Friday, July 20, 2007

Do or Die, Deo Volente, Grade 12 or Bust!

Over at Nutmeg's blog is an interesting post about how her children (and Nutmeg herself!) almost wound up attending (and teaching at!) a Catholic school for this upcoming school year.

I'm really glad she posted this. As the "do or die, Deo volente, Grade 12 or Bust!" sort of homeschooling mom it's genuinely helpful for me to be reminded that the homeschool umbrella provides more than one kind of educational shelter to more than one kind of homeschooling family for more than one kind of reason and for more than one kind of duration.

It's also helpful for me to sit down and articulate the reasons why I am the "do or die, Deo volente, Grade 12 or Bust!" sort of homeschooling mom. It's helpful because it's always a good idea to have one's clear purposes in mind as one prepares to leap into the maelstrom of a new school year; besides, I suppose there might be other moms out there who are still deciding a) if they are going to homeschool and b) what sort of homeschooling mom they're going to be, and in that case it's nice to be able to see different points of view about reasons to homeschool, including the reasons some of us choose to homeschool exclusively.

My perspective on this matter is, perhaps, a little unusual. As a child I never attended a public school; but from the year I began to go to school until my mother began homeschooling my siblings and I (save the eldest, who was already in college at the time) when I was in tenth grade, I attended a total of nine different Catholic schools in several different states.

Because I attended so many different Catholic schools, I don't have the luxury of thinking that perhaps my school was bad or problematic, but perhaps other schools are not. Because I attended Catholic schools alone, I don't have the luxury of blaming the public education system for the deleterious effects of institutional education. And because these schools were scattered around the country, I can't pretend that the various deficiencies I experienced were in any way localized, or confined to a specific geographic region. I have to consider the truth, and the truth is that as schools, the schools I attended were not bad at all--at acting like extremely overpriced day-care centers, that is.

As I've said before, one of the biggest problems in Catholic education today is that to all intents and purposes it's just secular education, with a little "snow on the dung-hill" (if you'll forgive the metaphor) of Catholicism sprinkled at the surface level, light and ethereal enough to avoid triggering the criticism of the many non-Catholic students and their parents. Perhaps the smallest and most private of Catholic schools, unaffiliated with any diocese, and unencumbered by either taxpayer funds or the problematic quest for accreditation, may indeed provide their students with a thoroughly Catholic education in the form of Catholic textbooks and none but good practicing Catholic teachers, but even where these schools exist it's far more inefficient for them to provide, in effect, the exact same education I can provide my own children at home, especially considering that I still have the luxury of tailoring my curricula to meet each child's needs and interests, something that even a tiny independent Catholic school could never really do.

And the larger diocesan schools don't even try. They teach to the same standardized tests that the public school students have to take, and if a timid Catholic student raises an objection to being taught, perhaps, in science class that overpopulation is a serious problem and that human beings are a drain on the planet, he will be told that his concerns are inappropriate for science, but that he may discuss them with his religion teacher, if he chooses. This, of course, sets the child up early for the notion that he will have to compartmentalize his faith, and keep it quiet and hidden, if he wants to succeed in the world.

If you've read anything at all about John Dewey, success in the world is what modern education is all about. Stripping educational principles of their tendency to convey eternal verities to children, Dewey, a signer of the 1933 Humanist Manifesto, saw the purpose of education as the formation of good citizens, people who would leave school with the acquisition of positive work habits and the propensity for gainful employment. There were no eternal verities, no higher realities, no nobler purposes. Man was meant to learn, in school, to be obedient, to sit at dull and repetitive tasks for a period of six to eight hours (conditioning him for 'modern' post-agricultural work), to grow up, get a job, pay taxes and participate in the civic life by voting and other political activities. There was no need to teach him about an afterlife which the humanists saw, condescendingly, as not impossible, but neither likely nor empirically demonstrable.

Even today institutional education ends up reflecting Dewey's values. Sadly, this is true no matter what the institution; it is simply not possible in the modern classroom setting to avoid completely the harmful effects of this man's ideas.

But even if you could find a small independent Catholic school which taught authentic Catholicism, which deliberately and purposefully built a curricula designed to go back to pre-Dewey thoughts and ideas about education, and which was willing to tailor courses of study for your child's specific needs, there would still be one small--or not so small--problem.

Institutional education is expensive. Really, really expensive. What a homeschooling mother can do with a few hundred dollars and a lot of creative ideas requires several thousands of dollars per student at the institutional level; and this is one area where the small struggling independent non-federally-funded non accredited schools have even worse problems than the larger diocesan schools: to make up for the lack of government funding they must, in the absence of deep-pocketed benefactors or patient investors, charge appreciably more tuition for their students than the larger schools do.

Now, I'm not criticizing those who choose to spend their money in this way. But the fact of the matter is that when tuitions cost thousands of dollars per student, few single income families can afford to send their children to those schools. Some families make tremendous sacrifices to pay tuitions to good Catholic schools; but of necessity, a significant portion of the student body is going to come either from families with two incomes, or from families of considerable means.

