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Course of Study


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The St. Ambrose curriculum is designed to provide an outstanding foundation in the critical academic disciplines of math, science, history, literature, logic, rhetoric, composition, and Latin, crowned by regular study of and growth in the Faith. Our approach to learning includes in-depth study of the classical works of the western world and the great works of Christendom. Our religion studies focus on the analysis and understanding of the Scriptures and significant Church documents (such as papal encyclicals and the Catechism).

Our classes revolve around discussion, debate, presentations, and regular papers. Our dedicated faculty use a variety of methods to give our students the tools they need to master our curriculum with an enthusiasm that comes from true understanding of the profound ideas of the ages. Works are studied in an introductory manner suited to the intellectual capacity of the students; students are not expected to display exceptional ability or college-level understanding. One of the characteristics of "great books" is that they are accessible, like Sacred Scripture, on a wide variety of levels. One needs no specialized training to see their beauty and experience their power.

There are six core subject areas at St. Ambrose Academy: English, history, Latin, math, religion, and science. The topical studies that roughly follow a historical progression are taught in a four-year cycle for the senior high (Cycle I, II, III, and IV) and a three-year cycle for the junior high (Cycle A, B, and C). The historical topic for each cycle is integrated in these courses (history, English, and religion), with the other courses reinforcing these topics when possible, resulting in a unified and interdisciplinary approach to each historical period. The ninth and tenth graders alternate between Cycle I and Cycle II, while the eleventh and twelfth graders alternate between Cycle III and Cycle IV.

Students at St. Ambrose are enrolled in courses based on grade level, placement testing, and mastery of prerequisites. Certain courses may have prerequisites, such as an acceptable grade in the preceding course, which must be fulfilled for the student to progress in the course sequence. Junior High students who take Senior High courses may be eligible for Senior High credits, at the discretion of the instructor and principal.

Junior High

The junior high school curriculum organizes, contextualizes, and summarizes the growing body of knowledge that students are acquiring as they make the transition from grammar school to secondary school studies. They review American, World, and Church History over the three-year course of study. Literary studies focus on original works of literature and historical documents from the periods they study. Rather than plod through dry summaries in textbooks, students thrill to the actual accounts of Lewis and Clark as they encountered their first grizzly, to the words of Frederick Douglass as he describes his experience with the institution of slavery, to the Founding Fathers as they frame the Constitution.

Junior high students, many of them for the first time, begin to grapple with the eally great ideas of civilization. Students survey English Grammar and gain exposure to the primary genres of composition. The study of Latin gives students a strong and thorough understanding of the grammatical structures of language. Studies in Religion provide a basic framework for future in-depth studies of the Catechism, introducing students to Scriptures, the basic articles of our Faith, the Sacraments, the Christian life and how it applies to modern culture, and prayer. Junior high students, who are embarking into a new world of logical discourse, really enjoy the apologetics debates that the discussion-based classroom provides.

Senior High

The high school curriculum follows an historical matrix, studying the various subjects within the context of one given historical time period. The flow of this study brings the student through the course of western history: the classical world, early Christianity, medieval Europe, and the modern world. Each year of high school is devoted to one of the following time periods:

3100 B.C. - 400 A.D. Ancient Greece and Rome
400 A.D. - 1650 A.D. Medieval / Renaissance Europe
1500 A.D.- Present. America / Government
1700 A.D.-Present. Enlightenment / The Modern World

The objective of this division is to observe the birth, height, and decline of the civilizations that were dominant in the development of Western Civilization. Several major literary works form the core of the literary curriculum: The Iliad by Homer, The Aeneid by Virgil, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, and the works of Shakespeare. The story of the twentieth century is told by such works as Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Works such as these help the student begin to understand the human condition including its dignity and beauty as well as its social, political, and philosophical difficulties. While the study of literature is critical for development of writing, analysis, and rhetorical skills, it is the transcendent truth explored by each author that is the point of the composition and the object of its study.

Religion course material is also organized according to an historical framework, with Scripture, the writings of the Saints, and the history and content of dogmas all featured.

The History curriculum introduces the student to the great historical works, including the writings of Herodotus, Thucydides, Plutarch, Livy, Tacitus, and medieval chroniclers. The last two cycles feature an in-depth study of the formation and function of the American government and the events of modern times.

In Math, senior high students test into the level that is most appropriate for them. We recommend Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus for most students. Advanced math students may take Calculus. All students are required to take at least three years of math.

In Science, senior high students take Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. All students are required to take at least three years of Science. Teachers may provide additional instruction to help students prepare for the AP and other advanced science exams.

Latin is emphasized in Language studies at St. Ambrose Academy as it lays a grammatical foundation for the study of any language. Knowledge of Latin aids in the study of the Romance languages, enhances a student’s ability to express himself well in English, hones logical and organizational thinking skills, and assists students who continue in science, medicine, and the humanities. All students are required to complete two years of Latin successfully.

Logic and rhetoric are covered in the Senior High Religion and English courses.

Given the opportunity to read, understand, and discuss the great works, the high school graduate is fully prepared to enter the work force or attend any college or university in the United States or abroad.

Advanced Placement

St. Ambrose Academy does not offer advanced placement courses as such. However, we recognize the value of these courses and will endeavor to offer preparatory guidance for certain AP exams for students who receive permission from the principal. The form this guidance takes each year will depend on student interest, faculty availability, and other factors, and may take the form of extra weekly meetings or independent study with a teacher or online courses. Depending on these factors, extra course credit may be granted for this extra work. St. Ambrose Academy will also work each year with the Madison School District and interested families to ensure timely registration for AP exams.

St. Ambrose Academy
In the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Education Wing
602 Everglade Drive, Madison, WI 53717
(608) 827-5863