No Top Hats or Old Timey Talk at this Classical School
When you hear “classical school,” do you think it’s a music school? Headmaster Peter Marth smiles as he tells me that’s a very common misconception.
“People picture me walking around in a top hat and carrying a cane like we’re in Victorian times,” he laughs.
So if that’s not what Trinitas Classical School is about, then what is it?
Trinitas Classical School is a private K-8 Christian school in Grand Rapids that focuses on educating the entire child through classical methods. Students study classical languages and texts, logic, advanced math, and hands-on science.
Through reading, memorization, discussion, persuasive writing, and public speaking, Trinitas strives to equip students with excellent reasoning and creative thinking skills.
5 Reasons Parents Rave About Trinitas Classical School
Trinitas Classical School was founded 15 years ago by ten families with a vision for an education and educational culture they could not find anywhere else in Grand Rapids.
What makes them different?
1 – Faith: Trinitas Welcomes Catholic, Orthodox & Protestant
Trinitas Classical School teaches the Christian faith ecumenically. This means that they don’t teach one particular denomination. Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians come together to have deep conversations about what it means to be a Christian and work alongside each other.
In the older grades, students probe more deeply into the differences and similarities between each denomination. Younger students develop the habit of searching scripture through their Biblical history classes and becoming very Biblically literate.
“I wanted my kids to be able to evaluate things on their own, through a Chrisitan lens, to be able to value and articulate their own faith,” says parent Amy Thompson. “Trinitas does a great job of that.”
2 – Classical Education Methods: Memorization, Investigation, Deep Thinking
“Classical education,” begins Marth, “is really the type of education that all students in the west had until about a hundred years ago.” It’s a timeless pedagogy that’s patterned after the way children naturally develop.
At Trinitas, students learn through imitation, investigation and articulation.
Children naturally learn by copying others. Trinitas Classical School capitalizes on this. In the early grades, students spend a lot of time imitating their teacher.
Rote memorization is also incredibly effective in the younger grades. The young children easily absorb and retain information. This fuels their investigation and inquiry and leads to higher level thinking.
In the upper grades, children begin questioning more of the world around them. They want to know more about why things work they way they do and how one thing relates to the next. The older students therefore spend more time questioning, investigating, and explaining.
“At Trinitas, we give students the tools to learn how to articulate what’s important to them,” Marth proudly shares.
3 – Virtue: Living for My Neighbor
According to Marth, the primary reason that parents love Trinitas Classical School is “the intentionality of heart, mind and hands in action.”
The teachers and staff at Trinitas constantly think about what life skills they want their students to have when they leave school.
“We want our students to be mindful of others,” Marth says. “This is woven throughout the fabric of all our classes.”
“I love that my kids are exposed to not only great authors and ideas and the Bible, but they are also being trained to think logically,” says parent Jennifer Baas. “They are continually being encouraged to think through the grid of what’s true, good, and beautiful. It’s been a wonderful thing.”
4 – Technology and Research: Focusing on the Process
Trinitas is intentionally low-tech. You will not find iPads in every classroom and continual streams from YouTube.
Trinitas instead is very literature-heavy. Students read out of real books, not off computer screens.
Face-to-face interactions and discussions are very important to the teachers and staff at Trinitas.
“We feel this leads to more probing questions and independent thinking…plus we don’t have to have a cell phone policy!” laughs Marth.
How do students learn to do research without devices? Do they sit in a library, surrounded by books, and page through encyclopedias? Kind of.
Beginning in 5th grade, teachers provide the links to (or copies of) articles for students to comb through for their research. This narrows down the amount of time the students have to spend finding good, reputable sources. “Instead, they can focus on the process of research.”
The students spend more time learning how to develop a thesis statement, outlining their topics, and building the content of their papers and less time weeding out irrelevant information.
Students have come back to Trinitas to tell the teachers how they were well prepared for A.P. exams because they had years to learn a process that other students only learn for a few months.
5 – Building Relationships Between Grade Levels
Seventh and eighth graders at Trinitas Classical School begin the year with a backpacking trip through the wilderness. During this time, students talk about their faith and virtues and what role those two things may play in their lives in the future.
Students are taught about the responsibility of education. “Their parents have made sacrifices to send them to a tuition-based school,” reflects Marth. “We want them to understand that and be grateful for it.”
The middle schoolers are often role models for the younger students. Prior to COVID restrictions, middle school students would help the littles out of their winter gear in the morning, play together on the playground or read with them.
“They are building long-lasting friendships and developing interpersonal skills with a posture of humility and gratitude.”
In the 2020 – 2021 school year, Trinitas has had to be more creative at building these relationships. Now students in different grade levels are involved in the same activities (like Chess Club) at the same time, but in their own cohorts.
“This still gives them a simultaneous, shared experience,” says Marth.
Learn More About Trinitas
Interested in learning more about this amazing culture at Trinitas Classical School? Visit their website to learn more or schedule a tour.
“My daughter loves school,” says Trinitas mom Elaina Sherrill. “ If she is loving it, I’d say her teachers are doing something right.”