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XP: Comparing live Omnibus options - Wilson Hill vs. VP vs. Logos?


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I think I'd really like a live online class option for Omnibus/Great Books for DS11. We are currently doing the Omnibus I Secondary books using the VP self-paced omnibus online. I was planning to use the Omnibus I Primary videos after it (DS is in 6th now, so I figured we would start the primary books this spring or summer).

 

The thing is... he LOVES discussing ideas, and he LOVES interaction with other kids and teachers. He is currently in an online lit discussion class (Angelina Stanford) and it is his favorite part of the week. So now I'm thinking maybe we should find a live class for Omnibus instead.

 

Also, while we have in some ways enjoyed the VP videos, in other ways I have been less than thrilled with them... Sometimes there are things in them that just feel a bit like time wasters. He enjoys them, but I'm just not sure they are the best use of our time, kwim? But OTOH, I love that we can do them totally at our own pace and schedule, and that we don't have lots of piddly assignments and grades that distract us from our actual learning (ironic, but it does happen in live classes, IME!).

 

So I'm investigating our options for next year. So far I have found:

- Wilson Hill (Great Conversation I) (run by Bruce Etter, but he would not be the teacher)

- Veritas Press Scholars Academy (Omnibus I Primary) (this year taught by Scott McQuinn and Corey Piper)

- Logos online academy (Integrated Humanities A) (this year taught by

- VP Omnibus I Primary videos (Bruce Etter is the main teacher)

 

I'm not necessarily committed to Omnibus; I would consider other Great Books courses, as long as they:

- have a Christian worldview

- are focused on ideas, and

- cover a decent breadth of material

 

Thoughts? Reviews? Comparisons? Other suggestions to further muddy the waters for me? I'm really wrestling with this!

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Two more options to muddy the waters. :)

1) Fritz Hinrich’s Great Books Tutorial. Deep discussions, reasonable pace (doesn’t try to cover 50 books to say he did), Live online classes once/week. All students and instructor on webcam (minimizes off task day dreaming/playing around). NO busy work. Good writing assignments.

Cons: Essays are read by a student. IIRC they were hs seniors or older who had taken the GBT sequence. I’d have preferred teacher feedback, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality and usefulness of the student’s feedback on my DDS essays. If I’d wanted more writing focus, I’d have sent my DDS essays to an outside, third party writing tutor/evaluator.

 

Pro/Con: This course is what the student makes of it. What the student gets out of the class will be proportional to what s/he puts into it.  I think a student could probably float fairly passively along getting relatively little out of it, or s/he could put serious, significant effort into the reading and discussion and essays and grow a lot from it.

Edited by yvonne
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I sat in on the open house last month with Wilson Hill where Bruce Etter, Michael Viera, a veteran parent, and two students who talked about the philosophy and approach (aka vision) of WHA especially as it pertained to the Great Conversation courses. I also sat in on a couple of live Great Conversation classes when WHA did an open house/online campus days last January. I was seriously impressed and am planning to do this at Wilson Hill when my son is old enough. The level of thoughtful discussion as led by the instructors and how the students engaged with the instructors and each other was wonderful. It's something that I could never manage to produce on my own. I appreciated that the emphasis was not to shy away from difficult material and topics, but to engage deeply, critically and thoughtfully. I also like that they also want students to be able to write and speak effectively as well. I sat in on lots of other classes and across the board, and I was happy with the quality of the teachers at WHA I observed. Hopefully, they will do it again this January?

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I just saw this was posted last month about the Writing aspect of the GC courses.

 

WHA is fully committed to student mastery in writing. The following outlines and summarizes our approach to writing instruction, beginning in the 5th grade and ending in the 12th grade.

Key points about our writing approach:

  • Our primary focus is essay writing.
  • To teach essay writing is to teach thinking.
  • All students can learn to write essays with proficiency and eloquence.
  • Writing instruction is most effective when provided in a process that emphasizes ability, not just age/grade level.

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Writing in Great Conversation (GC) Courses:

  1. Every GC teacher is committed to the importance of writing as part of learning how to think.
  2. Writing expectations are consistent with grade level.
  3. The GC 1 and 2 courses correspond to the level of writing instruction provided in Language Arts 3 and 4 (School of Logic level) respectively.  This writing instruction is designed to prepare students to eventually write well-formed academic essays by the end of 8th grade.
  4. The GC 3 – 6 courses require a minimum of four academic essays per year. The essay topics will increase in complexity and difficulty as the student progresses from GC 3 to GC 6.
  5. In order to reinforce key essay writing skills, students in GC 3 – 6 will also have regular “Thesis-Driven Paragraph†assignments as part of their writing grade in the course. Additionally, these courses incorporate at least two “Discussion Board†assignments per month.  While these are not formal writing assignments, students are expected to use proper grammar and style (no texting language) in their efforts to discuss with others a key topic.
  6. WHA is committed to excellence in both expository and persuasive essay writing.
  7. We believe students should be trained, not only to persuade an audience with respect to a thesis, but also to thoughtfully and effectively interpret the meaning of a particular text in ways that are relevant for a given topic.
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And Tom Viera wrote this blog post as well which speaks to the writing and the goal of the GC courses:
 

