Educational Excellence in a Personal Environment

That is the motto of the University of West Georgia, which we visited last weekend, and is also in line with our family’s values.  They have one of the few residential early-college entrance programs in the country. These programs are designed for gifted high school students who are not sufficiently challenged in their home high school.

Even though it is a medium-sized state university, every staff member, including the president himself,  is required to teach at least one undergraduate class per year. To us, that clearly demonstrated the commitment to the personal environment; there are no administrators sitting in offices, ignorant of the “real world” of student life. The president, Dr. Sethna, is passionate about the early college program, known as the Advanced Academy, and the students who are part of it. He encourages many of them to collaborate on research with their professors, and some high school students have the opportunity to present papers at national professional meetings.

The Advanced Academy students that we met seemed to be much like our son – bright, discontented with high school, a little bit geeky, and eager to face the academic challenges of college classes at an early age.

univwga-picThe academic experience appeared wonderful, while the buildings themselves were…not. I am inspired by beautiful surroundings, and 1970’s era brick buildings are not my idea of beauty. But, as my son pointed out, he doesn’t care about the  buildings, and he’s the one who would be living there.

So, what’s not to like about a high school experience where the students are among the nation’s brightest, are taught college level courses in small, seminar style classes by full professors, and who graduate high school effectively as college juniors, often with wonderful scholarship opportunities?

It is four hours away from our house.

My then-16 year old would move away from home before he even learns how to drive.

I tear up just thinking about it. We would only have 16 more months of life together as a family as we now know it.

But, what is the cost of keeping him here? For no choice is without a cost, and a decision to keep him here is a decision to close doors for him that might not open again.

Can we offer him a stimulating, excellent education with peers like himself while still keeping him at home? We’ve been trying, but the options are few and looking less promising all the time.

One alternative we have just discovered is an online classical school. It offers classes in line with our educational philosophy that he could not get anywhere locally. The online school offers educational excellence, but is it a personal environment? Depends on how you define it, I guess.

The wonders of modern technology would allow him to take classes in real time and hold discussions with the teacher and a small group of students during class. They can share written material via an online whiteboard and comment on each other’s work.  It’s almost as good as really being there. Almost.

But there are no friends to eat lunch with or to hang out with on the weekends, except in the virtual chat rooms. No sports or clubs with friends from class.

Virtual friendships are great, but everyone needs some friends with skin on.

And I need some more time with my son at home.

Choices, choices. Wish life didn’t have to be so hard.

Choices are the hinges of destiny.

Pythagoras

2 Responses to “Educational Excellence in a Personal Environment”


  1. Frank says:

    While I do understand your point about people needing \friends with skin on,\ but I fail to see the significance of the source of those friends–\high-school\ friends, \college\ friends, \church\ friends, etc. As long as he has true friends, who cares where he met them? With only a few exceptions, I have found that my jobs and my church have produced far greater friendships than my college experience ever did. Go for the better education, even if it’s not in a traditional environment. In my opinion, money is spent on college for education, not socialization.


  2. Frank says:

    Regarding my previous post, while I still hold to it, I do realize now that where I saw the word “college” and ran with it, you are referring to an advanced-level high-school program, but I still feel that the same principles apply. This is ultimately about education, not socialization. Admittedly, I am rather introverted and tend to discount the social aspect. I do have my share of friends and acquaintances, but when it comes to work & education, I’m there for work & education, not socialization. The social aspect is draining and a distraction, at least to me. Your son may be completely opposite from me, however, that doesn’t change the fact that schools (traditional and otherwise) are about learning.

    The question is which environment would be best for him. From what you post about him, and I’m sure it’s fairly one-sided, though as accurate as a mother can be, he seems to be a fairly level-headed young man who could certainly handle either option. I certainly understand your concerns about wanting to keep your son at home. In my opinion, pre-college is a little to young to be flying free on their own, but that (just like the rest of this post) is just my opinion.

    I seem to have been rambling, and perhaps not making much sense. I guess to summarize and get to some kind of a point, I’ll conclude with this: Ultimately, he is still your child and not legally an adult. Whether either of you are ready for him to be away from home is up to you to decide; and as far as the online option is concerned, especially if he has other activities that he is involved in outside of school, going that route will not necessarily deprive him of flesh & blood relationships.

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