Halloween has long been debated in Christian circles as to whether or not it's right or wrong to participate. Sometimes, culture presents us with things that aren't black and white and require us to do a little bit of homework before we jump to conclusions or make blind assumptions. As we teach our students, we need to be thinking people- people who make decisions based on well-thought out logic paired with the wisdom of God.
So what do we do with a culture piece that seems to hold a lot of weight in people's minds? Here's a thinking process we have found helpful when evaluating certain cultural norms. Research-Reject-Receive-Redeem .
1. Research the aspect of culture that you are discussing, in this case, Halloween.
It will take far too long to write the history of Halloween here, and it's not necessarily the point of this post. So in short, the holiday did, in some part, originate from pagan and mythical practices. But calling it "Satanic" can merely end up being a game of semantics. (What about Roman and Greek mythology, etc?) Maybe all these things are "satanic," maybe they aren't. Christians need to exercise thoughtful discernment when coming to conclusions about such matters.
2. Reject, Receive, or Redeem.
Christians have three options when it comes to how they want to approach the culture issue at hand, in this case, Halloween.
A Christian named Pat Robertson called Halloween the "festival of the Devils" and said it was wrong for Christians to participate. But to reject it outright without answering this question, would be foolish... "To what extent does something's evolution from pagan roots entail that its present practice is tainted?" Because today, there's been a huge shift in the original practices of Halloween, to kids dressed up in cute costumes for a sugar fest once a year.
If you are going to outright reject Halloween are you consistent in rejecting other holidays completely as well? There are pagan practices rooted in most holidays as is excess, like too much candy on Halloween. So should we reject Thanksgiving too because some people eat too much and gluttony is a sin?
Other Christians reject Halloween because they fear the evil will influence their Christian faith. The idea is, 'garbage in, garbage out.' But Jesus says the exact opposite is true in Mark 7:21-23. The fruit of our lives (whether holiness or sin) is always tied to the root of our hearts. Sin absolutely corrupts but the sin is not so much 'out there in the world' as much as it is in the heart of every person. Holding fast to the outright rejection position falsely assumes sin is mostly what we do rather than who we are.
Receiving halloween means one might take it in its full glory, jumping in with both feet and embracing every single aspect of the holiday and its practices without ever thinking through the why and the how. This in and of itself may not be a problem, but the concern may be that we might have too quickly and blindly just accepted something culture had to offer without thinking deeply about it.
If we have an informed understanding of the history of Halloween and realize that as a Christian we have the biblical freedom to redeem cultural practices (1 Corinthians 10:22-23), Christians should follow their conscience in choosing how to approach this holiday.
How one goes about which aspects of Halloween to redeem or receive is still a tricky issue. One suggestion is to distinguish between the cultural aspects of Halloween and the religious aspects of Halloween. "There is a big difference between kids dressing up in cute costumes for candy and Mardi-Gras-like Halloween parties with offensive costumes and uninhibited excess."
"It's naive to make a blanket judgment to reject or receive Halloween as a whole. There should be no pressure to participate, but for those Christians whose conscience permits, we should view it as an opportunity to engage wisely with our culture and to choose how we can redeem this aspect of culture. Many Christian use this culture piece of Halloween as a way to get out into their neighborhoods and hang out with those around them, build relationships, and be together with people they live near when they otherwise might not get to do as often. And, let's be honest, mom and dad really enjoy raiding the Halloween buckets once all the kids are sleeping (just don't forget to garboflage the evidence)!
As someone who is both Head of School and a parent of students at our school, I often get an added front row seat on the fruit of our labors as we commit to the time tested process of classical, Christian education. As with all parenting and career pathways, most of us at some point or another have asked ourselves, "Is this worth it? Are we seeing fruit? Do these things really matter?" The answer is yes. Yes, it's worth it. Yes, there is fruit (even on the hard days), and yes, it absolutely matters.
On the drive to school this morning, my kids were talking about a school friend whose family recently had to put their dog down. My daughter asked in a very concerned voice, "Do they do that to people too?" Suddenly, I found myself in the throws of a very deep and weighty discussion at 6:45am before my coffee even kicked in, about ethics, the image of God, our eternality, our position as human beings, and a God who is sovereign over life, death, and everything in between. What struck me, however, was the way in which my 6th grade son joined the conversation.
He kept asking all of the "why" questions surrounding this issue. At first, I attributed it to his developmental age. But suddenly, as he continued talking, I realized I was engaging with the fruit of our labors as a classical Christian school. In classical Christian schools we start everything with: "God created us and everything else for one singular purpose- His glory." All of a sudden, out of the backseat, I began to see the tiny sprout emerging from my son's early logic school education. Here sat a very beginning logic student, on his own, wrestling with the logic of the topic at hand- All truth is God's truth, and God created us and all things for his glory...So, what if this proposition is true? What follows? How should we live, given this purpose? I was completely awe-struck at his ability to detect the errors in an argument about whether or not we should be able to euthanize humans. He was even able to bring the conversation outside of the Christian worldview... "What would be the argument against euthanizing humans if a person does not believe in God or see Him as the ultimate authority. What would follow that? How then, should people live?"
As we drove on to school, I thought to myself that this was a perfect example of the difference between Bible classes and chapel versus Biblical integration that is the spine of classical, Christian education.
I had a meeting earlier this week with another Headmaster and we spent significant time discussing the difference between a traditional Christian school and a classical, Christian school. This obviously doesn't pertain to every non-classical Christian school, but by and large, there are differences in how we approach our faith and its role in the education process.
source text below: ACCS
For me personally, what we drove me to not just start a Christian school, but a classical Christian school was the deep disconnect I discovered in my faith and real life as I became an adult. Educated in public and traditional Christian education systems, I developed a solid knowledge of Scripture, but I absolutely lacked the experience to apply it in historical or existential ways. This greatly limited my Christian worldview application outside very black and white situations. When I began to find myself face to face with the challenges of modern ideologies, I reacted as I had learned, by compartmentalizing my faith in relation to other fields of knowledge. I wholly viewed the Bible and spirituality as a basis for my life and my beliefs, but most other things outside the obvious spiritual realm I saw as neutral, or disconnected.
