AN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL in Virginia is striving to produce not only young scholars, but Catholics of deep faith. Annunciation Academy, a K-8 grammar school owned and operated by lay Catholics, opened in the fall of 1993 and has already attracted more than 80 students from the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Currently leasing space from a Baptist church, the school receives no financial assistance from local parishes or from the Diocese of Arlington, but exists solely on the support of parents and teachers.
Annunciation Academy offers a “classical liberal arts curriculum for the grammar school.” The school takes its educational philosophy from the ancient tradition of the liberal arts and emphasizes introducing students to the best of the Catholic intellectual and cultural tradition. The school's curriculum revolves around a conception of educational development that sees the student through phases of learning that are patterned after the liberal arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
During the grammatical stage, from the first year of school to the third grade, Annunciation Academy challenges children to begin memorizing facts, figures, songs and poetry, while also asking that they be able to recount the principal events of salvation history and the life of Christ. In the logical stage, the students learn to memorize principles and demonstrate the reasons for things. This emphasis is most clearly seen in language arts where the students must memorize definitions for the parts of speech and rules for the appropriate combination of words into sentences. The mandatory study of Latin begins in the third grade as well.
Starting in the seventh grade, Annunciation Academy trains the students in rhetoric. The students learn which principles they should defend and, more importantly, whether their own desires correspond with the principles by which they should live. To hone their public speaking skills, each student is required to stand in front of his class and recite poetry or give an oral account of something the class has been studying.
The spiritual life takes precedence at the academy. Each day, the student body gathers to pray the Angelus and rosary. Each morning, the school assembles and says the morning offering, while reciting prayers for the Church, state, and family. During this morning assembly, Headmaster Vincent Terreri, a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., introduces a virtue that the students and teachers discuss—and practice— throughout the week. At the end of the day, each teacher leads his class in an examination of conscience, concentrating on the particular virtue under scrutiny during the week.
In a time of increasing disbelief and doubt about the Church's Magisterium, Annunciation Academy equips the students with the rational principles that support the Church's dogmas. Students learn not only what the Church teaches, but why. “the most important subject taught at Annunciation Academy is sacred doctrine,” says Terreri. “Our primary goal is to give the students an opportunity to consider, from the standpoint of faith and reason, the mysteries and truths by which we live and call ourselves Catholic.”
The school is cautious about its selection of textbooks and classroom materials. “every book that we have in our school should contribute to our students drinking from the riches of the Catholic tradition and from the classical culture that allowed the Church to flourish during the Middle Ages,” says Terreri.
As with most new private schools, fund raising is a constant challenge, and donations are greatly appreciated. Annunciation Academy is currently enrolling students for the 1997-98 academic year.
Gerald Dean is based in Reston, Va.
For information or to send tax deductible donations, write to Annunciation Academy, 10237B Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182, or call (703) 757-7828. You may also e-mail the school at annunciationacademy@juno. com.