Summaryby Ginny Seuffert | Gatto’s Third Theme is that students must gain insight into major institutional forms including courts, military, and corporations, as well as the ideas that drive them. By truly understanding these institutions, students mature into responsible citizens who will not be persuaded by opinion-makers in the major media, but will be capable of forming intelligent, independent judgments, and then acting on them.
This is the 3rd article in the series How to Get an Elite Prep School Education on a Homeschool Budget.
Award-winning teacher John Taylor Gatto has identified fourteen themes that are common to elite private boarding schools—prep schools where children from wealthy and influential families are groomed to assume powerful positions in society.
Theme 3: Prep students must gain insight into major institutional forms (courts, corporations, military, and education).
If we practicing Catholics hope to have a say about the direction the American culture, economy, and government will proceed, we would do well to prepare our children to bring their carefully nurtured Catholic values to leadership positions.
Thankfully, homeschooling offers us an opportunity to accomplish this goal by providing a prep school education at a tiny fraction of the price.
Understand the Institutions
Gatto’s Third Theme is that students must gain insight into major institutional forms including courts, military, and corporations, as well as the ideas that drive them.
By truly understanding these institutions, students mature into responsible citizens who will not be persuaded by opinion-makers in the major media, but will be capable of forming intelligent, independent judgments, and then acting on them.
Clearly to accomplish this, we must emphasize history—especially American—civics and geography in our homeschools, but here are a few other ideas.
Bring your children to your state capital to watch a legislative session, especially one that involves an important issue such as our ability to homeschool free from government intervention.
On a local level, you might bring your children to town hall meetings, or meetings of the library board.
In addition to informing them about community issues, they will learn about rules of order and how responsible citizenship works.
If you have a military base nearby, call and find out if they have any events (parades, and training graduations, for example) open to the public.
Ask veterans you know to talk to your children about their experiences. Introduce your children to the fine traditions of honor and service found in the United State military services.
- “Bring Your Child to Work Day” can take on special meaning for homeschooling families as our children have more availability than others. If you cannot bring children to your place of business (or someone else’s), make sure you talk about the type of work you do, hours you work, office rules—the list goes on and on.
- While it is not necessary to share details of your particular situation, talk to your children about family finances in a general way. Make sure they understand what a mortgage is, utility bills, debt, banking, and budgeting.
- Explain that your household finances are a microcosm of how corporations and the government must (or at least should) balance income and expenditures.
- Some of the content of news show on TV and in print is not fit for little eyes and ears, but as your children get older talk to them about important events of the day and how they are portrayed in the popular media. Make sure they understand the difference between factual reporting and opinion pieces. Point out instances where you think a point of view is being presented as fact or evidence. Inoculate your children with a discerning attitude towards the media; lessen their chances of being swayed to reject the truth in favor of novelty or popular outlook.
Understand the Church
Gatto does not include this final institution, but I believe we should give our homeschooled children a real knowledge of the inner workings of the Catholic Church. Seton religion classes teach the doctrine, but pay careful attention to the 8th grade religion book Witness to the Faith.
This book gives the history of the Church, its triumph over persecution, the stories of great saints, and how the Church evolved into its present institutional form.
News reports offer another opportunity to show how the Church changes over time as exemplified by the ordinariates allowing Anglicans in the United Kingdom, North America and Australia to enter into full communion with Rome while retaining some of their own traditions.
If recent history is any indicator, some of your homeschooled children will enter the priesthood and religious life, and have a bit of influence over the institutional Church’s future course. Get them ready.
Public school teachers and college professors report that many teens and young adults are pretty clueless regarding basic institutions of American society.
A practical example of this is credit card companies that prey on college students, encouraging them to “establish credit” and then chase their parents when the kids accumulate charges they cannot possibly hope to pay.
Your children will benefit from insight into our government, military, financial and religious institutions, as they become adult citizens.
Society will benefit from the contributions of well-formed Americans who possess thoughtful understanding of the foundations that guide it.
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