersed in various philosophies whether we have been aware of them or not. Jeanne S. Chall, (Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Graduate School of Education), notes the importance of understanding philosophical approaches in education, for philosophy dictates choices from textbook selection to approaches to student discipline. Educators and parents since the end of the 19th century have aligned themselves with one or the other of two fundamental positions: “Intellectualist” which defines the primary goal of education as the mastery of core academic subjects by everyone and “Anti- Intellectualist” and defines the primary goal of education as “meeting the needs of individual students, which may or may not include a primary emphasis on academic learning.” These positions have also been termed “Knowledge-Centered” (Intellectualist) and “Student-Centered” (Anti-Intellectualist). Parnassus is a Knowledge-Centered school. Students, including Prima scholars, sit in desks facing the instructor and the teacher is responsible and accountable to follow Parnassus’ established curriculum and pedagogy versus allowing students to direct learning based on their interests. If this philosophy resonates with your family, you will witness firsthand the qualities and benefits of an intellectually-based program.
5) Does your family love learning and great literature?
The most consistent success factor for children at Parnassus is the learning environment at home. Families who read and love to learn send children to our school because they want the world of language, books, history, science, and math to be an integrated whole. They want their children to use their love of knowledge to explore and seek truth. Families that rarely visit a library or bookstore and watch more than one T.V. show a day probably will not find our value compelling. Having said this, families have been discovering the world of literature and information through their children’s experience at our school. If you would like to develop a love of books, knowledge, and learning in your home, and even have your vacation plans changing to include educational trips, Parnassus can provide a great start.