1. Briefly, what is the origin of your program?

Unsatisfied with the homeschooling curricula available in the 1990’s – we researched the various educational methods and approaches, as well as educational goals. Again and again we were drawn back to the Great Books Movement – the return to the classics – as the core element needing restoration and recommended by the leading lights for educational reform, including Mortimer Adler, former Editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Great Books of Western Civilization (as well as author of 50+ other books). After meeting with Dr. Adler for three days in 1999 and again in 2000, we concluded his educational approach was the most insightful and profound, and, with his encouragement, introduced the Great Books movement online, to homeschoolers and others. We accepted our first students in 2000 A.D. In order to prepare students to read the Great Books, we introduced Dr. John Senior’s children’s classics Good Books list into the elementary levels.  Literature is the backbone and main integrating factor in education and in our program.

2. Please explain your program

Certainly. We have assembled what we believe is the finest educational curriculum available. Our high school and college-level literature program – the Great Books Program– introduces students to approximately 120 of the greatest works of genius ever produced, in various fields. The list may be viewed elsewhere, but includes Homer, Plato, Virgil, Genesis, Augustine, Bede, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Flannery O’Connor, etc. There cannot be a better core to any curriculum, at least with respect to the materials used, by the common opinion of the ages.

Such great works can more easily be understood with some preparation. Hence we developed our Good Books Program of literature classics for younger, elementary school readers. Likewise, our language arts, history, art, writing, vocabulary and other courses are all aimed and arranged to prepare students for the best – the great books. As the reader may see, the entire program, from pre-school to the end, is organized for excellence – to lead students to the very best – in art, science, literature, history, etc. – in graduated steps in all areas. Nearly 20 years of experience (following 80 years of the Great Books movement) have confirmed this approach.

3. Is there a place I may visit online for more extensive information on the Great and Good Books, and your educational approach?

Yes, there are a number of articles on this website.  In addition, there is extensive literature and numerous articles on the Great Books movement online, including at which is the website for the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas, co-founded by our first Chairman, recently deceased, the scholar Max Weismann, and Mortimer Adler.

4. How do we start?

Our curriculum is all listed under the tab “Curriculum,” so simply visit any grade level, or subject area (such as Math, Art, History), and select the levels and materials you wish to use. To enroll or order individual books for non-enrolled students, please visit our Academy bookstore, which only carries books we recommend for our curriculum.

5. How do I know which level to use?

If you are unsure, simply use our placement tests online. We also allow parents to move their students up a grade (or more) or back, in any subject, whenever they think that advisable. That is a parental decision we respect. We dislike bureaucracies, and try hard not to become one, to the contrary. Whenever possible, our answer to parental questions such as: “Can we do such and such in educating our child?” is “Yes, it’s your decision as the parent.” 

6. How many subjects should we do at one time?

We have found that many parents want to cover additional subjects, in other areas. We offer 12 subjects – too many to do at one time. So, most parents begin with 3 or 4 and then add more until they are covering the areas they wish. Many teach some of the subjects 3 or 4 days a week, other subjects, only one day a week. Some focus on one subject at a time – like the unit studies approach. Whatever suits your time and circumstances is best for you. We trust the judgment of parents, and in validation of that view: homeschoolers regularly outperform schooled (public or private) students.

7. What are the most important subjects?

That is a matter of opinion of course, but we believe literature, English language arts (such as phonics, grammar, writing), math, art (and/or music), history, and by 7th grade – science, are all very important subjects.

Geography, philosophy for children, foreign languages, and dialectics (aka Socratic discussions) are also important. None should be entirely neglected. That is why some parents rotate weeks, or do some subjects only one day a week, or some over the summer, etc. There are all kinds of options for home education, which avoids the one-size-fits-all blunder of mass education.

8. Are the Good Books in your elementary reading program part of home “class” time?

Only until the students can read for themselves. Before then, they are often read to the children before bedtime. But once they can read, they typically read in the evening by themselves. No doubt this varies a great deal as well. Our Good Books literature program begins at the nursery level, though 8th grade (15 levels in all). It is followed by our Great Books Program, beginning in 9th grade and up.

