Come visit the Ad Fontes Upper School and you will see the rarest of things: teenagers thinking and enjoying it.
One of the top private schools in Virginia, Ad Fontes has a special way of making education exciting and rewarding. As students move into the rhetorical phase of their education, their classroom enhances focus on the arts of careful argument, diligent reasoning, and skillful persuasion.
Our Upper School students have a wide range of gifts and abilities. Through these grades they mature intellectually and accomplish academic goals that defy expectations. They’re serious in study, yet enjoying a relaxed and supportive place to learn and grow.
Classical curriculum. Well-educated students.
We deliver a classical liberal arts and sciences curriculum that develops a truly well-educated person. Upper School students engage in discussion of great ideas, interacting with great literature and the best thinkers of history. And each other! Our students are not taught to a test, but toward a maturity of thought that will serve them for a lifetime.
Students articulate their growing mastery of important disciplines: Math, Science, Literature, History and Theology. They study Latin from 4th grade through high school to strengthen language and thinking and to open up a world of ancient texts. We teach at the honors level and above, yet through an interactive, engaging approach that elicits a student’s full participation. This develops confidence and lifelong habits of hard work and preparation.
Student Discovery: Going Beyond the Facts & Learning for Yourself
Great education engages students in the learning process and prepares students to actively engage ideas, the world, and others. Done well, this process requires discipline but is also joyful. True learning happens when a student is an eager learner. Our students have an active, participatory education. Teachers require students to go beyond factual knowledge to understanding, explaining what they know as they master subjects. It all begins with a teacher who loves learning and who asks questions of students more frequently than providing the answers. Our teachers force students to think for themselves. We don’t spoon feed the answers to answer multiple choice tests.
If we examine the teaching of Jesus, we find that he often taught indirectly, through parables – answering questions with questions and demanding critical thought. His questioners had to think and grapple with truth. Our goal as well!
“Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt (that is only to be expected), but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? The combined folly of a civilization that has forgotten its own roots is forcing them to shore up the tottering weight of an educational structure that is built upon sand. They are doing for their pupils the work which the pupils themselves ought to do. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.”
Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning, 1947
Critical Thinking & Discovery in Action
Seniors, in Government class, study the Peloponnesian War which was fought between Athens and Sparta during the 5th century B.C. Once they have read through the account provided by Thucydides, we assign the students to one of the pre-eminent Greek poleis of the time: Athens, Sparta, Corinth or Chios.
Students then re-enact the war, responsible for fashioning a grand strategy for their polis. Each Friday they move their forces around the map, recruit troops, and negotiate alliances. The ebb and flow of battle forces students to realize that destroying the enemy on the battlefield is only one small part of war. They learn that diplomacy, careful attention to economic matters, and political stability are all necessary to the successful waging of war. Sure, we tell them all of these things. But when students discover on their own, the lesson comes to life. Comprehension turns into a lifelong passion for learning.
The Senior Thesis: A Capstone Project Integrating Logic, Rhetoric and Biblical Worldview
As a graduation requirement, each twelfth grader must successfully navigate the Senior Thesis project. This capstone of an Ad Fontes education brings together the the skills of logic, writing, oral discussion, and presentation on a research topic of interest to the student. Juniors examine Aristotle’s Rhetoric, review the principles of logic, and practice many forms of writing and presentation. As seniors, they research contemporary topics of their own choosing (approved by their thesis advisor); each student subsequently completes a fifteen to twenty page paper and presents it to a three-person panel, consisting of an expert in the applicable field of study and faculty members, in addition to classmates and parents. A daunting task! But completing the project bestows a powerful sense of accomplishment and instills confidence for meeting the rigorous future demands of college.
College & Life – Equipping Students to Pursue God’s Calling
Ask Ad Fontes alums, and they’ll tell you how well-prepared they were to take on college academics. Receiving an education from a top private school, our graduates are confident, knowing how to learn and think, read difficult texts, write and present well, and to live their Christian faith in God’s plan for their lives. About 50% of our graduates pursue science and technology college majors and careers.
Our first priority is to encourage a living faith in students. Our school builds academic foundations thoroughly infused with a commitment to Christian character and community. This equips students to be servant leaders for Christ in any vocation and community where they are called.
Upper School Student Life
A rich student life is part of an Ad Fontes education, one that’s filled with activities, retreats, field trips, and high school “ballroom” dances.
Our House System
Upper School students are assigned to one of our four houses (Athens, Atlantis, Ilium, and Rome) that participate in regular fellowship events and engage in competitions throughout the year. In addition to the classroom, the House system is one of the fastest ways for students to feel welcomed, be accepted into a group, and make new friends.
Transitioning to Ad Fontes: You Can Do It
We’ve been helping families make the transition for 25 years. Changing educational settings can be both exciting and stressful for students. That’s why we’ve put the right resources and support systems in place to help you make a change that benefits your family for a lifetime.