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Mission
Vision
Philosophy
Curriculum Description
Education Commentary
Bio of Glenn W.
History
Science
Math
Literature
Grammar
Vocabulary
Writing

CURRICULUM DESCRIPTION

Our near-term goal is to develop curriculum materials for grades 4 to 6 and consisting of the following core subjects: history, science, math, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and literature. When completed, the materials will constitute a complete and integrated curriculum. We call it a history-centered curriculum because history is the central thread integrating all the subjects.


Human knowledge is hierarchical, which means knowledge that is more abstract depends on knowledge that is less abstract. For example, calculus depend on algebra which depends on arithmetic. (And within arithmetic, multiplication depends on addition which depends on counting.) Perceptual observations are the starting points of human knowledge. Using logic, we integrate perceptual observations into lower-level abstractions, and keep integrating abstractions and percepts into higher-level abstractions. Therefore, to truly understand (versus memorize) an abstract item of knowledge, the student must understand the more concrete knowledge that logically led to it.


Every academic subject has its own history in terms of its development, which typically evolves from percptual observations to highly abstract knowledge. For example, science evolved over thousands of years from simple generalizations, such as "balls roll when pushed" to broad, abstract principles, such as: "The acceleration of an object is proportional to the net force exerted on it divided by the object's mass." For the most part it was a logical, hierarchical progression where each new idea represented the next logical step to take from the existing context of knowledge. For example, Newton’s brilliant discoveries followed logically from the context of knowledge that existed after Galileo’s brilliant discoveries. And Galileo learned much from studying the writings of antiquity.


Teaching a subject as it progressed in history, at least in pattern, is a logical method of teaching the subject. Not only does it make the material easier to learn, it teaches logical, creative thinking skills. It's what we call "learning and thinking inductively." It gives the student the opportunity to predict the next logical step in any new discovery of knowledge. Furthermore, it is very motivating for students to connect the subject material to history in the spirit of man’s marvelous progress.


The policy of connecting each subject to history is not adhered to dogmatically; it is only adhered to when it improves the quality of the materials according to the standards outlined in our education philosophy.


For a superb explanation of the "hierarchy of knowledge" and its importance in education, we highly recommend obtaining a recently published (2006) article by educator Lisa VanDamme.(Click me for a direct link.)


History

A history-centered curriculum begins with history. The history of man will be presented in chronological order and in essentials from our earliest hominid ancestors to the present, as a fascinating story of man's marvelous progress. The primary focus will be on Western Civilization. (Geography will be covered as part of history.)


The chronological order is the logical order to teach history because understanding a particular event, development, discovery, or period depends on understanding what preceded it. In particular, the dominant beliefs of a culture generally (though not always) determine what eventually happens to that culture.


A chronological study of history is ideal for teaching concepts and principles inductively, such as the concept of "justice" or "division of labor" or "individual rights," because they evolved chronologically and had to be discovered by induction, i.e., by making generalizations based on experience. Also, studying history chronologically makes it easier to integrate the material into a whole, thereby making it easier for the student to retain.


The history of Western Civilization taught in this manner is crucial for the student's development. Not only does it enhance the student's cognitive skills, it makes today's world more intelligible to the student. Much of what the student encounters today in laws, customs, literature, art, culture, science, politics, and language, is rooted in history. And learning history as a story of man's progress--of his struggles, failures, and triumphs--is highly motivational and teaches rational values inductively.


If you have a PDF reader and wish to view an excerpt from our first book explaining why one should study history, please click here. Why study history?


To demonstrate the value of the inductive approach to history, consider how my students learned to understand the meaning of money. First, the students learned about man's progress as hunter and gatherer. As man improved at hunting and gathering, via better weapons and hunting techniques, his numbers grew. But because he took only what nature provided, rather than grow food, his expanding population led eventually to food scarcity and migration, which helps explain why man's early progress was painstakingly slow.


Then man discovered agriculture along the fertile banks of rivers in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Man could now produce more food than he needed, which freed up more time to focus on countless other needs. The result was a high degree of division of labor where people could specialize in producing one thing efficiently and trade their excess on the market for other things they needed. As trading goods for goods, such as trading fish for wheat, clothes, lumber, etc., became cumbersome, precious metals, such as gold, became accepted as the "tool" or medium of exchange because of its value and physical properties. Banks eventually formed to store and lend money.


At each stage, the students integrated the new knowledge with existing knowledge. Consequently, they clearly grasped that money is one of many goods produced and traded in a division-of-labor economy taken as the medium of exchange for other goods and services. When it became problematic to carry and exchange quantities of gold, banks issued claim checks, i.e., paper money, that could be redeemed for real money. Eventually, governments began accumulating gold and issuing paper money. Unfortunately, governments started printing paper money not backed by gold, which we call inflation, to spend on or give to certain groups of people at the expense of productive individuals and economic growth.


At this point, my students understood that there is no fundamental difference between the counterfeiter who issues phony currency to get other people's produced goods for nothing and a government that prints and issues paper money not backed by real money. At this point my students grasped the real meaning of money. Other abstract concepts, such as "liberty" and "justice," are best learned in this inductive manner.