9. What is the Socratic Discussion or Dialectics you mentioned above?

Some teaching is done by lectures (didactically), other by conversation or discussion (dialectically). Dialectics refers to the latter – discussion or conversation. “Socratic” refers to the ancient Greek philosopher – Socrates – who loved to use conversations and mutual inquiry as his primary method to teach and learn, just as most of us do most of the time when we are learning something new.

As we all know, giving or attending a lecture is a very different thing from participating in a conversation. The skills involved are different. Dialectics used to be taught in American schools, but the only remnants left now are found in the occasional debate class, or rarer still – a logic class. The Academy has resurrected Dialectics and Socratic Logic, for homeschooling – per the advice of Dr. Adler and others – as a weekly online discussion classes available for 3rd to 8th grade, and in the Great Books Program. Students from around the world discuss the books and important ideas in the books they read, together, in an often exhilarating experience of mutual inquiry and friendly conversation, moderated by our online faculty. There is much more about this on our website at the Great Books Program.

10. What is the difference between the online Socratic Discussion and the online Great Books Program discussions?

Grade Levels. Socratic Discussions are offered 3rd-8th grade online classes (which meet every week online, for 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on the grade level); Great Books discussions are the high school and college level online discussions (which meet weekly for two hours, September through May). The readings for the Socratic Discussions are short (1-3 pages), pithy texts from the classics; the readings for the Great Books discussions are the Great Books themselves or very substantial excerpts.

Our live, Socratic Discussion classes occasionally use short excerpts from our Good Books and Great Books lists, but also many other short readings. It is not a whole book discussion class, as the Great Books classes are. The object is to teach the liberal art of dialectics (speaking and listening, about a text, logically, not reading per se, though of course these is a little reading involved.

11. You mention science as important from 7th grade one. What about before that?

The natural sciences are learned analytically in the traditional sequence of biology, chemistry, physics – usually sometime in 9th-12th grades. Texts are available to prepare for those years – in a simplified format for 6th-8th grades – entitled Life, Earth and Physical science (or similar names). These are important subjects. However, these texts all assume a certain level of experience of the natural world. Students who do not actually know what a butterfly does, who have not seen turtles in water, blown seed stars off of dandelions, made mud pies nor followed rabbits to their holes, simply cannot do as well as students that have. Texts have been created for 1st-6th grade science – and we carry the very best for parents who want them – but on examination, parents will discover their contents are largely attempts to replicate the experiences mentioned above, using photos and dry explanations, and which are enjoyed by all children with enough time to play in nature.

12. When should foreign languages be taught?

The earlier the better – and the easier. Studies show that learning a foreign language is more difficult after puberty. But better late than never. We offer the classical languages – ancient Greek and Latin – and encourage the study of those inflected, root languages, but any foreign language is far better than none. A good understanding of English is nearly always one happy result of learning a foreign language and its grammar and syntax.

13. Does the Academy have enrollment services?

To build a stronger foundation for your child’s education, the Great Books Academy offers enrollment at any time of the year. We grade and record all quarterly tests and book report forms for enrolled students. We test on your schedule – we have no deadlines you have to meet. You may send the tests to us at any time of the year. Tests are included in our Lesson Plans, and may be taken when students reach them in their studies. Sending them in for grading is optional and free for enrolled students.

Parents have repeatedly told us that our Grading Services have been invaluable for the insightful comments, praise for work well done, suggestions for improvement where needed, and the consistent cycle of testing quarterly. Parents often need an outside source for their children, especially as the children get into their teen years, to help keep the school year on track. Our grading services include offering comments and suggestions on all papers and tests sent to us. We grade all of the quarterly tests for your student. We send the tests back to you. If you have any questions about our grading service, please email the registrar, Dr. Elisabeth Carmack, at: info@greatbooksacademy.org – we will be happy to answer your questions.

