Summaryby Ginny Seuffert | There is no reason why one of your homeschool Catholic children cannot aspire to public office.
This is the seventh article in the series How to Get an Elite Prep School Education on a Homeschool Budget.
In his younger days, my husband used to play in a New York City band with Carmine Coppola, a musician and composer who won an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for his work on such films as The Godfather and The Black Stallion.
His son is renowned film director, Francis Ford Coppola, and his daughter is Talia Shire, best remembered as Adrian Balboa in the Rocky series of films.
Carmine’s grandchildren Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage have both won numerous awards in the entertainment industry, as have two of his son-in-laws.
A talented family, no doubt, but any reasonable person would presume that access to movers and shakers in the industry certainly offered members of the Coppola family opportunities denied to other entertainers who may be equally as talented.
But what about the rest of us: those of us with no friends and relatives in influential places?
Master teacher John Taylor Gatto addresses this issue in his fourteen themes of elite private boarding schools: schools that design their curriculum around a central purpose of developing leaders for government, industry and the professions.
Gatto believes that each student must develop a “complete theory of access to any workplace”.
In other words, those of us hailing from more humble backgrounds need to develop confidence and some strategies to help our children get to where they want to go.
These three simple steps may help.
1: Prepare them when they are young
Unlike the “free range” kids of my youth, children today have shockingly few unsupervised interactions with others.
One essential aim of parenting is preparing our kids to meet the world outside our doors by themselves.
Starting with toddlers, have them interact frequently with extended family, friends, and neighbors. At first, you may have to provide them with words to use, “Make sure before you leave, you say thank you to Billy’s mom for having you over.”
A bit older, give them opportunities to tackle some of these occasions on their own. “Run over to Mrs. Smith’s car and ask her if she needs help carrying her packages.”
Little by little, have them speak to strangers in a safe setting. “Ask the man at the counter if the prescription for Jones is ready.” “Run inside and ask the lady at the front desk what time they close.”
Step one is ensuring that our children can interact with confidence and grace outside their immediate circle.
2: Teach them self-reliance.
As they approach teen years, instruct your children that they are responsible for their own plans.
If they want to join a soccer league, ask them how they plan to pay for it and get there. (Hint: The answer is NOT Dad will pay and Mom will drive.)
One answer might be, “I can earn half of the $70 fee babysitting (mowing lawns, raking leaves, etc.), Mom.
What can I do around the house to earn the rest? Sammy on the next block is joining the team too and we plan to ride our bikes together.”
Figuring out how to get to where they want to go, through their own efforts, gives children confidence.
Letting go can be a bit nerve-racking for Mom and Dad, but is absolutely essential.
By their early teens, my children had learned to safely navigate Chicago’s “L”, the city’s commuter train line, to go downtown for lunch, shopping, or a Cubs game.
Most of them had flown, by themselves, to other cities to visit family and friends.
One daughter flew alone to Santiago, Chile when she was fifteen, and spent a month with her friend’s family. They all had jobs and were responsible for their own clothing, travel, and entertainment expenses.
They learned to rely on themselves and to understand that they can reach their goals thought their own efforts.
3: Encourage them to get involved in their communities
No later than high school make sure that your children learn to actively pursue their dreams and not wait for opportunity to come knocking at the door.
Perhaps your little Johnny is interested in politics. Encourage him to volunteer during campaign time.
Let him learn about campaign calls, placing signs, and getting voters out. Let him meet local politicians. Perhaps he will be totally enchanted, or turned off; but either way, he will gain an understanding of how the process works.
Perhaps your Jane has trouble finding suitable literature at your local public library.
Find out when the Library Board meets and urge her to attend. She will gain an understanding of how small groups of people often control crucial aspects of daily life in a community.
If Joey is interested in becoming plumber, have him call around to local companies and ask how to get started.
Many professionals are happy to speak to young people and sometimes even offer them a job as a helper on the site.
Your children may be considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.
Various religious orders and dioceses have programs – often free or at a very reasonable rate — to help a person learn more about a life of service to the Church.
The rector of the minor seminary here in Chicago offers free classes in theology to anyone interested.
Many religious orders host “come and see” days or retreats to inform potential applicants and introduce them to their order’s rule.
Have your child email a vocations director for more information.
The Whole World is a Classroom.
It’s no coincidence that our sixth president, John Quincy Adams was the son of our second, Founding Father John Adams.
Our nation’s twenty-third president, Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of the ninth, William Henry Harrison and the great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Closer to our own time, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush could potentially win a trifecta for his family, as both his father and brother have already occupied the Oval Office.
Clearly all of these Americans learned public service at home, but there is no reason why one of your homeschooled Catholic children cannot aspire to the office.
Programs like Seton help you provide your students a world-class education in your home, but God has provided them an even larger classroom.
Encourage your children to follow their interests outside the home and learn more about the opportunities that are available.
Your community, your state, our country and the Catholic Church all need well-formed homeschool graduates to make a real difference.