In practical terms, from my experience at nine different Catholic schools across the country, this means that in time a culture of snobby elitism is going to permeate the student body. Children are exceptionally good at choosing their associates based on such criteria as the designer label of the uniform blouse or the price tag of the shoes pulled out of the gym bag for gym class; children are also exceptionally good at being mindlessly cruel to those of their peers who clearly do not have such assets, or whose families are barely able to afford the tuition the school is charging, let alone any expensive little extras. Moreover, children whose parents don't allow them to participate greatly in the diseased and decaying culture are identified and excluded as well; or else great delight is taken in introducing the more innocent and naive among their members to such earthly pleasures as their first R-rated movie, their first objectionable magazine, or their first experience with alcohol or cigarettes (and worse, sometimes). It's true that we can't keep our children from the world, and we wouldn't want to. But there's a great deal of difference between the child who asks about something he's seen on a magazine rack at the grocery store, and the same child, at the same age, being forced to choose between perpetual torment for refusing to read such a magazine with his classmates, or the spiritual guilt and threat of blackmail he faces if he does accept it and read it.

For all of these reasons I find schools, even Catholic ones, unacceptable for my family at this point in time. Maybe someday dynamic orders of religious sisters will again take over the education of Catholic youth; maybe they will reinvent modern education, bypassing Dewey altogether; maybe their vow of poverty will help such education be affordable to all Catholic children; and in the absence of this culture of wealth, maybe they will be able to reestablish the kinds of rules and order in the classroom that will keep the oligarch-bully culture at bay. But I suspect that before that day comes, before those sorts of Sisters can once again arise, there will have to be several generations of homeschooling families producing such dedicated women; I'm glad to be doing my part.

36 comments:

Opal said...

Elem. Catholic School per child $3,400 + book fee + uniforms + lunches (you get a $200 dollar discount from your parish but whoppeee b/c most MAKE you tithe at least $200 to fit in the category to receive this, I am sure some exceptions apply)

Catholic high school (which they so cleverly incorporated 7th & 8th too) $6,300 per child a year + book fees + uniforms plus extra activities fee IF you want them to play a sport + bus fee of 400 a year b/c they are over 50 miles away.

We would end up paying WAY OVER $100,000 just for high school for ours.

I am hoping that the more homeschoolers , the more the diocese will see and make some changes but that will be in my great grandchildrens life time.

And you are right about the dumbing down of faith and education.

We can homeschool and are blessed. Even if something were to happen and I can't anymore, I feel that they have such a great foundation right now they can call horse pucky for what it is.

freddy said...

I know a family who work (both Mom & Dad) incessantly to afford Catholic grade and high schools for their children. They then have to work incessantly at spending time with those children via organized activities like scouts, sports and band. They then have to work (incessantly) at their own marriage via scheduled dates. I doubt there's a night when everyone's home at the same time for dinner. And the rationale behind all this is that they want their children to have a "good" education so that they can get into "good" colleges so that they can get "good" jobs and -- you guessed it -- start the whole thing over again. Oh, and by the way, the dad was just recently laid off so keep them in your prayers! These folks are good Catholics and great people, but I wonder about the frenetic pace of their -- and so many others -- lives.
One of the wonderful benefits of homeschooling for me has been the ability to take time with what we're doing and have some fantastic conversations about, well, everything under the sun!

John Thayer Jensen said...

I recall when we were home-schooling, and friends would ask about home-schooling, I used to warn them not to imagine they were going to produce better academic results than institutional schooling. Some might; one could not count on it and that was not the point. We recognised that our children might not do so well as some. I used to tell them that the their goal in life was to learn to die well.

In the event two of the four finished University; two (not the same two) are successful IT people; one is a successful wife and mum; one is not doing well but schooling is definitely not the problem.

Home-schooling is for nurture and life.

jj

nutmeg said...

OK, I grant you these scenarios for some people. But not for all.

In my own case, yes, I would have to work to "afford" the school. But I would work AT the school WITH my kids. And this school has great financial aid. They WANT good, big Catholic families there, yet need to charge tuition in order to pay somewhat of a living wage to their teachers... it's a fine line they walk, and they do it beautifully.

Why send my kids to school? Besides the usual questioning if my kids are learning what they need to know... (please don't tell me they are, you are not here with me all day everyday, and you don't know what we cover and what we miss) Besides that main concern, I really want my kids to be a part of something that is "bigger" than them; like a great school, the sports teams, debate teams, prom, friends, etc. We're talking GREAT Catholics, here, and I would love my kids to be part of that.

Lest you doubt their greatness, this school even has a "forbidden tv shows" list. And if your kids watch these shows? Outsky with you. (no kidding)

The catechism there is rock solid, the families are awesome, and everything is in place. No hunting around for other homeschooling families, no over-extending myself just to organize a simple field trip, and the crafting (at school) opportunities alone would send my kids into squeals of delight.

I've heard the homeschooling rhetoric, and of course would love to think that I am capable and my kids are learning and experiencing so much... but I also know that at least one school in my area does all of that and more.

Much more.

And someday, I hope my family is part of it.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Regarding nutmeg's comments, I certainly think there are good reasons all around for the different ways that families do things. One of nutmeg's desiderata was for his/her children to be part of other things, and I absolutely agree. In our case, we were pretty much the first home-schoolers in our area - well, we actually started when we lived out in the islands, but continued here in a small town in New Zealand - and so my wife and a number of friends started a home-schooling group. They met at a local church hall once a fortnight, did all sorts of things together, etc. And then our kids were in a local Saturday music school (which are a big deal in New Zealand), which meant they were part of a Auckland-city-wide activities all the time - two of my kids ended up as professional musicians :-)

So, yeah, there are all sorts of ways. I do think, myself, that home-schooling offers something for the pre-puberts that no other approach can offer - I call it 'nurturing' but that might not be the right word. They know who they are and are not defined by their age, their school, etc. I am often struck by the fact that my kids seemed never to know how old they were. I don't mean literally, of course, but they socialised equally well with adults of all ages, kids of different ages, etc. I have always though being in a school with a cohort of your own age tended to define you - "I am a fifth grader, a first former, etc"

FWIW - YMMV :-)

jj

Red Cardigan said...

