CA Blog

Posts Tagged "Students"

Ten Mile Markers Along the Road to College

February 05, 2016
By Lynn Hicks

Ten Mile Markers Along the Road to College

by Lynn S. Hicks, College and Career Counselor


I can remember feeling fear, trepidation and excitement all knotted together in my stomach as my mother and I set out across the southeast to visit more than ten colleges during the fall of my junior year in high school. Some schools were higher on the list of priorities, so we scheduled formal tours and admissions office interviews. Some schools held intrigue and mystery which necessitated a drive through campus just to experience the ambiance of a large state school or the wonder of an ivy league university. At that point, I’m not sure which made a bigger impression ­­ -- the schools we visited or the delicious food we savored along the way! I can vividly remember standing on the campus of Furman University in front of the front gate fountain and thinking with extreme clarity the following words from scripture, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). Was it the beauty of the campus, the small sense of community, or the emphasis on academic excellence? All of those factors were true but I just knew it was the “right fit” for the next four years of my academic career. For my mother, I seriously think it was the huge iron gate surrounding the entire campus including a guard gate station monitoring everyone entering and leaving!  I had a peace and assurance in my heart:  Furman was my next home.


At Cornerstone Academy, we equip our high school students with the tools necessary in order to choose the best college for their individual needs. Colleges are becoming increasingly more competitive and more expensive. Therefore, it is important for each student to find the “best fit” in order to maximize their funds and minimize time enrolled. Cornerstone has implemented a program called College and Career Pathways to assist students on this journey. This program guides and prepares our students through the decision-­making and college acceptance process.


  1. In August, juniors, seniors, and their parents attend an informational college and career meeting.  Students receive timelines stating specific tasks to be accomplished in each month.
  2. In the fall, juniors and seniors attend the college fair hosted by Carson Newman in order to speak with admissions representatives from over seventy colleges and universities. The students evaluate these schools on factors including size, geographic location, cost, private/public, Christian values, sports, majors offered etc.
  3. We encourage students to attend preview days hosted by their top three to five college choices beginning the fall semester of their junior year. This gives the student a personal representation of what it would be like to be a student on that campus.
  4. The guidance office provides ongoing one­-on­-one counsel and assistance as students apply to colleges of their choice and pursue various scholarships. Students identify their academic strengths and weaknesses. They also explore their own career interests (as reported on the ACT interest inventory) as they compare to other professionals in various career fields.
  5. Juniors complete an autobiographical sketch in order to begin organizing their extra­curricular activities, clubs, honors/awards, leadership and service activities. This form assists the student in completing college applications and also to assist teachers and staff in writing letters of recommendation.
  6. In order to assess academic strengths and weaknesses, students complete a battery of standardized tests.

High school testing sequence:

  • In the spring, sophomores take the ACT Plan to prepare for the ACT.

  • In October, juniors take the PSAT to prepare for the SAT as well as to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship.

  • Juniors and seniors are instructed to register for multiple ACT dates in order to achieve the highest score possible.

  1. Cornerstone offers dual enrollment courses through Bryan college for college credit. The Dual Enrollment Grant funds these classes with certain limits and criteria. Cornerstone Academy faculty teach these classes on our campus. Students may also enroll in dual enrollment courses after school hours at WSCC. These opportunities allow the student to accrue college credits with minimal financial commitment and to enter college with a jump start on college hours.
  2. The guidance office sends transcripts and letters of recommendation on behalf of the student.
  3. Students must complete fifteen hours of community service per high school year which comprise a blend of school, community, and church based service.
  4. We encourage students to meet TN Promise deadlines for applications, meetings, FAFSA, and service hours. This government scholarship will pay for any student enrolled in an AA program for two years at a participating community college or four year university up to $4,000 last dollar (after all other scholarships have been applied).

Now, as the mother of a senior, I have a whole new perspective on this road trip to college. No longer am I the senior making the “best fit” college choice, but instead I hold the role of a praying parent for my daughter to capture God’s vision for the next season of her life. It is our mission at Cornerstone Academy to prepare our students for the future by providing them with a Christ-­centered, classical education that equips them to achieve academic excellence and spiritual maturity.

Showing the Gospel to Our Children

October 09, 2015
By Chelsea Carrier

One Way to Show the Gospel to Our Children

Chelsea L. Carrier


Recently I went on the annual high school trip to Doe River Gorge. On the first night we had a bonfire on the railroad tracks, and the headmaster led a hike above the gorge. No flashlights were allowed. We were to stay between the tracks and follow the headmaster’s voice and the person directly in front of us to avoid falling over the edge of the cliff. Most kept saying they couldn’t see their hand in front of their face, and I had to agree. The only thing I could see was the phosphorescent mineral on the tracks, an occasional glow worm, and the stars. Fortunately, I was right behind a young man who, despite his quiet demeanor, had the thoughtfulness to communicate each step.

“Watch your step here, Miss Carrier. Go a little to your right. Now back to the left. Watch the rails.”

He was only a few steps in front of me, but when walking in pitch darkness, the next step is all that really matters.

On our journey through life, hopefully with Christ, we may feel at times as though we are only one step in front of those following us. We may not really know our own next step. We are in just as much confusion as they.

As a young teacher who is still single and has no children, I often wonder what wisdom I could even offer my students. I’m still a student myself in so many ways, constantly having to seek counsel. But what I find from my colleagues and mentors is that we are all learning. Sometimes we are walking behind someone, sometimes beside, and sometimes just one step in front. But God uses all three. As I continue to learn through my own imperfections and contemplate the incarnation highlighted in our theme verse for the year, John 1: 14, I’ve determined that one of the best ways to exemplify the gospel is through my own brokenness.

Many situations and ideas come to mind with a word as broad as brokenness, and I’ve been contemplating this term for well-over a month now. After brainstorming on my own and discussing this word with a friend and colleague, I’d like to share the following three aspects of brokenness:

  1. human limitation
  2. consequences of a fallen world
  3. consequences of sin


In other words: being human. With the exception of Christ, who was fully human and yet never sinned, part of the human condition is experiencing all three forms of brokenness. In this post, I’ll only focus on the first one.

As I’ve developed relationships with students over the past four years, I’ve learned a few ways to “come alongside” students as we struggle with human limitation.

  • Sharing with them that I’m not a math person, that I had a meltdown while taking the ACT for the first time, that I was the kid in college who always had her hand up, not because she knew the answer, but because she had a question, that I got mad at my mom for making me rewrite a paper in high school, that I’m just plain tired this week--those are the things I have to weave in my conversations with them.


  • Asking for help passing out papers, opening a door, or cleaning the classroom--those the small ways to show them I am not above receiving help.


  • Allowing them to pray for me on a bad day when I can no longer hide it--those are the moments when they realize that I am human.


I don’t have to share every detail, and I’m not advocating the glorification of past struggles or complaining as a perpetual victim or martyr. That’s not truly sharing brokenness. But even scripture is filled with examples of godly people honestly sharing their brokenness with others for the encouragement of others and glory of God. This is the story of the gospel: the God of the universe so loved the world that He accepted the vulnerability of becoming a man, and while He never sinned, He suffered as one who had.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 4:5-8)

Work Cited

The ESV Study Bible. Ed. Lane T. Dennis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Print.


Why Broken Stories Matter

May 22, 2015
By Dane Bundy

Why Broken Stories Matter


     A few weeks ago, in rhetoric class, my students and I finished studying a number of short stories to look at persuasion’s role in fiction. Among the stories, “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne evoked the most rewarding discussion (maybe the year’s best). At first it didn’t look like this would be the case. A number of students found the lead character wretched: a man who is obsessed with creating human perfection. His obsession ultimately produces a dark narrative that concludes with little redemption in sight. It is a broken story.


     Daniel Taylor in his work, Tell me a Story, places stories into three helpful categories: whole, broken, and bent. He defines a broken story as one in which good is portrayed as good and evil as evil, however, in the end, good is not victorious, but evil is.


     When I think of a broken story I first think of the book of Judges. At this period in biblical history, the Israelites have worked themselves into a downward spiral of rebellion. Though we see glimpses of redemption from time to time (Ruth comes to mind), the story of Judges ends with the haunting lines, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (21:25). Gulp.


     Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought a lot about the purpose and value of broken stories. Shouldn’t Christians feed themselves on what Taylor calls whole stories? He defines whole stories as tales in which redemption takes place and good (not evil) is victorious.  The Bible itself is a whole story. We may also include Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.


     At Cornerstone, we don’t limit ourselves to whole stories. Actually, we read plenty of broken tales, ranging from the Greek or Shakespearean tragedies to the dystopian novels of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.


     I admit, broken stories are dark and unnerving and difficult to navigate at times. Have you ever had a grand piano dropped on your chest? I have: the afternoon I finished 1984. I was hoping, and expecting, Orwell would use Winston to expose and topple Big Brother; instead our hero is consumed by it.  


     If you let them, broken stories will burden your soul.


    Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that broken stories may serve an important purpose: they affirm what it’s like to live in a fallen world. Often it is the righteous who suffer and the wicked who prosper, and some people never experience a happy ending.


    However, broken stories may stir significant questions.


  • Why did the villain win? What did the villain want? Is there hope the villain will ever find redemption?

Why is this character the villain?   

  • Why did the hero fail? What did the hero want? Is there hope the hero may conquer the villain?

Why is this character the hero?


     A couple of these questions led our rhetoric class to consider man’s pursuit of perfection. However, the bell rang and the students left with no answers, just a handful of questions, terribly applicable to their own lives.


     Why does man seek perfection? Will he ever attain perfection? Is anyone perfect?


     Good literature asks questions like these, questions that apply to my students, but also you and me, and, for that matter, all who are human. Storytellers have a high calling: to tell the truth. They turn their backs on their craft when they sugar-coat or misrepresent what takes place in the world. The author of Judges, and the author of every book in the Bible, fulfills this high calling. Because of this, when we read Scripture, we read about murder, rape, depression, persecution, and betrayal.


     The Bible does not sugar-coat, because God always tells the truth: our world is a broken one. If you are human, you are broken. If you are human, you will never attain perfection. Left alone, we will never muster a happy story. It’s true: evil will always win.


     My students must hear this. I must hear this.


     If I don’t listen, I will never understand what’s about to come next: God became man and carried our burden of brokenness. Indeed, it was so heavy, it broke the god-man in the most violent fashion. But, after three days, God delivered justice, destroying evil in blinding glory. God made it clear: the only way to wholeness is through the god-man. This is the good news.


     The broken stories of human existence matter because they can lead us to the whole story of the Gospel, and as a teacher at Cornerstone, I am called to help my students understand the road from broken story to whole story. What a privilege it is.

Part II: Ten Things I Love About Mock Trials

May 12, 2015
By Dr. Faith Acker

Ten Things I Love about Mock Trials: Part II

Faith Acker


In my last post, I discussed five traditional benefits of mock trials. They are a wonderful pedagogical tool, provide great practice for real-world situations, and help students learn to think and to express themselves more clearly. These are all good academic defenses of mock trials, but the mock trial structure also has some less traditional benefits.

6.  Objections! The trial process is filled with rules and structure, as well as opportunities to challenge others who do not follow this structure. Learning how to challenge or contradict other people respectfully is one of life’s most important lessons. If practiced in secondary school, it will help these students in college (especially if they enroll in secular colleges), their careers, and even their relationships. While I don’t advocate shouting “Objection!” at a classmate, employer, or spouse, I do encourage my students to raise questions—and talk through the answers—not only in the mock trial process, but in all our English classes.


7.  Pathos reigns supreme. Trial arguments require not only logos (clear logic) and ethos (appeals to standards), but pathos. The most persuasive opening statement in the world still must survive the emotional appeal of a bereaved witness pleading for the other side. Trials, of necessity, include all forms of rhetorical appeal, students must learn to identify (and respond appropriately to) whatever rhetoric the world offers them.

8.  We study opposing views. Learning to understand differing schools of thought is an important part of the classical education, and both mock trial and debate allow students to anticipate and analyze differing opinions. My ninth graders are currently working on a mock trial of Creon (from Antigone), and at least two of them are annoyed that I’ve put them on the “wrong” side. Defending both sides of a given position is at the heart of the classical (Socratic) methodology, and it will also help us—as Christians—practice respect and discernment.

9.  Trial preparations are frustrating. Life is full of unexpected complications, such as the closing statement that mysteriously deletes itself the night before a trial, the witness who does not remember key details, or the irksome lawyer who makes repeated objections. Learning to deal with frustrations with grace is an important part of life; it is an especially crucial part of Christianity. We are called upon to live our faith not only in the blessed times, but also during the trials, and the annoyances and panics that plague long and complicated projects (such as mock trials) offer safe opportunities to practice appropriate responses.

10.  Trial preparations enable grace. Life is full of unexpected complications, and these also allow others to show us grace. Many of my students are (like me) fiercely independent and self-motivated. As Christians, we are expected to live in community, and in addition to serving others, we also sometimes need to allow others to serve us. During our Lancelot trial, one of my most independent students (who has many great skills, but is not the most accomplished typist) was driven by necessity to ask for last-minute typing assistance from a classmate. For her (and for me), learning to accept help with grace and gratitude is an important spiritual lesson.

As a teacher, mock trials require extensive (and sometimes exhausting) preparations and planning, but their benefits are tremendous. They are challenging and exciting in the moment, and some of these benefits will (I pray!)  last these students for decades.

Latin's Not Dead

April 09, 2015
By Tracey Carrin

Why Study a “Dead” Language?

Amo, amas, amat…amamus, amatus, amant.”  This is the mantra of every current and former student of Latin. Last week, as my 5th grade class chanted this verb, a hand shot up to ask a pressing question:  “Why do we study Latin since it’s a dead language?”  Well, young one, I’m glad you asked!
How can something so ubiquitous be dead?  (ubiquitous, from the Latin ubique, meaning everywhere)  Latin is a language (language, from the Latin lingua, tongue) that is hard to escape.  Its remnants (remnant, from the Latin remanere, to remain) litter our English language like shells on a beach, each one a wonder to find and investigate (investigate, from the Latin investigare, to track or investigate).  I propose that this language is far from dead, but vibrantly alive in the language we use every day.
True, Latin is not a modern spoken language.  The Roman Empire from which it sprang has long since disintegrated.  However, the Romans left behind ideas that shaped Western civilization, including their prolific language.  The structure of English comes mostly from German (as well as many of our monosyllabic words), but even so, 60% of our vocabulary has a Latin origin.  An even higher percentage of our words that are two or more syllables come from Latin.  There are two main reasons for this abundance. 
First, in the 4th century, St. Jerome translated the Bible into the vulgate (or common) Latin. Then in 1382, John Wycliffe translated that work into English.  At the time, English was a new and somewhat underdeveloped language.  Words like propitiation and sanctify did not have an English equivalent, so the Latin words themselves were adopted into the malleable English language.  A thousand Latin words slipped into our language through the door of the Wycliffe Bible.
The second reason we have a generous amount of multi-syllabic Latin-based words is that all of academia in Europe knew and communicated in Latin during the Enlightenment.  It was the international language of the well-educated.  New ideas created a need for new vocabularies in science, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy, and thus found their expression in the “dead” language of Latin. The academic preference for the common “lingua Latina” spawned vast amounts of vocabulary.  Today the fields of law, medicine, and science are filled with Latinate lexicons.
But why do we study Latin today?  Are there still good reasons, even if you will never become a doctor, lawyer, or scientist? Educator Dorothy Sayers, whose essay The Lost Tools of Learning has inspired the resurgence of classical education in our country, offers us this startling perspective on the importance of Latin during a 1952 speech entitled “Ignorance and Dissatisfaction,” given in Cambridge, UK, “...If I were asked what, of all the things I was ever taught, has been of the greatest practical use to me, I should have to answer: the Latin Grammar.”
Classical education fosters sound thinking, writing, and speaking.  These skills are not merely philosophical niceties, but benefit the student in practical ways.  Latin has a positive and profound impact on the acquisition of these skills. 
At first glance, you may wonder, as my young student did, "Why do we study Latin since it's a dead language?" As we look closer at this language of weighty influence, we realize that Latin is not dead.  It's immortal.


 “The Adventure of English: Birth of a Language,” BBC Documentary, 2003. YouTube, 2014.
*Note: This is a wonderful series, but due to some language and content, parental discretion is advised.

Public School, Homeschool, or Private School: What Not to Do

January 16, 2015
By Tracy Carrin

When our first child was four years old my husband and I found ourselves in a sea of choices about his education.  Adrift on uncharted waters, we researched and prayed.  Public school? Homeschool? Private school?  Questions did not always lead to answers, but more questions.  Eventually, we did discern the will of God in order to begin educating our firstborn, but after three children and many years of educating, we still frequently re-evaluate the educational needs of each child.

Are you trying to discern the best educational path for your child?  Consider the following:

We must not let our child decide.

Children do not have the wisdom to discern which educational choice is best for them.  Their opinion should be heard and valued but not solely relied upon.

We must not let our friends decide.

Making choices because of peer pressure rarely yields a wise decision.  We may have to swim upstream to do what we think is best for our child.

We must not let our extended family decide.

Family members often have strong feelings about choices in education.  If Aunt Sue was a public school teacher, there may be pressure to go that route.  If your sister homeschools, there may be an expectation to choose that route.  While we should consider their opinions, the privilege and the burden of the decision rests on us.

We must not let our anxieties decide.

Remember God’s instruction in Philippians 4: 6-7.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We must not let our finances decide.

Homeschooling and private education sometimes come with hefty price tags.

Consider God’s promise of help and provision.  Finances factor significantly in our plans, but let’s not forget that God can provide a way for us to follow our convictions.

We must not let our own educational experience decide.

Just because we were educated one way does not necessarily mean that way is a good fit for our child.  Each person has a unique personality, unique gifts, varying levels of intelligence, and a special path God has ordained.

We must not let our fatigue or discouragement decide.

How many times has our exhaustion caused us to lose heart?  During those times of parental fatigue and discouragement we may look for an “easy way.”  Beware.  We may need to stay the course through the tough time rather than altering our path due to difficulties.

Each of these may be a factor in decision-making, but beware of allowing one of them to steer the ship.  We can trust the Master of the sea to guide us. Remember that He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go.  I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). Let’s pray and listen for His instruction.  After all, He loves our children even more than we do.


Three Reasons to Get Married at Five

December 19, 2014
By Megan Bundy

Students lined the hallway. Parents waited at the mouth of the aisle. Our Headmaster stood in his best. To the right of his knee stood a little groom wearing a tuxedo with the letter Q pinned to the fold of his coat; he was awaiting his bride. The violin pierced the hum of the crowd and one by one the rest of the kindergarten class walked down the hall. First the flower girl, then the bashful bridesmaids and the giggling groomsmen, and finally came the bride. Her face was sweet and elegant, as if she were imagining what her real wedding would be like one day. Tied to her white bouquet was the letter U. Vows were exchanged, and finally the wedding ended with a resounding “kw”! Yes, it was our annual Q and U wedding.


This Cornerstone Academy tradition, started by former kindergarten teacher Hope Walker, is an excellent window into what we try to accomplish through classical education. This is an education where students are not simply told what to learn, but where they celebrate it, experience it, and integrate it with life.


1. To celebrate learning

Learning is not meant to be a passive experience where kids are simply told what to do and remember. The Q and U wedding shows kindergarteners that learning is a privilege, not simply a requirement. While every lesson cannot be turned into a party, it sets a tone for the children that learning can and should be celebrated.


2. To experience learning

The Q and U wedding allows the students to actively experience an idea using all five senses. The kids are not simply told that U always follows Q; they become Q and U, and take a familiar concept like marriage and use it as a lasting reminder of the forever union of these two letters.


3. To integrate learning

Traditionally our kindergarteners bring a “wedding gift” to the Q and U wedding. The gifts that would normally be for the bride and groom are instead given to a charity. Through this, students begin to understand that learning is not simply meant to be self-serving, but it should be shared, used to give back to the community. We especially emphasize that what we learn should always be used to glorify God.


In conclusion, marriage at five is not too young, but just the right time to celebrate, experience, and integrate learning!

Why Failure is Acceptable: An argument against perfection

December 16, 2014
By Faith Acker

As I write this blog post, my desk is piled with books and papers and ungraded student work. My coffee mug huddles timidly (only because it is empty) in the shadow of an enormous stack of papers I am supposed to grade and checklist of tasks I am supposed to complete (including this blog post).

I do not feel either efficient or productive.

When I originally drafted this post, it told a story about the importance of asking questions, and of resting in uncertainty. Cleverly linking this to my previous post, I pointed out that the questions The Odyssey raises allow us to appreciate the limits of our knowledge, defined by the all-important phrase “I don’t know.”

Since that draft, I have noticed that my own pride is not focused on right answers, but on efficiency and timeliness. For my students, “I don’t know” is often a mark of failure; for me, “I can’t do that” is the downfall of my pride.

It is easy, particularly in school, to become entranced by the idea of perfection. My students desire the all-elusive “A+,” and I selfishly long both to see them succeed and to seem efficient and productive in the process. Each week, my students strive for high grades and correct answers (and I applaud them for this), while I struggle to return tests and papers and quizzes in a timely manner. We focus on these goals, but they are ultimately irrelevant.

Far more important than my students’ grades are their questions and, even, their failures. I long to see them rest in the security of God’s omniscience when their own strength fails them. Similarly, in my own life, it is far more important that I learn to be humble and to rest on God’s strength than that I complete all my required tasks by the deadlines. (Did I mention that this blog post is late?)

Much as Christians want to understand God and His world, we are limited by our frailty. When I have failed to check off all the items on my list of daily tasks, I fail. I hate this, but when the day ends and I leave my teetering tower of uncompleted work, I go home not as a failed teacher, but as a sinner loved by God. When my students forget the facts they have learned, or (more typically) don’t pause to read the directions, they can relax in the comfort that God knows all things (and created the ultimate directions). Even as we admit our ignorance and feebleness, our

God reigns supreme.

As midterms loom, my own weaknesses become more and more evident, and my students become more and more panicked. This year, I hope to rejoice in my failure instead of wallowing in frustration, because it is—as all things are—an opportunity to see God work in me.

Four Truths to Help You Survive the Logic Stage With Your Child

December 01, 2014
By Chelsea Carrier

One of the qualities I’ve grown to love about my logic level students is the quirky combination of playful innocence and sporadic insight. While the fluctuating maturity levels can prove frustrating, they also indicate a beautiful transition.

Below are four simple truths to help you and your child survive some of the possible obstacles common to the logic stage.

1. Transitions may be frightening, even painful, but they are healthy.

At some point during the logic stage, students often have to make some pretty painful transitions. These are the years in which they are learning (and parents and teachers are training them) to think for themselves. Consequences start to become more natural. It’s one thing to tell your child before he starts sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, “You’re going to have to buckle down this year because Mom and Dad and all of your teachers aren’t going to hold your hand anymore.” It’s another to discover missing papers on the kitchen table, in the couch cushions, in the floorboard, or worst of all, in the trash.  It’s also another matter entirely the first time your straight A student makes a C on a paper or fails a quiz simply because she didn’t study or take her time. The work in the logic stage is different, it’s hard, and with all of the new freedom comes plenty of opportunities for students to stumble, and then, with grace and firmness from those placed in their lives to train them, discover what God is developing them to be.

