Fool’s Gold: The Perfect Five-Day School

Here’s my bet: hybrid schools will proliferate over the next 20 years.

The advantages of school are obvious: learning at school gives a social dimension for a social creature. Friendship, role models, and social expectations motivate learning. It’s a fact of nature that the formation of the rational soul requires society. There is no gene for phonics or temperament of trigonometry. Manners and milieu maketh the man.

And the basic unit of society is the family.

Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina with an immortal line about the special uniqueness of all families.

“All happy families are alike; all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.”

But Tolstoy is exactly wrong. The more we conform ourselves to the Logos, the more individual and happier we become. We cease comparing ourselves to others and competing, and instead become the saint only we can be. The golden calf appeals to the mob, not the man alone on the mountain.

The hybrid model sits on the frontier of the trade-off between family & self-cultivation and peer interactions & peer-pressure.

What the hybrid model does for the high school student is provide structure, friendships, social expectations, and role models without creating an environment of conformity. Students have the space to self-pace and detach from the school peer group. They are free to grow in their uniqueness. By giving students multiple institutions to participate in, church, family, and school, the awesome power of social conformity dampens.

Let’s ask a different question. Are we moving towards a future where the best opportunities for learning are centralized in one building with lots of other people? What indications do we have of that? Very little.

Our milieu is the age of increasing decentralization.

Technology has transformed and will continue to transform the nature of society. It creates immense opportunities for the virtuous to grow in knowledge and capacity, and for the foolhardy to fall into fictions and fantasies. Decentralization of learning institutions will continue.

For us, this means that offering the best high school formation cannot all be school-based. The lion’s share of great souls and roaring saints will be deeply individual and inimitable. They will need their church, families, jobs, outside associates, in addition to school for true soulcraft to occur.

School as a learning factory, school as a holding cell, school as place where entire age cohorts are subjected to each other’s peer pressure for long periods day-in and day-out, even in the best circumstances, such as that of Catholic boarding school (my own experience) costs a high school student their family bond, the bond which the papacy and specifically the local bishop has commissioned us to bolster through this mission.

When the Jesuits started their education system in 1599, their schools met four days per week. Wednesday was the off day. Still in France around 80% of high schools are four-day. School is not education. Don’t let school stand in the way of education.

At JPII, we have two home days. Those two days to work on our education without school holding our hand. Those days are ours to become our true selves within the context of our family and community. This is the cutting edge of the JPII Ministry.

Fundraising Prospectus 2022

JPII South opened through the Providential union of several disparate forces: Amy Steppig’s insistence and perseverance, Fr. Waldman’s welcome, the JPII Association of Christian Faithful’s greenlight and support, Mrs. Schmitz’s magnanimous lending of JPII North staff time, and economist Tyler Cowen’s grant through Emergent Ventures. Those good forces all conspired and agreed that classical Catholic education in the hybrid model is not merely a ‘nice-to-have’ thing but a real and unmet need of our community and of society at-large.

As we enter our third year, I want to present the plan for fundraising that will keep our school growing in virtue, faith, and knowledge. Each year we add to our program with excellent teachers, new grade levels, and enrichment opportunities.

Throughout this upcoming year, we will develop our strategic plan prioritizing areas of development to receive funds over the next five years: namely, Additional Grade Levels, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Simply Classical program, Scholarship Funds, and development funds.

In 2020 our first year we started with 6 full time students and reached 10 by November. We received over $57,000 through grants and donations. In the fray of the covid year, we did not have time to do any additional fundraising. Nonetheless we initiated our high school program in the humanities with Church History, Latin, Medieval Literature, Logic, Rhetoric, and Public Speaking. Our students helped establish the house system under the patronage of St. Martin of Tours, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Louis. Our math and science program spanned from pre-algebra to precalculus and from physical science to physics.

The inestimable and wise Mr. Martel and the storied master of belles-lettres Mr. Colston graced our students with their tutelage.

We were able to dispense just over $1,300 dollars in scholarships and multi-child discounts. Despite all the obstacles and problems in the world, the Holy Ghost blessed this work.

In our second year we started with 17 students and ended with 22. We received $11,700 through a grant from John and Mary Jane Lee Foundation, our fundraiser, and donations. We expanded the program into PreK and 4th grade which allowed new families to join and current families to be served. (We always place opening up grades for current families as a high priority!) Mr. Nicholas Rao joined us to teach Latin, Logic, and Philosophy. This next year he is taking time to work on his PhD in philosophy at SLU. Ms. Sophia Forget joined us to teach Ancient Literature and Sacred Scripture. She offered the most inspiring and dedicated class in Sacred Scripture in all the Midwest! Since God has called her to bless a religious community of sisters in Michigan next year, we will wait for her to return and establish a new religious community associated with JPII in the future!

Furthermore, we received a wonderful donation of time and effort from Mrs. Rose Fulton who jumped straight from the farmlands of Canada into teaching fourth grade with confidence and verve. She also held a great workshop for 7-12th grade on explaining the pro-life position to nonreligoius people (which is her other expertise, besides music and teaching).

We finally had the chance to implement economics into the upper high school curriculum alongside Morality and Catholic Social Teaching, which together provide a strong foundation for doing good and living righteously in the world.

We were able to provide about $10,800 in multi-child discounts and scholarships. Our first graduate Dru Nations received a full ride to College of the Ozarks.

In our third year, we are adding two more grade levels: kindergarten and a combined 5th/6th. We have hired two experienced teachers for high school, Mrs. Alysia Horst and John Tardiff, whose skills are broad and deep and whose enthusiasm is not limited to science and literature, but extends through all subjects! Renaissance men and women these!

Here is the list of our fundraising items for this upcoming year:

  • 1) Grade level expansion in lower and middle school.
  • 2) Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. CGS is a children’s catechesis program in a specially prepared environment called an atrium. There they observe and participate in both parables and liturgical themes and develop a relationship with Christ as the Good Shepherd.
  • 3) Simply Classical for special needs students. Based on the excellent classical Christian education provided by Memoria Press. This curriculum has been adapted especially for students with special learning needs.
  • 4) Scholarship Fund. Each year we provide discounts to families who have multiple children in the school. Furthermore, we do the best we can so that no parent who desires a Catholic classical education is without some recourse. 
  • 5) Development Fund. Teacher training, enrichment programs in arts and sciences, expanding our physical space.

Here is where we go from here.

This year we will have two fundraising events: a Thanksgiving appeal and an online Spring fundraiser, which will be vitally important in growing the school for years to come. So be making a list of which companies and donors you are willing to ask to donate toward these top five priorities.

While fundraising will continue to be important, growing and retaining the student body is the biggest sign that what we are doing is good. It is the vote of confidence from families that matters most.

Thank you everyone for all your volunteering, for the way you promote our school in word and deed, and for making this a community one we all want to be part of.

“To provide students with excellence in education, both academically and spiritually, to prepare them to become faith-filled adults who will live and defend the Catholic faith with confidence and joy.”

Little Windows

Frog stomachs splayed open with organs set to the side,

Arguments about the purpose of organized religion,

A research paper on artificial intelligence,

A house leader proposing a change in the rules,

A Pro-life club member speaking to the young about the value of motherhood,

Inked art on a page made as a gift for a friend,

A flower placed in a vase for Mary,

A dozen girls and boys in a heated soccer game,

A small book club based upon a shared love of mystery and adventure.

This is a partial list of a week at school. JPII flourishes, not in the big impressive, gaudy expenditures, but in its small, faithful, and beautiful moments of learning and charity.

For complaining, we have no quarter. For love, we have no limit.