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Denver, Colo., Oct 16, 2012 / 03:03 am (CNA).- Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School based in Denver, Colo., has nearly doubled its enrollment in just one year by introducing a classical curriculum.
“This is something people want, and they've wanted it for a long time, and now it's available,” principal Rosemary Anderson told CNA Oct. 10.
Our Lady of Lourdes is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school. The parish's pastor, Monsignor Peter Quang Nguyen, had helped turn around a number of schools in the Archdiocese of Denver which had been in danger of closing. He was assigned to Lourdes five years ago.
When Msgr. Quang hired Anderson to be principal in 2010, the school was in “quite a bit of debt” and had only 104 students enrolled. That figure is 180 today.
The school's capacity is 235 and Anderson believes that by the next school year, “we'll have to start wait-listing kids.”
Anderson noted that classical education is meant to help students learn how to think, rather than merely teaching them “subjects.”
The foundation of classical education is a set of three methods of learning subjects, called the trivium, which is made up of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
Lourdes school will focus on the grammar and logic phases, and will introduce the eighth graders to rhetoric.
The trivium “happens pretty naturally” using the classical curriculum, and ideas of grammar and logic and integrated into the subjects taught to students: “it flows naturally from the way teachers are teaching,” Anderson expressed.
Anderson noted that the school drew in numerous students who had previously been schooled at home. Several homeschooling parents enrolled their children as this type of education wasn't available before. “Now they know there's something that will sync up with what they've taught” their children.
Several non-Catholic families have also come to Lourdes just for the classical education, Anderson said. She expects that group to grow as well, “because it's a great education.”
Parents at the school are very invested in the classical model, which she “welcomes completely.” She pointed to the Catholic teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that “we're just here to help them.”
Anderson was encouraged to differentiate her school, and with the “support and knowledge”of Bishop James D. Conley – former apostolic administrator of the archdiocese – chose to follow this approach to education as a way of imparting to students the art of learning.
“The classical approach is Catholic, through and through,” said Anderson.
Morgan McGinn is in her second year at the school, and teaches second grade. She discussed how the move to classical education has changed her teaching style.
“I have to read and discover knowledge on my own before I can share it with my kids...It's definitely changed my teaching; I can't just look at a book anymore and read the lesson, and be prepared for the next day.”
“I've had to almost flip everything I know about education upside-down to teach classically,” she said.
Her students are now “required to think more,” rather than having “the information they need to know fed to them.”
The holistic approach of classical education, meant to build up the whole person, translates to an emphasis on the fine arts. “We already had a great performing arts and speech department here...so that was already very integrated,” said Anderson.