Thinking in Slow Motion: The WHA Approach to Writing
HOME Â» ACADEMICS Â» THINKING IN SLOW MOTION: THE WHA APPROACH TO WRITING

Years ago when I first began teaching, my headmaster gave me some advice on teaching writing.  Quoting the poet and philosopher Walter Kaufmann, he told me that “Writing is thinking in slow motion.†In other words, learning how to write is not something separate from learning how to think. Writing is essential for learning how to think.

My assigned course was quite similar to one of The Great Conversation classes we offer at WHA: a discussion-driven seminar in which we explored great books and wrote limited academic essays on them. The overarching objective was to teach students how to think, not what to think. And I was able to see quite easily how Socratic-style discussion suits that purpose well. But writing? Does composition teach my students how to think?Fotosearch_k13240247-2-300x200.jpg

Over the years, I have noticed a tendency in Socratic seminar courses to lean too heavily upon in-class discussion as the best and perhaps even exclusive way to teach thinking. The line of thought goes something like this: “Sure, students have to form an argument in an essay and that is all well and good, but ah, the seminar! The Socratic Method! These are the true instruments for intellectual empowerment.†Admittedly, I have been guilty of this mindset.

But this mindset is mistaken – badly mistaken.

Here was my first (and most important) clue: while our in-class discussions were often constructive and highly energizing, my students’ essays were typically ill-formed, anemic, or plastic. I couldn’t figure out why. How could my students plumb the depths of justice, selfishness, and virtue in The Great Gatsby or Plato’s Republic yet write such insipid analyses? It was not supposed to be this way.

And then I began to realize the wisdom in my headmaster’s advice: “Writing is thinking in slow motion.† I had made an implicit assumption that writing is primarily (or maybe even entirely) expressive. Writing is about students telling me what they think, right? What I failed to recognize is that writing could also be formative â€“ indeed, that at the middle and high school levels, writing is primarily formative. It is not simply about students telling me what they think, but is more importantly a means by which students actually learn how to think for themselves.

The art of crafting an excellent sentence is not an exercise in some arbitrary skill called writing. It is an exercise in coherent thinking. And this is why grammar and style always count. There is no such thing as an essay that has “good content†but poor grammar and style, because grammar and style are the very means by which the reader grasps the content. The mistake here is to think of the essay as simply expressive. The student has got some ideas, and you as the teacher think you get them for the most part.

But that’s not the point – or at least it’s not the only point. If the ideas are poorly phrased, or the content expressed in broken grammar, then there has been some kind of breakdown in the thinking process.  And that breakdown should be the teacher’s primary concern. That the student “had given some thought to the question†is important, but only in the same way that putting gasoline into a car is important. It is necessary, but it is far from enough to get you to your destination. You must drive the car, and you must do so carefully and with a clear sense of direction.

At WHA, we are committed to approaching writing as essential to the main goal in The Great Conversation courses, that of learning how to think. It is, we believe, ideal when writing instruction occurs within the context of careful reading and discussion of great books. We are always seeking ways to improve how we encourage good writing in these courses, particularly at the School of Rhetoric level when the foundational preparation in composition has already been set in the Language Arts courses.  We hope to continue that good and faithful work throughout the 2017-18 school year and beyond.

Dr. Tom Vierra teaches courses in The Great Conversation, Logic, and Rhetoric and is Director of Academics for Wilson Hill Academy.

 

 

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One thing I wish WHA would do is have more West Coast friendly times on their schedule. Given my kiddo is NOT a morning person, nothing earlier than their 12:30 EST classes will work for us which pretty much eliminates 3/5 of their offerings.

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One thing I wish WHA would do is have more West Coast friendly times on their schedule. Given my kiddo is NOT a morning person, nothing earlier than their 12:30 EST classes will work for us which pretty much eliminates 3/5 of their offerings.

 

 

I wonder if the poll about time of classes that they sent recently will shift some of their offerings, or add to them?

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For the poll, was it internally just within WHA? Some of us aren't enrolled yet because of the West Coast time issue. So it is a chicken and egg issue. They won't get as good of a feel of the need because I imagine there are families like me. The section offering for grammar and logic stages are really quite EST driven. I just submitted a comment about it on their online comment form.

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For the poll, was it internally just within WHA? Some of us aren't enrolled yet because of the West Coast time issue. So it is a chicken and egg issue. They won't get as good of a feel of the need because I imagine there are families like me. The section offering for grammar and logic stages are really quite EST driven. I just submitted a comment about it on their online comment form.

Yes, it came from WHA to current parents.

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