“What about the Great Books Academy homeschool program sets it apart – why should we use it?”
Consider the purpose of elementary education, which is to learn the learning or liberal arts, of reading, writing, speaking, listening and calculating. What is the point of learning how to learn in those various ways, if we do not then use those arts except perhaps to read menus and street signs (which is referred to as being only functionally literate). Obviously, the next step after learning those arts, is to use them, studying something. Equally obvious is that “something” to be studied should not be restricted to comics, instruction booklets or fifth rate text books generated by publishing houses primarily for their commercial purposes. What should be studied is whatever is of the highest worth, the most excellent, with the greatest intrinsic value, from which teens who have attained the use of those learning arts are able to profit. The Great Books are precisely the finest works of the human intellect which exist – “the best that has been thought and written”—in all areas of human intellectual endeavor, declared so by the general consensus of many generations of Western civilization’s sages and scholars. They are the material to be studied once the acquisition of the liberal arts enable students to do so.
We have an article The Best Age to Begin the Study of the Great Books. Not to repeat the article here, the answer given by Mortimer Adler, Jacques Maritain and others is: in the high school years, beginning at about age 14. The rationale for this answer is explained in the article – essentially it is: they can do it then, and a teenage mind is a terrible thing to waste. We have been offering this program for 15+ years now, and as our many students attest, studying the Great Books in our four-year program is a life-changing experience not to be missed, at penalty of missing out on the study of what is the backbone of a general education and the repository of a large part of human wisdom, arrived at over a period of nearly three millennia. Teens 14 and up can and do begin the study of the Great Books with enormous profit. Of course some profit more than others, as in all things. But all profit some, and most profit greatly.
“We are tied down, all our days and for the greater part of our day, to the commonplace. That is where contact with the great thinkers, great literature helps. In their company we are still in the ordinary world, but it is the ordinary world transfigured and seen through the eyes of wisdom and genius. And some of their genius becomes ours. . .” – Mortimer J. Adler
That being so, we followed Dr. Adler’s advice, inter alia, and began offering this program in 2000 A.D., supplemented by the earlier, elementary grades in which the elements or grammars of reading, writing, speaking, listening and calculating are learned. We reviewed all the materials available, and selected those we believe to be the very best available, in all conventional subject areas, for each grade level, beginning in the nursery with Mother Goose, and right on up leading to the Great Books beginning in 9th grade. This was a huge task and took several years to complete. We revise it whenever any improved or better materials become available, but for the most part it is fixed, year to year, as are the Great Books we selected from larger lists of Great Books to make it practical to read one per week (or a major excerpt), during the four academic years of the program. In other words, we “reverse engineered,” if you will, the elementary grades so that the materials we use were selected and integrated to terminate in the ability to begin the Great Books in 9th grade, and stair-stepped back down to begin in a logical progression in the nursery, or whatever grade one wishes to begin with and is able to do. This approach includes our “Good Books” children’s literature program.
Besides the Great Books Program, we also offer online Socratic discussion classes and Philosophy for Children, for grades 3-8, as these cannot be done alone, and they prepare students both to engage in the discussions and understand the philosophical thought and great ideas woven throughout the Great Books—often referred to as the Great Conversation—and to get the most out of them.
We also offer Ethics (dropped from virtually all schools and absent in nearly all homeschool programs)—the rational foundation for moral behavior; as well as Socratic logic and classical rhetoric and composition in high school grades.
If you think all of the above is very important—as we certainly do—then we invite you to join our educational program.
“Reading the Great Books had done more for my mind than all the rest of the academic pursuits…it is the best education for the faculty as well as for the students; the use of original texts is an antidote for survey courses and fifth-rate textbooks; and it constitutes by itself, if properly conducted, the backbone of a liberal education.” – Dr. Mortimer J. Adler