14. Does the Great Books Academy Academy offer grading services?

Yes, see the answer to question 13.

15. Does the Great Books Academy Academy provide transcript forms?

Yes. We are also happy to incorporate earlier work or grades from other programs onto our transcripts for enrolled students. Because our students enroll at many various times during the year, we prepare and send transcripts, report cards, certificates – whatever is needed – upon request. This service is free for enrolled students.

16. Are there any deadlines at the Great Books Academy?

No. Except for the optional, live online classes, which obviously have to have regularly scheduled class times to meet, there are no deadlines nor time limits in this program. Again, this is home education for home schoolers – not a school per se. To impose deadlines is both unnecessary and arbitrary. Some students complete a whole year’s work in a class in a month – others take two years in some. The parents are the primary educators – after the students themselves – not us.

17. May I buy materials without enrolling in the online class?

Yes. Anyone may purchase any of the materials in the Academy bookstore.

18. May I purchase courses from different levels for the same student?

Yes. You may choose as many or as few courses as you wish, from whatever grade levels you wish, for any student. You may also mix grade levels (e.g., 5th grade math; 4th grade English; 6th grade history). We encourage parents to individualize the courses and paces selected for their students. So at enrollment pick a main grade for lesson plans, then let us know if you wish to depart from that “main grade” level for individual subjects , and we will send lesson plans for those subjects, without charge, as long as the student is enrolled.  

19. Do we have to use Great Books Academy materials exclusively for our homeschooling?

No. Again, parents are the primary educators. We are here to aid them. While we believe our materials are the finest available we understand that in some circumstances parents may wish to continue using some materials they already have or prefer for some other reason.  Of course we cannot grade tests for other curricula as we do not have their materials and answer keys. We are happy to add those courses to your Great Books Academy transcript – just send us the relevant information at your leisure.

20. Do I have to buy the entire literature package for each grade?

No. You may buy each of the books, from any grade level(s), individually. Again, the parents make such decisions – we merely suggest or recommend.

21. The literature list seems advanced for the age groups listed. Why is this?

The listings are a rough guide for parents. Certainly, in the youngest grades, the parents will be doing some, or most, of the reading. This is not only acceptable but also beneficial for the students, even for some older students, as they learn how the language should sound and also helps the student learn to listen well. It is a good thing for students [for all of us, in fact] occasionally to read a book that is difficult and makes them stretch intellectually. It is for this reason that some of the books are listed where they will be a challenge to the student. Of course, not every book should be difficult as this would be discouraging. In any case, the parents know best what the student is capable of, and the choice of books is up to them. Ancient advice: not too hard, lest they be discouraged, nor too easy, lest they be bored. This varies student to student.

22. May I mix and match books from the different grade levels of the good books literature list?

Yes. You may choose whatever books you wish from any grade level for any student. Remember, it is home education – you are the Principal. We are here to help, with advice, materials, guides, etc.

23. What is your schedule for quarterly and semester testing? 

We provide “quarterly” tests in the Lesson Plans, but how long you choose to take to complete a “quarter” is up to you. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the scheduling flexibility it offers. Our Lesson Plans divide the courses into four sections of approximately nine weeks each (36 weeks per grade level). However, you are free to go through the course material as quickly or as slowly as you wish. They are not dated. We send the tests to you with the Lesson Plans.

24. How long per day does it take to homeschool a student?

The amount of time will, of course, vary from student to student and family to family, but, on average elementary level, homeschool students spend only about 2 to 3 hours a day studying (excluding reading literature) and still surpass students in schools. But if you wish your students to excel in life, we believe it takes more time than that to do well. But no precise number is valid for all. Nevertheless, double that time or even more would not be unreasonable in some cases. It obviously depends on a number of factors: available time; educational goals; grade level, number of courses, temperament, other obligations, etc.

