|UST Provides Perfect Resources for 11 Home-Schooled Aquila Children|
Known for providing a classical liberal arts education rooted in the Catholic Intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas is a natural destination for home-schooled families like the Aquilas.
Dr. Dominic Aquila, Vice President for Academic Affairs at UST, is known nationally for his expertise in home-school education. He and his wife, Diane, have home-schooled their 11 children, and they currently employ all the resources available at UST to enhance their children’s education.
The home school population in the U.S. is estimated at about 3 million and is increasing 10 to 15 percent each year. The Aquilas are part of the growing home-school community at UST. In the fall of 2010, home-schoolers contributed more students to the freshman class than any other single “feeder” high school. Home-schoolers are among the highest-achieving academic students at UST, and are often rewarded with academic scholarships.
Since Dr. Aquila joined the University of St. Thomas administration in June of 2007, the Aquila family – parents Dominic and Diane, Justin, 26 and his wife, Monica; Natalie, 24; Catherine, 21; Dominick, 20; Elizabeth, 18; Victoria, 16; Emiliana, 15; Joseph, 13; Anthony, 11; Salvatore, 9 and Carmella, 7 – has found the University to be an environment which embraces the home-school culture.
Participating in University programs, enrolling as students and attending campus events – life on campus has become deeply ingrained into the Aquilas’ daily lives. Mrs. and Dr. Aquila have also shared their experiences and insights with area home-school parents and students at several events on the UST campus. The Aquilas are currently home schooling seven of their own children and frequently collaborate with a network of more than 20 home-school families for weekly tutorials held on the UST campus.
The eldest son, Justin, recently earned a Master in Theology at the UST School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary. He has taught courses at UST. Natalie works in the library and is working on a master’s degree, Catherine will graduate in May 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in studio arts and Dominick is currently enrolled in UST classes. Victoria is getting a jump start on her college education by taking dual credit courses at UST. Emiliana, Joseph and Salvatore participate in the Music Preparatory School.
Arthur Ortiz, director of freshman admissions, specializes in assisting home-school students who apply to UST. “It is of tremendous value for UST to have Dr. Aquila and his wife Diane on our campus,” Ortiz said. “Dr. Aquila understands the value of a home-school education and is nationally recognized in home-school circles. As the chief academic officer of UST he is at the forefront of establishing academic programs and initiatives − many of which have been directed to the home-school population.”
At UST, the Aquilas are not alone in their support of home-school education. A number of faculty members have also carried their teaching expertise home to their own families including Dr. Kerry MacArthur, associate professor and chair of English, Dr. Clinton Brand, associate professor of English, Dr. Jeremy Wilkins, assistant professor of theology and Dr. Steve Jensen, associate professor of philosophy.
The Aquilas began exploring the option of home schooling more than 20 years ago as an alternative to the available traditional educational options. Though the couple experimented with various curricula, their goals were simple, Diane said, “to provide an education that was family-centered, not peer-centered, to instill a love of learning to raise children who were well-educated, well-rounded and holy.”
“UST is very deliberate in understanding what home schooling parents want in a college education,” Dr. Aquila said. “Home-school parents like the idea of a safe environment both socially and intellectually – a place where students will receive a high quality education that gives serious attention to religious traditions and allows students to openly explore profound questions of meaning.
“At St. Thomas, we want to be very friendly and welcoming to home-schoolers,” he said. “That begins with having an application and an admissions staff that acknowledges and understands home schooling, and our admissions staff does an outstanding job of serving the home-school community. Home-school parents are much more sensitive to the strengths and weaknesses in their kids. Because we are a smaller private university, our faculty and staff can continue what parents do in a home-school setting. Our size enables us to continue that special attention to further nurture that discovery of talents.”
Dr. Aquila added the University helps parents and students make the transition from the home-school environment to college. The University, he said, also makes efforts to familiarize area home-school families with UST’s close-knit campus community to assuage common concerns about socialization. Though home-schoolers frequently focus on humanities-intensive curriculum, the University encourages home-schoolers to “feel at home with the sciences,” Dr. Aquila said. He also extolled the benefits of UST’s dual enrollment program, where students can earn college credit while they are still in high school.