Schola Rosa: Co-op & Home Curriculum ~ Designed for Memory

Over the years, families have asked us many questions about how the curriculum is organized. To share our answers, we have included a few of the questions and their answers below.

Q: “Why are there three cycles?” A: A desire to promote repetition with the Schola Rosa curriculum is one of the reasons we chose to have a three year cycle. A three-year cycle allows students beginning in Kindergarten to complete the Elementary cycles at least twice before entering Intermediate studies. Studies continue to show that repetition is key to long-term memory in children (and adults). The first time we learn something, it is like drawing a line in sand. You can see a line, but there are still grains of sand mixed in. If we do not draw a line in the sand again for a while, the wind fills the line with sand, and you cannot find it again. If, however, we return to the line soon after drawing it, and we draw the same line again and again, the line becomes clear. When we repeat memory work, lessons, topics, and even books with our children, we are getting the sand out of the way.

Q: “Why are the cycles divided by history and science?” A: As an inspiration for dividing the cycles by history and science, Susan Wise Bauer’s Book The Well-Trained Mind was perhaps the most influential for deciding to combine all the grades for specific subjects. We wanted parents to have more free mental space. If the whole family could be focused on one historical age or one scientific area, instead of one age and area per student, then parents could have some breathing room. At the same time, we understood the need for lessons to be tiered. Parents wouldn’t want their Kindergartner to be doing the same lesson as their sixth grader, and vice versa. Thus, we organized history and science into units with tiered lessons. Parents may opt to use one lesson for the entire family or use the different lessons per level. Either way, parents are only needing to review up on one main topic. As concerns history, we wanted to provide a balanced organization to three time periods: Ancient & Classical (Creation – 44 B.C.), The Christian Age (0 – 14th century), and Modern Times & Our America (14th century – Pope John Paul II). The first cycle we dedicated to ancient and classical times, which represent most of the world’s history, though the least is known about it. The second cycle we dubbed “The Christian Age” to highlight its particular importance in history. We wanted to give the medieval period its proper weight, since it represents approximately 1000 years By spending an entire year on the medieval period, which was the Christian age of the Western world, we are able to imbue students with just how important that time period was to our history, something a half year study would not foster. We place American history into its proper context under the banner of Cycle 3 “Modern Times and Our America, and thus decided to dedicated one cycle to the whole, since Modern Times represents only about 500-600 years, depending on the opinion you go with. By having a three year cycle of history, students meet all three time periods at least twice before entering Intermediate studies (7th-9th grade). Each time through, the stories change for a specific student and the projects are different, creating a variety of experiences as a student moves through, yet each experience grounded in a feeling of “I remember that!” and “This seems familiar!” Regarding science, we chose scientific areas that tied in nicely with historical time periods. Cycle 1 focuses on Animal and Plant Life as a foundation for future scientific study, so it was proper to the Ancient period, the foundation to history. Cycle 2 highlights Earth Science, which was a science more fully developed in the Christian Age, though not usually talked about as such in modern curricula. Finally, Cycle 3 looks at Chemistry and Physics to correspond with the modern age.

Q: Another question we typically hear is, “Why do the Religion books repeat?” Concerning religion, we really took the repetition concept to heart. We wanted to increase the chances of students mastering these materials as best we could. Books “left out” repeated catechesis in the books we landed on, Books 1, 2, and 4. By having students repeat Book 1 for 2 years, then Book 2 for 2 years, and Book 4 for 3 years, we could use repetition to guarantee long-term memory. Another example we took to heart in making this decision was Mother Church, who has always had a cycle of readings in Divine Liturgy and Mass. The same readings are read cycle-to-cycle, yet how often do we ourselves say, “Wow! That makes sense now!” or “I’ve never heard that before!”

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