Educators discovered long ago that students do not like doing the same learning activity more than two times in a row. So they broke it up with contests, field trips, other subjects (such a perhaps geography or history), different approaches, etc. Some homeschooling parents make Wednesdays a different sort of day, leaving Mondays and Tuesdays, and then Thursdays and Fridays, for the routine classes, but thus only two times in a row. But family life often solves this problem in unexpected ways!

25. When do you accept enrollments for the online Great Books Discussion classes and other online classes?

All year long. But online classes begin only in the first week of September. Late students are sometimes accepted, depending on circumstances, classes and dates involved. The early enrollment discount begins each year on April 1. Prior to April 1 we sometimes do not have the class times for the following Fall semester posted. We encourage enrollment in April, or as early as parents have reached a decision, so that they reserve the online class time(s) that is most convenient for them. When an online class fills, we do close enrollment in such classes, and may or may not add more at other times. Once enrolled, the class time selected is reserved for that student. These may be changed, provided other classes are not full.

26. May a student begin participating in the online seminars at any time?

Students in 3rd through 8th grades may join an online seminar group at any time, September through May. The readings that provide the basis for those discussions are not sequential – meaning that knowledge of the previous readings is not necessary for full participation in the current discussions.

Because the high school and college Great Books reading/seminar program is a four-year course, with successive readings building upon the knowledge and understanding acquired during the previous readings and seminars, students normally start at the beginning of the Ancient Greek year, regardless of the age or grade level of the student. Once a class is full, new students may enroll in another class time, and may request (by email to us) to be put on a waiting list for their preferred time. We let them know, in order, if an opening occurs, which is fairly common after a few weeks due to normal attrition or other changes.

27. How do you get the students together for the online discussions?

The discussions are conducted over the Internet, with live audio, so the students participate through their home computers (dial-up or broadband – both work, as do PCs and Macs) using a simple $10-30 microphone and speakers. Headphones often help if the student is attending from a location with frequent interruptions or noise.

28. Does my 3rd grader have to able to type to participate in the optional Socratic discussions or Philosophy for Children lives classes?

No. The online class is “live” audio. Using the software is simple. Even our youngest students have no trouble with it.

29. Do I have to buy any software or hardware for the online classes?

The software is a free download once enrolled. You will need a PC or MAC, speakers and a microphone – or a headset. A headset can be purchased for around $10 – 30.The computer and connection can be, by current standards, old and slow.

30. Should we do all the courses offered, each year, at an even pace?

The Academy allows parents to pick and choose whatever courses they wish, from whatever levels they wish. We believe this is a parental right, and duty. We do not believe every student should take every course we offer, neither all the time nor every year. There is a give-and-take in education, that is highly individualized, which is why it is called a co-operative art by Aristotle, like medicine and animal husbandry. If a doctor gave all sick folks the same remedy for every illness, many would die needlessly. Likewise, if a farmer gave all animals the same food, or the same quantity – many would needlessly grow sick or die. Education too has a large element that is best left to the parents who know and love the individual student best.

It is natural to love to learn. Most parents are in the best position in the early years to cultivate and nurture this desire. Schools can too easily stifle this by one-size-fits-all approaches to education, killing the innate desire to learn, by forgetting that education is a co-operative art. This is one great advantage homeschooling offers. A loving, safe (emotionally, morally, and physically) learning environment is another, in the majority of cases.

Some students love math and blaze through three or even four grade levels in one year, while making little to no progress in, say, reading or writing; for others it is the reverse. These areas of interest tend to shift in time, so that by the end of elementary school level (with just a little gentle pushing) all, or nearly all, of the courses have been studied through the 8th grade level. If not, there remains time to make up for missed ground in the high school period. We have had high school students take 3rd or 4th grade English/grammar as they simply have not studied or been taught this in school, at least not adequately.  They typically make up for lost time very rapidly.

