Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Parents’ Category

The Way We “Wrestle” Is to Pray

In Calling, Church, Educators, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Parents, Places & Spaces, The Academy, Young Ones on February 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Wrist Prayer

Jesus was never one to over-spiritualize, but he did talk frankly of the Devil and his demons being at work in the world.

Following Jesus’ lead, I don’t want to over-spiritualize, either; yet multiple conversations with many of you in recent weeks have combined with my own acute sense of need to compel me to remind friends that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:2).

The way we “wrestle” is to pray.

Because God is at work in the world, Satan wants to be as well. Depression, doubt, insecurity, fear – these are all evils from the pit of Hell, and multiple families are experiencing these attacks in various manifestations in the midst of physical sickness and mental weariness of late. Recently, we’ve had students and staff members who have been in the hospital for a variety of (odd) reasons, moms and dads who are struggling through hard life decisions, and just about all of us (my own family included) who are dealing with situations that are unfamiliar and out of our control.

To top it all off, we just finished a 12-day streak of some of the worst winter weather Oklahoma City has seen in a while, which can play havoc with our emotions as much as anything else.

Of course, not all of these trials are in and of themselves evil, but the discouragement that can accompany them (along with the often self-inflicted feeling of faithlessness in our handling them) can easily be used against us. Trust – in God, in each other – can erode, and Satan would like nothing more than to wash away all we have worked so hard to achieve.

With all this on hearts and minds, most of us are aware of at least one person or scenario in need of help. Would you ask the Lord to act in accordance with his “good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) in providing it? As Jesus does in his prayer in Matthew 6, let me also encourage you to ask the Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Satan does not need more of a foothold in anyone’s life.

I’m not asking anyone to make lists or track answers; I’m just asking us – you and me – to take some time this weekend to pray, that God may meet us in our need, do what he wants through it, reassure us of his love in it, and be glorified as a result of it.

“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

From The (Online) Book of Common Prayer

(The pictured wrist above belongs to my friend, Jerome Loughridge, who wrote out the names of several of our school staff on his arm to remind himself to pray over the weekend. I was privileged to make the wrist…er, list.)

Wait No More Oklahoma

In Calling, Church, Family, Humanity, Oklahoma City, Parents, Places & Spaces on October 11, 2013 at 11:27 am


Here’s a video we were privileged to be a part of for the upcoming Wait No More Oklahoma City foster care event, Saturday, October 26, at Crossings Community Church.

We’re Off Like a Herd of Turtles

In Parents, Students, Teachers, The Academy on June 6, 2013 at 10:55 am


I’m not even sure I can put into words the swirl of thoughts and emotions that I find myself consumed by these days as I think about The Academy of Classical Christian Studies. Perhaps like you, I am a concoction of wonder, doubt, fear, worry, hope, excitement, and faith concerning our new school.

There was a recent episode of The Office (or so I’ve heard) in which one of the characters muses “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” I resonate with the thought, especially on the heels of a last-minute trip I took to St. Louis to watch the boys I coached two years ago as freshmen and sophomores win their third straight state baseball championship. The weekend was a good weekend because those days were good days.

What about now? Have we just left the best days we’ve known as Providence Hall and Veritas, or are there new ones God has planned for The Academy?

I think we all know what the answer is; the question is, do we believe – really believe – it? I confess it’s been more than once that Nathan Carr and I have thought about what it would have been like to not investigate, instigate, and implement our new school. Life already seems more complicated since we were separate entities, but we’re not separate anymore (at least not legally as of June 1), and both of us hope this isn’t a mistake.

I honestly don’t think it is, but I can’t definitively say it’s for the best either, at least not yet. I have no immense amounts of evidence, no undeniable proof yet of this being for the good. I think it will be and I’m betting it will be, but I don’t know. The only thing I know is that we’re all once about to embrace a whole lot of work and risk and hope and pressure that I’m praying will – in two years, in five years, in ten years – seem silly to remember as such.

