Well, my 16 year old son came to me and asked if he could go to a boarding school in St. Louis for the last year of high school. This school is affiliated with our church and is a feeder school for the college he wants to go to so it makes a little bit of sense… at least enough I had to really think about it.
Just a little background for you, especially for those of you who don’t know me very well. I now have three boys away at college and only two still at home. We have homeschooled for 14 years and my family has been involved in Leadership Education (a homeschool philosophy also known as Thomas Jefferson Education) for the last 9 years. I am one of the founding members of my commonwealth school (a structured homeschool group) and I am currently the Principle Mentor. In other words, sending my kid to boarding school is not something I really thought I’d ever have to deal with!
Well, this school in St. Louis has a great deal – they pay all but $50 of the air travel for the potential student and their parents to come and check out the school for a long weekend. It isn’t something I really wanted to do. I am having a hard enough time having only two kids at home. I really don’t want to think about having only one! But, as my son’s mentor, I know that I need to think about where he wants to go in life and help him get there. It can’t be about me.
So, several weeks ago, my son and I went to St. Louis to this college prep school to check it out. This is a school that people pay about $40,000 a year to go to. They are willing to give him almost a full scholarship for him to attend.
Well, this school looks like a country club. It has all kinds of wonderful activities and programs. I spent the first night there tortured by the thought that I could have had all my older boys attend there and get this fantastic education in this wonderful environment. I thought I should have moved back there years ago and given up homeschooling so they could have had all these resources.
When I got home I was trying to explain it to my mom and she interrupted me and tried to reassure me that I had tried to do my best. But I had to stop her. I hadn’t told her what I figured out the last day of my trip. Leadership Education is the best.
Our last day at the school I attended a junior level honors history class. It was American history, a topic I love. After 10 minutes of the students getting in their seats, handing in their homework, taking role and everything else, the instructor finally was able to get started. As soon as he started talking, I stopped looking at him and instead watched the students. All of them were sitting there with their eyes glazed over. None of them were engaged. The professor was talking about a fascinating part of history that had local interest. But none of them cared. He also didn’t even try to ask them questions. My son attended 3 other classes. I asked him how those went. All of them were straight lecture.
I also had to sit down with the academic adviser to figure out what classes my son would most likely take. The counselor told me he would have to take US Government again (he has already taken two classes on this). It is required. But I found a class that met that requirement but was a senior seminar that sounded kind of like a watered down version of the class he just finished. Hopefully it won’t be too boring or repetitive. And it is only one semester. He also HAS to take British Literature. After four years of Shakespeare, he has to do it again. They had a honors class that I decided, again, might not be too boring. Science he will be able to take a class given by the college and get college credit so that was OK. Math and Spanish he will be right on target for. So, he will take two or three electives each semester. OH and he will have to do a senior project… which sounded strikingly similar to the research project that he did last year as a freshman…
A couple weeks after we got back, the Leadership class I taught and he was in had their final speeches and graduation. I found it really interesting that one of the graduates, who took college classes both years she was in the class, compared her experience in our class and her classes in college. She talked about how much deeper and engaging her education was at our commonwealth compared to her college classes. The next day when we had our traditional weekly Skype calls with all the boys, one of them said almost the same thing. He was finding the education somewhat superficial and wished it was more like the classes he loved and where the students TALKED.
Well, the plan is for our son go to this school. Not next year but the year after. I’m looking at it as his gap year… as far as I’m concerned, he will be done with his high school education. The year will be for learning a new educational system and making friends.
As homeschoolers we might sometimes be tempted to think we can’t give our kids everything a big school can. It is true that our commonwealth school doesn’t have a cheerleading squad, a jazz band or a football team. But despite this, I know that we are giving our kids the BEST education, not just for college, but for life.