Once I began to understand the schools of logic and rhetoric as an adult, I realized where I wanted my own children, and any school community I lead, to go... I wanted them to not only be taught the logic: What if this proposition is true- that God created us and everything else for one singular purpose, His glory? What follows? How should we live, given this purpose? But I also wanted them to go further with it. I didn't want it just end with a spiritual box at the end of the lesson that says what does this application look like.
Instead, I saw the immense value of the classical Christian approach that goes further than the spiritual box at the end of a seemingly secular context... As David Goodwin says, "After given the logic, they are then taught to read and discuss great ideas from great thinkers, in great historical cultures, written in great texts. Students practice emulating the best arguments of these great texts, because there's nothing like emulating a master to learn an art. And the art of logic and rhetoric teaches us that good arguments, after all, connect bedrock axioms with practical daily truth. Through this process, students learn to think well, to view our universe as one big system that fits together, and to understand this system as it reflects "God's Glory alone." This is practiced, not just taught. Over time and through this practice, the student's loves, virtues, and passions are shaped within the order of God's world."
And this dear friends, is where the rubber meets the road...where the early logic student is seeing that every inch of thought, history, and natural creation is an extension of the work of Jesus Christ. This practice equips students to wisely navigate life’s ethical and spiritual challenges that they will inevitably face. Students learn to, as Paul wrote in Corinthians, “to take every thought captive to Christ,” meaning that they recognize the permanent and beautiful truth of redemption, in spite of what political propaganda, enticing opportunities, and cultural rhetoric they may encounter.
Our current culture is buzzing with information all about habits- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits, The Miracle Morning, and Desiring the Kingdom are just a few. Browse any self-help book section (Christian or secular) and you will find an enormous amount of information on habit building and habit maintaining. Habits matter!
Habits are both conscious and subconscious. Take a moment and think of some conscious and subconscious habits you do on a daily basis. Subconsciously, what do you do the moment you walk in your front door? Where do you put your keys? Your shoes? When you wake up in the morning, what do you automatically move towards or start doing? Consciously, do you have dinner with your family most nights? Do you read aloud? Do you take time to go for a walk as a family or do another activity together?
"If I consider my life honestly, I see that it is governed by a certain very small number of patterns and events which I take part in overt and over again... when I see how very few of them there are, I begin to understand what huge effect these few patterns have on my life, on my capacity to live. If these few patterns are good for me, I can live well. If they are bad for me, I can't." (Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building)
Scientific studies continue to confirm that neural pathways are created, strengthened, or lost depending on our daily habits. The more we do something (or don't do something) the more automatic it becomes, the easier it becomes, the quicker and faster we are able to travel down certain pathways.
We accept this forming and building when it comes to physical activities such as training for a sport, learning complicated music, playing an instrument, competing in a triathlon. We fully accept that this takes time, effort, and consistent training. We don't begin the first cross country practice with the hardest, most difficult workout. We build up our stamina, we remain consistent, and we don't give up if we don't see results by leaps and bounds after week one. Just as the tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare states, "slow and steady wins the race."
So while we are accepting of this in the physical realm, we often neglect it in the mental realm. We expect that training these other parts of ourselves (growing spiritually, emotionally, academically and as a person) should come easily, or at best, with one hard attempt.
Parenting, academics, family life, spiritual life, and more... it all has a very long arch. It's so easy as parents and teachers to get caught up in the here and now. We see all the good things, the best things, and we panic to try and include them. We set ourselves up for failure because we find ALL the things we want to do and be, the things we want our families to do and be, the things we want our students to learn and apply. We get all trapped and often end up doing nothing when we try to make everything the best.
Stormy Goodwin suggest these four principles for parents:
1. When considering how to structure your days, keep this in mind: habits built now can affect what your child loves for a lifetime. Work things like reading stories, family worship and prayer, dinner together, and listening to good music into your daily life. Make your own list depending on what is important to you. If you don't have time, then cut other activities. You are sending a clear message to your kids through both what you plan and what you allow.
2. When considering standards of behavior, remove the tendency to be purely practical. What you allow your kids to wear to a funeral matters. How you train them to greet people matters. And what you do for Sabbath rest matters.
3. When encountering habitual sinful thought in yourself and your children, address them intentionally. First, find replacement thoughts centered on truth, gratitude, and faith to insert immediately. Then, intentionally do so, and reminder your kids to do the same. Over time, wrong habits will become fulfilling thoughts. This can be life-changing.
4. And finally, get into the habit of continually repeating the true, good, and beautiful.
At the Academy, we are ordering habits and nurturing affections. We structure our campus days for students to always be exposed to the best pieces of art, music, and stories, and we hold a high caliber of expectations. We being our days centering ourselves on Jesus through our Scripture memory, catechism, and worship. We teach our students that people matter more than anything- we teach them to properly greet others, to include others, to stand up for each other, and to show up for those around them. We are continually repeating the true, the good, and the beautiful.
At The Classical Academy we aim to produce much more than superior academics and a nurturing school environment. By the grace of God, we seek to cultivate students who love truth, goodness, and beauty, and recognize Jesus Christ as the source. We seek to lead students to embody wisdom and virtue, and possess a lifelong passion for learning. We seek to nurture students to become thought leaders who shape the culture with the truth of the Gospel, who evaluate all human knowledge and experience in light of Scripture, and who use their education to further God's kingdom.
We are learning in this journey of education that these things do not just happen. They must be cultivated, nurture, visited again and again, and in this case at the start of the school year intentionally placed on their shoulders.
We live in a day where our children don't have many rites of passage, at least not many positive ones. Historically, cultures all over the world initiate their young people into maturity, placing them directly and purposefully into a rite of passage at a designated point in time. Our society has little, if any of this "call to action" of our children. Unless intentionally done by parents, our children don't get to experience many "Rites of Passage" that signify a deliberate change in their journey, a call to greater responsibility and elevated purpose. Here at the Academy we would argue that young people are desperate for these charges given to them by those who love and shepherd them.
