The Academy at HBU Offers Classical Foundation for Eighth-Graders and High School Students

The News Magazine of HCU

Students in The Academy at HBU get the best of both worlds – a classical, Christian education at the secondary school-level and college credit. In its seventh year, The Academy serves area homeschool families and partner schools. Students learn from faculty on HBU’s campus or at partner school locations.

The foundational courses are Great Books I (Composition and Literature I: The Ancients), Great Books II (Western Civilization), Great Books III (Introduction to Philosophy) and Great Books IV (Modern Composition and Literature II: The Moderns). Also offered during select semesters are Spanish I, US History to 1877, US History from 1877, and a junior high, not-for-credit Introduction to Great Books. The Academy follows the Oxbridge education model, which combines the Socratic method of discussion with dynamic lectures and time-tested literary classics.

Academy Director Julianna Leachman describes the great books approach as learning from the pieces that are – ideally – shared cultural knowledge, such as the ideas of philosophers and authors like Plato and Homer. “The staples of Western thought are applicable to all majors and career paths,” Leachman said. “We’re teaching students how to wrestle with questions that don’t have clear answers, and to be okay with that tension.”

Classes on HBU’s campus are offered between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for commuting ease. A special perk for families is the head start on college credit with a reduced cost – The Academy classes are one-third of HBU’s regular tuition. The Academy classes also allow more time than regular college classes. Each three-credit class is spread over two semesters. Younger students who come to HBU’s campus have their own class group, while high school juniors and seniors may take courses with other high school students or with the general HBU population. The dual credit option and the reduced tuition extend to Academy students who enroll in general University class offerings as well. For upper-level high school students, the general population classes greatly expand options for dual enrollment. The most popular classes for high-schoolers include math, science and government courses.

“We don’t compromise the rigor of the college classroom for the high schoolers,” Leachman said. “We teach them what it means to be a college student. They gain strategies for research, time management and study skills. Best of all, we have dedicated Christian faculty who teach from a biblical viewpoint.”

Student Gabrielle Thomason describes The Academy as “exciting and challenging.” She said, “My experience has been one of personal and intellectual growth, through which I have become a more confident student. It is also a wonderful transition between a high school and college education. Each class is a real college course, just at a more manageable and personable level specifically for high school students. We also have the benefit of experiencing college life. I think The Academy prepares the up-and-coming college student better than any college preparatory school because it is college.”

Toni and Steven Thomason, Gabrielle’s mother and father, added, “After much research and prayer, we selected the perfect fit – The Academy at Houston Baptist University. During her time at The Academy, we have been truly pleased with the academic excellence and college environment. Our daughter has flourished as a student as a result of the high expectations and encouragement of her professors, along with the small classroom setting. Meanwhile, she is gaining college credit hours that will be utilized wherever she ultimately matriculates.”

A number of Academy students find HBU and its professors to be such a good fit that they come back after graduating from high school. Students who have been through The Academy receive automatic acceptance into the HBU Honors College with a recommendation from a faculty member.

Sebastian Calderon is one of those students who is continuing his studies at HBU this fall. “The experience I had over the five years I spent at The Academy had a huge impact on who I am as a student today,” he said. “In addition to the wonderful faculty, my peers and I had thorough discussions, which made me want to have a deeper understanding of the texts. I’m choosing to continue my studies at HBU because I truly fell in love with everything about the school.”

There are about 100 students enrolled in The Academy at any time. “There is a huge homeschool community in the area,” Leachman said. “From a classical, Christian perspective, you can’t find what we offer anywhere else in Houston right now.”

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