A classical, Christ-centered voice in the Valley

What is Cornerstone Classical School?

Cornerstone Classical School (CCS) is a private school located in Basalt, Colorado (near Aspen) that provides a Christ-centered, Classical curriculum and approach for pre-school through senior high students. For years, the CCS campus next to Christ Community Church was known as Alpine Christian Academy. After some leadership changes, the Christian school transitioned and adopted the classical educational style. Today, the small close-knit, warm school environment continues to grow and draw students from across the Roaring Fork Valley that seek this unique educational experience. The sections below will provide a better understanding of why and how CCS educates its students. Come visit us and see for yourself what makes CCS such a unique and special place!

Classical Education: The Art of Thinking (the Trivium)

Cornerstone Classical School, employs a centuries-old pedagogy of learning known as the Trivium (Latin for “three paths”). This approach teaches in accord with the students’ natural stages of development with the intent of acquiring wisdom. Thus, students are not merely taught ‘subjects’ but are equipped with the tools of learning: the ability to listen, to think for themselves, to discern, to argue, to defend, and ultimately, to articulate. The challenging academic program at CCS draws from the rich heritage of the Western liberal arts tradition. The study of foreign languages, both classical and modern, provides discipline, awareness of the grammar and derivation of English and its vocabulary, and a greater appreciation of other cultures. History is taught chronologically using primary source documents as much as possible. A traditional approach to math and science is enhanced with hands-on exercises and laboratory experiments. Cornerstone Classical School also highly values the fine arts as a picture of man’s historical context and as expressions of his God-given creative gifts.

This time-tested pedagogy consists of the Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric stages (although we also include a pre-K level at CCS), each building upon its predecessor in a sequential manner. Basic factual content and rules—the “grammar”—of any given subject must first be mastered; then an understanding of how to apply the facts—the “logic”—must be discerned; and finally, the ability to synthesize the foregoing into an articulate argument—the “rhetoric”—must be developed. The Biblical equivalent to this progression is found in the admonition to pursue knowledge, understanding and wisdom.  

Although the you can learn more detail about each of the grade levels here, as a brief overview:

  • Grammar: the curricular emphasis during the grammar school years is on learning basic facts and figures during the time when children love to memorize (and when they are best at doing so). This is achieved most effectively through the use of jingles, chants and songs.
  • Logic: The subsequent emphasis during the ‘middle school’ years on logic and analysis trains students to think critically and deeply about subjects, both academic and otherwise. This emphasis corresponds with the middle-school student’s bent toward exploration, questioning, and a desire for deeper understanding.
  • Rhetoric: Finally, the emphasis during the ‘high school’ years shifts toward honing rhetorical skills, including writing. This shift prepares students to write college-level theses, utilizing their grasp of proper grammar as well their ability to think logically and critically. 

The structure of the Trivium recognizes that though there is much overlap, an ideal time and place exists for each part of learning: memorization, argumentation, and self-expression. Upon graduation, the student can clearly articulate what they know in such a manner as to be both authoritative and persuasive; they have a command of both the spoken and written word.

Senior Thesis. As the ‘capstone’ to the students’ classical and Christ-centered education and proof that a classical Christian education has prepared them for advancement to college, seniors must choose a topic and write a persuasive paper 4000-6000 words in length. They thoroughly research and explore the topic from every vantage point and take a position which they must then defend not only on paper but in an oral defense before a panel of faculty and community professionals. The Senior Thesis experience is difficult and challenging, but has proven to be a rewarding rite of passage, equipping our graduating seniors with a distinct advantage.

A Christian Environment

Cornerstone Classical School seeks to integrate faith and learning so that our students may graduate with a stronger, deeper, and vibrant faith, ready to glorify God in service to mankind.

As a Christ-centered school, CCS embraces the Bible as the final authority for life and teaching. Cornerstone values Christian character and the communication of life principles and values both through integrated teaching and through the godly example of staff members who model Christianity through their lives and demeanor. Education is not indoctrination, but the equipping of students to love God with all of their minds (Matthew 22:37), to ask probing questions, and to explore boldly the various aspects of knowledge from the conviction that all truth is in essence God’s truth. Students are expected to adhere to a Student Honor Code, show respect and kindness to others and model excellent character for the younger students.