We started off the 2020-2021 school year with our Blazer Ceremony on the first day of school, launching our oldest students into leadership at The Classical Academy. Students were inducted in front of their 150 student body, 21 staff members, parents and family members. They were given their Academy blazers- a sign of leadership, as well a liturgy and a charge for the years ahead as leaders of the school.
Some may say leadership is earned, not automatically given, and in many ways, it is. But like with our academics, we place challenging material in front of our students that forces them to grow, change, think critically, and then impact the world around them. Why would we do anything different with how we teach them character and leadership? When you place students into leadership as a rite of passage, you tell them, "You are worthy. You are capable, and you will be held to a higher standard." And guess what, they most often rise to the occasion.
The Head of School read a Liturgy for Students and gave each student leader an individual charge while their parents put the blazer on them.
As you wear your blazer we pray you will behold maturity and compassionate leadership, and be a shining example of the love of learning and the pursuit of excellence.
Be mindful not only of your studies, a joyful attitude, and a love of learning, but be also mindful of the needs of your peers, the student body, and even your teachers.
Respond with mercy to the failings of others.
Be a bearer of love and light and reconciliation;
Have patience to listen to others, and in humility learn from them.
Show compassion by considering their needs as your own.
Wear grace well in this place, remembering that you arrive here each day as an emissary of God’s Kingdom.
May the Kingdom of God be between you and every person here at The Classical Academy.
It has been 4 weeks of school so far and we are watching our student leaders rise to the occasion. We saw one of our high school gentlemen stand in front of the school community at dismissal, take appropriate control of the noise level, and express to the younger students the expectation of the dismissal process, and watched as over 100 younger students followed his leadership. We watch our student leaders stand and address adults and visitors who come into the classroom and watch the younger school community follow suit. We watch our student leaders open doors, look for ways to serve, and joyfully engage their teachers and peers. This is what it's about. You teach the younger generation how to approach life and the joy of learning by modeling and expecting.
It is a very different approach to tell your older students they must earn the spot of leader than it is to tell them, "You are the leader." When we place our students here as a Rite of Passage, we can more easily guide, nurture, and instruct what it is a leader does. It leaves their dignity intact as they learn to lead and as we teach them, rather than stripping their dignity by saying, "You can't have this position until you are good enough." More often than not, the students rise to the occasion in ways that surprise and encourage us.
A Liturgy for Students
(adapted from Every Moment Holy)
May you learn to love learning,
For the world is yours,
And all things in it speak
---each in their way--- of our Savior:
of His mind,
His unfolding purpose.
All knowledge is God’s knowledge.
All wisdom is God’s wisdom.
Therefore, as you apply yourselves to learning,
Be mindful that all created things
Are God’s creative expression, that all stories
Are held within His greater story,
And that all disciplines of order and design
Are a chasing after His thoughts--
So that greater mastery of these subjects
Will yield ever greater knowledge of the
Symmetry and wonder of His ways.
Along this journey, you have been blessed with teachers who are passionate
About the subjects they teach,
And with mentors who take joy
In awakening in you a fierce love for those
Parts of God’s creation and His story that they have already learned to love well.
If you apply yourself to those subjects
That you might at first find tedious,
Your efforts will be rewarded with new insights,
Fresh inspiration, small epiphanies,
And with the firm conviction that God
Is at work in your heart in all circumstances,
Not only broadening your knowledge,
But also shaping your heart by patience,
Endurance, and discipline
That you might mature to more fitly and humbly
Serve the purposes of God’s great kingdom.
As these students enter into leadership at The Classical Academy, we pray for a deepening knowledge of truth and finer discernment of the ideas they encounter in their studies.
Jesus, guard their minds always against error, and guard also their hearts against
The temptation to compare their own performance to the work of their peers,
And so to fall into either of the twin traps of shame or pride.
Grant them instead, that they might happily steward
What scholarly gifts you have apportioned them,
And that they might do so as means of preparing
Themselves for service to you and to others,
Grant them strength to live their identity drawn from your love and forgiveness, and not from their grades
Or accolades here.
Grant them discernment and wisdom,
Knowledge and understanding.
Lead them to truth and bless the labors of this new season.
Shape them for your service, Lord Jesus.
May they wear grace well in this place,
remembering that they arrive here each day as an emissary of your Kingdom.
We are in the middle of week 3 of quarantine due to covid-19 and experiencing all kinds of things we never have before. Most of us are homeschooling our kids full-time, with little to no warning, and parents are having to work from home. Social distancing is in full swing- there are no playdates, date nights, church services, sports, activities, and dinner with friends. Even going to the grocery store can be anxiety producing and stressful.
And amidst it all, the most important celebration in the Christian faith is just a week and a half away. The celebration of our risen Savior, Jesus! We keep hearing about time to slow down and how our families have more time now that we are restricted to home. But, I'm well aware this may not actually be the reality for many families. While yes, our activities and outings are cancelled, depending on your specific scenario, you might find yourself totally strapped for time trying to manage kids home full-time, as well as working from home under a completely new system.
But given the circumstances our entire nation, and world, finds itself in, I would argue it's even more important to forcibly slow down our thoughts and prepare our hearts for Easter.
There are so many emotions these days as we seek a new normal, trying to find our way through what feels like an endless tunnel of "what if." We might feel fear, anxiety, hope, grief, awareness, and even joy and comfort at seeing the ways humanity is showing up in these uncertain times.
And still, it feels almost strange to seek a daily, quiet reprieve during this time leading up to Easter. In many ways, it feels oddly fitting that all of this is hitting at the same time as the celebration of Jesus' victory over death.
It will be so easy to throw Easter off this year-- we can't really shop, who bought Easter clothes before the quarantine, we can't get together as families, and we can't even get together with other Christians for the most prominent Sunday of the Christian calendar. We'll be tempted to just kind of throw it out the window, watch the church service on TV, and call it a Sunday. After all, we have every reason in the book to do so, right?
