Courses Offered, 2024–2025
Below is the list of courses that will be taught in the 2024–2025 academic year. Courses rotate from year to year; for a complete list, consult course list page. Note that the texts studied in the last four high school courses are relatively at the same reading level and have no grade equivalent. In most of the courses, grammar, writing and poetics are integrated in the program; however, in the upper high school grades, grammar is taught as a separate subject. Look for the hyperlinks that will take you to the detailed objectives of the course and the assignment page. All courses are $85.00 per month, except where indicated.
This class is intended for pupils who are learning to read as well as for those students who are currently handicapped by their poor reading, spelling and handwriting. In the course students will learn skills so important for a successful academic career: good handwriting, phonics, reading, and basic writing skills. Students enrolled in the course will use a phonics/reading and a cursive handwriting book. At the end of the year, students will be able to write in the cursive italic hand and read fluidly. The course is intended for younger students who already know their letters and their sounds (but not necessarily blends, digraphs or diphthongs), but may not be able to read fluidly, and for those older students who may have a learning difficulty in reading or handwriting. The course involves reading, dictation and handwriting exercises. I am planning to make a teacher’s guide available for the school year for all parents who want more assistance at home. The guide will include answers to all of the exercises as well as important resource materials, such as a large book list. Suggested class for first graders. View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking the hyperlinks.
If there is one general weakness in today’s educational method it is the lack of continuity and drilling in foundational skills. Many students have a good beginning, but it is continual practice that makes perfect. “B is for Bears” is a course intended to drill pupils in those skills learned in “A is for Apple.” The class encourages good handwriting habits and bolsters phonics and reading skills. The course, however, introduces a lot of new material, such as important grammar concepts that will help students in their dictation and writing work. The curriculum also exposes students to a wealth of good history, poetry and literature intended for their level. “B is for Bears” is an excellent course to prepare students for the more rigorous reading and writing assignments. Suggested class for second graders.View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking on the hyperlinks.
D is for Dandelion
Like the previous three years of curriculum, D is for Dandelion covers spelling, phonics, poetry memorization, poetics (in the Teacher's Guide), and reading with comprehension questions. Reading selections include a wide variety of genres, including poems, correspondence, journal writing, fantasy, fairytale, allegory, fables, folk tales, myth, biography, history, satire, and realistic fiction. There are dictation exercises that not only teach grammar concepts but also reinforces the spelling and phonics. However, this fourth year course introduces students to important writing formats and works on skills such as writing summaries, organizing ideas in expository writing, and using literature as prompts for story telling.
You may view the assignment page here.
Foundations in Literature and History is a comprehensive language arts course that goes over literature, literary terms, grammar, writing, poetics, spelling, and speech-giving. The class literature and independent reading for book reports will provide students a firm foundation in both literature and history and prepare them for a serious study of these subjects in high school and college. The textbook anthology provides a wide variety of reading passages, including history, fairytales, the short story, myths, fables, allegory, and poetry. (Some of the works have been adapted for younger readers, such as the works by Shakespeare, Chaucer and Spenser.) The anthology and study guide were designed to hone particular reading skills through comprehension questions, such as making inferences, understanding the tone of a work, understanding paragraph development, and discovering the meaning of vocabulary through contexts—all the skills necessary for being a good reader and in successfully taking future standardized tests like the SAT. In class, students will take notes on and study the biographies of the authors and, if appropriate, the period and genre of the written works. Authors include classic authors, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Livy, William Bradford, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Lamb, Guy de Maupassant, Edmund Spenser, Isaac Watts, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Robert Burns, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier and others. This year I will not be covering grammar in class, but will be offering a free online course for all Foundations students (see below); however, if the online grammar course is not an option, parents may still purchase the grammar book and work independently with their children and access answers to the exercises and tests online.
Those students who took the Vice and Virtue course would progress to this class, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. The suggested grade levels for this course are 5-7. You may view the assignment page here and access the detailed course description here.
This course uses literature as a means of getting students to think about some of the most important aspects of writing, including structure and development, word choice, voice, and theme. The course begins with reading and writing journals, a study that encourages students to discover their voice and to write spontaneously and naturally. From the journal, the study naturally progresses into the personal narrative, the autobiography and lastly, the biography. The course will also include relevant poetry and short fiction. Those students who took the course “English History and Literature” would progress to this class, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. The reading material, which I will expand to include more American, English and ancient authors, would be appropriate for students ages thirteen and older. You may view the assignment page here and access the detailed course description here.
