How to Grow a Great-Hearted Graduate

Great Hearts Academies October 6, 2022

Students doing a chemistry labBy offering a classical liberal arts curriculum, Great Hearts not only cultivates the hearts and minds of students in the pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, but also graduates great-hearted leaders prepared for success at the top colleges and universities worldwide.

Curriculum for our upper schools (6th through 12th grade, and sometimes referred to as “Prep”) consists of English, History and Geography, Math, Science, Foreign Language, Fine Arts, and Athletics.  We believe that true education is a matter of development over time and within a stable community. At Great Hearts we give our students individualized attention, but always within a common, one-track curriculum.

Let’s explore some of the components of our curriculum at our upper schools in this brief overview:

While Literature & Composition and History (Intro to American History, Ancient History, and Medieval History) are offered separately for middle school (6th – 8th grades), these areas of study are combined for high school in Humane Letters.  Humane Letters is the capstone course of the Great Hearts high school experience. Students strive to better understand the world around them through the ideas of those who came before us. For this reason, Humane Letters is first and foremost a Great Books seminar, in which the reading and Socratic discussion of great works of prose, fiction, political theory, epic poetry, philosophy, autobiography, drama, and scriptures are the work of the course.

Great Hearts Chief Academic Officer Jake Tawney expressed his appreciation for some of the fine literature included in the reading lists. “In the middle school, I am particularly drawn to Beuwulf and To Kill a Mockingbird. In the high school Humane Letters sequence, I love The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, and Confessions. But even in saying that makes me feel guilty for leaving off books like The Brothers Karamazov, The Divine Comedy, A Tale of Two Cities, the Iliad, and My Antonio. Come to think of it, they are all my favorite.”

In middle school, the math curriculum progresses from the physical manipulatives and physical representations of numbers  to numbers on a more abstract level.

By 9th grade, students are ready for a more mature treatment of the discipline. Geometry is a body of knowledge concerned with mathematical space.  In 10th grade, students will pick up their study of algebra once again, but this time with an emphasis in the study of functions.  All Great Hearts students in 11th and 12thgrades are treated to the formal study of Calculus. We take students through the two famous problems: the slope of a tangent line and the area under the curve.

In middle and high school we teach the foundations of all the major sciences: biology, astronomy, chemistry, and physics. We do so in a way that does two complementary things: it prepares our graduates for specialized university studies AND it provides all students a robust foundational understanding of the disciplines that is often superior to university requirements for non-science majors.

Education in language requires at least one foreign language. The study of one language yields insights into others. A complete education in the Western tradition requires the study of Latin.  Greek is introduced in 11thand 12th grades.  Spanish and French are also offered as modern foreign languages at some academies.  Instruction in the modern foreign languages is entirely immersive.

The Great Hearts curriculum would not be complete without the study of the musical, visual, poetic, and dramatic arts. In each art form, this process begins with a focus on the skills at the core of the medium while instilling an appreciation for beautiful works. This two-pronged approach requires thoughtful integration of the making and performance of the arts with the formation of a student’s aesthetic sense in studying great works of art, poetry, drama, and music.

In Middle School, we want to train our athletes to master the fundamentals of the specific sport, and to learn commitment as a member of a team. We foster the love of the game by emphasizing the fundamentals of each sport. Additionally, we teach and demonstrate good sportsmanship, how to lose and win with honor, how to be a good person on the field, and how to carry that into the classroom, on campus, and in the community.

High School athletes have more opportunity to compete against the rest of the state. They carry the Great Hearts mantle with them to every venue; they are challenged and expected to demonstrate the great-hearted competitive spirit towards our opponents before, during, and after the competition.

Athletics are co-curricular – not an escape from the life of the academy but supportive of it.  It is recognized for its worth and also held to the academy standard.

We can’t talk about the education that our scholars receive in the upper schools without giving mention to our College Counseling.  Our approach is far more immersive and personalized than you would expect to see in most schools.  Our counselors prepare both scholars and their families for the challenges and obstacles they may face during the application, acceptance, and decision periods.  This begins early in a student’s upper school career and sets Great Hearts apart from many preparatory academies.  You can read more about College Counseling at

To quote directly from The Philosophical Pillars of Great Hearts, “Liberal education consists of cognitive, emotional, and moral education—thinking deeply, loving noble things, and living well together. We believe, with Plato, that the highest goal of education is to become good, intellectually and morally.”

Learn more about all the curriculum offered at Great Hearts here:

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Curriculum Overview

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