Like you, I want to have the sense that Jesus is leading, willing, and able to engage with us in the midst of all that we’re trying to do. I don’t doubt his hand, nor do I sense his absence, but it will take time to look back and identify a prolonged confidence of rightness about all of this. The fact is we’re all a little bit nervous.

I won’t pretend: I’m sometimes at a loss as to how to really pull this off. A majority of us have experience in education, but few of us can say we’ve ever merged two schools into one, nor have many of us even seen it attempted or done well. Maybe it won’t be as hard as I think it will be…or maybe it will be. Regardless, that shouldn’t stop us; we have the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and each other – I’m not sure there’s anything more we need.

Obviously, all of this would be easier if decisions could be purely objective, if opportunities could be evaluated one-dimensionally, and if nobody involved really cared about any of it. The reality, however, is our decisions involve real people, our opportunities are multi-layered, and we are a school filled with passionate people – board members, families, parents, faculty, staff, and students – who really care. If we’re not careful, this could be a train wreck waiting to happen.

But it’s also an amazing chance to believe God for something more – something more than we think we’re even capable of believing. As we step out in faith, I want to ask you to commit with me in our relational covenant – that 1) we would believe the best in one another; that 2) we would stand shoulder with one another; and that 3) we would talk to and not about one another as we endeavor to move forward as The Academy of Classical Christian Studies.

Healthy things grow beautifully into the way they were designed to grow; unhealthy things mutate – often into ugly and dysfunctional things that eventually die. Our relationships are the key to our growth and whether that growth is healthy or not.

Are we really going to pull this off? Is it really possible to grow our new school into what we hope it will become?

You and I both know that if God’s answer is “yes,” then so should ours be. In the past eight months – while working with dozens of godly and talented people from both schools – there have been plenty of opportunities for the possibility of God to say “no,” but that word has not seemed to come.

Instead, we have felt confident to move forward, even though we see in a mirror dimly, but hope to one day see more face to face; despite the fact that we know only in part but trust to know one day fully, even as we have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). I’m grateful for your willingness to go with us and pledge to you to lead you and follow Christ as best I can.

“If there is an end for all we do, it will be the good achievable by action.” Aristotle

Let’s do this!

The Unexamined Summer?

In Books, Parents, Students, Veritas on May 17, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I’ve been reading an excellent book entitled, When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian Thought, by John Mark Reynolds, Provost at Houston Baptist University. Reynolds’ thesis is that reason and faith need to remain good neighbors within the City/Kingdom of God, for this pairing of the two is what true classical Christian education is.

But (and here’s the rub), it’s difficult and takes work. He writes:

“Thinking may be hard at first, but it is addictive with practice. People created in God’s image will ask questions, and questions demand answers. Answers seem to be what questions are for, but the Greeks soon realized that the first answers are not the end of the process. Good answers lead to better questions, and these questions keep the process of learning alive. It is possible to find a single truth, but one truth has a tendency to lead to the search for another, just as eating one honest-to-goodness potato chip generally demands a second. People began to question the old answers, sometimes finding them satisfying, sometimes not.”

As we’re one week away from school ending and summer beginning, it might be a good idea – both for us and for our students – to think about how we might continue the question-asking and answer-seeking to keep the process of learning alive.

While we all are ready for a respite, classical Christian education calls us to make sure it’s only that – a respite. There are too many questions ask, too many answers to seek!

What book(s) are we thinking of reading this summer? What documentaries are we thinking of watching? What journaling are we thinking of doing? What field trips are we planning? What museums are we visiting? What parts of nature are we exploring? What conversations are we hoping to have? What subjects are we wanting to study? And who might be able and willing to help us with any of this?

I realize that next week is probably not the week to get all this down on paper…but the week after might be! And I’m not advocating a schedule that resembles the school year, but I’m not advocating a vacation to Slug Island either. Many of us have as much to do across summer as the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fight for some time to ask ourselves what answers we’re finding satisfying, and what answers we aren’t.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Let’s make sure this can’t be said about our upcoming summer, either for our student(s) or for ourselves.