Nutmeg, please don't think my post was meant to attack you in any way. Different families make different choices for different reasons; your post just gave me the chance to spell out why I take the stand I do on homeschooling.

I'd agree with Mr. Jensen's post above: some kids need more of that prepubescent nurturing than others. Some children may thrive in a school environment: the popular kids, at least, always do. But in the institutional structure of a school some kids will always end up at the bottom of the social pecking order, and there's really nothing a teacher can do about that. I don't think my children should have to play Machiavellian mind games to deal with the inevitable bullies and brats; NO school is free of them, and no child is left unscarred by the battles for popularity that take place as early as first grade.

I understand your concerns about whether your children are learning all that they need to. My first priority for mine is that they learn how to be followers of Christ, participants in a Christian family, helpful, cheerful, patient, kind, and maybe, someday, even wise. The rest is just details. My oldest DD may never really, truly, deeply grasp the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs; but unless God calls her to an order of Sisters whose charism is to be grammarians I don't think that's much of a problem. I have never thought of the purpose of their education as being their acceptance into some perfect college followed by a perfect and well-paid job; there are no perfect colleges, not even the small tiny Catholic ones (two of which I attended, a third of which I visited, and three more which I know by reputation).

I'm sure you truly believe in this small school, but I've become more cynical about those enterprises, though that's probably a fault of my own. "Forbidden t.v. shows" sounds fine on paper (though if the school struggles for funding I wonder if they'd really kick out some generous benefactor whose child got caught violating that rule), but what about forbidden movies and video games? What about the teen 'romance' novels the girls are secretly passing around to each other? What about conversations that crop up spontaneously about things that one child has delved into on his or her own initiative?

And I'm not as willing to take "great Catholic families" at their word as I used to be. I've known "great Catholic families" involved in all sorts of schools, ministries, and apostolates, and guess what? In the final analysis these families were no more impervious to the culture than anyone else. A few examples, with details kept ambiguous on purpose:

-A hasty marriage arranged for two children from "great Catholic families" for the usual reason
-A third, similar situation, with no marriage, from another "great Catholic family"
-Two members of "Great Catholic Families" working together at a Catholic organization, who eloped with each other, leaving spouses and children behind
-A "Great Catholic Family" who were so busy ministering to everyone else's children that all of their own children left the faith
-A "Great Catholic Family" who sent their children to a tiny private school similar to the one you describe (though not where you live) whose oldest daughter no longer wants to be Catholic and no longer wants to attend Mass with her family--and she's not in high school yet, from what I recall.

My point isn't to say that all "Great Catholic Families" will be like these; only that the label is one we often attach to others without really seeing whether they are, in fact, "Great Catholic Families" or whether they merely project this appearance.

One final thought. I fully expect my children to grow in maturity and to begin to encounter the world in ways I can't even imagine yet. But by giving them a solid foundation in faith and morals while protecting them as they reach this maturity I'm preserving their innocence and providing a safe place for them to grow and learn. The school doesn't exist which could do half as good a job in this area as I can, no matter how wonderful it may seem. As for specifics, my children aren't really interested in organized sports (take after both parents in this), we have plenty of debates (usually along the lines of: Resolved: if I complete my schoolwork and chores by a specific time I should be considered to have earned a certain amount of time playing a computer game) and the fact that I never attended a prom does not in any way cast a hopeless blight on my life; I have it on excellent authority, from someone who attended three of them, that I didn't miss anything, and that in this day and age there's no really good reason for a Catholic child to want all the material excess that comes with such an occasion anyway.

Opal said...

Nutmeg,
Will you post the forbidden tv shows list? This is very interesting. I wonder if our judgement matches that of the schools.

nutmeg said...

Opal, I will gladly post that info when/if I can get a copy.

Red, I am not offended by your opinion. But I do have to say that I don't agree with all you've said. There are no absolutes here, and I think some of the argumentation assumes there is. It also seems to me that in the examples you bring up, you are taking the worst case "going to school" scenario and pitting it against the ideal homeschooling scenario. That is unfair.

Regarding bullying in school: Yes, I'm sure there's a social pecking order in every school. And you're right, most teachers can't do a thing about it. But when Action Man attended this certain school for a year and there was a bit of bossiness going on, it was promptly nipped in the bud. The principal and teachers spoke with me directly and Action Man reported that this kid was then really nice to him. Happy ending. And an important lesson learned... A.M. realized that no matter what this kid did, he was worthy of better treatment. And whether we like it or not, there will always be those people who bully others. Even as adults in the workplace. Unfortunate, but true. Does this mean that we WANT our kids to be bullied so they can learn how to deal with it? Of course not. But learning how to deal with others (outside and inside the home) can be a great lesson in charity.

