Greetings from the other side of nine months! I can't believe it's been so long since my last post. At the same time, I can believe it--life has been busy and full of good things. One of the good things has been investing in our kids' school and my workplace, Founders Christian School. I thought I'd write about my great passion for classical Christian education in general and for our school in particular--and see if I can do some good. Depending on your learning style, feel free to read the text or listen to the audio.
Glory Sharing Time: Why You Should Attend the Last Tour of the Year at FCS
You praise what you love. When you discover something glorious, you do whatever you can to get others to see the glory too. If someone gives you money for doing this, you’ll be exceedingly grateful, and you’ll keep on doing it anyway if they don’t. This principle motivates relationships everywhere.
Glory-sharing and not sales is my goal when I talk about Founders Christian School. Our success as an institution and reputation in the community are secondary motivators; primarily, I want joy for us both. May I share with you a bit?
I hope some of you won’t stop reading if I tell you that I have always loved school. You can imagine me as a Hermione Granger type, a girl obsessed with knowledge, always ready to tell you this knowledge, and whom you might grow to like if you could overlook her know-it-all tendencies. I appreciated every subject, excelled in every subject, was more than a little competitive, and was only sorry that going to school for the rest of my life was not a viable career option. Years later, after college and a few years into marriage, with a toddler and another baby on the way, I read a book that took me right back to school, with the option never to leave.
Part treatise and part manual, The Well-Trained Mind paints the picture of a kind of school unlike anything I’d experienced—a school where everything is connected. There, history is a real story--God’s story--and every other discipline is woven in, around, and through it. The important people and events, the art, music, language, literature, philosophy, none could be properly understood in isolation from one another. Science and mathematics, too, having been discovered by real people living in real times, could be most fully understood in context, and original, momentous books would be the fodder for students to experience the disciplines.
The study of the Bible would not be relegated to one subject or two (in my Christian school experience, we had a Bible class and emphasized creation in science class). Flying in the face of compartmentalized religion or the idea that Christians are not curious about the world, God’s Word would fuel vigorous inquiry into, and form full-bodied understanding of everything in this tapestry of knowledge. This model of education is called classical and Christian.
The design of the instruction was simply right for a child’s development, too. It would fill young children with scads and scads of facts using chants, rhymes, songs, and dances tailored just to their mimicking, memorizing, and musical nature. It would delight them with truly good literature, poetry, art, and music. It would steep them in phonics, grammar, and Latin. They would begin to write very young, by narrating back the books read to them, then later by imitating children’s fables, nursery rhymes, or a favorite picture book. They would draw, sing, and read like mad. They would delight in the natural world. They would understand that God had sovereignly created them to worship Him because of it.
Preteens and early teens would learn sound logic and strong argumentation in a time of life where arguing comes naturally. Using original sources, teachers would develop students’ ability to analyze others’ viewpoints and understand trends. It would teach genuine scientific inquiry and help students see form literally everywhere. The study of the Scriptures would include surveying both the Old and New Testaments to form a systematic theology. Students would learn to recognize and value the transcendent good, true, and beautiful in the world.
The oldest students would turn their understanding of the disciplines’ grammar and logic to synthesis and creation, or rhetoric. Art, music, writing, and orations would be crafted and presented humbly and beautifully, with confidence in the truth. These students would not only know many things and possess many skills, but would have formed the character of young men and women who would and could learn nearly anything else well after graduation.
Determined to give myself and my children this glorious education, with a one-year-old and a baby on the way, I began to formulate what would soon become our home school, Gloria Deo Classical School. I had discovered a much better nomer than know-it-all, and a much better goal. My children and I would be lifelong learners.
The Mind of Man Plans His Way
Over the next two years I filled my spare hours with research in educational philosophy and curricula, and hunted down used or bargain copies of nearly every book my children would ever need. I began formally to home school our eldest, Savannah, in 2010, just as our church founded a new school at which my sister Anna would be one of the faculty. Though I knew everyone on the board, the curriculum committee, and the staff, and I knew most of the curriculum they would eventually use, that was as far as my interest went. I was determined both to give and receive a classical Christian education myself alongside the most important little people in my life. When I read Douglas Wilson’s thoughts that home schooling parents would struggle to replicate a full-bodied classical education over the years, I furrowed my brow and plowed ahead.
We felt no real struggle teaching Savannah and her sister Evelyn for three wonderful years while curriculum was quite flexible and our third child, Sullivan, was napping half the day. In the fourth, I began to feel some discomfort. We weren’t getting to the fun stuff together, the projects and the music and the art and the family discussions. Sullivan had different needs than the girls, and I struggled to cater to him while teaching two grades. Nevertheless, we enjoyed one another and the process. I sighed and plowed ahead.
Meanwhile, Founders Christian School, the school our church had started, had begun hosting monthly tours to involve and excite the surrounding community. It was now the last tour of 2013-2014, and my sister Anna texted me something to the effect of, “hey Sees, we’re supposed to invite two people to this thing and I’m really crunched for time. Could you make it out on Friday as my guest?” Sure, I’d go and support my sister. Fridays were slow days at Gloria Deo anyway.
I was planning to home school forever. I didn’t expect to be surprised or moved by what I saw at the tour, but I was. Administrators and parents gave testimonies and we watched a variety of student demonstrations. Many of these demonstrations represented the extension activities my kids were starting to miss. What stood out to me the most was that here, a whole village of classical and Christian educators had banded together to do what I was trying to do alone, and they were doing it well.
After much thought and prayer on our part, Founders Christian School came in earnest onto our family’s horizon. Adam had already been commissioned onto the school council. I would teach grammar school music two afternoons a week and home school Sullivan the rest of the time. We would entrust the bulk of Savannah and Evvie’s schooling to Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Longaker, excellent and godly teachers. I was so grateful for my years at home with the girls, and now I could stay at least somewhat involved in their education while also having focused time with Sullivan. Relief and excitement filled that summer.