Cornerstone maintains a low student-teacher ratio and is committed to nurturing a healthy small student population which will encourage strong relationships and community. No less important than community is the high value Cornerstone places on honesty and integrity. In all of this, the atmosphere at Cornerstone Classical is one of ‘firmness with freedom’ and is a vibrant community of learners.

It is our desire at Cornerstone to make a fine classical and Christian education accessible to any student who would benefit most from our challenging and exciting approach to learning. Thus, we welcome applicants from various levels of academic achievement and from all economic, racial,and ethnic backgrounds. We offer an excellent, elite education without elitism.

Cornerstone Classical is a ministry of Christ Community Church who provides support for the school and encourages the school board to govern autonomously. In our Statement of Faith, we uphold the most basic tenets of historical, orthodox, Christianity and strive to encourage an atmosphere of unity in Jesus Christ which emphasises our common convictions and is respectful of our diversity.


Cornerstone's distinctive classical and Christian educational approach with its liberal arts curriculum and educational practices is quickly establishing a highly respected place among the public and private schools here in the Valley. Our passionate commitment to excellence and Socratic interactive and collaborative inquiry allows us to place original texts in front of our students, enabling them to study under some of the greatest thinkers who have helped shape western civilization. This makes Cornerstone Classical School of Basalt a particularly vibrant and appropriately rigorous community of learning. 

Some of our teachers include Homer, Plato, Euclid, Nietzsche, Chaucer, Einstein, Eusebius, Shakespeare, Aquinas, Milton, Pascal, Bonhoeffer, Churchill, Tolkien and Lewis. They encourage our students to grapple with fundamental questions that confront us as humans made in the image of God. Participating in lively and thought provoking discussions, our students enthusiastically engage in the activities of translating, writing, demonstrating, conducting experiments, and analyzing the Fine Arts enabling them to participate in the 'Great Conversation.' As a result, Cornerstone students are able to listen, learn, discern, argue, refute, defend, and articulate.

Our classes are intentionally small allowing every student to be actively and intimately responsible for their education. This encourages research, formulating questions and logically developing and sequencing their thoughts in and through dialogue with one another.

Cornerstone Classical School of Basalt is able to take ordinary students and expose them to an extra-ordinary curriculum. Their education is in a classical Christian format taught by passionately trained educators who challenge them both academically and spiritually to excellence.

The culmination of this classical Christian liberal arts education is to defend their thesis, as seniors, before a panel of experts selected from the community. It is through this defense that we clearly see the student's ability to articulate with eloquence, to defend with authority, and to communicate with grace skills that have lamentably become a lost art.

As the research from the Association of Classical and Christian Schools clearly shows, students who have journeyed through and completed a classical Christ-centered education are better equipped to not only survive but to thrive under the rigors and demands of higher education. They prove to be prepared and to succeed.

If you are interested in learning more about Cornerstone Classical School of Basalt and the advantages of a classical Christian education, please feel free to call and arrange a visit with me


Steve Marshall, Headmaster



Recommended Reading - Classical Education

  • Introduction to Classical Education:  A Parents Guide (Free E-book).  Comments from Headmaster Marshall:  "As the headmaster of a classical school, I often speak with parents who are examining our school, who are both interested in and puzzled about classical education. “How does the classical approach differ from what is offered in public schools?” “Are there any other schools doing what you are doing?” “How do your students perform on standardized tests?” After seven years, the questions are predictable, but wholly justified. Unfortunately for me, even my answers are now predictable, which is one reason I am writing you. If you will read this before you talk to me (or someone like me) you can spare both of us my stock replies. Secondly, if I put my answers down in writing, I am bound to say something new."
  • A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille
  • The Case for Classical Christian Education  by Douglas Wilson

Association of Classical Christian Schools

Cornerstone Classical School is proud to be a member of the Association of Classical Christian Schools and part of an eduction tradition so steeped in history and growing across the country today. 

ACCS is organized for the mission of promoting, establishing, and equipping member schools committed to a classical approach to education in the light of a Christian worldview grounded in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, commonly known as the Bible. This mission shall be accomplished through national and regional conferences, publication and distribution of books, bulletins and newsletters, consulting services, accreditation, testing, and any other necessary, proper, and lawful means.

To learn more about ACCS please click here.