Trying to quantify what we do in words is difficult. We start with the standards, and all children are evaluated individually to see where they stand in relation to the expectations of the state. BUT, the standards are only the beginning.
The children are allowed to advance beyond their grade levels as soon as they show mastery of a subject. All subjects are taught in greater depth than the minimum requirements and connections are made across the curriculum.
The easiest way to demonstrate this is with an example:
Instead of teaching arcane spelling rules, vocabulary and spelling are taught through a study of Greek and Latin morphemes (the word parts that carry meaning). The other day we were going over the root “GEO”, which means “earth”. We discussed the origin of this root in the Greek Earth Goddess Gæa, how she was a Titan and pre-dated the more famous deities of the Greek pantheon.
Then we moved to science: in geology, the name for the supercontinent of the Paleozoic (from paleo- “old” and zo “animal”) and Mesozoic (from meso- “middle”) eras. Which led naturally to a discussion of how eras are subdivided into periods, including the Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era. One of the students brought up the movie Jurassic Park, which brought up the idea that having Tyrannosaurus rex as the “mascot” for the movie was inappropriate since T. rex lived during the Cretaceous, which came after the Jurassic. Looking at the Paleozoic, I pointed out that the Devonian and Cambrian both come from the names of British counties, Devon and Cambridge. The reason the periods are named for them is that they were the initial locations for finds from those time frames. In terms of history, the geological discoveries occurred because of the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when English businessmen were digging canals across the country to facilitate getting products to market. In digging those channels, the workmen came upon the fossils that led to the naming of the periods.
So, from what began as a spelling lesson, we discussed mythology, zoölogy, geology, cinema, and the Industrial Revolution.
Even if the students don’t remember all the details today, they begin to develop the idea that all knowledge is connected. And over time, with repetition through other discussions, the concepts will take root more deeply than they can with a superficial study of the subjects in isolation.
We invite you to read more about RVA’s unique approach to education of bright and gifted children by checking out our philosophy.