But, might I encourage you to step out, to prepare, and to CELEBRATE. Will it be different this year? Yes. Absolutely. Will it look and feel like it usually does? Probably not. Will we feel all kinds of emotions celebrating Easter without our traditions, missing family and church family? Yes, most definitely. But, now, more than ever, our world needs the story of the risen Jesus.
Obviously, our preparing and celebrating will look very different this year. And, that's okay. Once we make peace with that, it frees us up to make the best of these crazy circumstances we find ourselves in and find ways to make this Easter one our children really remember.
Does this mean adding mom guilt about ALL.THE.THINGS and depressing yourself with Pinterest searches for the best and most creative crafts and decorating ideas? No, it doesn't mean that at all. It means choosing a few things that you want to draw your family's attention to and putting in the time and effort to get it done. Will it be perfect? Not even close. Will it turn out exactly how you planned for in your head? Definitely not. But, if we aim for nothing, we hit nothing.
So, here are some of the ways our family is prepping for our Easter celebration. Maybe you'll find an idea or two here. Or, even ask your kids what their thoughts are on how to celebrate!
1. Easter Advent- for our family. this is a tradition that is really important to us. As we journey towards Easter we are called to remember. Jesus instructs at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me.” He is actually telling us to experience His presence, not read about it, but to actively walk through an experience in order that we may remember. For us, walking through an experience to remember is our Easter advent. It is here, through Scripture, readings, and stories leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus, where we call ourselves and our children to engage in the ache and the beauty as we are led down the road to Calvary.
In years past, we've kept our Advent to the week before Easter with the schedule and readings posted at the end of this post. This year is our first year doing 25 of the 40 days of Lent before Easter. We found at the ages of our kids, the full 40 days was a little too long to hold the meaning and intensity we were looking for. We use the cradle to the cross wreath, lighting a candle each night as we read and reflect.
2. Easter Baskets- while we don't do anything regarding the Easter Bunny, we do participate in this cultural activity and it's been a fun activity for the kids. We do try to place some kind of meaning into what goes inside their baskets. This year, we are honing in on "old to new" from "death to life," and each of our kids' baskets will have some kind of craft/project representing going from old to new, from death to life, from broken to restored. After all, this is what Easter really is about. This is a new tradition for us and one we didn't get to settle on before the quarantine. It took some creative planning- seeing what we already had in our house, what neighbors might have that we could use, etc.
Examples: Put a container of broken crayons and a silicone mold in their Easter basket. Melt the crayons to make new crayons in the molds. A collection of old, mismatched costume jewelry in the Easter basket with a blank canvas. Take apart all the jewelry and hot glue into a new creation on the blank canvas.
Tip: get on Amazon, or your favorite place to shop and your order any Easter basket essentials now. Otherwise, you won't get it in time. Shipping times (including prime) are not as fast as usual given all that is going on.
3. Decorate- If you normally put up spring/Easter decorations don't neglect doing so because everything feels different and you're gloomy and tired of being inside. Go ahead and decorate! If you don't normally decorate, you'd be surprised what you have around your house that you could turn into a spring decoration.
3. CELEBRATE- I heard a writer say it like this, "It seems like Easter should be a military celebration, a Roman Triumph, a victory parade. Torches burning, bands blaring, pigs roasting on a spit. The God-Man has destroyed our last enemy, death, and has utterly triumphed over every foe. I don’t know quite what this should look like, but I do like what Robert Louis Wilken wrote in First Things:
If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the face of angels, turned toward the face of God.
Obviously, we know that gatherings, parades, and the like are not able to happen this year. But how can you improvise in true celebration? Sidewalk chalk your street? Buy balloons on Amazon, hang streamers, buy a confetti gun or a pinata? JESUS IS ALIVE!! Sometimes Christians get accused of being too somber, not showing pure joy. Well, now is the time to celebrate true victory over the grave!
I purchased these confetti wands for the kids on the Amazon this week and will stick them in their Easter baskets. The confetti is biodegradable so no need to clean up (if used outside, haha). They had a blast last year with confetti poppers, but these will be a lot easier for my little kids than the poppers that were hard to pull the string out of and that made loud noises.
4. Plan Y0ur Meal! Don't wait until a few days before! Start now. Normally, we can do this relatively last minute, but this year you're going to need to start trying to track down your special ingredients because they might not all be found in one trip anymore. Check online, ask neighbors, all within safe social distancing of course! And if you can't make your meal special in its food items, don't stress- it's the importance of coming around the table together, in joyful celebration that we serve a RISEN Savior.
How are you preparing and celebrating this year?!?!
Easter Advent Reading Plans
Here's an Easter Advent that our family has worked through during Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday) every year. Please feel free to use it or adapt for your family.
Each day has a reading from a story Bible, an Easter egg to open with a trinket that goes along with the story, and a picture ornament that also goes along with the story. Both the trinket and picture will be hung on the Easter tree, much like a Christmas advent Jesse Tree that hangs ornaments from the Bible stories leading up to the birth of Jesus. You can right click the Easter pics below and "save image as" and then print. We hole punched the top and made ornaments. Our Easter tree is simply branches from outside stuck in a heavy vase.
The following items are used in the Easter Holy Week Advent that I've prepared, but they can easily be read using other sources by matching up the Biblical stories. We use multiple resources because some story Bibles don't include all the events of Holy Week, or one might explain an event better than another. You can always read the events straight from the Bible as well.
Resurrection Eggs- We adapted these to fit the Holy Week readings we chose. Use however you'd like.
The Jesus Storybook Bible
The Gospel Story Bible
The Ology by Marty Machoswki
The initial plan below is geared more towards the young child. The adaptations we use with our older kids is also listed.
Day 1- The Triumphant Entry
Day 2- Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Day 3- Jesus Washes the Apostles Feet
Day 4- The Last Supper
Day 5- The Garden of Gethsemane
Day 6- The Crucifixion of Jesus
Day 7- The Burial of Jesus and Darkness Covers the Land
Day 8- The Resurrection
Regardless of what kind of schooling your family does, COVID-19 has put a serious wrench in all our routines and educational plans.
