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Common Arts IA | 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. 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 John Milton put it in his letter “Of Education”, for students to gain that “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, growing edible plants, tying useful knots, learning basic first aid, studying the interplay of strategy and tactics, reading the weather, tracking animals, 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, common placing, 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.

Required Materials:
Books and supplies are not included in the purchase of the course.

  • Common Arts Education, Chris Hall, Classical Academic Press.
  • Commonplace notebook
  • Graph paper
  • Pencils
  • Highlighter
  • Ruler
  • 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, Lead Science Instructor, 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 protected]

Quarter 1

  1. Introduction to the Common Arts: Definition, Resonance with Liberal and Fine Arts, Apprenticeship Model
  2. Observation Training: Sketching, Training the Senses, Basic Photographic Composition
  3. Introduction to Fall/Winter Agriculture
  4. Armament- Definition
  5. Armament- Games of Strategy, GOST (Goals, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics)
  6. Tracking Basics- Identification, Gait and Behavior, Pressure Release
  7. Cover, Concealment, Camouflage Principles
  8. Bird Language and Behavior
  9. Armament (Ancient Warfare)- Studies of the Battles of Marathon, Salamis, and Gaugamela
  10. Basic Common Arts- Five Useful Knots (Square, Sheet Bend, Double Half Hitch, Taut-line Hitch, Bowline)

Quarter 2

  1. Celestial Navigation
  2. Introduction to First Aid
  3. Hurry Cases
  4. Non-Hurry Cases: Everyday First Aid (cuts, abrasions, burns, athletic injuries, fainting)
  5. Introduction to Cooking- Tools, Techniques, and Ingredients
  6. Baking- Cookies, Bread
  7. Lactofermentation- Kraut, Kimchi
  8. Preserving: Jams and Jellies, Pickling, Drying

Red checkmarkComputer: 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.

Red checkmarkHigh-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.

Red checkmarkWebcam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer. Webcam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: 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

Red checkmarkZoom: 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. unnamed-e1455142229376 To download Zoom:

  1. Visit
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.

Red checkmarkScanner: In this class, students frequently submit homework assignments by scanning pages from their workbooks. Students and/or their parents should have easy access to a scanner and the ability to use it.


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