Curriculum Philosophy

The Western Academy curriculum has four defining characteristics: it is detailed, connected, integrated, and alive. Details and little things are aspects usually loathed by boys, yet necessary for their education. Great emphasis is placed on the details of academics: grammar, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, drawing, scientific classification, math skills and drills, historical and geographical data, and thoroughly completed homework assignments. Attention to detail is also evident in orderly classrooms, well planned lessons, composure of classroom dynamics, and neatness of dress. Detailed study becomes even more complete when connections are revealed; for example, the relations of birds, insects, weather, and animals are connected to the life of trees and the life that trees support. Similarly, the study of falcons is enhanced with writing a poem about them, and the study of live oaks is enhanced when they are connected historically with their use in frigates such as “Old Ironsides”.

Beyond connecting matters within a subject, and subjects with other subjects, we foster a sincere effort to connect learning with present living and the self—this includes connecting emotions and reason, the heart and mind. This type of connection can better be termed "integration" as it strives to integrate what one learns of the world and history, with how one lives in and perceives the world and reality. Furthermore, through quiet and humble observation the boy can experience awe and wonder at the mystery and power of creation—proper responses of the heart to the created world.

Efforts toward true integration necessarily involve action as a student applies lessons to his life—virtues don’t become virtues unless one acts on what he sees as the right thing to do—whether this involves daring to reach out in friendships, or doing our work on time, or acting with compassion. Together these aspects of connection and integration, in perception and action, encourage the boy to be more creative, to be more “alive”, whereby true personalities can grow and a deep goodness can take firmer root. The goal of a Western Academy education is a man fully alive.

Education comes to life when it is connected to the world around us and genuine interests are fostered. The importance of the imagination for this end of helping the education come alive is clearly understood at Western Academy. Examples include studying poetry in natural history and literature classes, summer reading and journaling assignments, our creative writing contests every spring, our Competition of the Bard, and imagining oneself in the mysterious scenes of Christ's life presented in the rosary. The connection between choice, action, and well-being is especially present in literature, as characters' choices can be seen along with their consequences for others and themselves. Western Academy’s small class size and homeroom teacher relationship enables this connection as the teachers get to know each student more personally and can observe the boys in many different settings, from quiet academic situations to more vibrant and competitive ones. Our teachers have an eye for details and the skills to develop study skills, use narrative across the curriculum, and teach in the field, which includes nature walks and a variety of field trips.

Our subjects of study are derived from the liberal arts: at Western Academy they include religion, natural history and science, math, literature and poetry, language arts and Latin, history, music, art, physical education, and various selective courses.

Homerooms

 The students are placed in small homeroom classes and are led by one principal homeroom teacher. Small class sizes and a homeroom setting have many advantages in the education of young boys who are increasingly looking for male mentoring, encouragement, and example. Western Academy teachers provide models for cultured manhood: men who play sports, are friends, work diligently, and are genuinely interested in the world and ideas. Such examples are especially important for young, developing boys who are increasingly open to a vibrant engagement of the world. The homeroom setting enables the teachers to not only provide an ongoing personal touch, but also gives him the ability to promptly grasp an individual understanding of each boy. Working in a cooperative relationship with parents and remembering the trials and triumphs of his own boyhood experience, teachers at Western Academy instruct with a keen eye toward deepening our knowledge and appreciation of each of our students.

Language Arts, Latin, and Writing

 At Western Academy students study Latin alongside Language Arts. The study of Latin gives the student a strong education in grammar, the structure of language. In Latin, grammar is the organizing principle, rather than a vestige, as in most modern languages. Students who learn English grammar by comparison and contrast with Latin grammar develop an understanding of language far superior to anything that can be achieved by the study of modern languages alone. Correspondingly, studying a disciplined, organized language like Latin helps students learn to think and write in a more disciplined, organized way.

In addition to Latin, Lower School Language Arts includes handwriting, spelling, and the mechanics of grammar and writing. The text we use for English language arts is Fix-It! Grammar which helps students learn correct syntax by editing grammatical errors in a classic story.

