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CLAA vs. Catholic Heritage Curriculum

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Themis, the goddess of justiceIn this post, I’d like to help parents compare the Classical Liberal Arts Academy to  Catholic Heritage Curriculum.

Twenty years ago, my wife and I chose to homeschool our children.  We started as most families do–we searched for homeschool products on Google, requested catalogs from homeschool catalogs, and asked friends what they were using.  After a year or two looking at what as available, we said, “No way can we use these programs.  They’re terrible.”  So, we decided to undertake the work of developing the Classical Liberal Arts Academy and working to “research, restore, publish and teach the classical liberal arts”.  We wanted our children to receive a real, historical Catholic education–and no homeschool publishers were selling it.

Now, I’m not saying that the people running these homeschool programs aren’t nice people or that they’re bad Catholics.  In fact, I’m sure many of them are great people and faithful Catholics.  God is my witness that I say this sincerely.  That, however, has nothing to do with the quality of an educational program.  My parish is filled with friendly, faithful Catholics, but I wouldn’t pay any of them to teach my children or write books for our homeschool program.  Catholic education is an objective, knowable reality that has existed in history for over 2,000 years, and we need to give our children that which is, truly, Catholic education.  Not merely give our money away to friendly Catholics with good intentions.

In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, we don’t advertise ourselves as “friendly Catholics”.  There are Catholics who call the Pope and bishops evil, so attempting to please everyone is obviously a waste of time.  We advertise our program as the true, classical Catholic curriculum studied by Catholics throughout Church history. Again, that is an objective, knowable reality.  We can prove that what we are teaching in our courses, saints were studying centuries ago.  That is what we meant when we said we wanted to give our children a “Catholic education”–not that we wanted to buy homeschool materials from friendly Catholics.

The Curriculum

In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, students are getting started in the study of the classical Catholic curriculum studied and taught by saints and wise men for thousands of years.  One can take up the Jesuit “Rule of Studies” from 1599, look at the CLAA curriculum and say, “Yep, that’s it.”  The Classical Liberal Arts Academy teaches five subject areas from beginning to end:

  1. Trivium
  2. Quadrivium
  3. Philosophy
  4. Theology
  5. Humanities

Catholic Heritage Curriculum published a modern list of disconnected subjects:

  1. Language Arts
  2. Mathematics
  3. Science
  4. Social Studies
  5. Religion

Obviously, this list of subjects was never studied by any saints or wise men in Catholic history.   The name of the program suggests that the program they offer has been inherited from the Catholic past, but that’s false.  It’s simply a modern, secular study program being sold to Catholic parents.  Worst of all, it appears that Catholic Heritage Curriculum offers nothing for high school students.

Costs

The most odd thing about Catholic Heritage Curriculum, is that the program is advertised as a “Tuition Free Academic Program”–yet provides no study materials.  Like the use of the term “Heritage”, this “free curriculum” message appears to be another advertising gimmick that’s simply not true.  Catholic Heritage Curriculum costs far more than the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, and families get far less.

To compare the costs of the two programs, let’s look at what an average 8 year old would be studying in the two programs.

Catholic Heritage Curriculum sells a “Second Grade Core Kit“, which includes the following books, for $221.oo–

  • CHC Lesson Plans for Second Grade
  • Bigger Stories for Little Folks
  • Devotional Stories for Little Folks
  • Devotional Stories for Little Folks, Too
  • My Catholic Speller A (Consumable)
  • Language of God A (Consumable)
  • Explore the Continents (Consumable)
  • Behold and See 2: More Science with Josh and Hanna
  • Faith and Life 2 Student, Activity, & Answer Key (Consumable Student Book)
  • Preparing to Receive Jesus Book & Packet (Consumable)

In addition to this, students following the CHC program must purchase this Math program for an additional $50.00:

  • Modern Curriculum Press, Math Level B Homeschool Kit (Consumable Student Book)

Note that all of the products listed as “consumable” are throw-away workbooks.

In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, an 8 year old student would begin with the following–for a total of $175.00:

  • Harvey’s Elementary Grammar ($25)
  • Handwriting ($25)
  • Latin Vocabulary ($25)
  • Ray’s Modern Arithmetic I ($25)
  • Aesop’s Fables (Reading) ($25)
  • Baltimore Catechism ($25)
  • Catholic Bible ($25)

To make the costs of the two programs equal, we’d need to add the following CLAA courses:

  • Classical Grammar ($25)
  • Latin Reading I ($25)
  • Intro to Classical Arithmetic ($25)
  • World Chronology ($25)

There’s really not much to compare here.  The CLAA gets students started in the study of the classical liberal arts curriculum, while Catholic Heritage Curriculum serves a modern, “grade level” collection of disconnected books that are a step above coloring books, academically.

Where the cost difference becomes even more glaring is when we consider that for third grade, a CLAA parent needs to buy NOTHING, while the Catholic Heritage Curriculum parent will need to spend another $300.  In fact, the courses listed above would serve CLAA students until 7th grade!

Services

In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, basic course enrollment includes the following:

  • printable online study materials for all courses
  • online quizzes and exams
  • curriculum progress tracking
  • records and transcripts of all activity
  • forum and email support for parents and students
  • free Google Apps for Education accounts
  • subscription access to OED.com, Typing.com

Catholic Heritage Curriculum provides families with:

  • Lesson plans for parents to follow
  • Printed study materials

So, a Catholic homeschool family would simply buy a box of books and follow plans that tell them what to do every day.  No assignments.  No exams.  No videos.  No support.   No comparison.

CLAA Family Plan

While our enrollment costs are already lower than Caatholic Heritage Curriculum, the price difference gets even worse when multiple children are considered.  A CLAA family can enroll in the Family Plan and give all of their children access to all of our online courses for $100 per month, or $1,200 per year.  That would be the cost for 4 children to obtain consumable, grade-level books from Catholic Heritage Curriculum, which gets even more expensive as the kids get older.

Conclusion

When we look at what Catholic Heritage Curriculum offers Catholic homeschool families, it’s easy to see what my wife and I did when we decided to homeschool our children. The content of the program is simply not academic and the costs cannot be justified.  For $300, a homeschooling parents with no teaching experience is buying a box of books and calling it a “homeschool curriculum”, when it is no such thing.   Even worse, though, is the fact that it is advertised as “Catholic Heritage Curriculum”, obviously suggesting that ignorant parents who spend their money on this box of books are buying something that is tested and trustworthy, when they’re not.  This curriculum has nothing to do with any Catholic heritage.

If one is looking for the educational program and courses we have inheritaed from Catholic wise men and saints of the past,  they will only find it in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy.  That’s why my wife and I undertook the work of starting the program rather than throwing some money at a program like Catholic Heritage Curriculum.

In conclusion, I know that some will read this and criticize me for being “uncharitable” and “mean”–they will do so no matter what I write.  The reality we have to acknowledge, however, is that Catholic education is a most serious issue and we need to get it right–not experiment or play games with the only chance our children have to study and learn the truth.   I’m content to be criticized for the Catholic kids I know an honest article like this might help.  Honestly, I don’t understand what Catholic homeschool parents are thinking–I’m just trying to help.

God bless,
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy