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Archives - December 2014

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.

The One Thing Our Kids Need

December 09, 2014
By Edie Wadsworth

The sun was pouring into the east sky, scattering orange like a blanket over everything.  She was sitting in the front seat, unable or unwilling to look at me, her head turned decidedly away and her body clinging to her side of the car sending its message loud and clear.  Was there a tear in the corner of her eye?  I don't know because I was too angry to ask.  We were on our way to a social gathering and I just needed her to get over herself already.  What I was really secretly thinking is that I wanted her to show my friends how pleasant my teenager was, how smart and well adjusted, how sweet and kind to be around—all of which would translate into some imaginary points for me.  What I didn't want was for her to sulk through the whole thing and make me look bad.

And we were running out of time, because we were almost there and neither of us seemed capable of moving toward reconciliation.

Why was she even sulking?  I couldn't for the life of me figure it out and I was too stubborn to ask—maybe too afraid that I had done something to cause it.

So, I lost my patience and basically demanded that she play the part.  I didn't yell but I was harsh.  I bulldozed right through the situation and got what I wanted.  It wasn't my best parenting moment.  We walked in and she pulled herself together. She was perfectly behaved.  She was engaging and courteous.  But, she was hurt and probably only I could tell.

On the way home, my heart began to soften and the guilt set in.  I wondered to myself at what price had I wrangled her obedience.  I thought back to times in my own life when I knew I was being valued for my performance, by what good I could bring to the table and I felt the sting of doing the same thing to this person I supposedly loved with all my heart.  We had a long talk about what had happened.  I apologized for being harsh, for demanding results.  She explained why she was upset and then apologized for the sulking.  It was pretty simple, in retrospect.  We are sinners who fail each other everyday.  The magic is in being willing to fess up to all the ways we hurt ones we love most.  She just wanted to be heard and understood.  But she didn't know how to ask for it and I was too full of my own selfish expectations to even ask.

Parenting by law or by sheer will will often get us the results we want but those results won't endure because they will begin a long and slow fracture of the heart. Just like in our spiritual life, the law requires us to be a certain way, to follow certain rules, but it does nothing to win our hearts.  Only love can do that. The law requires but love inspires.  The law kills but love makes alive.  The law leaves us empty,  despairing at all the ways we never measure up.  Love fills us to overflowing, and the overflow seeps out to everyone in our wake. This is the love we have been given in Christ, the God Man who came into our very flesh to be our perfect substitute in all things, even our failure to love rightly.

In turn, we have been given the tremendous, dare I say, impossible task of passing that love on to our children.  And for that, there is no shortcut—only a lifetime of living it out in the everyday mundane trenches of ordinary life, mostly confessing how painfully we fail at doing the one thing we had hoped to do well.

Love.

It never fails.   Even when we do.  Perhaps especially then.

Five Books to Buy or Read this Christmas

December 08, 2014
By Faith Acker

Italo Calvino. Why Read the Classics?

Calvino has been one of my favourite authors since I first encountered him in graduate school. In

addition to being a skilled storyteller (though we read his books, like many of our older classics,

in translation) he also has a gift for literary analysis. Why Read the Classics is new to me this

year, and I have repeatedly fallen in love with his aplomb and with the agility with which he

carefully tries to identify the attributes that distinguish everyday books from true classics.

 

The Second Shepherd’s Play.

This is the most properly Christmas-y of my selections. I first encountered—and enjoyed—

this play in high school, but each subsequent adventure into the drama has brought even more

delight. The Second Shepherd’s Play is a medieval mystery play filled with Christian allusions

and slightly grumpy shepherds. The language may be a little old-fashioned for some readers

(probably not for the students in my medieval class this fall) but the story is charming and the

message timeless.

 

 

John Donne. Poems.

John Donne’s life is a study of God’s grace, and his biography is reflected in his verses. His early

works, largely directed towards young women, reveal his youthful desires for earthly pleasures,

but his later poems break sharply away from this form and feature a desperate, passionate, and

occasionally even playful pursuit of God.

Here’s the passionate but playful final stanza of his poem “A Hymne to God the Father”

I have a sinne of feare, that when I have spun

My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;

But swear by thy self, that at my death thy son

Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;

And, having done that, Thou hast done,

I feare no more.

 

Sigrid Undset. Kristin Lavransdatter.

In my mind, December is always a time of reflection and waiting—the liturgical season of

Advent—that culminates in a celebration of great redemption. (In my academic life, this season

is marked by a lot of reflection on my students’ work—or grading—that ends with a celebration

of literary splendor in which I read any books I choose for two weeks straight). Like Donne’s

poems, Kristin Lavransdatter reflects this pattern of waiting and celebration. Like The Scarlet

Letter, Kristin’s season of waiting includes some sin, but her redemption is glorious. Undset’s

novel in three parts is probably best saved for readers of high school age or beyond.

 

Gene Stratton Porter. Freckles.

I have loved Freckles since the day I first cracked open the copy my mother gave me one year

for Christmas. Like all the best books, it is suitable for readers of many ages (nine to ninetynine!)

and contains important lessons about trust in the face of despair, sacrificial love, and

redemption (apparently, I think, a theme of my Christmas list). I don’t want to say anything

about this book for fear that I will spoil it for would-be readers, but it is suitable for readers (or

listeners) ten and older, and would be a wonderful story to read as a family.

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.

 

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