Easter Sunday Slogan or Real-World Reality?

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Veritas on March 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Tomb-21

If you’ve been alive the past seven days, you know it’s been quite a week for our nation. I won’t rehash the events of the Supreme Court hearings in this email (though you’re welcome to read my personal thoughts here), but it’s ironic (or perhaps not) that so much of the vitriol of the debate has coincided with Holy Week. If anything, the events of this week have reminded me that we – that I – need Good Friday and Easter as much as ever.

In our 8th grade New Testament class this week, we began our study of the book of Romans. I had asked students to have read the book before our discussion, and they came with questions not just about the text, but in light of the pink equal signs and crosses found across Facebook, about what Paul’s most systematic doctrinal treatise (and the latter half of its first chapter in particular) means for us today.

If you know some of our 8th graders, you know it was a spirited debate, not so much about right and wrong, but about the nuances of how Christians respond concerning both. We talked about how easy it is to make Romans 1 only about the topic of homosexuality, when what Paul is more fully describing is the process that leads to practicing such sin (as well as many others – see Romans 1:29-31) when God is not honored or given thanks.

These are the kinds of discussions that happen everyday at Veritas. Our goal is to teach students to respond, not just react; to appeal to cohesive biblical doctrines and virtues, not just decontextualized verses and proof texts; to think in solid logic, not just sound bytes. We want to help students learn to discuss and debate the nuances that come with the huge issues of our day, not for the sake of winning arguments, but for gently restoring a fallen world, for which Paul, in the first few chapters of Romans, reminds us that we are responsible and inhabit.

In true gospel (“good news”) fashion, there are 14 chapters after these first two, throughout which “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This hope is what we celebrate this Easter weekend, what we as Christians need, what the world in its fallenness requires to flourish, and with which we desire to educate our students.

“He is risen; he is risen indeed.” May this be less Easter Sunday slogan and more real-world reality for us and for our kids.

Humble Phone Calls

In Parents on March 26, 2013 at 10:00 am


Cs_phoneJust this morning (before 9 a.m.), I've already taken two phone calls from current Veritas parents in need of financial help.

The first call was from a mom trying to figure out how to pay for the remaining two months of school; the second was from a dad looking ahead trying to figure out how to pay for next year with a second student in the mix. Theirs were humble phone calls, and I was humbled to be on the receiving end of them.

These are real people with real stories. Both were acting responsibly (I always appreciate parents who take their contracts as seriously as we do); both were struggling with how to make ends meet; both were hopeful that I might have an idea as to what some options might be to move forward.

Both situations are good examples of why we raise scholarship funds. Our deadline to apply for scholarship help is April 1st, but there is no deadline to give (though we do hope to raise the remaining $8,000 of our 2013-14 $24,000 goal from December as part of our Not-a-Banquet fundraiser on April 12th).

If you're a Veritas family who needs financial help, we hope you'll apply for scholarship. If you're a Veritas family who doesn't, we hope you'll give.

I've already talked to two people this morning who I know would be grateful.

The Best Kind of Goodbye

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students on March 4, 2013 at 7:56 am

Goodbye_goodbye

In these months when families are finalizing schooling decisions for next year, sometimes plans change and we lose a student or two to out-of-town moves. We just received notice of this from one of our first-year families and, while we hate to lose them, if they have to say goodbye, this is the way we like to hear it.

"I just felt led to explain to you why we won't be returning to Veritas next year. My husband and I have been offered positions as young adult pastors at a church in Pryor and we will be moving to Claremore this summer.

Although we are both VERY excited about the direction God is taking us in, we are ALL very sad in realizing Veritas will not be an option for us next year. I cannot express to you how much we have enjoyed being at Veritas this year. Our daughter has learned so much and most importantly gained a deeper love for learning and the things of the Lord.