In this course, we will examine the history of the short story and novel and read some of the best English and American examples from the 18th to 20th century. The year will begin with a talk of the short story genre in terms of its literary form, its origins, and sociological implications. Then, individual works will be discussed in the context of the author’s cultural and intellectual milieu as well as the author’s biography. Those students who took the course “Classic Works” would progress to this course, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. You may view the assignment page here and access the detailed course description here.
This course will be divided up into two semesters. The first semester course titled “Here, There; Now, Then” will be comprised of literature from different genres, time periods and countries, with an emphasis, however, on English and American literature. With the purpose of encouraging students to see the continuity of older literature with the new as well as to understand the “Zeitgeist” of particular periods despite cultural and language differences, the course will present plays, short stories, novels, essays, and poems that have obvious similarities. For example, Shakespeare’s comedies are very similar in theme and content to the Roman comedies and the comedia del’arte of Renaissance Italy. The course will, for example, compare movements such as the German Romantic versus the English Romantic Movements as well as show the continuity of genres by comparing works such as ancient Roman comedy with the comedies of Shakespeare. The year’s reading will include works by such authors as William Shakespeare, Plautus, Carlo Goldoni, Arthur Miller, Niccolò Machiavelli, Samuel Beckett, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Walter von der Vogelweide, Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Friedrich Schiller, Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, Anton Chekhov, Flannery O’Connor, Nicolai Gogol, Herman Melivlle, and others. The genres of fiction will include old and more modern satire, short stories, fantasy, realistic fiction, detective and mystery, and adventure.
The second semester course, titled “Persuade and Debate” will cover polemical writing and speech-making. Students will learn not only the format of the persuasive composition, but learn the art of persuasive speech-making. Using various instructional works, such as Cicero’s Rhetorica ad Herennium, students will learn various rhetorical devices and methods when composing a polemical speech. At the end of the year, students will be paired for a formal debate on a particular controversial topic. Those students who took the course “Greek Influence on English History” would progress to this course, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite.
Students will study the principles of good writing, create various types of popular works— essay-blogs, short stories, poetry, autobiographical writing, plays/screen plays, novel writing—, and learn the publishing process. Lectures will include such topics as the purpose of writing, how to keep motivated in writing, and the cardinal rules that govern all kinds of writing. In the first class students will learn their responsibilities for the year, including keeping a weekly blog, submitting works for publication, and publishing an end-of-the-year project. We will begin the year by writing social, cultural and political commentary and ask for volunteers to be the editor-in-chief of the publication. Each week we will discuss current events, social trends, and other areas of interest so that the assigned writer of the week can write a piece for the blog. Each person will have to write at least six to seven essays/blogs for the web site. You may view the assignment page here and access the detailed course description here.
Online High School Grammar
In his autobiography, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Winston Churchill mentioned that it was his English teacher that gave him a keen sense of the structure of the English language by making him parse a sentence through diagramming. This course will be taught with the same purpose in mind. Churchill writes: “Mr. Somervell—a most delightful man, to whom my debt is great—was charged with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most disregarded thing—namely, to write mere English [as opposed to Latin]. He knew how to do it. He taught it as no one else has ever taught it. Not only did we learn English parsing thoroughly, but we also practiced continually English analysis. Mr. Somervell had a system of his own. He took a fairly long sentence and broke it up into its components by means of black, red, blue, and green inks. Subject, verb, object: relative clauses, conditional clauses, conjunctive and disjunctive clauses! Each had its color and its bracket. It was a kind of drill. We did it almost daily. As I remained in the Third Form three times as long as anyone else, I had three times as much of it. I learned it thoroughly. Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence—which is a noble thing.”
Every year grammar should be taught as part of a late middle school and high school education. At the high school level, I teach grammar as a two-year course—one generally covering parsing and diagramming, which will give students a thorough understanding of the structure of a sentence; the other, covering the technical aspects of grammar and punctuation, which is very useful in writing and in taking the writing section of the SAT. This year's course will be the first mentioned—a very systematic approach to grammar in which students will learn not only the more foundational aspects of grammar such as identifying the parts of speech (noun, verb, pronoun, adjective, etc.) and parsing sentences, but also the less familiar aspects, such as identifying verbals, clauses and sentences with simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex structures and diagramming them. This course is offered online Wednesdays, 3:30–4:30 p.m.