31. What courses do you recommend a student complete before applying to college or entering the world of work?

We recommend – but it is up to you as the primary educator – completion of these high school levels: math (4 years, ideally through the introductory calculus, but certainly through Algebra I, II and Geometry); 3 years of science: biology, chemistry and physics; 4 years of English Composition; at least 2 years of any foreign language (we recommend Latin and Classical/Attic Greek first) to acquire the ability to read, write (and hopefully speak and listen) any single foreign language with reasonable (not perfect) proficiency and fluency; and the 4-year, Great Books online discussion groups (which incorporates four years of social sciences and English); 2 years of Art (Art in Focus – our 6th-8th grade book is fine for this); Ethics(anytime 7th-12th grade – we offer this live, online); and learning a musical instrument or our Enjoyment of Music CDs.

The foregoing assumes earlier completion of elementary level (through 8th grade level) religion, language arts courses (such as English, writing, vocabulary, our Good Books literature or similar), some education in music and the arts, and, to a lesser extent (perhaps 1 day per week on average) philosophy for children, history, geography and perhaps cartography. Students may take our free placement tests to determine at what level(s) they need to begin with our materials. It is not unusual for students to be strong in one course – such as math – and weak in another – such as English. In that case, they may not need to take any elementary level math with us, but may need to begin English studies in a lower grade level in order to catch up in that area.

Please note that some states require various courses we do not offer in order to qualify one for a high school diploma from a public high or charter school; some even require homeschoolers to take certain courses we may not offer (such as the history of that particular state or a particular “social studies” course [which is often, sadly, the modern replacement for much of history]). Nearly all colleges and universities now accept homeschool transcripts of high school completion, even if certain state requirements are not included, particularly if you are applying to an out-of-state college. If you know which colleges you are interested in attending, we suggest you contact those college admissions offices years in advance of application and find out exactly what will be expected of you. This may necessitate adding a course(s) to our curriculum which we do not offer.

32. What subjects does the 9th-12th grade Great Books Program address?

The Great Books largely re-integrate into one course what was so laboriously divided (dis-integrated) and taught separately in elementary grades. Analysis and synthesis are both necessary in a complete education. The Great Books run the gamut of subjects from the language arts (e.g. Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare) and science (e.g., Copernicus, Einstein) to geography (Ptolemy), philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), cartography and history (Herodotus, Thucydides), social studies (e.g., Herodotus, Gallic Wars, Freud), and even math (Euclid, Nicomachus of Gerasa). It is possible to break the Great Books courses down into some of these areas for separate grades, if a state so requires. We have done so HERE

33. What are the requirements for the Great Books Academy Diploma?

Many home schooled students do not particularly desire a diploma to evidence completion of high school studies. However, for those who do, to receive a Graduation diploma (High School) from the Great Books Academy, a student must have completed the following 9th-12th grade level courses (or substantial equivalents):

  • 3 Years of Math (Algebra I & II and Geometry;  note: the ACT also tests Trigonometry; the SAT tests data analysis, statistics and probability, but we do not require these)
  • 3 Years of English Language Arts (e.g., Grammar and Usage, Composition, College Essay, Writing, Critical Reading, Rhetoric)
  • 3 Years of Science (normally consisting of : Biology, Chemistry, Physics, but sometimes Astronomy or other science courses)
  • 3 Years of Social Studies (any of the following: History, Ethics, Civics, Socratic Logic, Geography, Economics)      

13 Total (see just below for courses covered by the Great Books Program)

Note:  Some States also require, 2 Years of Foreign Language (Ancient Greek or Latin are recommended, but any foreign language qualifies) and some require 1 Year of Art or Music (Art History –e.g. , Art in Focus or Instrumental or Vocal Music lessons are also recommended). We do not require these.

Our 4-Year Great Books Program is both the core of our educational approach, and “the backbone of a liberal education.” This interdisciplinary program, which studies 120 great works of Western civilization over four years/8 semesters includes great works of literature, history, philosophy, theology, poetry, political science, social science and psychology.  Consequently, it includes the substantial equivalent of four years of English language arts courses, and three years of social studies, inter alia.  It includes much more as well, but students who take this program do not need to take additional English language arts courses (assuming they completed 8th grade grammar) or social science courses to fulfill our graduation requirements. They are of course free to do so – and we do offer such courses – but for them it is not required.

