Because life is a series of edits

Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

At Last: The Beginning’s End

In Parents, Students, Veritas on August 31, 2012 at 3:29 pm


End AugustIt is with great joy that I declare August to
be officially over.

Perhaps you share my relief. It's not that I don't like
August as a month or think less of it than the others; nor do I have a silly
conviction (religious or otherwise) that bids me to boycott these 31 days
between end of July and beginning of September.

I'm just glad it's over. Do I have to have a reason? 

My friend, Bill
Petro
, has tracked down some history on this month of angst…er, August.
He writes:

"The name of this month wasn’t always August;
previously it was called Sextilis by the Romans. The Roman Senate, in 8
B.C., decided to honor their first Emperor, Augustus Caesar, by changing
the name of the month to Augustus. Now Augustus wasn’t his name; it was more of
a description of his importance. He was born as Gaius Octavius, though he is
known in the history books as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or
Octavius to his friends. The word augustus in Latin means 'venerable' or 'consecrated,' coming from the root augur which means to 'consecrate by
augury.' We use the term in English to describe someone auspicious, grand or
lordly…or with imperial qualities."

Auspicious? Grand? Lordly? With imperial qualities? August didn't feel like
any of those. I was thinking more along the lines of daunting, relentless,
unforgiving, and hot, but that's me. Yet as we finish up this month of
many adjectives, maybe it wasn't so bad. Maybe I need to think a little more in
terms of positive degrees:

  • We have a better-oriented parent and staff
    community than we had a month ago due to our WISE
    conferences
  • We have an athletic
    team
    that didn't exist back in July, as well as a new
    mascot
    that our students really seem to like
  • We have a new Portrait of a
    Graduate
    poster and advising resources
    that weren't around until this month
  • We've gotten to know each other more than we did
    even 31 days ago, which has to count for something

Most importantly, we have students – 20% more than last
year, in fact! – which is something we never take for
granted. 

Perhaps like Augustus, the important thing about the month
of August isn't its name but its significance as the month that officially
starts our school year. With few exceptions, we've had a good one, and I want
to say thanks to all of our parents, students, and staff for your part in it.
In God's sovereignty and only by his preserving grace, we are a part of
something very special.

Bring on Labor
Day
!

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A (Home) Day in the Life

In Parents, Students on August 29, 2012 at 8:59 am


HomeschoolDadLate last night, I got an email from North Campus Principal
Todd Wedel informing me that we had a teacher feeling under the weather and
asking if Megan could serve as a substitute.

Megan did this as a last resort at the Central Campus last
year since that’s where our girls (13, 12, 10, 8) are, but this would be a
Wednesday. A home day Wednesday. I
mention the significance of the day of the week because the implication of her
subbing today means Head of School Daddy has to step up.

As Rahm Emanuel once infamously said, “Never waste a crisis.” So,
here’s an only-slightly-edited live-blog look at Daddy Home Day. Proceed with
caution.

5:22 – Wake up without alarm. Feeling okay about changing
things up today as it's good for the Head of School to periodically "drink the Kool-Aid" of the blended model, so to speak. I don’t get to do home days often, so this will be fun. Idea:
live-blog home day!

6:28 – Leave house to take 12-year-old to cross country
practice. Get an email from Megan before she leaves detailing lunch and
house-tidying plans (forgot her parents are coming from Tulsa around 1 p.m. for
a three-day visit). Towards the end, she writes: “I know you can do it, but I’ve been doing it for a year
and have developed the ‘Only I can do this’ syndrome. It will be good for me to
trust you with making sure everything is signed off and completed.” Geez. No
pressure.

7:36 – Sitting in car waiting for cross-country practice to
finish; extended quiet good for planning/praying. Text Admin Team to keep them
in the loop: “I was planning to be in today, but North Campus needed a last
minute substitute so Megan’s heading north. This means I’m running home day.
You can still reach me, though, so feel free. In fact, my children may need you
to."

9:12 – Inform girls that Shaun the Sheep is not part of Veritas curriculum. Key to success: utilization/specialization of space. Class begins.

10:42 – Read/work through math, scientific taxonomy of animals, and a bit of Latin with younger two; older two (plus friend over for the day to study) doing well on their own (history presentation on American colonies; vocabulary). Still feels like morning, but won't when 11 o'clock hour rolls around. Already fending off requests for lunch; must find caterer's number.

12:05 – Lunch served (tuna sandwiches all around). Trying to ask about progress without defaulting to the all too-easy "How much homework do you have left?" – sends the wrong message (i.e. "finished equals learning"). Asking girls to rather explain what they've done and what they've gleaned from their efforts (while peeking at their assignment lists). Good focus this morning; we'll see where we land by mid-afternoon.

