The Core: Classical Ed
The core classes for all students at American Heritage are classic-ed, math, and science. Classic-ed is based upon the course of study suggested by Susan Wise Bauer in her book “The Well-trained Mind.” This method proposes that students learn best when they realize that all learning is systematic and interrelated, thus, Classic-ed at American Heritage comprises history and all language arts studies together in a two-hour block.
Each grade encounters history and literature based on the timeline of world history. The chronology is divided into four periods: the ancients to 300 AD, 300 to 1600 AD, 1600 to 1850 AD, and 1850 to the current time. Accordingly, the history of the world is assigned by grade as follows:
Kindergarten: U.S. symbols, major events, heroes First Grade: The Ancients to 300 AD Second Grade: 300 to 1600 AD Third Grade: 1600 to 1850 AD Fourth Grade: 1850 to current Fifth Grade: Ancients to 1600 AD Sixth Grade: 1600 to current Seventh Grade: American History—Ancients to Civil War Eight Grade: American History—Civil War to current Ninth Grade: Ancients to 1600 AD Tenth Grade: European History—1600 to current Eleventh Grade: American History to the Civil War Twelfth Grade: American History, the Civil War to current and U.S. Government
The students’ first exposure to world history occurs in the elementary years where they learn stories and facts. During the middle school grades, they look again at events and are led beyond facts to understand the “whys” and to find connections from time period to time period and their relevance to today. Finally, as students revisit history for the third time, they are able to form opinions and conclusions which are expressed in rhetoric, writing, and exercises that showcase higher levels of thinking, such as oral presentations.
Combining language arts with history means that students study literary works that were either written during the period they are studying, or written about it. For example, students in 10th-grade study World War 1 and read “All Quiet on the Western Front” concurrently. All literature studied at American Heritage is classical. Elementary grades use “Classic Starts” (or similar) versions, while middle and high school students use those that are original and grade-appropriate. Encountering information chronologically allows great opportunities for cross-curricular learning. For example, studying the lives of Copernicus and Kepler in classic-ed while taking an earth science class melds learning into a sensible, accessible whole instead of snippets of unrelated information. Students can see order in their world.
Each year, a Shakespeare play is chosen that will be studied by all students. Elementary children read the story or study the Charles and Mary Lamb version, while older students study from the original text. Additional language arts studies include phonics, spelling, handwriting, grammar, vocabulary, Greek and Latin roots, and writing.