Because life is a series of edits

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

About Docendo Discimus

In Thought on July 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm

The historian, Herodotus, records in The Histories his observations of ancient Persia:

“And they honour of all most after themselves those nations which dwell nearest to them, and next those which dwell next nearest, and so they go on giving honour in proportion to distance; and they hold least in honour those who dwell furthest off from themselves, esteeming themselves to be by far the best of all the human race on every point, and thinking that others possess merit according to the proportion which is here stated and that those who dwell furthest from themselves are the worst.”

The History of Herodotus, vol. 1 (pgs. 115-116), trans. by G.C. Macaulay

The same could be said of the American chronological perspective: we don’t think much of what’s not brand new and near, and we think even less of that which is simply old and historically far away. Much like the ancient Persians, we in the here-and-now esteem ourselves to be the pinnacle of history, the breadth of which we pridefully evaluate by our present existence rather than vice versa. Sadly, we do this especially with education, to our – and our children’s – peril.

Some of us, however, don’t want to do this anymore. We’ve lived long enough to learn that the past is not always suspect, while the present and future are not always our only hope. King Solomon’s words echo in our ears – “there is nothing new under the sun” – and we’re to the point (perhaps because we have children of our own) where listening to some far distant yet relevant voices seem worth considering at least alongside – if not in place of – those today with which we do not resonate.

Yet which of us knows what any of this should mean, particularly when the majority of us were not educated as part of what in recent years has been called “the classical Christian education movement”? Who are we to pretend that we actually read (present tense) philosophers like Plato or Aristotle, let alone have a clue as to why what they wrote matters? Perhaps most practically, how do we keep ours kids’ noses to the grindstone of Latin (that supposed “dead language”) when most of can’t even remember how to parse a sentence in English? Who do we think we are? And how do we shore up our own inadequacies to overcome them enough to offer our children something better?

The philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC-65 AD) offers us his counsel: “Docendo discimus.” Translation: “By teaching, we learn.” As we seek to provide our children with a classical Christian education, we hope to gain that which we did not experience in our own. Granted, it is probably more difficult now at our current stages of life due to slipping memories, full-time jobs, and possible mid-life plateaus, but it is not impossible, nor do we have to do it alone; hence this blog.

My goal here is not to assume the role of expert, nor to create expectations that I can make you one; rather, my hope is simply to share from my particular vantage point and experience, that they might be of encouragement and help to you. After over ten years of attempting to teach kids classically and Christianly, I may have figured out a few things…but they’re only a few, and I still have a long way to go.

I hope to blog several times a month unless life gets in the way. Thanks for joining me on this journey. I welcome your comments and company.

About Mr. Dunham

In Thought on July 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm

CraigandMegan Craig and Megan Dunham were in classical Christian education long before either of them knew what they were doing. Megan had homeschooled their first daughter while they were on staff with The Navigators in Colorado Springs, but then began and directed a chapter of Classical Conversations in St. Louis, where the Dunhams had moved to attend Covenant Seminary.

Craig is an educator with a wide variety of informal and formal education experience (small group, conference, part-time classical, full-time college preparatory, seminary). He holds MAs in Theological Studies and Educational Ministries and is Head of School at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies in Oklahoma City, where the Dunhams now live with their four daughters, ages 14, 12, 10, and 9.

On Team

In Calling, Education, Oklahoma City, Theologians, Veritas on July 26, 2011 at 4:22 am

(insert cheesy picture of "get a hand in" motivational poster here)

I recently received an email from one of our staff that made me smile. Fresh out of a curriculum meeting with a couple other teachers, he wrote: "Our meeting today was phenomenal. I want to go teach the snot out of my students now!"

Team. You've heard the cliches (not to mention that there's no "I" in it), but have you experienced what it feels like to be part of one? If you have, you know why team matters; if you haven't, here are a couple things to think about:

Team matters because none of us are omni-competent…or omniscient…or omni-present…or omni-anything else. Team matters because God – in the form of the Trinity – is a team made up of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Oh, and team matters because it's fun. Even for the introverts among us, we need to feel the joy of something bigger – of a team, of a community – as the Body of Christ.

Last week, 30 or so staff and family members gathered at our house here in north OKC to meet each other, enjoy some eats, ask a few questions, and dream a little bit about the future of Veritas Classical Academy. I was reminded of Psalm 133:1, where David writes, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" The ESV gets it right by including "behold" – unity is indeed something that should draw our eye and captivate our thoughts, if for its rarity alone.

I recently came across this quote from C.S. Lewis: "It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God." Unity and functioning as a team are "right" in God's eyes (think Trinity, think Psalm 133:1), and I can't help but be excited by what God might do in and through us as we go/grow together into the coming school year.

The next day, I wrote our staff about all this, encouraging them – even as we head into this last week of July – to meet with, work with, pray with, or just be with one other person as they thought about and prepared for this fall. If the examples and promises from the Scriptures aren't enough motivation, I said, maybe a little positive peer pressure will work: everybody's doing it (or will be) at Veritas!