1:13 – Working with eight-year-old on handwriting, we walk through page in book about good posture, proper grip, etc. Grab nearest book (Anne of Green Gables) and ask her to practice writing by copying back cover blurb. She writes the following:

"Once you abort Anne Shirley, the orphan girl of Green Gables, you will never forget her – and her many mishaps, dreams, and joys."

Good teachable lesson about being careful to include all necessary words (read) and write them legibly (about).

1:40 – Eighth grade Algebra threatens to derail eighth graders (daughter and friend). Alert raised to Defcon 3; immediate intervention required.

2:30 – Nuclear threat avoided; return to Defcon 5.

3:05 – Able to deal with a few of my own school-related things as homework wraps up. Proud of girls for gutting it out (one still working upstairs) and pleased with how they walked me through the day. Megan's hard work of training in previous school year is obvious, and I recognize I'm beneficiary of her efforts. Grateful.

3:14 – Ten-year-old boots up Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T." in iTunes to kick back after a long day. Did Megan teach her this as well?

3:27 – Must. Get. Off. Computer. Megan. Home. In. Thirty. Minutes.

4:05 – Pouring ice cold Coke Zero for our conquering hero as she returns from her quest to inspire Veritas students to pursue Knowledge, Wisdom, Goodness, and Beauty. Mommy's home (and there was much rejoicing).

No Longer A Slave to Fashion

In Pop Culture, Thought on August 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Star Spangled CraigMy 1976 modeling start in trendy patriotic wear, combined with my mid-80's experimentation in Miami casual wear, led to a fashion-despite-finances struggle through the latter part of the 90's and 00's. However, beginning in my mid-thirties and now into my forties, I can safely say without guilt or shame that I am no longer a slave to fashion.

Apparently, this does not surprise anyone but me. You see, I always thought of myself as a decent dresser ("decent" defined as things matching), but I'm coming to realize that I've turned into that guy who says he just doesn't care about keeping up with the latest styles not because I really don't, but because I'm simply too clueless to understand what they are anymore.

Jeans are a good example of my not picking up the ringing clue phone. Apparently, my light blue acid wash jeans – though perfectly functional and comfortable – are beyond suspect now; in a word, they are "out." I first wondered about this say, oh, ten years ago, when mine were the lightest color in any room, but now I know that jeans can't just be jeans anymore, particularly since the introduction a few years ago of the so-called "skinny jeans," which I have neither desire nor ability to wear.

A few weeks ago, my mother sent me a bunch of my dad's old short-sleeved shirts that he wasn't wearing. Mom has done this a few times in the past decade, and while conventional wisdom says I should be appalled to even think about wearing my father's clothes, I confess I appreciated the shirts and never once balked at wearing them. In fact, this latest bunch are nice enough (at least in my mind) that I'm happily getting rid of some from previous batches because I just don't need so many.

And then it hits me: I have not just turned into my father; I have gladly accepted his hand-me-downs. Somewhere Don Johnson is rolling over in his white sport coat.

Last week, one of my staff came to me with an envelope that had my name on it. She explained that she had recently come into some money from a business venture and had prayed how God would have her tithe and give part of it. Thinking she was giving toward our school, I thanked her for her gift and asked if she would like it applied to our scholarship fund or capital campaign. Perhaps somewhat embarrassed, she simply said I would know when I opened the card, which I did.

Inside was a $200 gift card in my name to The Men's Wearhouse. Was this a gift or a hint? Somewhere Philip Michael Thomas's hair just straightened.

This afternoon, I was at the Penn Square Mall, which happens to have a Men's Wearhouse store. Thinking back, I realized that the last time I bought clothes was four to five years ago – about my standard – in St. Louis, the experience of which actually included a pretty cool story (along with some good used clothes). Heading into the store here in OKC, I found (or he found me) Dan the Sales Guy, a sharp-dressed man in his early 50s who was very kind and very happy to make suggestions in answer to my asking the best way to spend $200 at his store.

I learned a couple of things from Dan: pleated pants are out; the smaller the pattern on a tie, the more formal it is considered; and The Men's Wearhouse and I have different opinions of what "fun" ties are (the store's idea of a plaid print as "mixing it up" didn't seem to compare with the Looney Tunes tie I own). Dan also seemed to hint that wearing plain white shirts (even with ties) was not all that hip anymore, but I can't bring myself to believe that, particularly when I own several white shirts and wear ties with them all the time.

Fortunately for me, the store was in its last week of a two-for-one sale, but even taking that into account, I was amazed at how fast $200 went. Dan helped me pick out two pairs of pants (flat in the front instead of pleated…ahem), two button-down shirts, and two ties, all of which mixed and matched together. I picked out two more ties that I liked and thought would be a good addition to my wardrobe, but while Dan was impressed with my choices, my taste was beyond what I could afford ($60 for a tie – even for two if you applied the sale) just seemed ridiculous to my school teacher sensibilities.