I think we agree on the point of what the priorities are for our children. Being a child of Christ requires all those things you point out. And having a good Catholic liberal education may not be a requirement but it can be instrumental in grounding oneself against the pull of this world. And just like Laura Berquist says in her intro to "Designing a Classical Curriculum", that is our goal for our own children. A solid Catholic liberal arts college. And I think a structured school in a good environment, especially in the later grades like high school, can be an enriching experience and can facilitate the many things that will lead to this and to a well-rounded formation. I will be the first to admit that there are too many institutions out there that will put our goals as custodians of our children's souls in jeopardy. And with patience and hard work, a homeschool environment can be developed to meet our goals even in the latter grades. But if there is an institution out there that will help me do this and provide a good community for our family, I will consider it. But I don't believe there are any absolutes here and however we get to our goal, we will get there.


As far as the tv shows go, yes. They have kicked out rich families for this infraction. And yes, it does include movies and video games. And I will try to get a copy of this for you.

I'm sorry you've had such a bad experience with "great" Catholic families. But, I hope to goodness that if any of my children fall away from the faith, people don't stand around pointing their fingers at me. Homeschooling does not guarantee that my children will remain Catholic. In fact, in some instances, it may even drive them away. It's not just schooled children that turn from the faith.

The most we can all do is pray for our children and our families. Pray that we are reading their charism correctly and providing for their needs; spiritually, academically, emotionally and socially. If that means sports and organized debate teams and yes, even a prom (lots to learn there as far as decorum and politeness, and, as long as it is done right, no material excess required!) we will do it.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Probably fairly obvious, but it is worth pointing out for a lot of us, money is utterly decisive. In our case, we were determined that my wife would be at home - I cannot say 'would not work' as she worked and works like a dog, and some of it paid - local newspaper deliveries with the kids and such. This meant we were dependent on my income, which is pretty good by New Zealand standards, but still only barely enough for us to get by. In addition, we have tithed, and though we have tried at times (when things got pretty thin) to convince ourselves that we should not tithe, we were never able to. Finally, in a rich and populous country like the United States you have resources such as the excellent-sounding Catholic school that nutmeg describes, but no such thing exists at all in New Zealand. The Catholic schools range from bad to appalling. The public schools are no different.

So we home-schooled. Now my third point above doesn't apply to the US, but the first two may well do so. If you live on one income, and especially if you tithe, and you are convinced you cannot send your kids to the free or cheap schools around - then I think you are faced with home-schooling as your only choice.

jj

nutmeg said...

John, I sympathize. That is exactly why we started homeschooling! God backed me into a corner financially, and I am really glad He did. I've learned so much and my philosophy of education has gone through so many metamorphoses.... But most of all, I love what it's done to our home. My kids learn all the time, even when we're not doing formal schooling. I love that.

This utopian school I am bragging about DOES have great financial aid, but I would still need to teach or do some volunteer hours to offset the tuition we would end up paying.

It would be hard. That's for sure. But we'll see about those details when (and if!) the time comes...

:)

John Thayer Jensen said...

I suspect money is behind why a lot of people home-school, actually. Why else would anyone in their right mind attempt such a mad-sounding thing??!!

It was pain and tears and agony for me and Susan. It was also joy and sweetness. We are glad we did. The two boys did end up going to public high schools from fifth form - like 11th grade in the US except we have 13 grades instead of 12. They did all right and have kept their faith and it is strong. One daughter went straight to University from home, and did very well. the other went to a Catholic high school from 3rd form and didn't do well, but not because of the school - issues in her life that would have been, I think, much worse if she had not been home-schooled to that point. Actually it was her strong desire to go to a school at that age that was why we, somewhat reluctantly, acquiesced. She thought it would fix things. It didn't :-) But I don't think it hurt anything.

God be thanked that if we trust Him and rely on Him completely and love Him with all we can, He will turn our lead into gold. I have learned one thing about children. They are not 'systems' that, given a certain input, give you a specific output. they are - terrifyingly! - free human beings, which qualities of their own, gifts of their own - and the ability both to love and also to love, at times, the wrong things. They will be all right all right all right - just trust Him! I love them so!!

jj

Red Cardigan said...

Tremendously good comments from everyone on this thread--thanks to all! It's nice to have such a lively and courteous exchange of differing viewpoints.

John, I do think money's an influence, but not necessarily the sole determining factor in a family's choice. My parents made tremendous financial sacrifices to send their children to parochial schools, and stopped only when it became obvious that they were paying a lot and getting almost nothing for it; oh, sure a 'great' education as far as the secular world was concerned, but no real education in the faith or in morals or values outside of materialistic ones.

Nutmeg, a couple of points. One, I just want to reiterate that my point with the discussion of "great Catholic families" was indeed NOT to point fingers, just to point out that we may project things onto people that are far different from the reality. In other words, if I were told that the such and suches were a "great Catholic family" and therefore it would be silly for me not to allow my girls to go on a sleepover at their house, I'd feel as if I were being terribly negligent if I didn't investigate further what the family's views on certain salient issues might be--not all "great Catholic families" are alike, and even some I might be able to be close to would probably differ widely from me in what sort of books, television, video games, music etc. was allowed for the children. My job as a parent is NOT to abdicate that responsibility to anyone else, even if they really are "great"! :)

My second point is a sort of "ah, I understand" moment when you mentioned Laura Berquist. I'm going to commit homeschool heresy here by saying I have little use for her method, and have never liked it (though I'm sure she's a tremendously wonderful person and all; my differences with her are strictly educational). I often find myself at odds with those who prefer her way of doing things, and usually I simply agree to disagree with those who see her approach as an ideal.

freddy said...

Mr. Jensen, it's wonderful to read comments from someone who has grown children. You and your wife are the real pioneers! Today we really do have many more options and support, but as you pointed out, the important thing to remember is that we're educating our children for eternity.

