Which level of the Liberal Arts curriculum is right for my child?
Since our courses include a mix of ages and grade levels, teachers are able to accommodate a range of abilities in each class. Choosing the best fit will allow your student to get the most out of the course by being appropriately challenged without becoming frustrated. Student work, including writing assignments and presentations, should show consistent improvement, but the focus of assessment will be on individual growth rather than comparison with other students in the class.
As you determine the best level for your student, here are some points to consider:
Reading level: Look at a few of the books on the book list and compare them to titles your student has most recently read. Students beginning at Level 1 should be sounding out letters and simple words, but they need not be able to read the books themselves.
Attention span: While all courses will include use of a digital whiteboard, the elementary courses in particular will include more visual aids. All books in Level 1 include significant illustrations, which means that some students will find it easier to pay attention in class at that level. For example, even if a student is able to read Early Chapter books, in some cases the Level 1 Illustrated Classics course will still be the best choice for those who would struggle to focus in a class with fewer visual aids.
Maturity: The appropriateness of the book’s themes or subject matter (loss, struggle, conflict, etc.) for the child’s age and maturity level may influence your decision as well. It is important to remember that although a student may have the reading skills to engage a more advanced book, he or she may not necessarily be ready for the subject matter. Young students who are especially strong readers may not be able to glean as much from higher level books as they would if they approached them a bit later. While teachers will not dwell on such topics, here are some examples of topics which may come up at various levels:
- Level 3: tense emotional scenes involving peril, loss, and death; general references to evil
- Level 4: violence against animals (Call of the Wild) and humans, rare use of mild profane language in literature (Where the Red Fern Grows)
- Level 5: all of the above + politics, racism, male/female relationships, atomic bomb, mass destruction, disease, minor references to adultery (Legends of King Arthur), fantasy violence including dismemberment (Beowulf)
- Level 6 and 7: all of the above + suicide (Shakespeare and Greek dramatists), graphic depictions of war (Homer), philosophical speculation (Plato and Greek philosophers), incest (Oedipus Rex), premeditated murder (Crime and Punishment), adultery (no graphic depictions), and references to alcohol use (1984)
Again, these themes are infrequent, but they do occur in the reading, and these details are meant to help you judge what your own children are ready to handle. Teachers will strive to handle each topic as it comes up with sensitivity, candor, and grace.
Readiness to participate in a live class: Social and academic factors can influence a student's willingness to participate in class by asking questions, answering questions, and offering comments on the reading. Students should be prepared to read and discuss the books with a group of peers. In some cases, for example, picking a lower level might allow a student to gain confidence in class participation in preparation for advancement to the next level.
Writing ability: Writing abilities at each level will vary, but students will be asked to do writing assignments on a regular basis. It is important that writing is a rewarding experience or students will resist the process, and mounting frustration can quickly turn students away from writing. Parents should feel free to adjust writing assignments to match the abilities of their children.
Feel free to submit a writing sample to Mr. Lockridge if you think that this might be a deciding factor in your enrollment choice and he will be happy to further advise you.
What courses do you offer, and which ones will you add in the future?
Currently we offer Greek, Catechism, and our Liberal Arts Curriculum courses.
St. Raphael School exists to meet a need in the Orthodox Christian homeschooling community by providing resources (courses and curriculum) which are informed by Orthodox theology, spirituality, and practices. The biggest demands seem to be in history, humanities, languages, catechism, and music. While it is possible that eventually we would offer a "full curriculum," our focus will be to provide content in these areas which require treatment from an Orthodox standpoint. It is unlikely that we will design our own algebra or physics courses as these subjects can be easily obtained from other providers and do not require the same kind of special treatment.
We are working to offer specific recommendations on courses and content which we do not offer. If you need such recommendations, please ask.
What are the system requirements for participating in the live, online classes?
St Raphael School uses an online video platform called Zoom. This solution allows us to very closely mimic an actual classroom.
While you can use the microphone and camera that may be built-into your computer, we recommend using an external webcam with its own built-in microphone. We recommend that you consider the following products that are available fairly inexpensively from numerous providers including most local retail stores.
- Headset: Plantronics USB headset offers good quality for an affordable price
- Webcam: If you do not have a built-in webcam, Logitech and other providers make USB external devices. Note that many webcams come with a built-in microphone as well.
Is St. Raphael School accredited?
No, St. Raphael School partners with homeschooling families by offering live, online courses which help provide additional teaching, curriculum structure, accountability, and community to students.
At the end of the year we offer completion certificates to students which can help validate their coursework in some cases.
Parents should take care to ensure compliance with state laws and keep records of study for student transcripts. The best place to begin in researching local laws and transcript preparation for colleges is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
If you are new to homeschooling and considering it as an option, here is a great place to begin learning.
Does St. Raphael School assess my child's work for their online courses?
While teachers will observe students and provide narrative feedback occasionally during the year and at the end of the course, parents are the final authority in awarding credit and are responsible to determine a letter grade for desired credits. Teachers are available for consulting in these decisions and will offer their input upon request.
Who should enroll in a Greek course?
The Greek language courses are primarily designed for upper elementary and middle school students, though high school students frequently enroll as well.
Those who took courses from St. Raphael School in the past three years will know that Greek was originally part of the Level 4 and Level 5 courses (formerly "Middle School"); Greek was a required part of the Liberal Arts course. We decided to separate these courses to simplify enrollment, and it also reflects our recognition that there are some students who may not be ready to take Greek but who are otherwise ready for the Level 4 Liberal Arts course.
While we stop short of saying Greek is mandatory for the Liberal Arts courses, we do expect students to begin the study Greek in Middle School (around Level 4) unless there is a compelling reason to delay or omit such study altogether. (Compelling reasons would include learning disabilities, significant past difficulties in studying a language, or transferring into the course having already begun the study of Latin).
Our reasons for prioritizing Greek include the unique significance of Greek as the language of the New Testament and other important texts of the Church; the way that the study of Greek informs the study of the English language; and the aid that it provides in studying the Great Books which draw heavily upon the mind (and thus the language) of the ancient Greeks.
What is unique about taking Greek from St. Raphael School?
Our Greek teachers are both knowledgeable about ancient Greek and able to help students make connections between their study of the language and its role in the life of the Church. For example, in their four years of studying Greek at St. Raphael School, students will practice reading the text on icons and encounter important passages from Scripture, the Church Fathers, hymns, and other significant texts.