As we close a very hard year, after a challenging first semester as a school, it is a good time to reflect on why we are doing any of this - this attempt at a very different sort of education. It is a question I have asked myself often over the past two years, as I have poured everything into St. Anthonys and almost had a nervous breakdown driving it towards becoming the ideal I see in my head. I am often discouraged. I am always exhausted. I have a very hard time teaching my own children in class. I woke up at 4:30 this morning worried about curricula and I cannot get back to sleep, so I figured I may as well write a blog post about all this.
Although the dream of this school first began twenty-something years ago, if my own children were not in need of it, it may never have happened. A friend asked me recently if it is something I would want to continue doing after my children have finished school, but my plan has never been to teach or even administrate indefinitely. I want it to exist for all children, this type of education that embraces the individual learner and experiential learning. I hope to get it going, to realize the vision I have, and then to release it to be run by capable, caring people. I would love to see it thriving when my grandchildren reach high school, and I hope it will always be a haven for those who seek an alternative to the virtual reality of a tech-obsessed world.
We are doing this to provide a safe space for the imagination to flourish, to instill a sense of wonder, to help adolescents through one of the most difficult times of life in an environment that recognizes where they are developmentally and meets them with Beauty and Goodness and Truth. I have no problem identifying the transcendental reasons for this school; nailing down practical application, positive discipline, how to assess without exams, how to motivate without grades, and how to get ornery teenagers to actually love the Good is much harder. I think there was a time when I hoped that just reading poetry, singing folk songs, daily Divine Office, and hearing great literature would magically convert these [my] kids - that they would stop asking for the smart phones so many of their peers are getting, stop yelling at their parents, stop worrying about fitting in, and stop doubting their role in the divine plan.
We have seen, however, that, especially because we are not a boarding school, we can only do so much to counter the pervasive culture. Sometimes it feels like we are fighting a losing battle. Sometimes I feel overcome by the evil in the world. I am always and every day aware of my own inadequacy and my need to be on my knees. But what we do is not without efficacy or hope. When we are singing the Divine Office each day, I think about the fact that no matter what decisions these kids make later in life, these words, this Truth, is written on their hearts and will come back to them. The joy they experience, the real they encounter, the examples they see will all remain with them. They will make it through junior high without addiction to screens or social media, with memories of building fires, singing folk songs, stargazing, and cooking Korean food together. They will have the pottery, swords, scarves, and rosaries they made as keepsakes of this time. They will not escape the influence of great books and poetry.
We cannot put an end to the evil in the world, but we can emphasize the Good. We can do our best to build the community that we must have to continue the fight. We can try to teach our students how to speak kindly, how to resolve conflict, how to act with courtesy, how to love God and each other. If you think about our little school, please say a prayer for us, that we will accomplish these things, that we will carve out a little place of peace and Truth in the midst of the war being waged all around us.