Over the next few weeks I plan to share about what we plan to do next year. This way, after the summer craziness, I can come back and find what I thought about as we closed out the year.
Today I am going to focus on Artios Academies and their offerings. We were part of the first year in our city, but it has been around for over 10 years. We were so blessed by the group and the structure last year. The tag line "Art. Heart. Smart" pretty much sums it up. When it comes to philosophy they are a mixture of Charlotte Mason and Principle Approach - they focus on the hand of God in history and biblical principles but use living books, narration and see the arts as a core part of student learning. Lori Lane, the founder, just graduated her youngest son from homeschooling this year. She has been homeschooling for over 25 years and some of her children now help her develop and run the programs.
There are really two parts to the program.
1. Home Companion Series - This is the program available to anyone who is interested. It follows a 4 year history cycle (Ancient, Fall of Rome to Renaissance, Early Modern and Modern). Each time era has a different manual for 3rd through 5th grade, 6th through 8th and high school.
To teach history, each manual has 28 weeks worth of readings, mostly from older "living" books, that are complied to give you a good understanding of the events and provide more than one author's perspective. Each unit includes review questions, vocabulary, a list of people and events to know, key scriptural principles and encourages narration or notebooking as the primary way to interact with the text. Most units include artwork that depict the person or event being discussed. Maps are also throughout the text to help students understand where things are occurring. In middle and high school you could easily pair these readings with a program like "Lost Tools of Writing" if you desire to focus on essay writing skills.
In addition to the history, there is a literature, grammar and writing component. Each era has about 6 books (per age level) scheduled throughout the year. These are quality historical fiction or novels, plays and speeches from the era being studied. They have partnered with Analytical Grammar to use their method to teach grammar, but pulling from the literature that is assigned within the program. Finally, each literature selection is paired with preparing a particular written response. These run the gamut from "how to", character analysis, research papers, etc. The curriculum outlines different tasks that students should work on each week to prepare the paper. Students practice writing in a variety of formats and to different audiences through this approach.
I love the literature selections, almost every book they assign was already on my "to read" list! The few that weren't, after reading the reviews, I know why they were chosen. I also like the number of books they use because it allows students to spend time in the book but also provides room for you to add other books as you see fit without overwhelming your older student.
They are currently working on a program to offer for the K- 2nd grade crowd. I can't wait to see it.
2. Artios Academies - If you have an academy near you, then you can also engage in art, music and drama that aligns with the time period! Teachers are given a curriculum that outlines appreciation and activities for all 28 weeks that further explores the time period being studied. So, in art they look at the works and a short biography of a famous artist and then copy their style or some technique that they used. The same approach is used in drama and music. All of the arts are aligned with national standards so your students are studying the artistic discipline while also learning about its history. It is truly incredible. I also find that they do a great job trying to make it age appropriate and by high school you can actually "major" in an artistic pursuit and work towards creating a college worthy portfolio. Middle and high school students have the opportunity to enter into speech and music competitions and most campuses put on full theatrical productions.
So all academies offer 2 academic classes - literature and history (with the Home Companion Series as the text) and 3 arts classes - music, drama and art. They meet once a week for 5 hours. However, many academies offer science (Apologia based), math (Teaching Textbooks) and various other arts related courses (choir, plays, programming, digital arts, etc.) for those who are interested. They are working towards including foreign language offerings.
The Artios Academy teacher is expected to assign homework, provide engaging, hands on classroom experiences and discussions and correct papers and other work that is requested. Grades are only given in 8th grade and above to assist with transcripts. All the staff realizes that art, drama, writing, etc. are all a process and want to encourage students to try things out and develop rather than grade and judge. Teacher training is extensive and focuses on the program philosophy, Biblical integration, tips on how to bring the disciplines alive and technical details with the online student homework system, etc. I love the director's approach to teaching. She explains that she wants teachers to make sure the principles are clear but expects the good teacher to look at the suggested curriculum and say "I like this but I can add this" or "This is a good start but my students could really benefit if we change this a little bit". That's the way I teach.
This program is just right for our family. It provides accountability and structure, uses texts that we like, provides community and addresses the arts in a way that is holistic and encouraging. It is equipping my children to understand the key role that the arts play in all our lives, develop their skills in these areas so that they can influence these fields if they are called to do that, and at least be discerning in their artistic choices and pursuits.