(Note: Some books I might recommend on functioning as a team and in community: Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; TrueFaced by Bill Thrall, John Lynch, and Bruce McNichol; and Connecting by Paul Stanley and Bobby Clinton.)

U2: A Recap

In Family, Musicians, Places & Spaces, Young Ones on July 20, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Girls Outside Busch

Smiles

Word

U2

Wiped

Always Pain Before a Child Is Born

In Arts, Calling, Church, Education, Family, Oklahoma City, Places & Spaces, Thought, Vacation, Young Ones on July 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm

I've been listening to a fair amount of U2 the past couple days as part of my preparation (yes, preparation) for the upcoming concert at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. If you remember, we're planning to take the girls on Sunday, and I can't wait for their reactions to all that they will see, hear, and experience at their first-ever rock concert.

I've written before about the band and the fact that their music has served as a soundtrack for just about every major transition I've experienced. True to form, six months before we moved to Oklahoma, we bought tickets to the St. Louis show for July 17th and gave them to the girls for Christmas, not knowing until a few months later that we wouldn't be living there anymore come summer. When I took the new role, the only contingency was that we could take a week of vacation leading up to the concert. I won't say it would have been a deal-breaker…but it could have been.

As it turns out, "vacation" started Saturday, but it's not exactly the one we originally planned. Megan and the girls arrived in St. Louis as of Sunday night, but they've spent the past two days in the dentist and optometrist offices trying to get one last round of check-ups in before our insurance transfers in August.

I'm still in Oklahoma as I felt the need to be at several important meetings yesterday and today. I'll fly up early Wednesday morning to join the ladies for a couple days at the farm before spending Saturday and Sunday around a hotel pool gearing up for the show that night. We'll then drive back to OKC all day Monday (I'm looking forward to the drive, as it will be the first time we all will get to process the concert at length together).

Today, while making the drive up and down I-35, I listened to "Yahweh" from How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Below is the acoustic version of the song (the album version includes the bridge and features a more rock arrangement) from the Chicago concert we were actually at in 2005 (don't make fun of Larry's one-finger string arrangement – he's a drummer, God love him):

The song is a prayer – a prayer I prayed with tears today as I wove in and out of traffic trying to get where I needed to go. It's how my prayers to God sound these days – prayers filled with painful self-awareness of my inadequacies as well as angry frustrations at my limitations. As in the chorus, the desperate cry of "Yahweh" was about all I could manage to get out while driving through Oklahoma City, and that was okay.

What's weird is it's been a great six weeks – six weeks that I would change very little about in terms of what we've done and accomplished. But six weeks does not a school build, nor a church plant. Every day has been hard, and from what I can tell, every day is going to be hard for a long time. I'm embarrassed by my impatience, but grateful for it too in that it reminds me I still expect God to do something here (and there is so very much that only He can do).

In looking through the playlists posted from the last few U2 concerts, I don't see "Yahweh" anywhere on them. Still, maybe the Lord will spark Bono to change things up and do it Sunday night, which if that happens, I will break down weeping at the gift it would be while my wife and daughters (once again) wonder what's wrong with Daddy.

And the answer is nothing…and everything – all of which God – Yahweh – cares for deeply.

 

Take these shoes – click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes and make them fit
Take this shirt – polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt and make it clean, clean
Take this soul – stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul and make it sing

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Take these hands – teach them what to carry
Take these hands – don't make a fist
Take this mouth – so quick to criticize
Take this mouth – give it a kiss

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahewh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?

Take this city – a city should be shining on a hill
Take this city if it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart, take this heart
Take this heart and let it break

Listening for God’s “Rock” Voice

In Calling, Education, Family, Veritas, Young Ones on July 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Just sent this out to our Veritas families and staff and wondered if anyone here might like/want/need to read it as well:

This morning I was reading the prophet Zephaniah's book when I came across 3:17, which says,

"The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing."

Israel (now split into northern and southern kingdoms) continues to avoid returning to God and His covenant because of their sin, but God, through Zephaniah, clarifies their reality: they are in trouble, but He is in their midst and is able and willing to save them from themselves.

Does this reality describe your house as much as it does ours? As Megan and I parent, it seems we're often having to point out to our four girls when they are in trouble and remind them that we're here to help before they make things worse for themselves. (Truth be told, Megan and I sometimes have a similar version of this conversation with each other, but that's for another email…).

So we get discouraged. And we wonder if we know what we're doing. And we begin to convince each other that we don't. But since they're ours, well, we've got to figure it out. So what does figuring it out look like?

Figuring it out looks a lot like God's promised response to a repentant Israel: a rejoicing one; a loving and quieting one; an exultant one, complete with loud singing over them (this is not a lullaby; this is God's "rock" voice).

Megan and I are good at recognizing trouble, offering help, and warning our kids about their own sinful natures. But we have miles to go in celebrating their repentance, even more so in truly "rocking out" at their return to what's right.

Summers are a great time to re-evaluate a lot of things; parenting should be on that list. Let me encourage you to give thought to how you correct and train your kids…AND how you love and rejoice over them when they respond, too.