I wrote my original post when I’d only read part of the book. I thought I’d have more to say on the subject when I read the book. Well, I didn’t actually read the whole thing. But I skimmed most of it and feel I got the gist and didn’t miss anything important. And I really don’t have much more to say. Much of what follows may be a rehash of stuff I’ve already said. I’m not going to go back and reread my previous post to weed out the redundancies.
I didn’t find this book very helpful, I don’t think it changed my point of view or added any more data to my store of knowledge about home schooling.
My overall impression is still that Dr. Clark’s approach to home schooling is at odds with my basic educational philosophy. Seton’s approach is to provide the curriculum available at a Catholic school for parents to work through with their children at home. Clark advocates flexibility in that she says children should work at their own pace and level of abililty. She says parents can use as much of Seton’s resources as they desire: they can opt out of having someone else do the grading or compiling a report card for the child. She even acknowledges that Seton’s program isn’t for everyone and that there are other programs out there.
But she seems to divide home schooling approaches into structured and unstructured. By structured she seems to mean a formal program like Seton’s. When she discusses unstructured she refers to the unschooling movement which is child-directed rather than parent controlled. I didn’t find her categories helpful or relevant to my concerns.
I don’t feel like her book ever addressed my concerns with educational philosophy or that she even seems aware of the critique of modern educational thought advanced by Dorothy Sayers and others that advocates a return to a classical methodology. Her only critique of both public and Catholic schools is their lack of adequate formation in the faith. She advances no critique of their effectiveness at intellectual formation. And that’s my gripe with her in a nutshell.
My problems with the current educational systems, both public and private, is that not only are they flawed in their understanding of moral and spiritual development, but they are also flawed in their approach to intellectual development. And I think the two are connected.
So Seton and other programs I’ve looked at are not for me. Nor are unschooling and unit study approaches. (Though I do think there may be some merit in a unit studies approach as a supplementary activity rather than a basis for an educational strategy.)
I think the Seton approach might work fine for other people, I don’t mean this as a critique of anyone who finds it works for them. Certainly it is a huge improvement over public schools and even the majority of Catholic schools. I wouldn’t necessarily dissuade anyone who was thinking of using them, especially a parent who was not very confident about their ability to homeschool. But I would like to discover a program more along the lines of a classical trivium approach with a sound reading list and more flexibility that is still able to provide for uncertain parents the kind of structure and support that Seton provides. Maybe those two goals are mutually exclusive. I’ll have to think about this some more.