Classes Six through Eight are years of great growth in body, mind and spirit. Students are coping with physical and social changes, and minds that want to explore and question. They begin to sort out connections between subjects, and their hearts begin to wonder more earnestly about God: “Does He really have a good and perfect plan for my life? Is He really the most important thing in my life? Should He be? Can He really understand my soul?”
They may be feeling the stirrings of inspiration, but are caught by contradicting pressures to fit in or conform to what our culture expects from a middle school aged youth. Boys and girls are beginning to understand their strengths and weaknesses in comparison with classmates. In reality, these students are starting to shed the skin of childhood and become the young men and women God is shaping them to be.
This time of questioning (the logic stage) and formation is taken seriously at Clapham. It is our desire to continue our role of partnership with parents in a keen way as students wade through conflicting emotions and mental debates. We want to provide an atmosphere in which questions are welcome and in which teachers can work with students to guide them into the right questions as well as the right answers subject to God’s truth. Clapham students should see ideas as “living things,” providing material for reflection and thought, not so much to be mastered as to be ignited. Education becomes not only discovery and understanding but also a humbling experience as we test our finite ideas against God’s infinite truth, and His measureless character. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
In this kind of atmosphere, we provide the opportunity for students to experience the “joy and wonder inherent to the subject itself,” as Charlotte Mason would say, the joyful discovery that comes not by simply being fed the answers and connections, but that which comes of a student wrestling through on his own accord, digesting the liberal feast of learning presented to him.
Students will continue in their liberal arts studies guided largely by the study of the history of Western Civilization. Classes Seven and Eight will emphasize the study of American History during the Revolutionary and post-Civil War periods. Class Seven will include a study unit on the Clapham Sect and examine the influence of William Wilberforce.
Literature choices include some from with the historical period studied as well as classic literature choices for that age level, and students continue to take these analyses to another level as they wrestle with character assessment and literary themes in a Socratic dialogue about ideas presented, and how they relate to them as young people.
Writing continues on a formal level as students continue to write descriptive, explanatory, comparative, and summary paragraphs across the disciplines. They continue to write essays, applying their knowledge to inspirational and nature essays. Students use the same organizational skills here for oral presentations in class as well.
Latin, too, moves into the logic stage as students, having mastered the grammar of the subject, are able to move into the translation of primary texts, an exciting prospect, and the beginning of moving toward the reading of real classical texts.
The study of French begins in Class Six.
Composer, poet and artist studies continue with 2 of each per year; students now have a rich background in a variety of genres and styles and can engage in comparative discussions. In addition, both art and music instruction continue throughout Middle School.
The subject of science through these years should prepare the students for more rigorous studies of physics, biology and chemistry in the upper school years. For the middle years, students will study astronomy, botany, electricity and energy, entomology, geology and examine the human body in detail in Class Eight.
Math continues with Saxon and moves to pre-Algebra in Class Seven and Algebra in Class Eight, another subject that capitalizes on the logical movements and arguments in this stage of a student’s career.
Logic as a formal subject is introduced in Class Six as students learn to dissect fallacies in arguments. They then move to the building of their own arguments and the forms which provide the basis for the future study of debate and rhetoric.
As mentioned before, the middle school years can be a vulnerable time for many students, especially as social skills and an uncertain conscience can cause confusion on appropriateness of speech or behavior. Simultaneously, emotions can be difficult to check, and perhaps the child cannot even discern herself the cause of distress or anxiety.
In these years, we introduce a section on “citizenship” or “character formation,” where, in the classical tradition, students read texts that call them up to a nobility of character and mind. Here they engage the minds of Christian leaders, as well as other educators and statesman through various texts. This provides a deep well of ever-increasing inspiration, made even more powerful by the thought that as Christians who are dependent on the ultimate working of the Holy Spirit in their lives, we are confident that God has “provided all we need for life and godliness.” (II Peter 1:3)
In addition, we hope in these years to include a time of travel together where some of these themes can be personally addressed, whether in a retreat setting or in the context of an educational trip.
In all this, Clapham views its teachers in these years to be special shepherds in each and every situation and subject – even Physical Education – exhorting when necessary, listening when called upon, gently encouraging when battles are well fought and won. Humble posture before God and His Word and the habits of reverence are encouraged as children are taught to bring their concerns and cares to Christ.