Our Process and Curriculum
The Four Winds’ curriculum provides a balance between focused training in basic academic skills and the freedom for students to explore their own interests.
Upon a student’s entry, the instructors evaluate the student in all areas of basic studies. Teacher and student work together to design an individualized academic program based on these evaluations and the student’s learning style. This individualized program is organized and effected through the use of the biweekly.
Every two weeks, students meet with their teachers to draw up a set of goals in the following subject areas: geometry, reading, writing, vocabulary, Latin, and math. At the end of this period students assess their progress over the two weeks completed and set goals for the next biweekly.
During each biweekly, students are free to choose what to work on at any given time, but are responsible for the completion of all the work by the end of the biweekly. This structure allows students considerable freedom to determine the use of their time while providing a structure and supervision that ensures students successfully meet their goals for each biweekly study period. Students learn the invaluable skills of time and task allocation.
In addition, the completed biweekly form provides students and their families with a progress report every two weeks.
Structure of the Day
Students work on their creative writing at the beginning of every morning. Many work on stories over the course of weeks or even months. After working silently in a comfortable spot, students and teachers come together to share their stories and poems. Though students are never required to read aloud, most choose to share. The group observes a few basic rules to assure that writers feel comfortable and respected. Writers get useful and supportive feedback and find that listening to their peers is as engaging as writing their own stories.
Students also turn in 14 essays throughout the school year based on writing prompts relating to that year’s theme. We focus on three types of formal essay: reading responses, research papers, and creative writing.
Four Winds uses the Wordly Wise series to challenge and expand students’ vocabularies.
Latin is a powerful tool for teaching the mechanics and structure of language. To that end, all students take Latin at Four Winds. The study of Latin prepares students for more rapid progress in learning “living” languages and strengthens understanding of our native tongue. At Four Winds we use the Ecce Romani textbook series.
Students have also added other foreign languages to their biweekly or worked on them during project time using online programs such as Rosetta Stone or Duolingo.
Working in the Hake/ Saxon Incremental Math series, students practice math as a larger discipline rather than a series of discrete skills. From the evaluation each student is placed in a math program suited to his or her level of achievement. Math lessons incorporate drills with math facts and problem solving, as well as a continual review of previously learned concepts. If students advance to high school level math, they then start using the Greg and Shawn Sabouri books.
The school runs a four-year cycle of humanities themes: 20th Century America, Industrial Revolution, Pre-colonial and Colonial Massachusetts, and The Development of Human Civilization.
Students participate in weekly science labs and turn in lab reports. The school also has a four-year cycle of science topics: Physical Science, Environmental Science, Earth Science, and Life Science.
We end most days with project and art time, during which students work on visual art or other projects such as fiber arts, knitting/crocheting, practicing an instrument, graphic or digital art, reading, school work if they so choose, educational games such as chess, D&D, or Timeline.
Friday afternoons are frequently spent out of the classroom building. The school travels to visit people, places, events,exhibits, and demonstrations that have a bearing on the studies of the moment. The size and schedule of Four Winds enables the school to see and experience things that most school programs are neither flexible nor mobile enough to undertake. We also take advantage of the research libraries at our local public and private institutions of higher learning.