Because life is a series of edits

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Survey Reminds Us That We’re in This Together

In Educators on November 29, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Back in early September, our Parent Partnership Association conducted a short survey asking how our parents were feeling about the start of the year. Here are a few results from the 32 parents who answered the survey (a 20% response rate):

Please choose which description best encompasses your feelings about Home Days with your children these first two weeks?
Weeping and gnashing of teeth and about to give up 0% 0
Some tears, but I see glimmers of hope 15.6% 5
It's going okay, but not as well as I had hoped 12.5% 4
It's going well, although we have challenges 56.3% 18
Challenges? What challenges? 15.6% 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What topic would be most helpful for additional parent training?
Schedule management with school work 24.1% 7
Schedule management with extra commitments 6.9% 2
Food and household management 13.8% 4
Parenting tips for character/discipline challenges 31% 9
Grade specific homework assistance 24.1% 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One open-ended question we asked on the survey was, "How would you define Home Day success?" The answers varied:

  • "If my student finishes homework by 1 or 2 p.m."
  • "Every assignment completed."
  • "Children connect with God in midst of their problems and enjoyable times."
  • "Finishing our work with everyone happy and having good attitudes."
  • "My student taking responsibility for knowing what needs to be accomplished and the best way to accomplish it with parental support."

In case you were wondering, we have good and bad days at the Dunham home. The blended model is work – for students, for parents, for the Head of School and his spouse.

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Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me

In Health, Holidays on November 28, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Doctors-scalesNow that we're on the backside of Thanksgiving but still have Christmas and New Year's up ahead, I'm toying with an idea/practice that I hope will stick. It's new, fresh, and possibly life-changing.

Yes, though I hate it, I'm thinking of exercising…in the evening…at home…a couple times a month…maybe even a few times a week.

I first took notice of my weight (at least enough to write about it) around my mid-thirties when I began to toe the (gasp) 200-pound line. Now twenty pounds beyond that, it's probably time to revisit the topic.

Actually, I need to do more than revisit it; I need to do something about it. So, I'm starting a month earlier than the normal New Year's resolution crowd by exercising three times a week on a treadmill at night.

Why at night? 1) To keep me from falling asleep at 9 p.m. and get more than a page of a book read before bed, and 2) because the morning and afternoon have never worked for me in the past. In other words, this is my last shot. After this, I'm out of ideas.

Exercise always goes better with better eating habits, but I'll let the former lead me into the latter if it so chooses. Regardless, getting the blood pumping (and a few pounds dropping) would be a good thing going into 2012.

As the beer commercials say, "Here we go!"

Black Friday Haiku

In Holidays, Humanity, Thought on November 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Black-friday

Black Friday masses
Discounted idol worship
Redeemed by retail?

Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

In Books, Technology on November 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm

"He was an enlightened being who was cruel.
That's a strange combination."
Chrisann Brennan (Steve Jobs's first girlfriend
and mother of his first child, Lisa)

D8dec_steve_jobs_bio_2At last count, the Dunham family has accumulated 10 Apple products: 1 iMac desktop, 2 laptops (Pro and PowerBook G4), 1 iPad, 2 iPhones, 1 iTouch, and 3 iPods (2 Nanos and 1 Shuffle). One could say we've drunk the Apple Kool-Aid to the dregs: we love the products, have little to no trouble with them (other than sharing), and are big Apple advocates/evangelists (as of this Thanksgiving, we'll have convinced and equipped both sets of grandparents to go Mac).

Indeed, we meet the criteria for membership in the so-called Apple Cult, but this didn't make reading Walter Isaacson's painfully honest 600-page biography of Apple's founder, Steve Jobs, any easier. Even as I write this (on my MacBook Pro), I wonder to what degree my own desire for digital enlightement supported the cruelty that produced it.

Though the first 50 pages of Isaacson's book seem clunky (especially when compared with his other biographical works like Benjamin Franklin and Einstein), part of this had to do with the fact that I was reading a completed biography of a man who had just died two months previous (Jobs had asked Isaacson several years earlier to start work on his biography when he was diganosed with pancreatic cancer). For this reason – combined with the fact that forty years of my life had overlapped with much of Jobs's work during his 56 years – it was a different experience than reading about more historical personalities who lived and died 200, 100, or even 50 years previous.