Nutmeg, I have to admit I like the idea of small, independent and holy Catholic schools, though I'm having too much fun homeschooling just now to want to tie myself to someone else's schedule. But there are good reasons for these schools: not every parent wants to homeschool; some parents & children are happier participating with a group; some children do better with a little healthy competition; some children enjoy the reinforcement of things like good manners and good habits, all of which a small independent school can supply. Of course, as you've discovered, there are a lot of benefits to homeschooling as well. It might be interesting to see these schools open their doors to homeschoolers for enrichment (on a fee basis, of course).

However, I have to admit being extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a list of forbidden materials. This seems like the school doing the parents' job for them, and even if I were to agree with everything on the list, I'd still find it intrusive, unenforceable and problematic. I'd have no problem with a list of "not recommended," just as I have no problem with "recommended summer reading lists" some schools provide, but "not allowed" crosses the line, in my opinion.

nutmeg said...

Freddy, I understand your discomfort. But the intention is not to "do your job" but to make sure your job isn't being undone by the other students in the school. (what Red said about other kids exposing your child to R-rated movies by re-telling the plot to them during recess, etc)

Their thinking is that if you allow your kids to watch these shows, you probably wouldn't be interested in the school anyway.

Opal said...

You know, Freddy has a point.
When I first read about the banned list, the opositional defiant kid in me said..who do you think you are telling ME...:0) I am curious. Do you remember any of the shows? CSI Miami? Barney? Teletubies? HBO? American Idol?

You know, this is what I love about our faith. The diversity. Although we have many absolute wrongs, we are given a lot of room on how we should teach/raise our children. What works for one, may not work for another. One thing I would stress for anyone, do not abandon teaching and reading about your faith at home.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Thanks for your nice comments, freddy!

I may say I doubt, myself, that forbidden programmes is going to stop people from looking - may even challenge them to have a look - but OTOH particularly for the quite young I cannot think I could disagree with the philosophy. To tell an 8-year-old what is and what is not recommended seems to me to place on the child's shoulders a burden of decision that he or she is not capable of making. It is certainly different for the 16-year-old. Where in the middle the change takes place is probably an individual matter.

Regarding freddy's comments about competition, I agree, though I think, again, that there is a matter of maturation here as well.

I suppose if I were to be asked what I thought the ideal educational pattern would be - let's assume money was no object and that excellent schools were available - heck, so long as we are dreaming, let's assume we have a Catholic society as well in which most people are practising Catholics - I think I would still say that homeschooling is the best for the pre-puberts. I think something like the pattern that one imagines prevailed amongst well-to-do gentry in England might be best:

- 'governess' (i.e. home teacher) for the elementary-school aged children

- school for the high schools, starting at whatever age seemed appropriate for the particular child.

From what I have heard I would not be very keen on boarding schools, at least not for a lot of kids.

But it doesn't matter, really, what I think the ideal would be. I just do think that home is by far the best environment for the kids before puberty. They need the nurturing. They also need the socialisation and that is easily achieved with all sorts of groups activities. The high schoolers, though, do need the growing discipline and challenge of competition.

FWIW :-)

jj

rks said...

What a great discussion! I am going to chime in with my two cents, for what it is worth. We homeschooled until last year when we put our oldest into the school that nutmeg mentioned.

I, obviously, agree with her that given the option of a great Catholic school, there are times when a brick and mortar school could be as good or better than a home school. Now that assumes a lot of things, such as what kind of school are you considering and what kind of home school do/are able to provide for your children. I agree that it is unfair to pit the worst private school experience against the best homeschool- when is reality we are all somewhere in the middle.

For most homeschoolers it would take a GREAT school for them to even consider such a dramatic change in gears. We are very blessed to have such a great school nearby. By great I don’t mean perfect- those teachers/administrators/students are marked by the stain of original sin just like the rest of us, but they make a concerted effort to provide these children with a solid understanding of their faith, a challenging academic environment, and do their best to accept families who hold the same ideals. Their motto “To Know, To Love, and To Serve”. I understand that schools like this don’t exist in most areas- that this isn’t your typical atholic school, but I do think that we should be careful not to toss all Catholic schooling into the dung heap.

I am going to try to address a few of the points brought up- not so much in defense of this particular school, but to show that good schools do exist .


As far as schools being over priced day care- I just know that my son was behind, quite possibly by a whole grade level, but we agreed to keep him on par and to do extra work with him at home. By the end of the year he was doing great and was above grade level in all areas. I know that some schools do nothing more than worksheets with lots of sitting around doing nothing, but by the end of the year he had learned hard work, perserverence, was disciplined about his tasks and he could see for himself how he had made such huge strides.

Yes, this school is unusual in that it is independent and unaccredited, receiving no money from the state or the diocese. They can accept who they want, expel who they want and have absolute control over their curriculum. Last year they used books from Faith and Life, Balitmore Catechism, CHC, Our Lady of Victory, Seton, English from the Roots Up, Institute for Excellence in Writing, All Ye Lands, Drawing with Children, Musikgarten, did drama performances of traditional fairy tales, etc. It was nice when we started because I was so familiar with most of the things that they were using. The principal keeps abreast of the homeschool materials and (because they are so good) chooses a lot of them for the school.

You are right that the school can not tailor the education to each individual child. No school can really achieve that, but with the class sizes averaging at 10 and maxing at 15, the teacher is able to give special attention to those that need more challenges and to those that are a little behind.