Public school and full-time private school mamas and dads, I want you to know that what you are embarking on over the next month is WAY HARDER than homeschooling. For one, it was sudden and a complete surprise, and therefore way outside of your norm and routine. Two, you're having to implement a curriculum you didn't choose and aren't familiar with. You've had little to no prep time (mentally and emotionally, nevermind academically) to figure out completing education and having your kiddos home 24/7. Three, the schoolwork you are doing is having to be majorly overhauled in many situations in order to work it into an e-learning format. THIS IS SO HARD.
So while we are all adjusting to new normals here are our best tips and advice from a full-time teacher, to homeschooling Mama, to Head of School, and to university-schedule school.
2. 1. Do your best to avoid iPads, phones, and TV during home learning days (or AT THE VERY LEAST until schoolwork is completed). Obviously, this doesn't pertain to your child's electronic device used for e-learning. Based on many years of experience, you will have a MUCH harder time with attitudes, motivation, and work completion if technology is allowed to be used intermittently between schoolwork assignments for fun or babysitting. Just a show here and there, just a quick game here and there. It will ruin things! Trust me on this one!
2. Establish a routine! This is of UTMOST importance. The biggest mistake families make who come from full-time school to the university-schedule school (or even who move to full-time homeschooling) is treating "home learning days" as Saturdays or no school days. This is when your entire day goes out the window. Before you begin e-learning on Monday, have a chat with your kids. "This is not 'no school for a month.' Here's the school calendar showing us what days we are required to do our schoolwork via e-learning. On these days, we will get up and routinely run our school day until it is completed (see tips to follow). These days are treated just like the days you wake up to go to your school building down the road."
3. Be consistent! Force yourselves to be up and and ready to learn earlier rather than later. If it's past 9am and your people are still lounging around, you're going to struggle! Keep bedtimes normal. We HIGHLY suggest that all mandatory school work is done in the morning, sometimes extending into early afternoon, and then allow your kiddos to spend their free time however they want. Can this include technology? Sure. But, we can’t emphasize how much better our days home are when we don’t use electronics. (Myself included)! If you are new to this whole schooling at home thing, a great "ease your way into no-tech home education days" would be to restrict all TV and technology until all schoolwork is completed and they've done something non-screen for the afternoon. Save the show and iPad play until the witching hours when you're preparing dinner and winding down the day.
So, if my kids finish schoolwork by early afternoon and I'm trying to avoid technology overtaking the remaining hours until dinner and bed, what can we do?
1. Get outside. As I type this, it's snowing in Indiana, on March 14th. Classic. However, hopefully it won't last long and we'll have some better weather. At least the plus of coronavirus hitting when it did is that we are slowly moving into spring weather at the same time. What about your big kids? Yep, kick them outside too. Moving their bodies FOR AT LEAST 30 minutes a day is PARAMOUNT. If your big kid is too old for your fenced in backyard and swingset, have them go for a walk around the neighborhood, ride their bike, or even run on your treadmill. Get their bodies to move and everyone will feel better mentally and emotionally.
Ideas: Ride bikes. Build fairy/troll houses with rocks and sticks. Make an obstacle course. Take a walk. Put them outside and tell them, "Don’t come back in until I come get you." Don't take on the Mama guilt that YOU have to be outside playing with them and curating their fun. They are KIDS. Kids are supposed to play outside, be creative, and make their own fun. Use their time outside to take a breather for yourself.
2. Audiobooks. Instead of turning on the TV or handing your child their iPad after schoolwork is completed, hook up your blue tooth speaker and tell everyone to get a craft or project, find a spot to sit, and hit play. Yes, this works with big kids and teenagers too! Even if they think you're weird at first for making them "listen to a story." Access to audiobooks is free using Hoopla and Libby. There are also a lot of fun educational podcasts.
Ideas: Coloring, Legos, loom bands, play-doh, Pearler beads, drawing/painting, putting together puzzles.
3. Read Alouds. Pick a good book and make it a point to sit down and read aloud at least 10 minutes every other day. Don't feel pressured to do it every single day, because you won't. Instead, make it a goal to finish a certain number of read alouds before school resumes mid-April. It might be one chapter book, or maybe two. Your kids are NEVER too old to listen to you read.
Ideas: Your kids can do any of the audiobook ideas above while they listen to you read. What books? Where do I start? Check out The Read Aloud Revival website, Facebook page, and podcast. You'll find yourself incredibly inspired to bring back this lost art.
4. Art on KidsHub via YouTube. Yes, you need a screen but your kids are engaging with paper and pencil/marker. You can get creative and read a book and then lookup a subject from the book and learn to draw it!
5. Cook together, write friends, family members, and grandparents a real snail mail letter.
6. Stay positive. This could be the best opportunity to slow life down and connect with your kids without the hustle of activities taking your time away from one another.
The last word of advice- don't set yourself up for Mama guilt! Go into the next month with WAY, WAY less on your list of "all the amazing things we are going to do with our kids this month at home." It's so easy to see all the Pinterest and Facebook posts about fun, educational, and connected things to do with our kids, and feel an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt that we can't or don't want to do all those things. Those things do not make you a good or better Mom than the next.
When you resist the urge to curate a plan to do ALL.THE.BUCKET LIST.THINGS. you actually free yourself up to have the mental and emotional bandwidth to do SOME of ALL.THE.THINGS and not feel guilt about it.
So, outside of finishing required schoolwork, I suggest picking two things to focus in on.
Mine are simple: Be calm and read aloud. That's it! No crazy lists of ALL.THE.THINGS. we should do with our kids. Outside of getting the required schoolwork done, those are the only things at the must-do top of my list.
Goal #1- Be Calm. Be calm and control MY reactions towards my kids. Yes, they are going to complain more about school than usual because they are now full-time homeschooling and were not before. Yes, they are going to complain about being cooped up, and not being able to watch TV ALL DAY LONG, and yes, they are going to fight with their siblings more because everyone is out of their normal routine. But if I stop and control MY response and remain calm, I can handle all their crazy much better. (And check out the resources and podcast of Celebrate Calm. These will be a HUGE encouragement).