But examples of Jobs's harsh leadership style didn't help, either:

"(Jobs) was flying high, but this did not serve to make him more mellow. Indeed there was a memorable dispaly of his brutal honesty when he stood in front of the combined Lisa and Macintosh teams to describe how they would be merged. His Macitosh group leaders would get all of the top positions, he said, and a quarter of the Lisa staff would be laid off. 'You guys failed,' he said, looking directly at those who had worked on the Lisa. 'You're a B team. B players. Too many people here are B or C players, so today we are releasing some of you to have the opportunity to work at our sister companies here in the valley.'

Bill Atkinson, who had worked on both teams, thought it was not only callous, but unfair. 'These people had worked really hard and were brilliant engineers,' he said. But Jobs had latched onto what he believed was a key management lesson from his Macintosh experience. You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. 'It's too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and they then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players,' he recalled. 'The Macintosh experience taught me that A players like to work only with other A players, which means you can't indulge B players.'" (p. 181)

Here's another recollection – same song, different verse:

"Right after he came back from his operation, he didn't do the humilation bit as much,' (chief software engineer Avadis 'Avie') Tevanian recalled. 'If he was displeased, he might scream and get hopping mad and use expletives, but he wouldn't do it in a way that would totally destory the person he was talking to. It was just his way to get the person to do a better job.' Tevananian reflected for a moment as he said this, then added a caveat: 'Unless he thought someone was really bad and had to go, which happened every once in a while.' Eventually, however, the rough edges returned." (p. 461)

It was interesting how Jobs's Zen Buddhist beliefs informed (or didn't) his life. Isaacson records Jobs' estranged daughter, Lisa (for whom his first computer was named), asking Jobs why he was so preoccupied with creating great material products when Buddhism does not recognize material things as being real or mattering? Jobs was quiet and never answered the question, but one could tell the inconsistency bothered him.

Though Jobs did not necessarily create anything completely "new" in the digital world (author Malcolm Gladwell asserts as much in the New Yorker a few weeks ago in his article, "The Tweaker: The Real Genius of Steve Jobs"), Jobs did redesign average products and redesign entire industries with his drive. In the last chapter of the book, Isaacson lists Jobs's contribution over three decades (some of his descriptions below could be given somewhat to hyperbole):

  • The Apple II, which took (Steve) Wozniak's circuit board and turned it into the first personal computer that was not just for hobbyists.
  • The Macintosh, which begat the home computer revolution and popularized graphical user interfaces.
  • Toy Story and other Pixar blockbusters which opened up the miracles of digital animation.
  • Apple stores, which reinvented the role of a store in defining a brand.
  • The iPod, which changed the way we consume music.
  • The iTunes Store, which saved the music industry.
  • The iPhone, which turned mobile phones into music, photography, video, email, and web devices.
  • The App Store, which spanwed a new content-creation industry.
  • The iPad, which launched tablet computing and offered a platform for digital newspapers, magazines, books, and videos.
  • iCloud, which demoted the computer from its central role in managing our content and let all of our devices sync seamlessly.
  • And Apple itself, which Jobs considered his greatest creation, a place where imagination was nurtured, applied, and executed in ways so creative that it became the most valuable company on earth.

To Isaacson's (and Jobs's) credit, the book is as honest as one might hope for in a biography. Isaacson does a good job drawing out the themes that play through Jobs's life: his life-long insecurity at having been given up for adoption as a newborn; his passion for minimalist, beautiful design; his philosophy that closed platforms make for ultimately better user experiences than open ones (Microsoft); and his belief that people don't know what they want until they see it (or in Jobs's mind, until he shows it to them).

While I've always thought of Jobs as the last of a dying breed of innovative entrepreneuers (as so wonderfully – if a bit expletively – captured in this brilliant news clip in The Onion), I see with new eyes what the price of progress actually was at Apple. Was it worth it? Many of those interviewed seemed to believe so, but more than a few of these same people also seemed relieved that Steve Jobs was gone.

iSad.