In regards to the cost, yes private schools can be outrageously expensive. This school has a “family-friendly” tuition which consists of $400/month for the first, $350 for the second, and $250 for the third. The tuition per family caps right there. So the families at the school with 10 children (it is pk3-12)pay the same amount ($1000/month) as those with 3. They do that because they want to encourage large families. On top of that (since $1000 is still a lot of money) there is also need based financial aid.

As far as the snobby-elitest problems, I am sure they exist as that is a common weakness amongst adolescents. We haven’t encountered it yet and with the classes having only 10 students, I think the teacher tends to notice those dynamics more quickly then if she has 30 to contend with.

I do know that at the beginning of the school year last year they had to expel 2-3 families and it was a financial sacrifice for the school. One of them was for having a myspace account which is one of the things that is strictly forbidden (at the parents’ meeting before school started last year the principal showed the parents how myspace is only two clicks away from grave things you don’t want you children seeing).

Yes, kids in school have a much busier schedule but they also learn how to manange their time and develop a discipline. The school also makes a point to schedule their sports practices in such a way that parents don’t have to be driving around like mad to get their kids everywhere they need to go- you get it all done at once.

And last but not least, the families at this school are mostly one income families, with stay-at-home moms who are frequently up there volunteering and if they aren’t it is quite possible that it is because they are home recovering from delivering their 6th, 8th, 10th, or 12th child. Needless to say, there aren’t many people driving up in the Hummers or Jaguars. In fact most of the families are on a tight budget, there are at least 4- 15 passenger vans that I see on a regular basis- then there is me in my 93 station wagon .

Thanks for such a great thread! Good luck with planning your homeschooling year- I loved browsing my catalogs and waiting for the boxes to arrive on my front doorstep .

Blessings,
rks

freddy said...

Just to clarify a couple of things:
Regarding the "list of forbidden materials," I certainly don't think that an 8 year old should have the burden of decision. My understanding is that the parents are told by the school what is forbidden for their children to watch/play and the parents are to see that this rule is followed. My problem is that the school is deciding for the parents what is not appropriate for the children to watch/play and making this a condition of enrollment. Surely parents should be making these decisions for their children? Even if I were to agree with everything on this list, I would still have a problem with this policy since it seems that the school is saying to the parents both "we don't trust you," and "we are better equipped than you to decide what your children may not watch on TV or play on video games." Better, I think, for the school to work with parents via workshops or whatever to educate them about the nastiness of the prevailing culture and how to avoid it.

Regarding competition, I was mostly thinking about the low-key classroom competition I remember from childhood that arises out of classroom spelling or math bees (How I hated those!), or even the imitation of someone's attractive penmanship. Some children enjoy and thrive on such interplay, others do not.

And that lead me to reflect on what my ideal educational pattern would be. Personaly, I'd have to agree with Mr. Jensen, with two reservations. First, what would be ideal for me wouldn't necessarily be ideal for others. And second, I've had a great experience with homeschooling in high school.

Might be kind of fun to have a governess, though! :-)

Opal said...

rks,
Sounds like a good school.
When you say they receive no money from the diocese, does that mean it has been approved by the Bishop? I was under the impression that if it wasn't approved by the Bishop, then one could not use "Catholic" in the name...don't get me started on the ones that have the Catholic in title only...
Just wondering.

rks said...

freddy,

In regards to the forbidden list, I can't say what is on it because I never got the list. We started a month into the school year and that might be why. I think that the administration wants to provide as much of a safe haven as possbile- for families to know that the administration is concerned about their children's innocence too. The banned shows are going to be things like "sex in the city" and other such shows that are adult in nature and inappropriate for kids/teens to be watching. Like nutmeg mentioned it is probably a way for the school to say "this is who we are and we require that parents monitor what their kids watch. If you disagree, this school is not a good fit for your family".

In regards to the school providing parent workshops- they do. Every year there is a parent orientation (no kids) where the principal discusses all of these important issues with the parents.

rks said...

opal,

It does have the blessing of the Bishop but it doesn't have "Catholic" in its name. It would mislead people into thinking that it was a part of the diocese. It is named after a saint and in their description of the school it says that they teach in the Catholic tradition.

Opal said...

rks,
A good friend of mine told me of a great catholic school in TX that the girls wore long skirts and the boys and girls were separated. Could this be the same one?

Also, do they celebrate TLM with the permission of the Bishop or is it part of PPX society?

rks said...

Opal,

No, this is not the same school. This school does not celebrate TLM but several of the teachers and families at this school are Latin massers (not SSPX).

Red Cardigan said...

rks, thanks for the info. Let me say once again that I'm not trying to say that school is never a good option for a particular family, especially if there are learning difficulties that are beyond the parents' ability to correct. We all have to make our own decisions about what is best for our children, and my reason for posting what I did was to explain why, for me personally, short of a school that offered private tutoring sessions with the Pope :) (or short of family tragedy that made homeschooling no longer possible) I'll always decide to teach mine at home.

That said, OUCH! We pay about $1000/month for our mortgage, $300/month of which covers the property taxes. I simply can't imagine trying to come up with that same amount of money for a school to duplicate what I can do at home for about $400 a YEAR. (And I do mean duplicate; I use many of the same books/materials you list.)

Is this school owned/operated by a single individual or family, or by a board of directors or other group? What kind of financial oversight is there? I ask because I've seen small schools fail due to a sudden increase in costs or drop in revenue, and the negative impact of parents being handed a letter in October or March saying the school will close at the end of the semester can hardly be exaggerated.

