1) Isn’t this type of formation best pursued in the family at home?
Yes. We firmly believe that parents are the primary formators of their children and that no school should ever attempt to usurp that role. A school exists to reinforce and support the parents’ efforts at home. A school must do this lest children be trained to compartmentalize their formation, rather than view it as an integral whole, both with respect to time and place. Additionally, the family is the microcosm in which the child begins the journey towards mature Christian adulthood, but along the way children need intermediate communities that can give new context to the lessons learned in the family and provide new ways for them to practice the virtues before being thrust into the context of the broader human society. We understand that a school is not the only place where such a community can be found but, for those children who are called, it should be that kind of community.
2) Why include so much break time in the daily schedule?
Any great act throughout history has always been the fruit of sufficient time and freedom. If students are to continue building on this great tradition they will do so by the same means. Therefore, they will need opportunity to learn how to use their time and freedom well. This comes both from being able to exercise the virtues necessary to do so and from proper guidance. Our breaks constitute the space in which both can be provided. They are themselves the circumstances where they will be called to exercise these virtues and they are also the times when our students can seek spiritual direction, which is absolutely necessary if they are to be formed well enough to seek, practice, and acquire said virtues. In addition to this, many students are often prevented from receiving extra help and attention or participating in activities of interest to them due to insufficient time being afforded them. This is a phenomenon we wish to avoid at our school so that every student, by discovering and developing their unique talents and interests, may grow to full Christian maturity.
3) Aren’t you concerned that your schedule doesn’t allow children to exercise intellectual discipline or receive a truly rigorous classical education?
Actually, our schedule was born out of a concern that these problems pervade other schools with supposedly more “rigorous” schedules. Time is only one factor in imparting such an education, but it must also be used well. A well trained student knows that an hour of quiet study time where he will not be disturbed is more valuable than three hours of “study time” in front of the television set. Our approach is simply the natural extension of this common sense principle. If a student is overwhelmed or exhausted, the time they spend in the classroom will yield little or no effect. A student who is interested in a topic, but is prevented from following up on that interest may later be prevented by distraction, forgetfulness, or lack of opportunity. Every day, in schools all over the country these scenarios, and others like them, take place regularly. Our schedule actually minimizes such occurrences allowing the time that remains to be used far more effectively than if twice that time had simply been dedicated purely to “seat time.”
With regard to discipline, consider that it requires more discipline to complete a class in a shorter period of time than a longer one. With regard to rigor, consider that by treating our students less like machines (trying to constantly and mechanically crank out work) and more like human beings (giving the mind sufficient time and rest in order to contemplate reality deeply and fully), we allow them to achieve in each subject a level of mastery worthy of the highest creature in material creation. Ultimately, the greatest argument for this will be the change you note in your child. It is one thing to articulate the principles at work here and it is entirely another to see them in action. The answer you are looking for lies not in any kind of written response, but with our students themselves.
4) Isn’t this model more suited to those who are called to the contemplative life?
Yes, that’s why we are not accepting applications from dogs, cats, fish, birds, or other household pets at the present time. :) While some chosen individuals have a special call to the contemplative life within the context of religious life, all human beings by virtue of their human nature as such, are called to the contemplative life as their natural (and supernatural) end. That is the goal towards which all other proximate ends should be ordered.