Redefining the Redefining of Homeschool

In Thought on November 15, 2011 at 6:55 am

In my previous post, I mentioned our re-branding efforts here at Veritas. It turns out we're re-branding our re-branding efforts a bit. Let me explain.

Last week, we hosted one of our Rhetoric Rallies, at which I unveiled the full brochure (now available for download here) to 25 Upper School parents and students. In conversation after the meeting, a dad from our Central Campus asked about the cover of the brochure and wondered if there might be two different covers printed – Home|School Redefined and Education Redefined – so as not to limit our audience to only homeschoolers. The dad didn't think we needed to change any of the verbiage on the inside, just the cover.

We talked pros and cons (broader audience is good, but not if that audience isn't ready for what our blended model requires; then again, how does someone find out about our blended model if they don't read past the cover?) and I told him I'd think about it. I knew that cost would be prohibitive and we could only afford one cover, but I didn't want to limit anyone's interest in what we do, regardless of whether they chose to join us or not. Driving home that night, I prayed and decided to sleep on it.

Early the next morning, in response to my previous day's request for feedback at our Parent Partnership Association Facebook page, I had a message from a young mom at our North Campus who asked the same question and made the same point as the dad did the night before. Interesting, I thought (and timely – I had to make a decision that day).

An hour later, I ran the change by one of our board members dropping her kids off for school; she agreed with the parents' thinking. I ran it by several of my Admin Team; they agreed. This felt like a conspiracy – but a good one – so, we made the change and I'm glad we did. Indeed, we're redefining homeschool through our blended model, but ultimately the broader redefinition is of education itself. We're specific about how we do this at Veritas, but plenty of Oklahoma City parents are experiencing a need for change (calls for "education reform," anyone?), so why limit their interest in our solution?

I'm grateful to our parents, board, and staff for their feedback. The new cover is below.

Brochure (website)

Home|School Redefined

In Thought on November 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

We are in the process of re-branding Veritas Classical Academy, leveraging more the blended model aspect of the classical Christian education we provide, while (honestly) combatting stigmas sometimes associated with homeschoolers.

One way to accomplish this is through language; another is through visuals. With this in mind, here's my (Craig's) Head of School letter, along with the cover to our new Veritas brochure, which is going to print later this week. (Note: Rather than open right to left, the cover and rest of the brochure actually opens down the middle; thus, the "split" idea between home | school.)

For those so inclined (particularly any not associated with Veritas), I'd be interested in your initial response/reaction to what you read/see. In evaluating the cover and copy below, what do you discern about our school? How would you verbalize it? What responses (if any) do either elicit from you?

Cover (Website Big)

Dear Friend,

At Veritas Classical Academy, our goals for our students are much bigger than just educating them; in a world as complicated as ours, they have to be. 

Education without moral formation is insufficient. Students may learn many things, but unless these form and transform them, even the best ideas are little more than a chasing after the wind.

At Veritas, “homeschool redefined” means:

  • Qualified, professional teachers instructing covenant children through classical means
  • Committed, intentional parents partnering with teachers on a set curriculum in a blended school model
  • Engaged, eager students learning to love and pursue Knowledge, Wisdom, Goodness, and Beauty in accordance with biblical truth for the glory of God

College prep is not preparation enough; we’re a Kingdom-preparatory school. By way of our classical Christian curriculum, students learn that competency requires character, that virtues trump values, and that faithfully pursuing vocation – and not just a career – is key to a fruitful life.

Regardless of next steps – apprenticeship, college, gap year travel, military service, workforce – we endeavor to prepare students intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically to be about God’s work and Word in the world. 

We invite you to join us in this experience of “homeschool redefined.” Visit our website, give us a call, or talk with one of our many families in the Oklahoma City metro about why they love Veritas.

Craig Dunham
Head of School

Thanks for your thoughtful and honest feedback.

Gone in 60 Minutes

In Thought on November 5, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Much to my delight, Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, which means we "fall back" one hour and return to "standard" time. Perhaps you share my same thought: it will really be nice to get up with daylight.