Finally, I'm a bit appalled by the myspace account incident. Most things on the Internet are two clicks away from grave matter you don't want your kids seeing; that's why kids have parents, and why parents should not allow unsupervised Internet access until kids are mature enough to handle that responsibility, which should ideally fall sometime between driving age and legal drinking age, in my book. But it's not the job of anyone but me to make sure my kids are protected when they use the Internet, and I would seriously resent a school taking such an infantile view of the parents who are paying them so much money. There is definitely an underlying assumption that only the school leadership can be trusted to keep the children morally sound, and I'd defy any school to take that attitude with me (probably because it's more than my cardigan that's red, if you get my drift).

Opal said...

Red,
There are many school (some public) who will not allow children to CREATE an account with MySpace. (They won't/can't stop them from viewing) I think it has to do with protection and just the nastiness that some kids post (near nude pics). Safety being that if a predator found out what school, could put them at risk for being abducted or assualted. That doesn't surprise me much but the TV shows..... well?

There are some cartoons that I do not think are GREAT for our kids but sometimes, even in restaurants, they get bits and pieces. How would they handle that? If my chlild, says to one friend, "you know what I saw on Billy Bobs Beef and B-Que TV last night? It really upset me..."

freddy said...

rks,
It's uplifting to hear of schools like this, and the one mentioned by nutmeg. It seems that this is what parochial schools were meant to be "back in the day" so to speak, when it was a given that everyone involved had the same goal: getting to heaven; helping others to do the same. It only enriches the church when, in this day, we can have schools like these, "once-a-week" schools, homeschool groups,and individual homeschooling families also working toward heaven -- and maybe helping each other as well.

red, I tend to agree with you regarding the myspace ban, even though I wouldn't let my kids be involved in it. However, even in a small, private school there might be parents who really do need -- and want -- that type of guidance. I don't like the idea of a mere school telling me how to rear my kids when my pastor, bishop, Pope and magesterium (under whose obedience I am) only give general guidelines, but many parents, drowning in our culture, only know that something's wrong but don't know what and are grateful for any lifeline. Perhaps these lists and bans are aimed toward that end. Still don't like 'em nor do I agree it's the best way, but maybe I'm getting a glimmer of understanding!

Red Cardigan said...

Opal and Freddy, it's not the guidance I object to, it's making something like that an object of expulsion. Why? Well, because, in that event it seems that the school takes OVER the parent's role, not merely supporting it but actually usurping it; in addition, it creates an environment where the kids learn that honesty about such matters will lead to punishment, but any kid who's clever enough to keep his mouth shut and/or actively lie about his t.v. watching, internet viewing, etc. will be fine: which teaches the lesson that being dishonest and sneaking and breaking the rules is the way to get by in the world.

Do we really need to be teaching that?

nutmeg said...

Nope. And I can't imagine why any parent would want to send their children there. Better to go to the public school where there are absolutely no rules.

spectator said...

It is a shame that this discussion of the ins and outs and pros and cons of the many different sorts of education available to us in this day and age has devolved into such a nit-picky dissection of a vaguely worded policy. (Vague, it seems, for privacy reasons, as it seems from the above comments that this sort of policy is very rare.)

As nutmeg explicitly stated,
"But the intention is not to "do your job" but to make sure your job isn't being undone by the other students in the school. (what Red said about other kids exposing your child to R-rated movies by re-telling the plot to them during recess, etc)"

This alleged usurping had been addressed before Red attacked it. If you wish to address the ins, outs, pros, cons, of the administration (of school, sports team, workplace, these kids gotta get into the world sometime) vs. the parental rights, then, yes, by all means. It is a discussion worth having. But not about particular instances, which, again, itseems to be for privacy reason are vague. (For now, anyway, since it looks like nutmeg may be able to explicate in future. Although, as a friend in Christ, I advise against it, for the present circumstance. It has gone too far into generality for it to be fairly dicussed in particular.)

The point being, the current example is an unfair one.

It's a shame that not all sides can be put forth with fairness. I used to be impressed by the calm voice this blog seemed to maintain. When nutmeg pointed out her situation (yes, an EXCEPTION to a very tragic rule, looks like) I thought it would be greeted with more enthusiasm than nit-picking. Looks like her point (GOOD institutions ARE possible) was entirely ignored. Pity.

Red Cardigan said...

Spectator, whoever said that good institutions weren't possible? I'm sure they are. But I'm equally sure that the best institution imaginable is still an institution, and I'd rather give my children a decidedly non-institutional education, just as I'd rather serve them home-cooked meals than institutional food. Now, that's not a slam on institutional food, that's not saying that there aren't exceptionally good school cafeterias out there, that's not even saying that some people's idea of home cooking wouldn't actually be nutritionally deficient compared to some school cafeteria offerings--it's just saying that I, personally, chose to do whatever it takes to give my children home-cooked meals the vast majority of the time, so that I can provide them with the best ingredients and the best variety I can afford, and that even a rather excellent school cafeteria couldn't match what I can do for my own kids.

Substitute "education" for "food" in that illustration and you'll be getting MY point, the point I was trying to make in my blog post (remember that?).

As far as the vague policy goes, it's inconveniently true that Nutmeg *herself* brought it up as an example of how great the school was, which means that it's perfectly fair and reasonable for people to disagree with that, and even to parse their disagreement. Conversation is not the same as attack, after all.

