By Jaime Munozcano
Are you looking for an alternative education? American Martyrs Academy offers a unique opportunity for students to be educated in the classical traditions of Western civilization. The students have a strong academic, human and spiritual formation. The emphasis of education at American Martyrs Academy is to foster the love of learning in the students. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life.” The students utilize the different aspects of their minds and hearts to come to a deep appreciation for and love of truth.
The academic formation of the children begins, in the younger years, with a strong development of the imagination and memory through reading stories such as Aesop’s Fables and memorizing the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson. By mid-elementary, the emphasis shifts from and expands upon the imagination to the ability to read and write more complex ideas by reading great literature and learning to write through dictation. At this point in their education, the students also begin to learn Latin, a language of great benefit in terms of understanding the infrastructure of how language works. The students then move into the dialectical stage, in which they begin to analyze their subjects more closely, learning to answer their own “why” questions. Finally, the students end in the rhetorical stage. Students at this point are ready to glean important information from what they read, analyze the content and synthesize it in order to come to a well-informed understanding of any topic at hand.
Throughout all of these stages, the students habitually memorize poems and great speeches. From Robert Louis Stevenson and Edward Lear to Shakespeare, the Bible and the Constitution, the students have the ability to call from memory great works of Western civilization.
While the main purpose of education is usually seen as the acquisition of knowledge, it is equally important for the students to be a part of a beautiful community of persons. American Martyrs Academy offers a truly unique opportunity to realize this community. The school is a one-room schoolhouse, and the older and younger students interact in a unique way. The older students often help the younger students with their poetry, as well as reading stories to them. Every Friday, the students recite their poems for one another. Art class is a time for the whole school to work together on projects. In music, the older grades learn theory while the younger grades learn the recorder and songs, usually about the history they are studying. The older students take joy in being looked up to and held responsible for the younger students, and the younger students bask in the attention and conversations of their older schoolmates. In these ways, the students learn to converse easily and participate confidently in a broader community.
The community for the students expands to outside the classroom with several community service related activities. At Christmas, the students perform the carols they have learned for the residents at the Little Sisters of the Poor. Presently, the students are the Hospitallers of St. Jeanne Jugan, and visit the residents on their birthdays. At the end of the year, the students put on a play or a few vignettes for parents and friends. They also volunteer occasionally to clean or prepare food at the Missionaries of Charity. All of the students participate in these events, and the spirit of camaraderie is bolstered by their genuine concern for one another.
On top of the academic and human formation, spiritual formation is just as important at American Martyrs Academy. The spiritual formation is founded on the Judeo-Christian principles: “Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.” The best way to learn to love anyone is to get to know them first; therefore, each school day begins with Mass at 8 am, followed by a prayer to the Holy Spirit at the school. The formal education is founded on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Students memorize the Baltimore Catechism, read Lives of the Saints, and study the Bible in different stages, to different depths. The spirit of joy and respect reigns in the school, and the students are deeply aware of one another in their sense of humor, their spirit of service and their prayers.
In a nutshell:
1) The children learn to read and comprehend concepts at an accelerated level. 2) The small classroom atmosphere provides specialized instruction and tutoring. This helps each student develop at the student’s capacity. 3) American Martyrs Academy provides a safe, clean learning environment for students. 4) Parents have regular, ongoing access to Ms. Brink and the progress of their child.
Here’s what parents are saying:
“Our experience with American Martyrs Academy has been wonderful. This is truly a unique school. The curriculum is a classical, top-drawer approach to education, based on the four stages of learning. These stages, the primary, grammatical, dialectic, and rhetorical, correspond to the children’s ages and learning development. The students are inspired by wonder, given the learning tools they need to acquire knowledge, and encouraged in the pursuit of wisdom.
“Our children are flourishing at AMA. Our sixth-grade son, especially, has seen a real improvement in his grades this year. The small school environment and individual attention he receives have been very beneficial to him. Our first-grade daughter is doing a great job with math, phonics, reading, and her other subjects. She can recite numerous classical poems from memory in a way that amazes and delights me!
“The students also have a lot of fun. They have made wonderful mosaics from glass and pottery, and have begun the art of painting beautiful Byzantine-styled colored eggs. They take field trips and are involved, through the school, with active community service. Learning to give of self is an important part of character development.
“Lastly, we love the pervading Catholic atmosphere in which our children are learning. From studying their catechism lessons, to being taught manners and charity to their peers and those in the larger community, they are developing an understanding of what it means to live as Christ intends them to.
“Overall, this has been a terrific school year for our family!”
“As a parent of two, I would highly recommend the American Martyrs Academy. With small class sizes, each student gets ample quality time with the teacher, which helps him or her grow at their own rate. If a student is excelling, we can provide an opportunity for challenge. Or, if a child needs help, we can provide an opportunity to address his or her specific needs.
“My own experience with AMA has been fantastic. My 6-year-old son is currently attending kindergarten and he couldn’t be doing better. His reading has improved and grown amazingly since attending this school. Math, never his favorite, he now enjoys exploring. Also, his concentration has improved by learning several poems by heart, in English and some in Latin.
“The children really learn to care for each other. With fewer students these children are able to get to know each other better. There simply isn’t any opportunity for bullying when you know your fellows so well. Aside from learning how to socialize with their peers, the children also learn how to interact with students who may be older or younger than themselves. I find this great for building social skills, which is necessary for all walks of life, present and future.
“AMA uses a classical curriculum which emphasizes the basics of education. All children need a foundation to start from and this is exactly what is offered. They are given a beginning and are encouraged with lots of help to follow through with their education to aid them for college, work, or simply enjoying life to the fullest, after being given these tools to think for themselves.”
At American Martyrs Academy, we are a community of faith and friendship, from kindergarten to grade 12. If you are interested in taking part in this unique opportunity and educational adventure, or would like to visit and see firsthand the facilities, please email Vanessa Brink at firstname.lastname@example.org, call or text (805) 421-8581, or visit the American Martyrs Academy Facebook page. All are welcome!