Toward an Orthodox Pedagogy
Dr. Janet (“Barbara”) Cummings
Executive Director, St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Academy
September 15, 2017
Dear Friends of St. Nicholas Orthodox Academy,
Thank-you for your interest in St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Academy! Please allow me to share with you some prayerful decisions that we have made regarding our curriculum.
Our Head Teacher, Fr. Paul, has undertaken the formidable task of writing a K-12 Orthodox curriculum, as this ultimately will give us the ability to teach our faith in all facets of our curriculum. It is our longer-term goal to make this fully Orthodox curriculum available to other schools and to homeschool families.
In the meanwhile, we have spent much time prayerfully researching available curricula that we can utilize for the shorter-term. Our search has focused primarily on homeschool curricula that are commercially available, as these are very compatible with smaller schools such as St. Nicholas Orthodox Academy.
We have given consideration to both accredited and non-accredited curricula, and have discovered some innate problems with all of the dozens of accredited curricula we have researched. Unfortunately, accredited Christian programs would not permit us to adapt their curricula to an Orthodox pedagogy. Most notably, we would be required to utilize the “Bible” or “Christian Studies” courses provided in order to remain under the umbrella of another program’s accreditation, and this would severely limit our ability to teach our Orthodox faith. Of course, there are many secular accredited curricula available, but these are permeated with worldly ideologies that are diametrically opposed to Orthodox Christianity, and we could never adapt them to be compatible with our faith.
After much prayerful consideration, we decided upon a Classical Christian curriculum that is commercially available through Memoria Press for grades K through 12. The Memoria Press courses are very compatible with our Orthodox faith. Furthermore, we will not be required to utilize Memoria’s Christian Studies courses. Instead, we are free to design our own age-appropriate teachings on Orthodox Christianity.
During the 2017-2018 school year, we have used Memoria Press textbooks, and our high school students have each taken two courses online through Memoria Press. Fr. Paul uses the Memoria Press materials in a flexible way, such as allowing our precocious children to use materials above their grade levels and bringing in other supplementary materials to enhance the subject matter.
I encourage you to visit the Memoria Press website (www.memoriapress.com) and see for yourself the wonderful learning experiences that we have chosen for our children.
We see the Memoria Press materials as a great beginning and “launching point,” and we plan to incorporate other materials as we go along, with the eventual goal of creating a fully Orthodox pedagogy.
I have heard “one size fits all” sometimes be referred to as “one size fits no one.” The same can be said about a “one size fits all” approach to education, as each of our children is one of a kind. One thing that appeals to me personally about the Memoria Press materials is that we can customize a curriculum to meet the individual needs of each of our students. For example, a child who is struggling in a particular subject can start at a lower level in that subject than in his/her other subjects, rather than experiencing undue frustration and being set up for failure. A student who excels in a particular subject can work more quickly and be given extra challenges in order to maximize his/her potential.
We ask that the parent(s) of each new child meet with Fr. Paul and me to help us understand your child’s strengths, struggles, preferred ways of learning, and unique personality. Together, we will decide how best to meet your precious child’s academic and spiritual needs. You will remain in a partnership with us to ensure that your child is receiving the best educational experience possible.
St. Nicholas Orthodox Academy has applied for and received “Washoe County Exempt Private School” status. We are very proud of this accomplishment. It means that we have demonstrated that we meet the standards set forth by Washoe County and the State of Nevada, but it also gives us freedom in how we approach education. As a private, religious school, we are exempt from the Private Elementary and Secondary Education Authorization Act. This gives us the freedom to teach our faith and our values without violating any laws.
If you have any questions about our curriculum or other aspects of St. Nicholas Orthodox Academy, please feel free to contact me via email (Barbara@OrthodoxSchoolReno.com) or on my cell phone (775-848-3677).