Goal #2- Read Aloud. In this day and age of Pinterest and social media posts about ALL.THE.THINGS. everyone is supposedly doing with their kids that is perfect and struggle free, it's easy to feel guilt that you aren't measuring up and that your kids are a literal hot mess. They aren't. They're humans, just like everybody else's kids. Don't underestimate the INCREDIBLE act of connection, relationship, and memories that surround reading aloud. Keep a running list pinned up somewhere of all the books you read, or color in a printable calendar for every day you read to your kids. It'll help you see that you really ARE doing much better than you think!
And more than anything- do not base your ability to home educate on e-learning!! E-Learning is the WORST indicator of anyone's ability to do anything with their kids. The worst. Just, keep that in mind. :)
The learning to read process follows 6 steps.
Common Concerns/Questions When Teaching Your Child to Read
My child can blend a consonant and a vowel together (ex: ha, he, hi, ho hu), but when they go to read a word, they revert to sounding out each individual sound, h-a-t, instead of ha-t. Why are they doing this?
When sounding out a sentence, my child just read the word "bike" in the last sentence but when they get to it again, just a few words later, they don't remember it as "bike" and have to re-sound it out. They even do this with sight words they know! I think there's something wrong with them and maybe it's a learning disability or processing issue.
Why can my child sound out/read single words on a flashcard or written on paper, but when they are put into a sentence, they either cannot read it, or they meltdown?
My child cannot answer one question about something they JUST read.
This will be the case until your child is a fluent reader who no longer decodes words. Do not test your child's comprehension on words, sentences, and stories they are working hard to decode. Test comprehension on things that YOU read ALOUD. Read your child lots of good literature. Don't ask them questions, instead say, "Tell me about the story I just read." Or, "What's something you can remember about this story." You will be SHOCKED at the detail they can remember.
My child still cannot determine if a letter is b or d. I think they are dyslexic.
This is a common assumption about letter reversals in reading and writing, but it's the wrong conclusion to instantly jump to. There are many students with dyslexia who have never once struggled with b and d reversals. Letter reversals in reading and writing are not even considered a concern until after 3rd grade. Gently and calmly correct or guide.
All the other kids seem to be catching on to reading, but my child is not. What is wrong?
Chances are nothing is wrong! Reading is almost entirely developmental. You cannot speed it up any faster than your child's brain is ready to go. The more you force them, the more you grow a distaste in learning and a distaste for doing hard things. This does not mean you don't work through their lessons and require them to finish their work. It just means to do not add undo stress and anxiety if it is not clicking as fast as you want it to click.
Is reading hard? Yes. Absolutely. Affirm that for your child when they say things like that.
"You are right! This is a really hard thing, but you CAN do hard things." And it might just be the hardest thing on the planet, but keep a soft tone and a smile, especially when they are angry, melting down, or giving up. When you match his/her frustration with yours, or his/her anger with yours, you fuel the fire instead of putting it out.
If your child is still working really hard to decode and a lesson seems long, split it up! Do half of the reading, or half of the phonics lesson. Then move onto another subject and come back to it. Or, wait several hours and come back to finish the rest.
And remember, this too shall pass, and your child will be reading in no time!
If you hang around a classical school long enough, you will quickly hear what most perceive as odd, or even old and outdated words. It's also easy to assume that classical schools are just playing word games and dictionary games. But the words we use, why we use them, and what they mean matter greatly.
School Speak, Part 1: Virtue
This week, we are tackling Virtue. In classical schools, our students often hear the word "virtue." But what does it really mean and how should it practically display itself in the lives of our school community, our students, and our families? And how does it differ from value words?
People often assume that the words value and virtue are the same. Most words that you hear around typical schools are value words (commitment, honesty, kindness, loyalty, etc). Today, most students see these value words as subjective and ever-changing depending on the person or situation. In our current culture, value words are morally subjective. Even the word "value" sounds flimsy, as if it can't bear any weight. For example, you might hear the phrase "family values," which, in our culture, is extremely subjective.
Value words are largely behaviorally driven. They aren't a part of who a person is, but rather, something they do, that they can switch in and out of.
Virtue is a broader concept than we try to nail down with values. Virtue is not moral behavior. Virtue is one's disposition, one's typical reaction. It is the excellence of human nature, a joyous person! When someone is virtuous they are mature. They display the excellence of human nature.
Virtue= the good life; a full, flourishing, joyous life. The excellence of human nature.
So what does this practically look like?
There are four historic virtues
Temperance- often times, people naturally attribute temperance to the areas of food and alcohol. But it's not simply a matter of balance vs. moderation. Balance suggests neutrality- this is just as heavy as this, and therefore it's balanced, and therefore good. But, this is a weak measure. Temperance (or stated as moderation) is everything in its correct proportion. A modern day example of temperance might be getting a handle on your iphone or social media habits. Moderation- smartphones and social media in its correct proportion. Correct proportion does not automatically mean balanced. It would be unwise to assume that one's social media habits should always balance equally with their work habits. 8 hours in the work day, 8 hours of social media usage? That's balance. That is not everything in its correct proportion.
Justice- giving to each person their due, not just fairness. Sometimes that means giving an A to someone who does better work and a C to someone who does less quality work. We give each other what we are due, for example, respect and love. Paying taxes is a form of justice. Moderating punishment to crime and moderating rewards to the performance. That is justice. Justice is a reflection of reality.
Courage-there are two types of courage: active courage and passive courage. Active courage is rushing into battle. Running into the chaos. It's saying, "I may be scared, but I'm going to do it anyway." Passive courage is standing your ground. Passive courage says, "I'm not leaving my post. I'm going to stand guard and do the good. I am going to stay where I am and say no. I am not going to run." In a nutshell, C.S. Lewis says courage is every virtue at its pressing point. It takes courage to be temperant when you don't want to be.