Lewis Mumford, in his 1934 book, Technics and Civilization, argued that the most impacting invention of the past 800 years was not the printing press or electricity, but the clock (created in the 1300s). Mumford explained that the Israelites were "time keepers" who evaluated their days by seasonal watches, the Romans were "time savers" who broke their days up into hours, but we Americans are "time servers," fragmenting our days into minutes and even seconds (and driving ourselves crazy in the process).

Former New York University professor, Neil Postman, quoting Mumford's theory in Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, summarized our preoccupation this way:

“We learned irreverence toward the sun and seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded. The clock introduced a new form of conversation between man and God, in which God appears to have been the loser. Perhaps Moses should have included another commandment: Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time."

I'm guessing we're all glad for the extra 60 minutes in our weekend, but how do we plan to use them? Perhaps the best use of that extra hour would be confessing our sin of worshipping the clock instead of the Creator. For most of us, eternity is going to come as a shock in terms of time-keeping (i.e. there won't be any), so why not – even for an hour – attempt a sneak preview this weekend? Perhaps we can pray anew the prayer of the psalmist when he wrote:

"So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:12

In light of the extra hour, why not call a family meeting this weekend, evaluate your calendars, and talk about these things with your kids? Let's bring them into this important conversation and talk honestly about our need to resist serving time in order to serve the God who transcends time instead.

Have a good and long(er) weekend.

Guest Post: Career vs. Vocation (Part 3)

In Educators on November 4, 2011 at 7:31 am

Wedel, Todd(The following is the final in a three-part series on the question of career versus vocation – a key distinction parents need to help their students wrestle with as they consider future education and life goals. This series is authored by Todd J. Wedel, Veritas Classical Academy Grammar School principal and Rhetoric School teacher.)

Such an emphasis on the “weak things” may raise an objection, that to seek a position of prominence is what we should desire, the chance to influence civilization and culture. Indeed, those are noble and godly goals, but the means and mindset matter—a godly end if pursued for a selfish reason ceases to be a godly end.

If we are career-minded, we desire a position to institute change. Our thinking runs something such as, “If I were but to be in such a position, I would. . .” Inherent in this reasoning are two subtle dangers. The first is that I am inevitably judging the person who occupies the position I would attain. I desire his or her removal. And I believe that I can know what to do and what I would do without knowing all that that person endures, thinks of, processes, deals with, and is.

The second is that I believe that it is through position that God changes the world. But get the right people in the right positions, and the world becomes what we would want it to be. We devise a formula for redemption and reconciliation, and, we maintain, if this formula is fulfilled, there is no need for God, for it is a matter of the great “I” doing what I would do that the world will be changed not a matter of the great “I AM” doing through me or through another what only He can do.

We forget that Paul reminds us that not many were called who were strong or wise or of measure in the world, though not  many does mean a few, but that it is those apparently weak and foolish and negligible whom God desires and uses, that it is He who calls into being what has not been; He has no need of us, but is pleased to use His people to participate in His work. And He can use men and women of mean position to accomplish high purposes.

It is instructive to ponder here two examples of men of great position, Joseph and Daniel. Their stories are greatly parallel—both taken from their homeland, both cast into darkness and dungeon, both rescued because of gifts given and opportunities created by God, both raised to positions of power and authority, both used for the good of God’s people. Both are certainly gifted, but it is not their gifts that gain power and authority. Had not pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar both had dreams from God, both would have languished in prisons, Joseph at least possibly slain. 

Or the greatest example of power and authority, Christ who attains His throne by means of the cross. He cannot be raised if He is not slain. He ministers to the sick and the lame and raises the dead, all of whom will fall prey to the curses of the Fall again in time. He teaches and instructs multitudes, many of whom will soon cry out for his crucifixion. He includes within His closest disciples the son of perdition who will betray Him to His death. And what of those works returned to Him void? Not one, for God promises that His word never returns to Him void; it accomplishes that for which He sends it. God’s Word accomplished all, not just at the cross but in those three years, and in the years previous of which we have little knowledge, all that He was to do. 

If our vocation is to be the offering our life and service to God, then should we not see that the tendency of our vocations should always be the cross? As a teacher, how do I know that I have done enough? As Matt Whitling has said, when I have sacrificed myself for my students. As a teacher, what do I desire for my students? That they, too, sacrifice themselves for others. Learning is sacrifice if seen as vocation. If seen with career in mind, it is selfish and self-centered.

