Integrated Humanities FAQs (or, "Do you really read all of those books?"), by Scott Postma

At Logos Online School, we field myriads of really good questions from parents and students. In this post, I want to address five of the most frequently asked questions about our Integrated Humanities courses.

Question One: Do you really read all of those books? (or, should I buy all of the literature books?)

The short answer is, yes! In the three-credit Integrated Humanities courses at Logos Online School, students read a lot of books. And by a lot, I mean anywhere from 30-40 books during the 32-week school year. This might seem overwhelming to someone who isn’t used to reading, Yet, what often surprises parents (and students) is just how much reading their child is capable of completing when the proverbial gauntlet is cast down. With the chivalry of a medieval knight, most young scholars rise to the occasion, slay the dragon of anxiety, and plunder their humanities books for all their worth.

In reality, Integrated Humanities is the backbone of Logos Online School, so in addition to other homework (typically, no more than 30 minutes for each class), students are expected to set aside about two hours per day for reading outside of class. Indeed, reading for Integrated Humanities is a commitment, but like anything else worth plundering, the rewards are invaluable.

Younger students can typically read about 25-40 pages in those two hours, where older students soon find 50 pages per day is actually not so unreasonable. As you might imagine, students learn to read faster and retain more the more they exercise their reading muscles—especially if they’re taught to do so with a pencil in their hand. So when parents ask if they should buy “all of the literature books,” the answer in most cases is a resounding, yes!

That said, it is not uncommon for teachers to assign only selections of some books and exclude others altogether, so it’s still a good idea to check with the teacher or consult the syllabus when buying books. But don’t be surprised when, in most cases, students will be expected to “really read all those books.” And don’t be surprised when your dinner table conversation becomes more interesting and more meaningful than any medieval knight’s tale you’ve ever read.

Question Two: How much writing will my student do?

Another question parents frequently ask is how much writing students do in the Integrated Humanities course at Logos Online School. In short, just like reading, they do quite a bit. However, this too depends on the teacher and the particular book the class is working through. On average students will be expected to complete about one writing assignment each week or at the very least, one writing assignment every other week. These writing assignments are in addition to the reading, answering the discussion questions in the Omnibus in preparation for class discussions, or the occasional in-class writing assignment. Writing is a big deal in humanities because as Ambrose Bierce once noted, writing is nothing more than clear thinking made visible. And thinking well is what Integrated Humanities is all about.

One aspect to be aware of, however, is Integrated Humanity writing assignments are generally geared toward wrestling through the concepts rather than perfecting the style, i.e. grammar and spelling. But there will definitely be plenty of help with this as well. Because, how can a teacher know if the student is thinking clearly if what they are writing isn’t all that visible?

Question Three: What if my student is not a great reader/writer?

One of the most common concerns parents and students raise is what if a potential student is not a proficient reader or writer? If the answer to this question seems curt, please don’t be offended: so what? None of us are good at the things we’re not used to doing. The only way to get better at anything is to practice that thing—consistently and well. That means students learn to be good readers by practicing reading and they learn to be good writers by practicing writing. And practice reading and writing, we will. Never fear, though; teachers will be there to offer plenty of help along the way.

Question Four: How do students interact with their teacher? (or, how do you conduct classroom discussions?)

A fourth question has to do with classroom discussions and student/teacher interaction. Thanks to the great advancements in technology, students at Logos Online School can enjoy a virtual classroom experience that is every bit as interactive as a brick and mortar classroom. Students and teachers use microphones, webcams, and a chat pod to carry on classroom discussions.

Rather than using a strictly didactic or lecture-centered teaching method, teachers at Logos Online School act as midwives to the students and help them deliver the truth rather than simply spoon-feed it to them. This logical process of questioning and qualifying ideas through the lens of Scripture is not a new approach to relativism, but something known as the Socratic method. The Socratic method is about stripping away the answers that don’t line up or make sense so students can understand why Scripture teaches what it does.

This doesn’t mean teachers won’t lecture on occasion, but the philosophy of Logos Online School is to help students learn how to think through important ideas in the text and come to the truth, rather than simply telling them what they should think about those ideas.

Question Five: How do you grade?

Finally, the matter of grading comes up from time to time, so with this answer, I’ll bring this post to a close. While grading practices can vary slightly from teacher to teacher, a typical model will grade on four criteria: reading, writing assignments/quizzes, classroom participation, and exams. The way this typically looks is reading and writing/quizzes each carry about thirty percent for a total of sixty percent of the total grade. Classroom participation and exams each carry twenty percent, for another forty percent of the total grade. Exams are essay styled rather than multiple choice and are only administered twice in a year, one at the end of each semester.

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