2. Erratic behavior can be…normal.

I’ve had girls who refused to speak above a whisper when performing a recitation turn right around and ask to do hand motions while Christmas caroling at the nursing home. I’ve had boys squeal at random times and then giggle about it. A few weeks, days, even hours later, they’re asking deep theological questions about the trinity that most adults don’t even begin to know how to address.

3. The logic stage looks different for every child.

Many times parents’ frustrations include the underlying assumption that their child is the only one struggling with x, and therefore they shouldn’t be. But God develops people as he sees fit when he sees fit. Sure, there are patterns that he seems to follow, but there’s a wide range within those patterns for developing a unique story for each person.

So often when I hear from parents, it’s as if they’re thinking: Who is this kid? Where did I go wrong? We never had this problem in fifth grade! Or even the first half of sixth!

But now their A/B perfect attendance ray of sunshine is losing papers, turning in late assignments, failing quizzes, and worst of all…rolling her eyes and slamming doors. When they ask her what she has for homework, she sighs, maybe even falls into a fit of giggles, and answers, “I don’t know.”

Or maybe not. Maybe he insists on staying up past eleven working on homework due the next day, or Friday, or next week. He keeps his planner, crossing everything off the list. He won’t watch T.V., get on the computer, read his favorite book, or play outside. He begs to stay home from church because he “has so much to do.” But he won’t talk to his parents, let alone his teachers. He’s too afraid of disappointing them.

4.Students are naturally inquisitive, and they do want to talk.

I’ve had C students, students who struggle to keep that C, but are some of the best students I have ever had. These are often, though not always, the same students who communicate with their parents and teachers and do what they are asked when they are asked. Most of them genuinely struggle with reading and logic level/ analytical thinking. But they are, ironically, the ones who “get it.” By “get it” I don’t mean sentence diagramming or Shakespeare. I mean they seem to truly grasp that Christ is the center of everything, even the small, everyday occurrences. These are the kids whose parents talk with them when they sit in their house, when they walk by the way, when they lie down, and when they rise up (Deut. 6.7). While some logic level students may spend time giggling or flying paper airplanes, nearly all of them have plenty of questions, if not now, then later.


It’s hard to pinpoint the source of these changes. Some might say hormones, others busy schedules, still others a relationship conflict with friends or family--we could analyze the factors for hours and find plenty of possible causes. But at the end of the day, growing pains aside, I still see a group of kids who, for the most part, desire to please the Lord, even if, just like adults, they haven’t quite figured out what all of that means.

Work Cited

The ESV Study Bible.Ed. Lane T. Dennis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Print.


Why we study The Odyssey (and not contemporary fiction)

November 20, 2014
By Faith Acker
  • Why we study The Odyssey (and not contemporary teen fiction)



As I write this post, my ninth-grade English students are reading about the homecoming of weary Odysseus, whose hostility towards the son of Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea) has caused numerous complications and frustrations to delay our unhappy hero.


Our journey through the book is not without its own delays and frustrations.


“Why is Odysseus so mean to the Cyclops?” one student asked.

“I didn’t understand anything that happened on page 326,” another student journaled.

“Why does he have to sneak around in disguise?” my students demanded on several differing occasions.



Reading The Odyssey is, for many students, an odyssey in its own right. We read it for the better part of a school quarter, and it is one of the most detailed and dense books on the Cornerstone curriculum. Some students struggle with the line breaks and the elaborate poetical language; others are frustrated by the lack of proper nouns. A large percentage of them would prefer to read Divergent and The Hunger Games, with whose main characters they identify more strongly.


However, The Odyssey has one significant benefit: it provides a safe arena in which students can evaluate and critique the actions of other human beings.