Prudence (Practical Wisdom)- Prudence is the virtue needed to balance all of the other virtues. It is misunderstood as not being a prude or not being easily deceived. But that is not prudence. Prudence is practical wisdom, and it is the master virtue. It distinguishes humans from animals. We don't just act. We reflect on our actions. Like courage, there are two forms of prudence: passive prudence and active prudence. Passive prudence is the practical wisdom needed to know what to do with the stimuli that come one's way. A job opportunity presents itself, what should one do? Work life, family life, church life is pressing in on every side, asking for your commitments and your time. What should one do? How does one decide what to say no to and what to say yes to? Active prudence is proactively making plans, planning your life. It's planning and goal setting, and charting a course, with wisdom. It's knowing what to do and making a plan to do it, rather than just sitting by and letting life happen to you.
So when we talk about virtues at school and in the home, what are aiming for? Virtue is about ourselves, others, and our orientation towards Gods and the universe. It's comprehensive. We are aiming for a deep, long-term disposition, a typical reaction of a person's heart and mind. It starts with small actions, that build to a habit, and then a character trait.
We are aiming to model and pursue virtue so that our students and children do so as well. We are forming into them habits, loves, affections, and orientations that simply just become a part of who they are. These things don't shift and change like value behaviors, they simply become a part of who our students are.
What does this practically look like in the school and the family?
School: The worst questions you can ask your students after they jump in the car after a school day is, "Did you have a fun? Did you have a good time? What grade did you get on your math test?" These kinds of questions subconsciously tell our students that in order for school to be good, right, and beautiful, it must be "fun." That if something isn't fun, or over the top exciting that it must not be worthwhile. It also tells our students that learning is about grades and outward measures, rather than cultivating a love of learning and a growing ability to process how to learn things. What we value, we celebrate. Ask questions that show what you celebrate.
Instead, ask your child virtue questions: How were you courageous today? Maybe they were nervous about sharing their writing paper with the class, but they did it anyway. Maybe they saw another student being unkind to someone, and they displayed active courage. They ran INTO the chaos, defending the weak, and stood up for what was right. How were you temperant today? How did you show everything in its proper proportion? Maybe your student took the teacher's 10 minutes of free time and spent some of it hanging out and chatting with friends, but then took the last few minutes to get started on their math homework.
Family: As a family, at dinner, driving in the car, etc., make virtue dialogue a normal part of your family life. Maybe you see that your family has some big issues with moderation- everything in its correct proportion. Maybe you start conversations about where a lack of moderation might be seen in your family. Give them easy examples to understand the virtue. Balance means an equal amount. Do you think it would be wise or healthy to eat as much candy as you do vegetables and protein? Do you think it's wise or healthy to watch as much television as you do reading or completing schoolwork? Of course not. But is it bad to eat candy, or completely terrible to watch television? No. Everything in its correct proportion. Many adults have never been directly taught these things as children and were left trying to navigate the virtue of temperance as young adults and failed miserably.
What about prudence? Practical wisdom. Do you and your spouse sit down and plan out your week, or your next few months? Do your children see you practicing this? Do you make it a priority to plan a date night every week? Do you talk to your kids about why you chose the educational path you did? That in all these things you are planning your life. You are injecting practical wisdom into life. You are planning for life, instead of just simply letting it happen to you.
When a person develops into a person of virtue, it goes much deeper than value words- than behavior driven actions of "sharing toys," and "being obedient." It becomes a deep part of their character, of their disposition, of who they are, and how they typically react and respond to life.
What we shine a light on will grow. When we keep putting virtue in front our students and children, we begin to see more of it. They become actions, then habits, and then a character trait.
One of the first assumptions I hear from parents who are just beginning the discovery of classical education is, "Well, what about STEM programs? Isn't classical education weak in math and science?" In a digital age, where less and less emphasis is placed on reading, books, beautiful artwork, and the eloquent and persuasive nature of the written and spoken word, it's natural that the thing that appears to stick out about classical education most is its emphasis on language arts and history. While it is true that classical education has deep roots in history, literature, languages, and the arts, it absolutely has competitive math and science programs.
Our assumptions about what compartmentalized programs (such as STEM) really mean or accomplish is actually the issue, not the false assumption that classical education is weak in math and science.
The world is full of complex problems- cures for cancer, disease research, solar inventions, and the endless complex problems in software and technological advancements. The answer to solving these problems is not emphasizing math and science. Yes, math and science are important, but compartmentalized math and science programs will not lead the way for innovation and advancement.
Innovation experts and consultants stress repeatedly that innovation isn't a matter of subject knowledge. It's about thinking in flexible, integrative, and multidisciplinary ways, across many fields and types of knowledge. It's about being able to synthesize and integrate different perspectives and models; of understanding and taking into account different human, cultural and economic needs, desires, values, and factors and, from all that, glimpsing a new way forward that nobody else managed to see.
And that, leads us to why classical education is the best way to educate students in the fields of math and science, ultimately leading to math/science innovation and advancement.
Classical education teaches students how to learn. Traditional education teaches students what to learn. Traditional schooling stresses passing tests, retaining compartmentalized information in the form of disjointed classes, and simply putting the information back out in testing formats.
Classical education teaches students to integrate fields of knowledge, to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, within all subject matters. Therefore, what is being taught in one subject area absolutely matters to what is being taught in another, and students must learn to see those connections. Classical education purposefully and consistently connects academic disciplines and forces students to make bridges in their knowledge. This is the greatest difference between classical education and traditional education.
Producing students who are innovators is not simply about providing "better" quality and quantity in our math and science programs. Instead, it's about re-thinking how we educate students overall.
It's a matter of restructuring how we approach and teach all our subjects, from the liberal arts to math, science and engineering. It means focusing as much on teaching how to combine those fields of knowledge and how to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, as we do on the subject matter itself.