Writing at Western Academy is taught using the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) program. IEW's unique approach provides the structure that students need to develop confidence in the writing process, while gradually guiding them toward greater independence and creativity. They learn nine structural models (note taking, writing paragraphs, stories, simple reports, writing from pictures, research reports, creative writing, essays, and critiques) to help them organize any type of composition. Additionally, stylistic techniques (strong verbs, quality adjectives, sentence openers, and more) are taught incrementally to gently move students from the basics into more sophisticated writing.

Grade 3
Texts: Simply Grammar by Karen Andreola, Handwriting Book 2 & 3 by Zaner- Bloser

Grade 4
Texts: Handwriting by Zaner-Bloser, Fix-It! Grammar by IEW, and Latina Christiana by Memoria Press

Grade 5
Texts: Handwriting Zaner-Bloser, Fix-It! Grammar by IEW, and First Form Latin by Memoria Press

·       Cursive Penmanship

·       Literature

 The study of literature plays an important role in realizing Western Academy’s educational vision. Recognizing that it is as important to cultivate the imagination as it is to cultivate the will or the intelligence, Western Academy literature teachers share a common love for the beauty of the written word and have a deep appreciation for the wisdom, moral vision, and truth that literature can convey.

 Literature includes the reading, aloud and silently, of poems, short stories, folk tales, and novels. Notable aspects of our approach to literature include the pleasure of the spoken word, as well as an examination of literature’s refined and figurative use of language. Moreover, our selection of stories places emphasis on themes such as heroism and the formation of the moral imagination, pointing out the connections between choice, action and well-being. We strive to tap the natural capacities for wonder in boys, especially through folk or "wonder" tales, such as those collected by the Grimm brothers.

 The study of poetry brings a reflective, yet spirited tone to the literature curriculum, as well as an added level of festivity to the overall life of the school. The literature teacher periodically assigns his students poems to be memorized and recited for a grade. Students are strongly encouraged to enter the festival day recitation competition, since it is through this pursuit that they may distinguish themselves and earn points for their house. The dynamic literary culture at Western Academy can be seen not only on festival days, but also in various dramatic productions. Elements such as grammar, diction, and usage can come alive in the context of a poem, especially when that poem is learned by heart. (The following list is a sampling; books and poems may vary slightly.)

 Grade 3
Texts: The Great Quillow by James Thurber, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, The Tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris (as told by Julius Lester), D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

Poetry selections taken from Wordsworth, Longfellow and others.

 Grade 4
Texts: The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry, The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling, A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Poetry selections taken from Frost, Tennyson and others.

 Grade 5
Texts: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Poetry selections taken from Poe, Emerson and others.

Math

Western Academy employs a traditional classroom instructional model for teaching math. The class meets daily and we primarily teach from Saxon and McDougal-Littel math texts. Students are placed under the guidance of an individual teacher grouped for math by homeroom, unless they are in a different book, in which case they are placed in an appropriate level class. In the traditional math setting the teachers instruct the class and model the problem solving, giving students individual attention as they solve the practice problems. Students are regularly assigned problems from the lesson to complete for homework.

Math 54 by Saxon

Topics covered include addition, place value and other skills are reviewed, as well as new concepts such as fractions, decimals, Roman Numerals and working with triple-digit numbers.

Math 65 by Saxon

Topics covered include advanced divisibility concepts, multiplication, integers, prime and composite numbers, powers, roots, probability, statistics, patterns and geometry.

Math 76 by Saxon

Topics covered include compound interest, functions and coordinate graphing, integers, exponential expressions, divisibility concepts, prime factorization, ratios and more.

Math Course 1 by McDougal-Littel

Topics: Number sense; algebraic thinking; measurement and statistics; number patterns and fractions; ratio; proportion; percent; geometric figures; integers; equations and functions; probability.

Natural History

 Natural history, a key component to the Lower School education, stirs a boy’s appreciation for the order and wonder of the created world. Through natural history, boys are trained to hone and trust their powers of observation. Active engagement in the natural surroundings is obtained through field trips, either on campus or at nearby locations. Instruction in the art and science of detailed notation and classification is taught through the keeping of a nature journal. Stories from Greek mythology, its heroes and constellations, support a student’s regard for the mystery and wonder found in our dynamic and mysterious cosmos.