Online Greek II
In this course, students continue to study Greek grammar, vocabulary and the reading of ancient texts, such as from Plutarch, Xenophon, and Aesop, as well as passages from the New Testament. Students will memorize common proverbs and quotations from ancient authors, such as from Hesiod, Euclid, Periander of Corinth, Isocrates, Thales, Plato, Pitticus of Mytilene and many others. Each session will begin with a study of etymology in which Greek vocabulary is introduced through English cognates or derivatives. The students’ knowledge of the material will be tested weekly as well as in three to four semester exams. Towards the end of the year, students will be tested on their knowledge of Greek by taking the second level of the National Greek Exam. Etymology: Students will do a systematic study of etymology, learning Greek vocabulary through English words. For example, words such as polemic, strategy, and cacophony are derived from the Greek πόλεμος [πολέμιος] (war), στρατευώ (serve in war), and κακός (bad). Grammar: In this course, the necessary grammar for taking the end-of-the-year National Greek exam will be presented. After completing a thorough review of last year’s material, students will begin studying the second aorist (indicative and subjunctive, active and middle), the different third declension nouns, the future tense (active and middle), participles, first aorist (indicative and subjunctive, active, middle and passive), the perfect and pluperfect tenses, and the pronouns (reciprocal, indefinite, relative, reflexive, demonstrative, and a review of the personal). Vocabulary: Students will learn hundreds of new words that will enable them to translate ancient and New Testament texts as well as do well on the National Greek Exam. Translation and Reading. Weekly students will read and translate short excerpts from the New Testament and ancient texts. Towards the middle of the year, they will practice translating longer passages in preparation for the National Greek Exam. The course is free to any student taking a language arts course.
Online Latin I
In this Latin I course, students will learn introductory Latin grammar, including 1st-3rd noun declensions, 1st-4th verb conjugations, indicative tenses, and indirect speech. This will enable students to read adapted Latin texts and form the foundation for a future study of Latin. The students will also encounter Latin literature, history, and myth through their translation exercises. At the end of the year, students will take the National Latin Exam. The course will be presented online on Thursdays 9:30-10:30 EST. Instructor: Benjamin Walter. A graduate of Oxford in the Classics, Mr. Walter has taught Latin at the high school level for about five years. Cost: $85.00/month.
Wheelock's Latin (purchase here)
Fabulae Graecae Text (handout provided)
Online Grammar for Foundations Students
Over the years grammar unfortunately has taken a back seat to other subjects in the classroom, or (to mix my metaphors) has been jettisoned altogether. Some self-proclaimed authorities in teaching English go as far as to say that studying grammar is a complete waste of time and does in no way help students in their writing. There are only two reasons that I can give, as far as I see, to explain such an absurd, counterintuitive claim. Either these authorities do not know what grammar is, or they have never had the stamina or interest to teach it as it should be taught to see results. One cannot half-heartedly slip in some instruction on nouns and verbs in the middle of the year and expect students' writing to miraculously improve. Grammar needs to be systematically taught—the way that Winston Churchill was taught by Mr. Somervell at Harrow (see Online High School Grammar, above). Besides the very practical aspects of learning conventions—or how to use commas, apostrophes, etc. correctly—, a thorough and proper study of grammar involves giving students a certain artistic awareness of language that is akin to the awareness of color and form that the study of painting and drawing can give to art students. My goal in this course is to give a systematic presentation of the material and to complete much if not all of the work in class, so that there is a minimal amount of independent work. Parents may find out exactly what is taught in the online grammar class by reading the detailed course description here. Offered on Wednesdays, 2:30–3:30, the class is free and open to any student taking the Foundations course.
Online Copperplate and Spencerian Calligraphy
In this class we will cover the fundamental techniques behind copperplate calligraphy, spencerian script, ornamental penmanship and italic calligraphy. In the beginning of the course I will give a brief overview of the history of penmanship looking at western, middle eastern, and far eastern calligraphy. This course will not only teach calligraphy as an art but also present practical skills that can be implemented in day-to-day life. By studying the calligraphic masters of the past, working on exercises, writing out poems and cards, and completing the final project, students will gain all the technical skills they need to create beautiful pieces of art. By the end of the course students should not only have a good grasp of pointed pen and italic calligraphy, but also see a marked improvement in their penmanship. During my calligraphy classes I have two cameras set up, one focused on the pen and paper and one on me. This set up allows me to engage with the students while doing detailed demonstrations. Having the camera very close to the pen and paper helps me to teach the nuances of copperplate and italic in a way that would be difficult in person. In my experience, teaching calligraphy and art online, if done right, does not have to be second rate. The class is open to middle school and high school students.
Examples of the instructor's calligraphy as well as his students may be viewed here. The course will be presented online on Thursdays 10:30-11:30 EST. Instructor: Samuel Walter. Having received an M.M. and an M.A., at Yale for music performance, Samuel is not only a professional cello teacher and player, but also an art teacher and an award -winning portrait artist. He has taught calligraphy online to high school students with notable success. Click here for the materials list. Cost: $85.00/month.