That being said, even though we will not be close enough to attend Veritas next year, we believe in the methods of the school so much that we would like to continue the same curriculum with our oldest next year, as well as with our younger daughter who will begin Pre-K. I would love your insight on how to maintain the classical learning and methods of Veritas while being solely a full time homeschool family. If you know of any 'part time' schools similar to Veritas I would also love your input.

And finally, if ever you find yourselves thinking 'Hey, a Tulsa Veritas is an option,' LET ME KNOW! My mother and I have tossed around the idea of starting something similar and she feels with my education background, it would be the perfect scenario. Although I appreciate her confidence in me, I'm not sure she realizes how much starting something up like this entails!

We appreciate the Veritas staff so much and their hearts for our children's education!"

Here at the beginning of March, we've already exceeded our current enrollment and spots are filling fast for 2013-14. If you've yet to enroll/re-enroll, go here!

Three Trust-Building Tales

In Parents, Students, Teachers, Veritas on March 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Trust
Story #1:
A Central Campus mom investigating other possible Christian school
options told me that, when she took her children in for that school's
admissions testing, she picked up on some "homeschool hesitancy" from
the admissions coordinator. Apparently, before the students had even
taken their tests, the admissions coordinator was already assuming that
they would most likely need some remediation over the summer. The
children, however, tested off the charts, so much so that the mom told
me the admissions coordinator told her afterward (and I quote), "I don't
know what they're teaching at Veritas, but our school may need to make a
phone call to find out."

Story #2: WISE Council Chair, Catherine Brown, called me to say she had been in a meeting with a producer at the local Fox affiliate here in OKC and mentioned our merger with Providence Hall as part of The Academy of Classical Christian Studies.
He thought it might make a good 3-minute studio interview and had one
of his program directors call me to set it up, which she did. Two hours
after that phone call, she called me back to say that she thought the
story of our two classical Christian schools coming together would be
better told if Fox 25 came to both campuses and interviewed students,
parents, and teachers as part of a full story instead. No argument here! They're calling me back in a couple of weeks to set up a date to film.

Story #3: Just
yesterday, I received a call from one of our office staff to tell me
there was a woman downstairs wanting to talk with me about hosting our
Grammar School next year. Confused, I asked if the woman happened to
mention if she had an appointment, because I wasn't aware I had one.
Indeed, the woman hadn't made an appointment, but had heard about our
need for a site for our Grammar School and had sought permission from
her church leadership to inquire about our need. Her church is just ten
minutes from First Baptist Moore, where our Upper School will be, and we met today to walk through the facility, bringing our number of total viable sites to three.

God is writing stories like these in and through the life of our school – we love hearing and sharing them and, despite the trust they often require, we want to be a part of them as God ordains. What story is God telling in and through your family?

On Being “Gifted”

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Veritas on February 18, 2013 at 9:48 am

Gifted

Whenever
parents describe their student as "highly gifted" (either because the
student has been identified as such by a school or because his parents
just think he is), their field of vision for that student's overall
development can narrow
tremendously, with the student's gifting (rather than his person)
becoming the lens through which all decisions (academic or otherwise)
get made.


The
same thing often happens if/when a student is particularly talented in a
sport or other extracurricular – that activity can become the prime
driver for all else at all costs, a mentality often reinforced by the
well-meaning words of coaches and instructors who understandably (at
least for their activity) demand this kind of narrow commitment.


At
Veritas, one of our goals as a school is to help students (and their
families) remember that they are not their gifts, academically or otherwise.
Yes, while our school is (and is considered) an educational institution
primarily, our vision for that education is a broad – not a narrow – one
in the tradition of a what a true classical liberal arts education is
and should be.


Make
no mistake, none of us (myself included) is perfect in our pursuit of
this kind of education as we're all more influenced by our culture's
call to "specialize or else" to get ahead, but if we rightly understand
classical Christian education, this is what we desire (or should).


