Educating to the Highest Standards of the Classical Tradition
Highlands Latin is a private, classical, Christian school. Our goal is to provide our students with a classical education of the highest quality and to create a private school which is a model of excellence in both academics and Christian character.
In the tradition of western civilization, education and classical education have always been synonymous. Classical education can be distinguished from modern education, in that it does not neglect the important first step of giving students the classical tools for both intellectual development and for understanding their classical, Christian heritage.
Our faith statement is the Apostles’ Creed, the most ancient and widely accepted expression of the essential beliefs of the Christian faith. Highlands Latin teaches and upholds traditional Christian morality, and the Holy Scriptures as the divinely inspired word of God.
In the traditional classroom, a knowledgeable, enthusiastic teacher carefully leads students into an understanding of each subject. The traditional classroom is consistent with human nature and the experience of many decades has demonstrated its superiority over the modern child-centered classroom.
Highlands Latin has a unique class schedule that requires involved parents and supports family time. School is not held on Mondays to allow for extended family trips, reading, homework, and extra-curricular opportunities. It also provides an opportunity for students to schedule activities such as doctor and dentist visits without missing important classroom time. Because of our schedule, we do not show movies or plan field trips during the school day.
Kindergarten – Two day program
Tuesday, Thursday 8:00-3:30 p.m.
Grades 1-2 – Three day program
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 8:00-3:30 p.m.
Grades 3-12 – Four day program
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 8:00-3:30 p.m.
Friday 8:00-2:15 p.m.
Lower School (K-2) Overview
Reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic are the foundation upon which the tower of learning is built, and they are given the highest priority in K-2. The basic skills, work habits, and attitudes formed in the primary years are of critical importance.
Phonics and Reading
Phonics is the system of letter-sound association taught to children for the purposes of learning to read and spell. Phonics is most effective when taught systematically, thoroughly, intensively, and in a logical and time-tested sequence.
Our primary resource for phonics instruction in kindergarten is our own Memoria Press First Start Reading, a program which teaches correct pencil grip, manuscript form, consonant and short vowel sounds, three-letter word formation, consonant blends and long vowels/silent e. Common words which do not fit into any word family are introduced after students learn to blend three-letter words. First Start Reading teaches students to read in kindergarten using stories with a high percentage of phonetic words.
Phonics and spelling continue in 1st and 2nd grades using the Core Skills phonics series and Traditional Spelling, books I and II. In 1st grade students continue to develop reading comprehension with whole books, which captivate and motivate children and are preferred over basal readers. Teachers monitor student reading skills through daily oral reading. First graders read children’s classics such as Little Bear, Caps For Sale, The Story About Ping, and Billy and Blaze. Second graders read The Courage of Sarah Noble, Little House in the Big Woods, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Spelling, penmanship, composition, and vocabulary lessons for each book are provided by our Memoria Press study guides, written by HLS faculty in Louisville, Kentucky.
A rich language experience, provided both at home and in school, is an important factor in reading success. Students memorize poems and Scripture and enjoy children’s classics read by teachers and parents during read-aloud time.
Spelling and Printing
Students develop the visual memory for accurate spelling by a systematic study of phonics, word families, and spelling rules, and by a lifetime of seeing, reading, and writing words correctly. It is very important to reduce opportunities for children to write or see misspelled words; young students who are allowed to spell creatively or phonetically have a confused visual memory that is difficult to overcome.
Copybook is an exercise consisting of copying sayings, maxims, Scripture, and poetry in the student’s best handwriting. Copybook is an important step in developing good penmanship, punctuation, and spelling. Habits of good penmanship are instilled early and required at every grade level by every teacher. The discipline of neat and legible handwriting is an aid to spelling and instills the value of accurate, careful work – an important academic skill that carries over into every aspect of learning. In the 1st and 2nd grades students continue to practice manuscript while also beginning cursive script with Memoria Press’s New American Cursive program. Cursive is required for written work in grades 3 and up.
At Highlands Latin School our teachers work to help students form and maintain a proper pencil grip. Correct pencil grip reduces hand fatigue and as a consequence also reduces resistance to written work in general.
Immediate recall of addition and subtraction facts through 18 is the focus in primary school. Number formation, counting, time, calendar, measurement, and money are the initial skills of K-2. In 2nd grade the students also begin multiplication with the 1x, 2x, 5x, and 10x facts. Students learn number sense by skip-counting, games, and drills, all of which make math time enjoyable.