[In more detail: the Great Books courses  include much Ancient History, World History, US History, US State Papers/Civics, Western Civilization, World Literature, English Literature, American Literature, Poetry, Shakespeare, Ancient Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Vocabulary. (See at link at 32. above)

34. If I miss my regular class, may I attend another class the same week at a different time?

Yes. Each level of Great Books class meets only once a week. However, as there are, for example, four Greek classes, it is possible to switch from one Greek class to the other if you wish or if circumstances make that desirable, for one week, or more, since the readings are the same (except when holidays result in a one week variation on occasion).  The classes are also recorded and may be listened to that way as well.

35. May I take more than one level of the Great Books at the same time – the same semester?

Yes. Since the readings are chronologically sequential, and the Greeks are foundational, the ideal way to take the entire course is first Greeks, then Romans the next year, etc., over four years. However, we do have students taking more than one level at a time. Usually they do Greeks and Romans, then the next year they do the Middle Ages and Moderns. So while for most students we recommend doing one level a year to maximize the order of discovery approach,  since each Great Book does stand-alone (part of what makes them great), we do allow students to take whatever levels they wish. We encourage the study of the great classics of Western civilization, so if someone is fired up to do more than 30 great books a year, more power to them.

36. Is the Greek Year of the Great Books Program a 9th grade class? Do older students take it?

The Greek Year is simply the first year of the Great Books Program. We allow 9th graders/14-year-olds to take the course, which is why it is listed at 9th grade, but it could be listed at any grade above 9th as well.  After nearly two decades of doing so, at the advice of Dr. Adler, we can confirm that 9th graders can do the course even though it has been recommended for college-level credit by the American Council for Education (ACE CREDIT). Our oldest students was 87. We have had numerous students in the higher high schools grades, college students and adults take the same courses. The faculty are generally professors or experts in the books being read. We have two moderators per class, with rare exceptions. The books themselves are timeless and ageless, containing material and questions that challenge students-thinkers of all ages. No doubt the older students tend to get more out of the books, and classes, but every student profits from sharing the thoughts of the greatest sages of mankind. So we encourage every student to begin with the Greek Year.

37. May I switch from the Great Books Program high school track to the college track, or the reverse?

Yes, at any semester or shortly after the semester begins. Any payments received will be applied to the appropriate track selected. Students who switch from the high school track to the college track may also do the missed extra work of the latter and submit it for credit. 

38. Please explain how the family discount works. 

Certainly. The Academy offers a 50% tuition discount for siblings enrolled in the same program or same online course, after the first student enrolled, as long as two or more siblings are enrolled in it. The first student is defined as the one with the highest tuition rate (usually the oldest sibling student).

 For example, if two siblings are enrolled in the Academy home school program (which is $195 for grades 1-12), the first student would be $195, the next sibling student(s) would be $ 97.50, each. Likewise, the sibling of a student enrolled in the Great Books College track Program at $299 per month, would be $149.50 per month.

Enrollment in the home school program does not entitle a sibling to the family discount in an online course class, nor the reverse: for example, a student enrolled in the 9th grade homeschool program ($195) does not entitle a sibling to the family discount in 8th grade online Socratic Discussions, but it does entitle a student to the family discount in a different grade level in the homeschool program. Another example: a student enrolled in 7th grade Socratic Discussions entitles a sibling to a family discount in 3rd grade Socratic Discussions, but not for enrollment in the homeschool program ($195), nor for the family discount for enrollment in Philosophy for Children online classes. So the family discount applies to a sibling in the Academy homeschool program, or in the same online course (even if in a different grade level).

A sibling enrolled in the Great Books program –either tracks of it (high school or college track) – would entitle siblings in the Great Books to the family discount, in any track. The “first” student would be the one in the highest tuition track.  Please feel free to call or email if you still have any questions about our generous family discount.

39. Our banner has various tabs for more details on the various topics tabbed there, particularly about the Great Books Program. For our refund and other policies, go HERE.