Program of Studies

St. Monica Academy High School

Overview of the High School Program of Studies

and Course Descriptions

St. Monica Academy provides a single program of college-preparatory study that includes English, history, mathematics, science, religion, foreign language, and visual/performing arts. Each high school student takes four years of each subject, except for two years of visual/performing arts.


Integrated Humanities Cycle: History and Literature

Each year, the high school students focus on the history and literature of a specific era of Western civilization. The freshman year covers the Ancient World; the sophomore year, the Middle Ages. In the junior year, the subject is the Renaissance and Modern Europe, while the senior year’s subject is the United States. Literature from and about the period is chosen from the classic canon of great books, poems, plays and peeches. Each year of the integrated humanities cycle is equivalent to a full-year course in history and a fullyear course in English.

Integrated Humanities Cycle: History and Literature

History: Saint Monica’s four-year odyssey of history begins with the teaching of Ancient History and accompanying literature. The course covers the ancient world, from Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations to Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Medieval History follows, with a focus on Western Europe and the Catholic Church from the fall of the Roman Empire to the end of the Hundred Years War. Renaissance and Modern History covers the Renaissance and World History from about 1500 to the present. American History is taught in detail from the colonial period to the present, including pertinent geography and governmental principles.

Principal Authors Covered:
Ancient – Herodotus, Thucydides, Cicero, Julius Caesar
Medieval – Belloc, Chesterton, Churchill, Shakespeare: Henry V
Renaissance/Modern – Erasmus, Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Freud
U.S. – Tocqueville, Grant, Roosevelt, Solzhenitsyn, Chambers

Literature: Introduction to great works of literature hardly needs justification. It is here that the student approaches the good, the true and the beautiful through his imagination. Consistent with our goal of integrating studies as much as possible, students are challenged with great literature in their Literature, History and Religion classes. The Literature class is especially focused on developing not only reading comprehension but an appreciation of what are often called the elements of style. We are confident that through reading, reciting, hearing and analyzing great examples of English literature (see list attached), the student learns how to communicate well in English, develop an extensive vocabulary and a focused comprehension. While we expect the student to already know the basics of grammar and punctuation, the student’s knowledge of grammar can only be strengthened by exposure to the greatest English stylists.

Vocabulary Building: There is hardly a better way to develop vocabulary than through reading and hearing new words used in the context of a story. The teacher is expected to choose at least 10 words weekly from the literature readings for special focus on vocabulary building and students are expected to define and properly use those vocabulary terms.

Reading Aloud:  The virtues of reading aloud are often overlooked. Reading comprehension cannot be better tested than by listening to a student read aloud. Reading aloud requires a student to “hear” the cadences and rhythms of a particular passage. Reading aloud by the teacher or some of the students should occur in every class for at least a few minutes. Each student is also expected on a weekly basis to choose a paragraph or short text from the assigned literature readings as the student’s “gem of the week.” Students are chosen on a 10 random basis to read aloud a chosen text before the class and explain the figures of speech employed and the structure of the passage. Teachers are also encouraged to read aloud to the students from the literature texts or to have the students listen to recorded readings of challenging texts.

Grammar: For the first semester of the year, freshman and sophomore students are led in a weekly tutorial on sentence diagramming. They begin this study from a text on diagramming but as soon as they have developed basic familiarity with diagramming, the teacher is expected to choose examples for diagramming form the English literature readings or for from the literary readings used in History or Religion. Discussions regarding the diagramming exercises should afford the teacher the opportunity to reinforce the basic principles of grammar. After more complex sentences are analyzed and diagrammed, students are asked to write their own sentences, employing the same sentence structure (“sentence modeling”).

Writing: Short weekly writing exercises are expected. The student is expected to master writing focused and informative paragraphs. Six papers are assigned per year on some aspect of the literature readings assigned. The length generally does not exceed 500 words so that the student works on concision rather than worrying about length. These papers are coordinated with the assignment of papers in History, Religion and other courses so that the student is not required to be writing multiple papers simultaneously.

A thesis topic is chosen by the student in the third quarter and submitted for approval by the teacher. The teacher requires submission of a précis followed by at least one outline and at least one rough draft. This is a longer paper (5-7 pages for Freshmen and Sophomores and 7-10 pages for Juniors and Seniors) and requires some research and the citation of at least three sources. Length, however, should be dictated by the subject and the discussion rather than some arbitrary imposition that tempts students to bloviate.

Recitation: The memorization and recitation of verse and memorable prose passages cannot be underestimated. Besides filling young minds with noble, beautiful, dramatic, and compelling images which will be with them for the rest of their lives, committing these words to memory develops an understanding of meter, stress, rhythms, alliteration, and the other elements of poetry and great rhetoric. Students are expected to commit to memory over the course of the year at least ten short poems and parts of great speeches or, some comparable number if longer poems or passages are chosen or assigned. Students are expected to recite in front of their classmates regularly and, when sufficient preparation has been accomplished, at least twice a year before the morning assemblies.

Principal Authors Covered:
Ancient – Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristotle, Vergil, Ovid, St. Augustine, Shakespeare: Julius Caesar
Medieval – Beowulf, Mallory, Dante, Chaucer, Petrarch, Shakespeare: Sonnets, Richard III
Renaissance/Modern – Cervantes, Milton, Dickens, Austen, Donne, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Shakespeare: Macbeth
U.S. – Hawthorne, Poe, Whitman, Twain, Fitzgerald, O’Connor, Hemingway, Steinbeck


The St. Monica Academy mathematics follows the standard college preparatory sequence. Students begin with either Algebra 1 or Geometry as freshmen, depending on whether they have taken Algebra as 8th graders, and then progress through Algebra 2, Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus, and AP Calculus (AB) if they are ready for a 5th year of mathematics as seniors. In keeping with our classical approach, the Geometry course includes a significant unit on Euclidian proofs (books i-vi). The Saxon Math program provides the basic texts for all lower math courses except Geometry, which is the McDougal-Littell text. Pre-Calculus and Calculus use the Larson-Hostetler text.


