The mission of Great Oaks Academy is to cultivate the minds and hearts of our students through a classical, liberal arts education, with instruction that is rigorous, literature-rich, wondrous, and virtuous in a disciplined and engaging environment using the following curriculum:
Reading Mastery is our chosen curriculum to teach language arts in kindergarten through fifth grade. Reading Mastery provides an excellent foundation in phonics, reading fluency, comprehension, spelling, grammar and vocabulary while being fully integrated into the core curriculum through the use of copywork, narration, and dictation taken from the history, science and literature our students are studying.
From the third grade on, Great Oaks will use the Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum to teach expository writing. This unique program has excellent reputation for improving student achievement. We’ll also teach creative writing using the Creative Writer series by Boris Fishman.
Language skills will continue to be a high priority in the upper grades. Phonics, spelling and basic grammar instruction will make way for a rigorous writing program and deeper discussions on the content of great literature. During these grades we will transition to a discussion-style teaching method. Great works of literature will be the basis for discussions of theme, character, plot, literary devices and style. Students will learn to think critically, look for clues in the text, and make predictions.
Middle school students benefit greatly from explicit grammar instruction, which has been shown to improve ACT and SAT scores. Great Oaks Academy will use Grammar for The Well-Trained Mind, a rigorous grammar curriculum that includes the use of diagramming and examples from great literature.
Sixth through twelfth grade students will transition from spelling to a vocabulary-based program, Vocabulary from Classical Roots. This program teaches vocabulary and spelling by focusing on the Greek and Latin roots of the English language. The curriculum also addresses prefixes and suffixes, word origins and etymologies, synonyms and antonyms, analogies, word usage and forms, critical thinking, dictionary and glossary uses, writing and editing, homophones, multiple-meaning words, parts of speech and test taking skills.
Upper grade students will be taught expository writing skills using curriculum from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Our goal for our upper level students is not just that they write coherently, but that they will leave us with the ability to develop a thesis, exegete a text, order their thoughts, and put them down into writing that is understandable and engaging. These skills will enable them to graduate from high school and be well-prepared for college and career.
Great Oaks has chosen Singapore math as its elementary and middle school curriculum. Singapore is a mastery-based curriculum, teaching concepts in depth and for longer periods before moving on. It is an excellent program that has shown to be effective in Classical schools throughout the nation. It also uses pictorial learning as a bridge between concrete and abstract concepts. This inclusion has proven to be necessary for a comprehensive math education.
History and Science
Great Oaks Academy follows the Classical method of teaching history and science chronologically. In this way, our students learn that history is a story that happens on a timeline, and that events are often influenced by what’s come before. We’ll be using a number of resources to teach history and science, including the Story of the World series by the Well-Trained Mind Press.
The history curriculum uses the following pattern:
K – Folk and fairy tales, citizenship, social skills
1st grade – Early man and ancient cultures
2nd grade – 300 BC – 500 AD: Roman Empire, Chin and Han Dynasty of China, Gupta Dynasty of India, etc.
3rd grade – 500 – 1200: Mayans, Vikings, Medieval Europe, etc.
4th grade – 1200 –1700: Ghengis Khan, Marco Polo, Magna Carta, etc.
5th grade – 1700 – 1900: American, French and Industrial Revolutions
6th grade – 1900 – present: World Wars, Communism, etc.
This series will be repeated in grades 7-12 in more depth.
The science program will follow the chronological history program as follows:
K – Learning to observe and classify, colors and color mixing, cause and effect, etc.
1st grade – The human body, the observable world
2nd grade – The animal kingdom and plants
3rd grade – Geology, weather and biomes
4th grade – Astronomy (Kepler, Galileo, etc.)
5th grade – Chemistry (Curies, Newton, Darwin)
6th grade – Physics (Einstein, modern scientists)
As an example, a first grader, whose history and science studies for the year focus on the early humans and the human body, might have a lesson early in the year that integrates the life of early humans (history) with a discussion of how early man might have observed and classified his world (science), a study in cave painting (art) and a discussion of early music (What is rhythm? What is melody?). The teacher might discuss how ancient people, with no written language, used poetry and song to pass on information the way we use books. Students might turn their hallway into a cave, covered in brown paper, and decorate it with their own cave paintings, then use sticks, rocks, gourds and other natural materials to create instruments and tools.
This is also the time of day when reading, writing, spelling and grammar lessons are presented, tied in as much as possible with the history or science topic. Copywork may come from a story, poem, or work of nonfiction regarding cave painting or early man. Students may look for words in their reading that follow the current spelling rule. Narration comes from the books they read in class together. Memory work is presented during this time, as well. In the first grade, students will memorize the systems of the body, the names of major bones and organs, several spelling and grammar rules, the one, two, three, five and ten times tables and five poems.
Physical Education and Health
In alignment with the state standards for physical education and health instruction, Great Oaks Academy will provide a comprehensive program for all students that promotes the mission of rigor, wonder and experiential learning.
Great Oaks will also provide considerable time for outdoor play to give students needed breaks. There is ample research suggesting that outdoor play is crucial for the cognitive and physical development of children. Outdoor play is multi-sensory and open ended, it reduces anxiety in all students, which is especially beneficial for students who struggle with anxiety, and it stimulates creativity and increases attention span.
“The renewal of classical education is not a nostalgic return to the past – it’s a recovery of those ideas and methods that have always created the future.”