In many first-person present-tense teen novels of today, the stream-of-consciousness monologues of the protagonist-narrators leave readers little room for literary interpretation. Towards the end of The Hunger Games, protagonist and narrator Katniss says,


“I can’t get caught out here. . . . Not only will I face death, it’s sure to be a long and painful one. . . . The thought of [my sister] having to watch . . . keeps me doggedly inching my way towards the hideout” (223).


  • Collins’ readers can have no doubts about Katniss’ motivations; she wants to protect her sister from any harm or suffering. Her explanation isn’t wrong, but it means that discussions of the book focus predominantly on facts and personal reactions. Readers are not encouraged to discuss and analyze Katniss’ motivations, because the author has already revealed the answers.


In contrast, consider The Odyssey:


“They sent their ravishing voices out across the air

and the heart inside me throbbed to listen longer.

I signaled the crew with frowns to set me free--

they flung themselves at the oars and rowed on harder . . .

But once we’d left the Sirens fading in our wake,

once we could hear the song no more, their urgent call--

my steadfast crew was quick to remove the wax I’d used

to seal their ears and loosed the bonds that lashed me” (277).


Like Katniss, Odysseus is in great peril and great agony. Although his statements, like those of Katniss, are in the first person, my students were quick to query:


“Why does he want to listen?”

“Why do only the sailors seal their ears?”

“Why is he so desperate to get free?”


Both The Odyssey and The Hunger Games can be used to answer important and meaningful questions, and many of the same questions can be applied to both. For instance:


How does this book present a hero, or a savior?

What is the source of the protagonist’s strength?

What does this book teach about friendship, loyalty, or truth?


When the discussions have faded, however, uncertainty about The Odyssey remains. We could discuss and debate The Odyssey for an entire year, or read it once every year, and at the end of that year, there would be more to discover and debate. For a few, the same could be true of the newest teen novel; for thousands, this has already been true of The Odyssey.



Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2009 (2008).

Homer. The Odyssey. transl. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 1997 (1996).

Redeeming the Morning Commute

November 11, 2014
By Edie Wadsworth


It started before we ever got in the car.  She couldn't find her jacket or her permission slip and her socks were all dirty.  I never made it to the grocery store and the breakfast choices were slim to none.  It was Monday and we were running late, to make matters worse.  I was irritated with her shortcomings and she was irritated with mine.  So there we sat silent, each avoiding eye contact with the other, each wishing the ride to school were shorter.  I wheeled through the fog into the convenience store so she could get a nice healthy breakfast like pop-tarts or powdered donuts and she balked, saying she didn't have time to stop.  Great.  Now, I would have to feel guilty that she didn't eat.  I made an angry u-turn and an equally angry sigh.  She began to tear up.

When we got close to the school, I gave her my phone like every other day and asked her to read the Psalm for the day.  She read it in a broken voice.

"Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! 

In your faithfulness, answer me.

Enter not into judgement with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground;  he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.

Therefore, my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all you have done;  

I ponder the work of your hands;  I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul thirsts for you like parched land.  

Answer me quickly, O lord, for my spirit fails.

Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down in the pit. 

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in You I trust."   (Psalm 143:1-8)

And then we said the Lord's prayer in unison like we always do,

Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be Thy name,

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

Forever and ever, Amen.

And with the very words of God himself we are restored to fellowship with each other.  She wipes her eyes and I hug her tight before she gets out of the car.  

So simple, so powerful.  

Just a few life-giving words and the prayer that Jesus gave us to pray.  His Word creating faith where there is doubt, love where there is strife, forgiveness where there is sin—the morning commute and all its stress redeemed by better words than we would ever think to say.  

And tomorrow, we'll do it all over again.

Search by Keyword(s):
(separate multiples with a comma)

Recent Posts

9/29/17 - By Dr. Faith Acker
4/18/17 - By Lynette Fowler, Pre-K Director
2/15/17 - By Lynette Fowler, Pre-Kindergarten Director
7/13/16 - By Lynette Fowler
6/24/16 - By Chelsea Carrier


Tag Cloud