Dear St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Online Academy Families,
One of my favorite scenes in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit is when the character of Bilbo Baggins sets out on his life’s main learning journey and calls out to neighbors excitedly, “I’m going on an adventure!” That scene expresses I think a key component of learning; learning, done well, is adventurous.
Soon your family will embark on a learning journey that will be a real adventure. An adventure is more challenging than a casual trip to a store or weekend vacation. An adventure is not just about travel, distances, and destinations. Our learning adventure is more about discovering God and our special role in this world and our unique relationship with God. There will be ups and downs, hardships and setbacks. There will be hard work. Your young scholar will learn new ideas about Christ and the Church, about reading, mathematics, science, literature, and history. And, like Bilbo’s adventure, we will be able to do great things together.
Our new Academy’s patron saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of students and of teachers, believed that learning is all about the student making sense of the world. Aquinas emphasized that ‘teachers are only for helping the student know. The student must digest knowledge. Otherwise, dispensing knowledge is like pouring water into a sieve.’ At St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Online Academy we believe online students must be active learners who roll up their intellectual sleeves and work with new information, apply newly acquired skills, and grapple with real life problems. Learning can be hard sometimes and lots of fun other times, sometimes wonderfully odd mixes of both fun and work. But learning is valuable because at STACOA we will be learning not just more about the core subjects (religion, math, history, ELA, and science), but about our Core Subject, about God, the Author of Life’s great journey of learning. To learn is to grow in our knowledge of who we are, from where we came and where we’re going, and why it is so important to get there.
Later this week, you will be receiving a few more notices like this one about key items for our learning journey about to begin. You will receive our journey’s chronological map, the academic year’s calendar (classes are set to begin on Wednesday morning, 8 September 2021). You’ll receive information on some learning supplies to begin gathering. And when your young scholar and teacher begin meeting regularly next month, you will encounter the map of learning (in ‘teacher-talk’, the NY state academic standards and instructional goals by subject).
What’s the best way to prepare for a learning journey? I believe the best way is to strive for what might be called the Bilbo Baggins mindset; that is, to get excited, really excited, about going on an adventure.
God bless you and, until next message, please stay safe.
Steve Haessler, STACOA Principal