Common Arts I, Part A (Fall)
Common arts are the skills that provide for basic human needs through the creation of artifacts or the provision of services. We need to eat, drink, build shelters, defend ourselves, bargain, maintain our health, work raw materials into various forms, and repair artifacts that are broken. These arts provide for our survival, and yet, in our current moment, we outsource these arts more than practice them ourselves, and to our detriment. Many can live, even live comfortably, without knowledge of these fundamental skills that root us, not just in the realities of our embodiment, but in the orders of God’s creation in the cosmos all around.
John Milton, author of Paradise Lost and a wide-ranging thinker, once had a friend ask him to write a description of an ideal education. The letter that followed turned into one of Milton’s most famous writings, “Of Education”. Within its compact, but rich exposition, Milton describes an education that roots the learner in deep realities:
“And having thus passed the principles of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and geography, with a general compact of physics, they may descend in mathematics to the instrumental science of trigonometry, and from thence to fortification, architecture, engineering, and navigation. . . . To set forward all these proceedings in nature and mathematics, what hinders but that they may procure, as oft as shall be needful, the helpful experiences of hunters, fowlers, fishermen, shepherds, gardeners, apothecaries . . . And this will give them such a real tincture of natural knowledge, as they shall never forget, but daily augment with delight.”
In this course, we will explore these common arts with an interest in reclaiming not only these skills, but the connection of these skills with the liberal arts, God’s created orders, and JOY. We will strive to reclaim some of our outsourcing by cooking our own food, learning about the flora and fauna around our homes, tying useful knots, learning basic first aid, growing ingredients that we can use for medicine and for good nutrition, and more. In the process, we will bring the arts of language and mathematics not just alongside, but into the practice of these arts, to show how the common arts make manifest the liberal arts through virtuous craft.
Woven throughout the course are the habits of observation, commonplacing, and careful planning. We will learn the way to approach craft with prudence, temperance, and fortitude, as well as with safety in mind. We will learn how to document our success and failure, research prudently, identify next steps, and render what we sense faithfully. In this way, we will learn the foundations for a lifetime of continued practice, refinement, and service to our families and to others.
While the common arts could simply be called the arts of survival, taken with God’s orders and the liberal arts in mind, through virtuous practice, they become something far more: the arts of ‘thrival’, and a chance, as Milton put it, for students to gain that “real tincture of natural knowledge, as they shall never forget, but daily augment with delight.”
– Armament and Hunting: strategy and tactics, wildlife observation and tracking, wildlife
– Cooking: nutrition (cross-reference with the common art of medicine), baking, lactofermentation
– Agriculture: off-season container gardening (herbs for cooking and winter medicine)
The basic common arts will also be mixed in, including first aid, how to light a fire, how to
tie five basic knots (square, sheet bend, double half hitch, taut-line hitch, and bowline), how
to tell time by the position of the sun, and more. These basic arts aid in the practice of the
focal arts, and offer small-scale practice opportunities throughout the day.
REQUIRED COURSE TEXTS AND MATERIALS:
• Common Arts Education, Chris Hall, Classical Academic Press.
• Commonplace notebook
• Graph paper
• Basic art supplies: gum eraser, colored pencils, any other desired art tools
• Various materials related to the common arts we’re studying. This specialized list will be provided one month in advance of the start of class.
Chris Hall has a BA in philosophy from Gettysburg College and an MAT in elementary education from Towson University. He has been a classroom educator and administrator for 25 years, having served in public, independent, and classical schools. In that time, he has served as a classroom teacher in grades K-12, primarily as a science educator, PK-8 Science Department Chair, and a Lower School Academic Dean. Along with his professional pedigree, he is a lifelong practitioner of several of the common arts profiled in his book Common Arts Education: Renewing the Classical Tradition of Training the Head, Hands, and Heart, and the founder of Always Learning Education, an organization dedicated to teaching, learning, and propagating the common arts. He lives on a small, homesteaded farm in central Virginia with his wife and three homeschooled sons. email@example.com
Computer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.
High-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.
Headset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm
Zoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. To download Zoom:
- Visit zoom.us/download.
- Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
- Open and run the installer on your computer.
- In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.
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