Grade 3
Resource Texts: Field Guide to Common Texas Insects by Bastiaan Drees, Golden Guide to Trees, Golden Guide to Insects, Golden Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Birds of Eastern and Central North America and Birds of Texas by R.T. Peterson

Grade 4
Resource Texts: The Thirteen Moons series by Jean Craighead George, Oak: The Frame of Civilization, by William Bryant Logan, and Horns and Antlers, Beetles, The Wonder World of Ants, and Grasshopper Book, all by Wilfred S. Bronson

Grade 5
Resource Texts: Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan, Birds of Texas, Trees of Texas, Mammals of Texas, Wild Flowers of Texas, all by Stan Tekiela, Berlandier: A French Naturalist on The Texas Frontier by James Kaye

 History through Story

In the 3rd and 4th Grades our history curriculum focuses on ancient and medieval history by employing a strong narrative method. We use The Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer, as a base text and several other resource texts that help the boys enter into the roots of our culture and meet the figures who have shaped our history. In the 5th Grade we pivot towards United States history and geography by using the Sea to Shining Sea textbook from the Catholic Textbook Project. The study of American history not only focuses on the English colonies but also the Spanish missions and the French settlements in the South and Canada.

Grade 3 (Ancient and Early American History)

Text: Story of the World Volume I: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer, and A Child's First Book of American History by Earl Schenck Miers

Topics include the ancient times of the earliest nomads to the last Roman Emperor, as well as an introduction to American historical figures.

 Grade 4 (Medieval History, George Washington, and Sam Houston)
Text: Story of the World Volume II: The Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bower, and George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster

Topics include the fall of Rome to the rise of the Renaissance, with several special units on figures such as George Washington and Sam Houston.

 Grade 5 (American History)

Texts: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America by Christopher Zehnder (Chapters 1-10), Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, St. Isaac and the Indians by Milton Lomask

Topics include the story of North America from the Indian nations, European colonization, and the founding and history of the United States up to the Jacksonian Era.

Religion

Religion is an essential aspect of our Western Academy curriculum and school ethos. Religion class is mandatory for Catholic students, and an option for non- Catholics. Classes are supplemented with interesting narratives from the Old and New Testaments, weekly attendance at Mass, as well as monthly chapel services and occasional devotional practices such as the recital of the rosary, which includes an imaginative and meditative exploration of the various mysteries. Themes that pervade the religion curriculum include the recognition and effort to live as a loved child of God, a more personal knowledge of Jesus, and an understanding of religion and worship as just and proper responses to the Creator.

Western Academy Lower School students study the Faith and Life Series published by Ignatius Press. Student textbook lessons incorporate the four principal components of catechesis: the Creed, the Commandments, the Sacraments and Liturgy, Prayer and Scripture. In addition to giving a clear and comprehensive presentation of our faith, the student textbooks are rich in artwork, both original and classical.

Music

Engagement in the art of music contributes to the intellectual, moral, spiritual and physical development of our young men. Diverse musical works are drawn from classical pieces, traditional folk songs, sacred hymnody, medieval chant, modern popular music, and original music composed and arranged by our faculty. At the lower levels, curriculum in designed to help students grow a personal love for music and art while physically playing an exploring a range of instruments. At the higher levels curriculum aims to give depth, range, and subtlety to a formed habit of musicianship and expression.

 To put it succinctly, our students love to play and sing music. The act of physically making music becomes a doorway into the understanding of the vocabulary and mechanics of the art, as well as the broader understanding of the world and culture that creates each style of music. This engages the heart and opens the person to a beauty and wonder that is co-experienced with practice and dedication. Music theory, ear training, sight singing, and music appreciation dovetail a program designed to spark a love of music through playing a variety of instruments and singing in a choir. Finally, the gift of music is shared with the community at different family and school events throughout the year.

 Choir

Band and Instrumental Ensembles