Chesterton Schools Network
Schools with a Higher Purpose
Happy Friday everyone! It's been a packed week. My Online Great Books seminar met this week for our monthly discussion--this one on The Sophist and The Statesman by Plato. I'll post notes on The Statesman next week. Today’s post is part of my Friday series highlighting the resurgence of classical education and interest in the Great Books of the western world.
As the days grow warmer and longer, most students are beginning to dream of summer. For many young people, that probably means endless hours of gaming as their primary form of recreation. But for the students of more than 30 U.S. and international high schools in the rapidly growing Chesterton Schools Network, summer is an opportunity to continue reading from the rich canon of works that form the backbone of their classical curriculum.
Full disclosure: I worked at the Chesterton Schools Network (CSN) following my retirement from the Navy in 2020. So my enthusiasm for the Network is more than a little biased. 🙂 That said, CSN's rapid expansion since 2014 as a network of "joyfully Catholic, classical schools" testifies to a growing desire among many parents for an alternative educational experience for their children--one that nourishes the soul as well as the mind.
The first Chesterton Academy was started in 2007 in Minnesota by Tom Bengston and Dale Ahlquist. Their vision was to offer an integrated, classical education that was both faithfully Catholic and affordable for families of average means. They named their school after the great 20th century writer, G.K. Chesterton, hailed by many today as the premiere example of a “complete thinker”. Within a few years, the success of Chesterton Academy attracted the attention of other families who wanted to start sister schools in their own communities. The Chesterton Schools Network was born.
In recent years, an average of 10 new Chesterton Academies have opened each fall— each a local, family-led endeavor—based largely on the outstanding curriculum and start-up support provided by the Network. Here’s an example of the freshman reading list, which focuses on the Ancient World and is integrated across the subjects:
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
The Oresteia by Aeschylus
The Aeneid by Virgil
The Elements by Euclid
Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
And of course, various essays by G.K. Chesterton
I’d like to stress that students also receive 4 years of philosophy! Beginning in freshman year, they are introduced to the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle. Most of us in the Online Great Books program did not even encounter these works until well into adulthood (even middle age). There’s no doubt that these students are receiving a world-class education!
There are too many great features offered at Chesterton Academy to mention in this short post. (One of my favorites: an Oxford-style, prefect-led House System!) Please visit their website to learn more, especially if you’re a parent who would like to start one in your own community!