William Buckley’s homeschooling

Bogus, Buckley, 65-6

With the exceptions of the several years in Paris for the older children and the year in England for Bill and two of his sisters, the Buckley clan was homeschooled through eight grade. Will set up a homeschool in a small building immediately behind the main house at Great Elm, and he sent around a circular to three hundred families in the Sharon area inviting them to consider sending their children to his homeschool in order to avoid the “blight of Liberalism and Communism they will encounter in almost all elementary schools.” His school, he assured parents, would not be in any fashion “progressive.” Three children from the area eventually attended Will’s school along with the Buckley children. One of them was the daughter of the local Episcopal minister; her name was then Audrey Cotter, but she later became famous under the stage name Audrey Meadows. Will engaged two full-time teachers–one American, the other British–and supplemented them with additional tutors and coaches for music and extracurricular activities.

Will purchased curricula from the Calvert School, a venerable homeschooling organization in Baltimore. The children used Calvert materials for academic subjects, which they studied in the mornings. In the afternoons, they received additional instruction in a wide assortment of sports and hobbies, ranging from golf and ballroom dancing to birdwatching and carpentry. The most important extracurricular was music. Great Elm had an organ and five pianos, and the Buckley children were required to practice piano forty-five minutes per day.

The children regularly visited the private Hotchkiss Library on the Sharon Green, less than a mile away from Great Elm. The library had a well-sticked children’s room and a wonderful librarian named Marry Mackay, who got to know each of the children’s individual tastes and alerted them to new arrivals that she thought they would enjoy. Bill Buckley’s last public appearance, in the fall of 2008, was at a fund-raising event for Hotchkiss Library, at which he, four of his siblings, and his son Christopher read from their books.

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