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What About a "Rigorous Curriculum"?

Terms such as “rigorous curriculum” are popular buzzwords in education today. But what does “rigor” actually mean? Do you really want “rigor” for your child?

According to various dictionaries, the word "rigor" means “extremely thorough,” “severity and strictness,” and “demanding and difficult” – something “hard to endure.” You may have heard of "rigor mortis", which is a medical term describing the stiffness of a body after death. Do these definitions describe a good academic institution or a military boot camp?

Moving away from the strict definition of rigor, some educators define "rigorous" as “the fine line between challenging and frustrating.” In this view, rigorous courses are calibrated so that students are compelled to grow, but are not frustrated or overwhelmed in the process. This sweet spot for optimal learning has been called the “zone of proximal development.”

The problem is that each student has a different “zone”. The “fine line between challenging and frustrating” differs among all children in a classroom unless they are carefully grouped according to ability. If the class is not composed of homogeneous learners, the teacher must teach at a level that frustrates and fails some students while boring others. If class sizes are too large, if the curriculum is not flexible enough, or if passing standardized tests is the goal, most students will not be challenged.

Unless a child has the luxury of being grouped with children who are in the same “zone of proximal development”, they need a flexible, individualized curriculum taught creatively in a small classroom setting. This is precisely what Keystone Christian Academy offers.

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