Geography, History, and Science
Our Read-Aloud Program consists of a set of thirty books, one set for each grade in K-2, one book for each week. These books provide a rich language experience for students, as each book is read aloud every day the class meets and is accompanied by oral questions and discussion. Students learn new and interesting words and delight in rhyme and word play. They learn about holidays, history, geography, science and more. The read-aloud books, which are beautiful in both art and language, were chosen after extensive research and reading.
K-2 students study globes and maps to learn continents, oceans, major countries, and basic geography terms. Second graders are introduced to states and capitals. In science, students learn about seasons, weather, and local flora and fauna.
Christian Studies, Music and Art
In Christian Studies students read or listen to Bible stories and memorize Scripture verses and prayers. Kindergarten students have weekly music instruction and 1st and 2nd grade students have music twice weekly; they have lessons in the basic elements of music, including ear training, note reading, and choral performance. In music appreciation, students are introduced to a well-known composer and piece of music weekly. Students draw and color every day in their composition books, illustrating copybook verses, poems, and composition lessons. In art appreciation, primary students learn about an artist and study an art masterwork every week. First and second graders receive art instruction bi-weekly.
Students have Physical Education twice a week. P.E. provides 30 minutes of vigorous exercise as well as opportunities to play childhood games. Our K-2 P.E. instructor works to develop basic motor and motion skills, such as running, skipping, running backwards, and flexibility, as well as sportsmanship and team play. On days when students do not have P.E., they have recess outdoors or in the gym.
Grammar School (3-6th) Overview
Grammar school continues to reinforce the important academic and social skills emphasized in the primary school:
- Quality written work completed in a timely manner
- Legible penmanship and accurate spelling
- Speed and accuracy in arithmetic
- Reading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition
- Memorization of poetry and Scripture
- Appropriate classroom behavior
- Discipline and self-control
- Good manners and respect for adults and classmates
Students learn from well-designed materials, high quality content, and teacher-directed lessons. Classrooms are quiet, disciplined, and orderly, with minimal visual distractions. Students are motivated to work and learn because they are led by knowledgeable, enthusiastic teachers. Students work hard and are rewarded every day with breaks for physical exercise, music, drawing, art, and review games. Students in grades 3-6 are carefully prepared for the reading of classic literature and history, and for advanced math and science which begin in the Upper School in grade 7.
For the traditional curriculum:
- For English, spelling, and math, the Mennonite publisher, Rod and Staff, produces traditional textbooks that provide uncluttered pages and clear instructions.
- The science curriculum develops the observational skills that lie at the heart of the scientific endeavor. Students study constellations, the solar system, invertebrates, insects, vertebrates, birds, plants, and tree identification.
- The very best in English literature and poetry are taught in depth using Memoria Press study guides.
- In American/Modern Studies students focus on states, capitals, and world geography in grades 3-5, and American history in grade 6.
For the classical curriculum:
- Latin – Students memorize the complete Latin grammar and a Latin vocabulary of about 800 words
- Classical Studies – Students study Greek myths and Greek, Roman, and Medieval history.
- Christian Studies – Students learn all major Bible stories and memorize more than ninety of the most memorable and poetic verses of the King James Bible.
Classwork: All lessons are teacher directed. Students are given ample time to complete classroom assignments, which are carefully monitored so that students learn to do quality written work in a timely fashion.
Composition: Students write and illustrate one in-class composition each week in their Composition and Sketch Book, which is sent home at the end of the year. During the Spring Term students also write one multi-page report in class.
Homework: All material is covered carefully in class. Students who are attentive and work diligently in class should have no more than 30-45 minutes of homework each night and 2-3 hours on Mondays.
One drill set of math problems, five assignments/week, (approximately 15 minutes each)
B) Study for exams
- Spelling test each Friday (20 words)
- Latin vocab test each Friday (10 words)
- One or two exams each week, in subject areas above. Exams usually cover five lessons in each subject. Students are provided with a study guide, but exam material is reviewed in class and should require minimum study at home. Preparation for each exam often includes a class game, such as a spelling bee, jeopardy, or memory baseball.
- Reading/rereading literature or classical studies texts
Reading for pleasure
D) Latin vocabulary flash cards
Latin vocabulary is cumulative and must be reviewed continuously throughout the year.
Highlands Latin School is an excellent choice for students who enjoy the challenge of learning. HLS will be accepting applications for the 2020-21 school year beginning December 2019.
To learn more about Highlands Latin School, attend an Information Meeting or call Dana Reddin, Head of School, 515-418-9106 or by email at Dana@Highlandslatin.org.
Highlands Latin School Des Moines offers classes for homeschool families on Mondays through Highlands Latin Cottage School. Please visit highlandslatin.org/hls-des-moines/ for more information or call 515-418-9106.
Highlands Latin School Des Moines is a Classical Latin School Association member.