As a teacher, if I see teaching as a career, my students either aid my ends or inhibit them. I am pleased when they perform as I wish and grow angered when they do not. They are pleased with me when they perform as they believe they should or at least receive the recognition they believe they deserve and grow embittered when they do not. Both they and I cease to relate, cease to love, and instead bite and devour one another in the pursuit of what ends in death. And if so taught, will this not be the pattern of our lives?

What then of this distinction?  What of the choice between career and vocation? How can we know? The question is the motive; the significance is the heart. 

This must be our view for our students; to demand a path of success and attainment is to commit and demand commitment where God simply calls for submission. But this “simple” submission is the way of the cross, the way of Christ, the only way that leads to where all learning and all endeavors must have their end, in the joy of the presence of the pleasure of God.

Guest Post: Career vs. Vocation (Part 2)

In Educators on November 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

Wedel, Todd

(The following is the second in a three-part series on the question of career versus vocation – a key distinction parents need to help their students wrestle with as they consider future education and life goals. This series is authored by Todd J. Wedel, Veritas Classical Academy Grammar School principal and Rhetoric School teacher.)

The “good” career mind is more insidious than obvious. At OU, I taught many students in the HR department who desired, from what I could tell, to earnestly earn degrees and move into fields that would serve others and forward positive change in the world, changes I could assent to—aiding those in poverty, seeking racial reconciliation, working for peace. At surface, they appeared to be seeking a vocation, a calling, for were they not desiring an end to serve others?

Yet for so many, their education, if not something that suited their vision of the end, was an impediment. I was an obstacle. The material was a burden. The skills were irrelevant. You see, they had subtly brought a career mind—what suited their ends, even their view of service, was valuable; what did not suit those ends was not.

Now, lest I sound too judgmental, I am not saying that these may not have brought real change and service; what I am saying is that if this was their attitude towards education, would it not be their attitude in their profession? Those they served could so easily become objectified, becoming objects to be served instead of people to serve. Those they would seek to aid would be seen as worthy of aid if they fit the paradigm, fit the program, fit the model. Only what suits the end is valuable; what does not is negligible.

Once we find ourselves in this mindset, it is we, not those we serve, who become the determinants of value and need. Why learn about someone if they will not be served? Why seek to work with an individual or group if they will not change? We become, at heart, great pragmatists, of the worst sort, for our ends seem noble and generous, good and righteous, but in the name of helping humanity, we ignore people. You see, how they, as students, saw learning, so they would see people. 

In contrast, our submission to a vocation means that we do, in fact, seek excellence, but our desire for excellence is for faithfulness. We see our call to be excellent whether advancement or acclaim come or go; we may, indeed, apply for promotions, seek greater responsibility, greater positions of authority, but we seek these patiently and waiting. It is God who justifies and approves, and if it is His approval to give advancement, then that is His will; if not, His will again. 

Or perhaps it is better to say we do not, ever, seek advancement. What we seek are simply greater avenues for service. Unlike the career, in which greater position means greater responsibility to the job and perhaps over people, the vocation sees greater position as greater responsibility to God and always in service to people. A career mindset will always seem others as a means or an impediment; a vocation mindset will always see others first, self and position last.

So our doctor and our hairdresser may each seek career as described or they may seek vocation. They may seek service. It is easy to conceive of the doctor in this way, and I am sure we all know many of whom this could be said. But what of the hairdresser? In what way can she or he serve? I will but note that such a position, as radical as this may sound, may participate in the redemption of the world. If beauty is valuable, then the hairdresser can participate in that work. However, such an endeavor must take thought and care to not simply perpetuate our culture’s obsession with surface things and cheap obsessions. Or in a much more basic, and perhaps therefore more radical measure, he could simply love the people whom he serves.

Our culture is one of overwhelming interaction but little sense of investment or community. It is often people in such positions that can be the most basic of all elements of redemption—valuing the individual before them, listening, engaging, expressing interest and concern. These things, these apparently base and common actions, are the “weak things” of the world that God can use to confound the strong.

(To be continued)