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Summer Classes a Family Affair

July 28, 2017 | By Charlotte Jusinski

The Covert family of San Antonio, Texas, spent a week at St. John’s College in Santa Fe.

The Coverts took a Santa Fe summer vacation to a whole other level when all four family members spent a week studying at St. John’s College.

Twins Dan and Jack of San Antonio, Texas, decided to participate in Summer Academy—a program for high school students modeled after the St. John’s discussion-based method of teaching. “The guys,” as their parents call Jack and Dan, are 17 years old and will be juniors at the Keystone School in San Antonio.

When they learned that SJC offers a summer program for adults as well, parents John and Carol signed on for Summer Classics—a series of adult education sessions that attract people from all over the country to gather in small seminars to read and discuss a variety of timeless works.

An admissions counselor met the Covert family at a college fair and suggested the Coverts look into Summer Academy for their sons so they could see firsthand what St. John’s is like.

“Since the guys were going to be here … we decided to come with them,” John says. “As I was looking at the Summer Academy program on the website, I saw Summer Classics, and it was perfect.”

Both parents were eager to learn something new and approached the experience with open minds—and a little help from their sons. John, who is a dentist, wanted to explore education outside science, so he took a class on three essays by Dogen. “The only way I am surviving this Dogen class right now is the guys gave me a primer in Buddhism on the way here while we were driving,” he says with a laugh.

Carol studied Goethe’s The Metamorphosis of Plants. “I didn’t even know how to pronounce the author’s name,” she says. “It’s really interesting to read a late-1700s take on plants from a non-naturalist, non-biological standpoint.”

Although Dan and Jack have done other summer programs at universities, they felt that what is offered at St. John’s Summer Academy is unique.

“It’s been more broad, more open,” Dan says. “Learning not so much a particular subject but learning about yourself and about philosophy in general, or rhetoric in general. It’s a lot more valuable, in some ways, because it’s something you’re never really taught in traditional school. I was interested in philosophy before, but this has really expanded it.”

His brother Jack found the Summer Academy classes challenging but fun.

“It does really make us think about things in different ways and opens us up to new ideas,” Jack says. “It can be challenging to collect your thoughts and get into a seminar and keep it going for two hours. But sometimes it just comes easily and the discussion is really lively and great.”

After spending two weeks on the Santa Fe campus, John agreed that St. John’s offers a distinctive type of education and the Summer Academy isn’t like other summer programs for high school students.

“They were very focused, and this is different. This is more for your soul than for some specific technical subject.”