The Grammar School includes Pre-K through 4th Grade. These years are a time of wonder and excitement as our teachers strive to develop in students a deep love of learning. The Pre-K & Kindergarten students are on campus (Mon/Wed) while the 1st - 4th grade students are on campus (Mon/Wed/Thur). All grade levels begin instruction at 8:30 am and end at 3:00 pm.
In the grammar stages priority is given to reading, writing, grammar and math. Classical education teaches a child how to learn, and reading is particularly important because classical education places great weight on the written word. In addition, both classical education and the UMS approach emphasize the development of wisdom and virtuous character.
Our language arts program integrates reading, composition, spelling and speaking in a meaningful way via a multi-sensory approach that combines all of the senses necessary for these activities as links to the brain. For example, reading by itself is primarily a visual task; by teaching writing, a kinesthetic task, and spelling, an auditory task, all of these links to the brain are stimulated and utilized. This multi-sensory approach offers the best environment for all learners.
Unique to our school is the combination of two approaches, both sight-words and phonics, to the instruction of reading. We teach a phonics-based program for the purposes of reading and spelling (see the curriculum below) beginning in kindergarten, but also in kindergarten, invite students to begin reading in controlled-vocabulary books. Using a reading workshop environment, students in grades kindergarten through 6th grade are daily immersed in the reading of quality reading literature at a level appropriate for each individual student. In this rich setting, students progress at their own pace with remarkable results.
The rules of grammar are taught and then integrated into writing as early as possible. Again, utilizing a workshop approach, students learn to compose by mimicking the writing of good authors as they are mentored by their professional teachers in the art of drafting, revising and publishing pieces.
The first four years of math lay the foundation for the high-level abstract thinking required by algebra, trigonometry and calculus that will be encountered in upper grades. In grammar school, the foundation is established by teaching mathematical concepts on a concrete level, allowing the child to work problems out with real objects until the concept makes sense to him. Once the concept is mastered on a concrete level, the child will progress to mental arithmetic requiring abstract thinking.
We strongly believe that the memorization of math facts—addition, subtraction, multiplication and division—is essential in building a strong foundation and expect this of each student. However, the study of mathematics is more than simply committing to memory a list of facts. It includes memorization, but it also encompasses learning the underlying concepts that are critical to problem solving. Our ultimate goal for math at Oakwell Academy is to produce students who understand mathematical concepts, are able to apply this knowledge in real life applications, and enjoy the study of math.
The study of History at Oakwell Academy will follow a four-year rotational cycle in which the student repeats an historical era, but studies it in a manner that corresponds to his age and stage of development. For example, the history/geography cycle begins with a study of the “Ancients” in first grade, and then continues through Medieval-early Renaissance, Late Renaissance-early Modern and Modern over each of the next three years. The first cycle occurs in the stage of grammar where the focus is on memorization and knowledge of facts. The cycle begins again in fifth grade and again in ninth grade.
These cycles correspond to the appropriate stages: the stage of logic emphasizes logical explanatory thinking, while the stage of rhetoric emphasizes understanding of ideas and persuasive expression. In the grammar stage of history, students are briefly introduced to each period of history with attention given to the memorization of names, dates and places through fun memorization tactics. In the logic and rhetoric stages, the student repeats the four-year cycle of the grammar years but now begins seeking to find connections between events by using tools like timelines, outlines and original sources to examine the motives of leaders, relationships between cultures and the application of morals to human action. Art and music are coordinated with history so that the student learns about social and cultural developments and how they affect works of art.
The study of the Sciences will follow a roughly corresponding cycle to the history periods. First graders, who are studying the ancients, learn about things that the ancients could see—animal life, the human body and plants. They make collections, take nature walks and grow plants. Second graders collect facts about the earth and sky, a study designed to go along with the medieval-early Renaissance period when Copernicus observed the heavens. Third graders work on basic chemistry as their history reading spans the period from 1600 to 1850, the years when the first great chemists lived. In fourth grade, basic physics is introduced as the students study modern times.
The grammar-stage science is a time of discovery leading the student to the logic and rhetoric stages in the middle and high school years when the young scientist digs below the surface of the discoveries made in the earlier grades. As the School of Logic student progresses through the four-year cycle of biology, astronomy, chemistry and physics again, he begins to think more critically about doing science and begins to practice the scientific method himself through experimentation. He makes connections among the branches of science, between science and history, between the scientific method and the rules of logic. Once in the upper grades, the rhetoric student will once again pass through a similar four-year cycle as he studies the principles and laws of each science. Following this plan, he will finish high school with a firm grasp of foundational scientific ideas.