Four years of science are divided as follows. Freshman take General Science or Biology, Sophomores study Biology or Chemistry, Juniors take Chemistry or Physics, and Seniors study Physics or an AP science class.

General Science

This course is a survey of the sciences, especially physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. It is designed to stimulate a lively interest in the sciences, and to prepare students for future high school science classes.

The basic text is Hewitt’s Conceptual Physics – 3rd ed. (Addison Wesley, 1977) and Robinson’s Laboratory Manual to Accompany Conceptual Physics, 8th ed. (Addison Wesley, 1998). A supplemental manual covers Biology and other topics in science.


Biology is designed to impart a detailed knowledge of the living world and its systems, including the concepts of Cell Biology, Genetics, Evolution, Physiology, and Chemistry. Dissections and other laboratory work supplement the readings and lectures. There is also a project of field study to develop students’ skills in observation and sense of wonder at the intricacies and richness of nature. This is preceded by readings from the classic monograph on field observations of insects by the French entomologist Fabre. Highlights of the course are cat dissection, insect hunting, and a marine biology field trip to Catalina Island.

The basic text is Miller and Levine’s Biology – 5th edition, student text and lab manual (Prentice Hall).


Chemistry covers the composition of matter and the changes that matter undergoes, including chemical reactions, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, molecular bonding, solutions, and biochemistry. The lab component of this course gives students a hands-on appreciation for the principles and applications of chemistry.

The basic text is Wilbraham and Staley’s Chemistry, student text and CD-ROM (Addison-Wesley).


Physics, a course for high school upper classmen, covers the major concepts, principles, methods and development of physics, both classical and modern. Methods include readings, lecture, demonstrations, laboratory exercises, and problem sets.

The basic text is Hecht’s Physics: Algebra and Trigonometry – 3rd edition, student text and CD-ROM


The Catholic faith is taught according to a four-year cycle in which Freshmen study Dogmatic Theology; Sophomores, Sacred Scripture; Juniors, Moral Theology; and Seniors, Christian Apologetics.

Dogmatic Theology

A study of selected doctrines of the Christian faith, dealing with such subjects as Creation, the Sacraments, the Trinity, and Christology. Particular attention is given to the biblical foundations and historical development of each doctrine, and to the relation between the various doctrines. One of the primary sources for the course is On the Incarnation, by St. Athanasius.

Sacred Scripture

This course is an introduction to the study of the Bible. The class starts with a discussion of how the Bible is inspired and interpreted. Students learn the four senses of Scripture, as understood by the Catholic Church. Then students read selected texts from the Old and New Testament, identifying and discussing the principal themes of each biblical book.

Moral Theology

This course is an introduction to the basic principles of morality in the Roman Catholic tradition, as well as the foundational concepts and methodologies for moral discernment. Particular attention is given to the human act, knowledge and freedom, sin and conversion, virtue and character, nature of conscience, natural law and values and norms for moral decision-making.

Christian Apologetics

The Christian Apologetics course surveys 20 centuries of the greatest Christian writers, presenting the students with robust explanations of the Faith written in sterling style. The aim of the course is twofold: to prepare students to go forth into the world confident that great thinkers have endorsed Christianity and to expose the students to beautiful writing that inspires and strengthens their own writing and speaking skills.

The course follows a great books approach which consists of a close reading of the text, Socratic discussions of the readings, and critical essays based on those readings. Ancient world readings include selections from the New Testament and the Fathers of the Church, culminating in St. Augustine. Modern authors include Newman, Hopkins, Chesterton, Greene, Waugh, Flannery O’Connor, Tolkien, Lewis and Williams.

Foreign Language

In keeping with its classical approach, St. Monica Academy has its students study Latin each year. By senior year, students should have the equivalent of three years of high school Latin.

Visual/Performing Arts

Each high school student takes two years of Visual/Performing Arts as per University of California a-g requirements. At St. Monica Academy, this requirement is spread out over four years. Students at Saint Monica have available to them an unusual opportunity to participate in the excellent Crown City choirs which meet after school on Fridays at Neighborhood Church, where Saint Monica Academy presently resides. Besides being a superior singing experience, these choirs also serve as a wonderful opportunity for socializing and cooperation with the local Catholic home school group, and with students from other local Catholic and public schools. This widens our community and opens other cultural opportunities for our children, such as the Los Angeles Master Chorale High School Choral Festival and the St. Andrew’s annual Bach to Broadway Benefit.

Course Sequence Table:
TheologyDogmatic Theology Sacred ScriptureMoral TheologyChristian Apologetics
Integrated Humanities CycleAncient (through 500 AD)Medieval (500-1500 AD)Renaissance & Early Modern (1500-present)U.S. History, Government and Literature (1600-present)
MathematicsAlgebra 1 or GeometryGeometry or Algebra 2Algebra 2 or Pre-CalculusPre-Calculus or AP Calculus AB
Laboratory ScienceGeneral Science or BiologyBiology or ChemistryChemistry or PhysicsPhysics or AP Science
Foreign LanguageLatin 1Latin 2Latin 3Latin 4
Visual/Performing ArtsConcert Choir IPerformanceChoir IConcert Choir IIPerformance Choir II