A few years ago I began to make a list of qualities that I see in the best schools I visit. I measure the quality of the school by the depth of its investment into each student’s soul, which may cause this to be a not very practical list. At any rate, here it is.
The best schools are characterized by the following activities and qualities, and they apply equally to home schools and homeschooling cooperatives:
• The atmosphere and environment correspond to and support the teaching. Both are leisurely, orderly, beautiful, and focused.
• High standards for communication, participation, and thought are implemented in a loving, patient, and consistent pattern.
• The faculty reads literature together and talks about it, usually informally, but constantly.
• A lot of Socratic teaching takes place at every level, so students’ thoughts are drawn out and refined.
• Sports are put and kept in their place, which is not insignificant.
• The roles of the board, headmaster, administration, teachers, parents, and students are clear and adhered to.
• Students know what is expected of them.
• Authority is vested in people who understand and are committed to Christian classical education. The degree of authority is linked to the level of understanding and commitment.
• In the areas where a school falls short, the board develops a nonjarring plan to prioritize them in fitting ways.
• The curriculum guides teachers as members of a community with a common goal without undercutting their creative insights. Teachers are trusted and trained (these two attributes are closely related).
Some people may think my evaluation is subjective, but in fifteen years of observing schools, those that practice these qualities are remarkably effective. However, these items follow the pursuit of wisdom. They are not techniques that stand alone.