Red Cardigan said...

Nutmeg, I'm sorry if you're feeling attacked, as your last comment seems to suggest. I do have the utmost respect for you and I'd hate to see what began as a civilized disagreement cause you to think the less of me.

That said, obviously I don't think the public schools are better (though they do have rules, too.) The thing is, I think a school's rules are properly ordered to the school's proper sphere. I think a policy Rod Dreher has mentioned in regards to the school his son attends strikes me as being a good balance: parents are supposed to guide their children's choices in t.v. watching, movies, etc. But children are not allowed to discuss these things at school.

Now, such a policy in the long run may be absolutely unenforceable, but at least it involves the parent as an equal partner instead of punishing the parent as being as guilty as the child who breaks the rule.

nutmeg said...

My whole point in bringing up that rule was to address a concern you had about other children "poisoning" your child's mind with smut they had watched. I, too have this concern, (and many other ones which you brought up) and I wanted to share how *great* it is that this school takes these things into consideration!

Your deduction that having rules teaches children to lie was just absurd, and I wrote that comment to show you where that kind of reasoning will lead a person.

I don't feel attacked, just annoyed that what I had thought was a hope-filled "light on the hill" type of school is being picked apart for addressing the concerns that most GOOD Catholics have.

Red Cardigan said...

Nutmeg, thanks for responding.

I'm glad the school's motive is to take the concerns Catholic parents have into consideration--I guess the difference is that what seems unusually wonderful for a Catholic institution is par for the course for a Catholic family, which is one illustration of why family-based home education will always be superior, to me, to institutional education.

Please reread what I wrote re: the rules. It's not having rules that creates a situation where children might be pressured to lie; it's having a penalty like automatic expulsion for a violation as simple as watching (even inadvertently, I suppose) a banned T.V. program that creates that situation. When rules are arbitrary, unenforceable, and encroach on a parent's responsibilities they will lead some intelligent children to conclude that lying about breaking them is preferable to the terrible consequences of telling the truth.

Not to belabor the point, but just how does the school determine that a banned show has been watched? Because one student reports that a second student has admitted to viewing the program? I see all sorts of problems with this approach; but it is one small issue, after all, and if you love this school then nothing I've said should affect your ultimate decision about sending your children there any more than anything anyone here has said would ever make me reconsider homeschooling.

Right?

spectator said...

"Substitute "education" for "food" in that illustration and you'll be getting MY point, the point I was trying to make in my blog post (remember that?)."
Firstly, on a general level, your argumant is sound, valid, I totaly agree. Unfortunately, it was a specific instance under the microscope, one that could not be specified further (for privacy, again) and I feel it was unfair to uphold as a generality for debate.

And, to answer your query, I do remember your post. In fact, it was your well-written, thoughtful post that prompted me to click on the comment link. What greeted me was a relatively civil discussion until a certain point, and it seemed to me that the discussion could have continued to be civil, if it had not got bogged down in hypothetical particulars of a deliberately vaguely worded policy.
As you said:
As far as the vague policy goes, it's inconveniently true that Nutmeg *herself* brought it up as an example of how great the school was, which means that it's perfectly fair and reasonable for people to disagree with that, and even to parse their disagreement. Conversation is not the same as attack, after all.

I feel sorry to have to repeat myself, but:
As nutmeg explicitly stated,
"But the intention is not to "do your job" but to make sure your job isn't being undone by the other students in the school. (what Red said about other kids exposing your child to R-rated movies by re-telling the plot to them during recess, etc)"

I felt that Nutmeg had answered your belated attack (I do call it an attack, since she had explicitly adressed that very concern before you mentioned it, and I call it belated, since, as I said, she had already addressed it before it became the theme of the thread) early on. To continue to belabor the point: ("There is definitely an underlying assumption that only the school leadership can be trusted to keep the children morally sound, and I'd defy ANY school to take that attitude with me (probably because it's more than my cardigan that's red, if you get my drift)." AND "Well, because, IN THAT EVENT it seems that the school takes OVER the parent's role, not merely supporting it but actually usurping it...") is unfair and does not further the positive impact of the discussion in any way.

(*Some emphasis mine)

On a more personal level, I feel that it is unfortunate that you fell you need to be sarcastic in your response (again, I do remember your post, and it is, ironically, the calm, level tone of your entire blog that I held in mind when I posted originally) and, I hold no illusion that I am not blame for furthering the debate. I suppose we all feel straongly about it, and as we are none of us autmatons with no feelings or emotions, I hope that I can be forgiven for my ridiculous indignation which goads me on, and I hope that you continue your admirable thoughtfulness in all your writings.

nutmeg said...

Red, I think we will have to agree to disagree here. I have no idea how the school enforces this rule, it is not an issue for us, since we hardly watch anything anyway.

I am most definitely NOT trying to make you quit homeschooling. For heaven's sake, I'm still homeschooling! I was merely trying to share a gem of a school with those of us who are ultra-discerning about what comes into our homes. (and I am including myself amongst those people) I thought it a hope-filled change for our society.

I'm done.
:)

spectator said...

Hmmmkay, Red, Nutmeg, et al, I fear my emotions got the best of me. I do concede to the universal "nothing is absolute" principle for the education of our young 'uns. I lost sight of that, and was sarcastic and self-righteous, and I apologize.

In future, I hope to pray, and then think, before I "click". I thank Red for her writings, and I hope to be privy to many more as days go by.