STEM is a marketing tool more than anything. Jobs in the "STEM" field actually require resilient, problem solving thinkers, which is what classical education seeks to produce. STEM programs are simply compartmentalizing math and science. True entrepreneurs and science/math advancement happens when connections are made. Traditional, disjointed approaches to math and science don’t make connections. If you can’t make connections, think, and apply, you can't make math and science advancements.
Out of all the job fields, the science and math fields are quickly changing with every single year. Attempting to teach to this in compartmentalized programs like STEM is counterproductive, just like teaching to a test is counterproductive. If we are seeking to produce students who are learning and memorizing math and science in STEM programs that will become quickly obsolete by the time they are going to get a job or attend college, it is useless. Students need the flexibility to think differently, to make connections across all academic disciplines, and they need the resiliency to know they can tackle any tough thing that comes their way. This is how true advancement in the math and science fields happen, and this is the backbone of classical education.
How do you know your child is getting the best education for math and science advancement? Give them a classical education that teaches them to think, and to deeply and effectively collaborate and make connections. So while we absolutely believe our math and science courses are important, we believe our ability to produce thinkers who can apply, make multi-disciplinary connections, and therefore become innovators, is the most important type of education we can give students.
Here at the Academy, our school uses one of the top gifted math programs in preparations for our higher-level high school mathematics courses. Our teachers go through extensive math training and are committed to fostering math language and math thinkers in our students. Our math curriculum doesn't let students get away with memorizing algorithms and using tips and tricks to solve problems. Students have to think the problems through, use multi-disciplinary knowledge, and think through what is really going on in order to solve problems. This is mathematical thinking and this provides a solid foundation on which to grow and prepare the way for math and science advancement.
It's hard to believe we are almost through week 5 of the school year. Maybe you are a returning family, maybe you're new to the school and to the idea of being such a big part of your child's education. But either way, if you are like most of us, you've found yourself asking more than once in the last 5 weeks, "Is this really worth it?"
All of our parents have big lives going on, personally, professionally, and within their families. It begs the question, not just from outsiders, but sometimes within ourselves, "Is this really worth it?" We have beautiful days where everything goes as planned and we can't think of a better way to order these family years and educate our children. But then we have those hard days, where nothing goes as planned, schoolwork is taking entirely too long, and you and your child keep going head to head about that one subject they just can't stand. Maybe you're thinking, "I'm totally screwing this up. They are seeing a frustrated, overwhelmed side of me that I don't like. We were supposed to be doing this for the BENEFIT of more time together. For these supposedly picture perfect scenes of schoolwork around the table, lots of beautiful, rich books, and more time to play. But instead, it's chaos and it's stressful. And, are they really learning? Surely they will do better under the direction of someone else ALL five days of the week, not just 2 or 3."
But that, dear one, is where you are wrong. YOU, in all your imperfect mess, are the absolute best place for your child to land, no matter what society, the "church," and the school system has to say. We've crippled parents to think they are incapable. But, God chose YOU and created each one of your kids to uniquely fit with YOU. You were perfectly crafted to parent your child, mistakes and all.
I think sometimes we believe that we are best for our child only when WE are at our best. But, this is a lie. The Adversary did well with this one because it gets us thinking that the daily grind isn't worth it if you fail. That you might as well give up because there's too many chaotic days, not enough of those Pinterest home education days, and certainly not enough "I love math" sessions happening around the dining room table. But, these are lies.
"The most powerful, meaning making moments in our relationships with our children happen in these incredibly imperfect moments." (Brene Brown), and what better way to create an incredibly imperfect moment than to oversee your child's schoolwork at home! Kidding. But not really.
Maybe this new style is exposing your weaknesses more, maybe it's forcing your family to be the messy, imperfect people that you actually are, instead of stuffing it away or pretending it doesn't exist. Maybe it's forcing you to build the sacred, to have the hard, but meaningful conversations, the ones that really matter. Maybe it's linking arms with your child and sympathizing with their struggle, giving an example from your own life. Maybe it's learning to say the words, "I'm sorry. Mommy was being really impatient. Will you forgive me?" Maybe it's learning to slow life down, to say no to crazy extracurriculars so you have time to read to your kids or take a walk.
Maybe it's all those things and then some. But what it surely is, without a doubt, is saying yes to the imperfect. And when your kids grow up and look back, the gift of your imperfect parenting is worth every single moment.
When we live WITH our kids, not simply among them for a few hours after every day of a 40-hour full-time school week, we are giving the incredible opportunity to say yes to the glorious mess. Why do you want the glorious mess? Because at the end of the day you AND your children can say, "Yes, I was imperfect. Yes, I was vulnerable, and I was even afraid. But, I'm also brave and worthy of love and belonging, simply because Jesus made me." And let me tell you dear ones, that is NOT the message the world gives our children.
So could you be getting "free hours" away from your kids for 30 hours a week instead? Yes. Could you be choosing to not be in the trenches of their education? Yes. Could you be doing something else entirely with your time instead of learning how to be a better more calming parent, a better teacher of your child, and a Singapore math expert (haha)? Yes.
But dear ones, these years are short. Soon, your home will be quiet again and these mini humans will be adults. Yes, one day you WILL be able to order your weekly "free time" however you want. You WILL have more lunches out with friends, and more early morning quiet than chaos. But right now, you've chosen the unique path of creating the sacred, in all its mess, WITH your children, not just among them. You've chosen the gift of time to not just educate well, but to be there to give the important messages of Jesus, of the cost and value of showing up, of being brave, and the insurmountable message that love and belonging are your birthright no matter what the world tells you.
It's okay to say it's hard. It's okay to say it's not always fun, and it's okay to look forward to the day you are at the top of the summit of Mt. Everest and these years are "complete." So even when it feels like you are drowning in papers, schoolwork, and chaos, know that this time you've chosen to engage, to pay attention, and to do the hard life in front of your children is a relatively short season.
Is it worth it?
It absolutely is. The summit of any mountain is not easy. Most of the time, we don't even recognize its beauty, or its affect until we have reached the top.
So until then, keep climbing. Keep showing up...
For more encouragement, check out Brene Brown's book (print or audio) The Gift of Imperfect Parenting.