I asked Dan if he could tell I was no slave to fashion. He responded with a laugh and a grin, saying he had pegged me as such when I walked in and just hoped that the "trendy" clothes I was buying from him today would make it five years until my next spending spree. I assured him they would, took his card, and told him to put me down for a follow-up review in 2017.

Until then, I'll hang onto my dad's old shirts, sort through ties I've been wearing since the late 80's, and cull a few (but only a few) pairs of pants I bought back in the mid-90s. Surely pleats, floral print ties, and acid wash jeans will return at some point in my lifetime.

And when they do, I'll be ready for them.

Minority in the Sorority

In Family, Oklahoma City, Young Ones on August 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Craig with Girls at Meet the Teacher
Our North Campus started today and our Central Campus starts tomorrow. Our four girls are pretty excited to get back in the swing of Veritas. We had our annual Meet the Teacher event yesterday, when Megan snapped this photo of me with the ladies. Here we go!

Letter to My 8th Grade New Testament Parents

In Parents on August 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm

As school starts in two days and as I'm teaching New Testament to eighth graders this year, I thought it might be a good idea to send a personal note to my students' parents before we get started. I'm grateful for the relationship I already have with many of them to feel comfortable enough to send this.

Dear 8th Grade New Testament Class Parents,

It was good seeing some of you at the WISE Parent Training Conferences
this past weekend, as well as some of you at Meet the Teacher today.
Thanks for making the effort to come.

As we all finish up preparations before school starts on Thursday, I wanted to touch base on a couple of things:

1) I've posted my contact information on my RenWeb page, so if you or
your student needs to reach me, all the details are there. The good news
is that, as one of only two full-time Veritas staff, I have the
privilege of being available for questions just about whenever you might
have them. The other news, of course, is that as Head of School, the
hours of that availability vary week to week and often day to day,
depending if I'm at either campus, in meetings with parents, students,
and staff, or dealing with the crisis du jour (of which there are very
few).

That said, you're welcome to try me whenever it's convenient, but if you
could first take a look at the different response categories I've
listed for each form of communication, that might help me sort out your
need on the front end. (Note: Please don't begrudge other teachers
having to set more narrow or specific hours than mine; as part-time
educators with other roles and responsibilities to make ends meet, it's
unfair to expect them to respond in a full-time capacity when they're
homeschooling their own kids or working part-time jobs to teach ours.)

2) In addition to the contact information, I've posted the first several
week's worth of lesson plans. My goal is to always be a couple weeks
out with them, and I'll do my best to make them as clear as possible. If
something changes, I'll always send out an email in plenty of time
letting you know. As you have feedback or questions, please contact me.
I'll post the syllabus for the course before class on Thursday, as I'm
tweaking a few things and would like the chance to review them one last
time before publishing it.

3) Finally, a word about New Testament class. Despite being
seminary
-trained and having taught New Testament multiple years to logic
and rhetoric school-aged students, this will be my first time teaching
this particular class within our blended model. As you can imagine,
challenges of time and selection abound, but all of them can be overcome
as long as we understand our goals here. I'll cover a lot of what I'm
thinking on this in the syllabus (so there's an actual reason to read
it!), but perhaps the most important thing I'd like to suggest is that
both you and your student commit (with me) to having a spirit of
teachability as we read and study the New Testament.

In my experience with students – particularly those who have been raised
in the Church and in Christian families – Bible class often gets
thought of as a "been there, done that" endeavor. This leads to students
not taking seriously the text because of its familiarity, thereby
writing it off as a book they've already "read." What we must help our
students understand is that we don't just read the Bible, the Bible
reads us – often speaking to, for, and even against us as God's Spirit
uses His chosen means to speak into our lives. I want our kids to get
that.

In my experience with parents – regardless of whether they have been
Christians for a short or long amount of time – Bible class should line
up with what we've always been taught or believed…or else. This leads
to parents often being dogmatic about what the Bible just isn't dogmatic
about (or conversely, being lacksadaisical about what the Bible isn't
lacksadaisical about), and students get confused about what may
be "true" as much as finding and inculcating what such "truth" might mean. (To
be clear, I believe truth exists, that it all belongs to God, and that
He has made enough of it known to us so that we may love, trust, and
follow Him.)

Rest assured, as both a Christian and as Head of School teaching New
Testament, my intention is not to resort to novelty or heresy in
response to either of the aforementioned scenarios. I would ask all of
us, however, as we set out on our studies, that we begin even now
to cultivate a humble and teachable spirit toward God, His Word, His
Spirit, and each other, that all may lead us to love and be more like
His Son, Jesus. It will be interesting to see how God works in our 8th
grade micro-community, as working in community is always how God works.