But God Directs His Steps
The following years have been transitional but so joyful. I finished Sully’s pre-k and kindergarten education at home (with help from teachers like Mrs. Monds, Ms. Thurlow, and Mrs. Powell while I was teaching music classes). I was again researching curricula and thinking strategically about a whole, 13-year classical and Christian education, now specifically in music. Sullivan entered first grade with Mrs. Longaker full time in the fall of 2016, and my responsibilities have steadily grown. As a teacher I have experienced Mr. Jones, the administrative staff, and fellow teachers as supportive, hard workers.
Additionally to the work environment at our school, I bet you’d like to know whether my heady vision for a classical and Christian education has been satisfied by what I’ve seen at Founders Christian School over the years. This has been a long read, and you deserve an answer. It’s yes.
It’s yes because the teachers at Founders are, to the last woman and man, lifelong learners too. They show a humility and a joy and a confidence in the Lord that is palpable to my children. Their humility inspires continued growth. Their joy inspires passion. Their confidence in the Lord inspires faithfulness and hard, good work.
It’s yes because our faculty and staff see my children, among other things, as spiritual beings created in the image of God, but fallen and needing a Savior. They recognize themselves in the faces of lost or immature children, and are gracious while also being firm. They believe growth includes struggle sometimes, and they allow students to struggle safely under their eye. They are good teachers and mentors.
It’s yes because classical education works. It doesn’t only work for my children—I knew it worked for them—but it works for children very different from mine, and I have seen that firsthand at Founders. Where teachers grow to understand their material well enough to turn it into songs and dances and stories and hands-on activities for young children, synthesize the disciplines, lead meaningful discussions with older students and create projects that demonstrate higher-level thinking in beautiful ways, learning becomes delightful—visually, auditorily, kinesthetically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually--delightful.
It’s yes because I regularly witness students bouncing up and down with excitement over everyday learning, both as I snoop on other classes and as I teach my own. “Mrs. Larson, this isn’t dictation, this is fun-tation!” “Are we playing games today?” “Can we skip ahead and learn about the circle of fifths now?!?” Yes.
It’s yes because, as Mr. Jones’s coffee mug says, “Good work is hard. Hard work is good.” Founders Christian School hasn’t arrived. We teachers and administrators haven’t arrived. Our students haven’t arrived. Our students’ families haven’t arrived. Though they are mostly infrequent, there are days when we “struggle safely” and it feels positively undelightful. The truth is, everything about what our school represents—achieving the ideals of classical and Christian education for students and teachers, in flourishing partnership with families and the community—is massively hard to accomplish. The glory of it, however, is so worth working for, and we are working hard for it here together. Each step forward along the path is a moment to stop and be grateful, and then to push forward even harder. Each hurdle is a moment to stop and be grateful, and then to push forward even wiser.
I could go on to talk about how we accurately represent the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of our surrounding community, how our students do extremely well on standardized tests as well as in athletic, artistic, and academic competitions, and how adorable each student is in his or her own way. If you’ve seen my Facebook wall, these themes will not be new to you. But these facets, though important, are simple side effects of our more primary goals at Founders Christian School, which are to cultivate the right affections and desires, to equip with the tools of lifelong learning, and to nurture future Christian leaders who “think, reason, and communicate well from a biblical worldview,” (excerpt from our school mission).
What Can You Do?
When something is glorious, don’t you want to be a part of it? My family and I joined with Founders Christian School in the roles of school council member, teacher, students and parents, but these are not the only ways to get involved. I don’t know what gifts you have or where your passions lie, but if I have learned one thing from my own history and from developing a classical Christian worldview, God has plans for your gifts and passions that you don’t know about yet. So make plans to come to our school tour, or, if schedule doesn’t permit, call the school and find out about a walk-through or about joining us at one of our community events. Prayer, giving, spreading the word, volunteering, enrolling your children, or applying to teach are only a few of myriad ways to participate; I believe that if you prayerfully come see us, God will lay on your heart how you are uniquely equipped to join our work.
There is glory here. Come and get it.
Jarrod Richey, you've made me one happy blogger. I began this blaby project fully intending to populate it with thousands of insightful book reviews, but, alas, my current reads are ever so Long and my life is ever so Schizophrenic that I cannot seem to finish books, and therefore cannot seem insightfully to review them here or anywhere.
Then, earlier this week, as I was trying not to pine for the ACCS conference I was not able to attend (a veritable treasure for teachers of my ilk), my Facebook feed tells me that a music teaching compatriot and kind of a mentor has published a book, Bach to the Future: Fostering Music Literacy Today. Fast forward 2 days for free shipping through Everyone's Favorite Online Store, and in my hand I held this, well, handbook, a simple but powerful starting point for training up the next generation musically. Its 63 pages said comfortingly, you probably won't utterly fail at finishing me. To which I tearfully whispered, thank you.
This book is for believers who have a leadership role over children--parents, teachers, school administrators, and the church. It makes the case and points the way for a return to music literacy as a part of our everyday lives, much as was the case in Bach's day, for the sake of seeing a generation capable of producing glorious music for God and for His people. In a time when music literacy is uncommon in the Church as much as anywhere, this is a needed message.
Even though I have been a music teacher for two years professionally and for numerous years in ministry, I found many helpful hooks on which to hang goals for the year to come. I'm thankful to be able to recommend this well-written and timely handbook to everyone who falls into the categories above. Click on the picture and snag yourself a copy!
Megan Larson, disciple of Christ, wife, mom, teacher, reader, writer, musician, cook, organizer, philosopher. Struggling cleaner.
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