All this said (and I'm sorry for my wordiness here), I'm looking forward
to having your student in New Testament and am trusting that
God's desire for us to be His people and Him to be our God would be
realized in our class. Thanks for the opportunity to share these
thoughts with you. By God's grace, it's going to be a good year.

Soli deo gloria,

Craig

The WISE Parent Training Conferences

In Books, Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Veritas on August 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm

VCA WISE Logo (Low Res)As a former conference director, I know firsthand the value of taking a day or two (or longer) to focus with likeminded others and attempt to learn, think, talk, feel, and do differently and (hopefully) better. The time can be challenging, but is almost always encouraging as well.

This past summer, through the generous contribution of our school community, 42 of our Veritas staff and parents experienced this challenge and camaraderie at the Association of Classical & Christian Schools conference in Dallas. Coming home, we all wanted our Veritas community to have the opportunity to participate in what we had experienced. Through a lot of hard work by so many, now they can.

I'm thrilled to have parents join us for our first ever WISE (Walking in Step Educationally) Parent Training Conference – a gathering we hope will become an annual event to help our families and our school continue to improve our unique blended model of classical Christian education. It’s important for us to be together for two reasons:

  1. We all need renewed clarity (and help) regarding our roles in this partnership. As a school, we are “in loco parentis” – in the place of parents, but not in place of parents. We would be wrong to assume more responsibility than appropriate in teaching these kids, but this has implications for parents in our blended model that they not abdicate their responsibility either. We all have much to continue to learn about the big picture and details of a blended model of classical Christian education.
  2. We all need the opportunity to renew our covenant with each other in our relationship. This is why we’ve asked our staff to join our parents in this time together to re-affirm (or affirm for the first time for all our new families and staff) our relational covenant with each other. To learn, think, talk, feel, or do any of this well, we need to be present together to do it – not just in the same location or in the same building, but in our hearts as well.

The WISE Conferences are our best shot at meeting both of these goals before school starts later this month. We hosted the first one at our North Campus last weekend, and this coming weekend is all about our Central Campus. My hope is that our steps both weekends will be only the first of many as we seek God along our classical Christian education journey.

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (6)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on August 3, 2012 at 10:16 pm

DTK cover

Quotes from chapter six, "A Christian University Is for Lovers":

"What is education for? And more specifically, what is a distinctly Christian education for? But since we first asked the question, I hope we've come to appreciate three things: First, we humans are liturgical animals, whose fundamental orientation to the world is governed not primarily by what we think but by what we love, what we desire…Second, some practices are 'thicker' than others – rituals of ultimate concern that are bent on shaping our most fundamental wants and desires, trying to make us the kind of people who desire a vision of the kingdom that is antithetical to the kingdom of God…Third, Christianity is not only (or even primarily) a set of cognitive, heady beliefs; Christianity not fundamentally a worldview; rather, Christian practices, and particularly the practices of Christian worship, are the matrix for what can be articulated as a 'Christian world.'" (p. 215-216)

"But what if that's not enough? Or worse, what if a Christian perspective turns out to be a way of domesticating the radicality of the gospel? What if the rather abstract formulas of a Christian worldview turn out to be a way to tame and blunt the radical call to be a disciple of the coming kingdom? Could it be the case that learning a Christian perspective doesn't actually touch my desire, and that while I might be able to think about the world from a Christian perspective, at the end of the day I love not the kingdom of God but rather the kingdom of the market?" (p. 218)

"In too many cases, a Christian perspective doesn't seem to challenge the very configuration of these careers and vocations. To be blunt, our Christian colleges and universities generate an army of alumni who look pretty much like all the rest of their suburban neighbors, except that our graduates drive SUVs, inhabit their executive homes, and pursue the frenetic life of the middle class and the corporate ladder 'from a Christian perspective'…Such an approach reduces Christianity to a denuded intellectual framework that has diminished bite because such an intellectualized rendition of the faith doesn't touch our core passions." (p. 219)

"The domestication of Christianity as a perspective does little to disturb or reorient our practices; rather, it too often becomes a way of affirming the configurations of culture that we find around us – we just do what everyone else does 'plus Jesus'…What's the alternative? If Christian education is not merely about acquiring a Christian perspective or a Christian worldview, what is its goal? Its goal, I'm suggesting, is the same as the goal of Christian worship: to form radical disciples of Jesus and citizens of the baptismal city who, communally, take up the creational task of being God's image bearers, unfolding the cultural possibilities latent in creation – but doing so as empowered by the Spirit, following the example of Jesus's cruciform cultural labor." (p. 220)

"If the Christian university's motto is, 'I believe in order to understand,' the ecclesial university's motto is, 'I worship in order to understand.'" (p. 223)

"One of the most crucial things to appreciate about Christian formation is that it happens over time…Christian education 'takes practice.'" (p. 226, 230)