To
that end, we offer a few electives (and plan to offer more), but they
aren't random ones just for the sake of offering them; they serve our
broader (not narrower) goal of exposing (not focusing) students in their
study of the world (our 9th grade Aesthetics course comes to mind). For instance, we provide training in faith defense and evangelism, just not in a
decontextualized or isolated "how-to" course (talk to my eighth graders
about what we just covered in Acts 17 in New Testament class).


Our
goal for Kindergarten is not to help students "get a jump on the
system" with an over-programmed, hyper-workload curriculum; rather, in
the context of whole of our trivium education (grammar, logic,
rhetoric), we want to establish and develop basic foundations of order,
discipline, and relational skills upon which each grade can build. We
will never have what some may desire to be a "rigorous" Kindergarten
curriculum because that's not what the whole of the child needs at that
stage.


All
that to say, in answer to the question of whether Veritas (and soon The
Academy
) will challenge and engage "gifted" kids in the upper grades, I believe
we do, can, and will, but defining what the ultimate purpose for that
challenge is is the better question. If it's to help students
Christianly grow in their humanity through God's Word doing His work in
His world (which includes the challenging glories of mathematics,
science, literature, history, theology, etc.), then I think we might fit
the bill.

If the goal is purely academic for the purpose of "getting
ahead" in whatever system they're wanting to beat, then I would
encourage parents to look elsewhere.

Continuing the Conversation (Campus Coffees)

In Parents, Veritas on January 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm


With re-enrollment starting last week, I've fielded several questions via email, on Facebook, and face-to-face pertaining to our future plans. Most of these concerns have come from our more southernly-located families, particularly with regard to Phase II of The Academy, the phase the board and I anticipated would be the most difficult for our southern families in our attempt to merge Providence Hall and Veritas.

CoffeetalkIn an effort to continue the discussion about The Academy,
I'd like to invite parents to attend one of four Campus Coffees in the
next two weeks. Dates, times, and locations are posted, so let us know you'll be coming.

In recent communication, a long-time Veritas parent mentioned that her Norman family had been through five changes of administration and that the promise of a Norman school had been communicated. Indeed, when Veritas started in 2004, the board's vision was for only Norman (hence the legally incorporated name of Veritas Classical Academy of Norman).

However, from 2008-2010, Veritas outgrew Trinity Baptist in Norman after year four of the school. Crossroads was a big church that could host us and, by being close to I-35, was still accessible to Norman families. At the time, the board saw the move as temporary until we could afford to build our own place somewhere on the far north edge of Norman, like near Hillsdale College.

Crossroads also made VCA more accessible to families who either were already coming or were interested in coming from the greater OKC metro. In time, the board saw the move as a great blessing, both because they saw how we could reach more families by being located closer to OKC and also preserve the long-term viability of the school by being able to draw from a greater people and financial pool. Still though, and especially with Providence Hall's location in north OKC, our board saw us as primarily a Norman/Moore/south OKC school, with talk of having grammar campuses embedded in those local communities, including Norman.

When I came to Veritas in June 2011, plans had already been in the works to start the North campus after families there expressed an interest in having something closer to home. North families raised up people and resources to make the campus happen, and the board saw the North campus as a way to extend the vision to incorporate more of the greater OKC metro, as well as to help fund the current Upper School, then even less populated than our current (and growing) 80 6th-12th graders today.

At the Constructing the Vision banquet last March, I first presented the idea of the learning cottage campus, mentioning that, if we were to only build a Grammar campus first, it would most likely be in the south to take some pressure off our Crossroads campus. If we built a full PreK-12th campus, I tried to be careful to explain that we hoped to land close to where we were in the Crossroads area, as our goal was to have north and south campuses, but neither in Edmond or Norman proper. Both of these scenarios, I reiterated, were just two of multiple possible starting points, depending on money raised, land found, and system-wide realities regarding growth.

Unfortunately, part of the current feeling of displacement for south/central families comes from Crossroads' timing in letting us know they would not be renewing our contract next year. While Phase II of the plan would still be a stumbling block for some, it might not have made as huge of an impact (at least initially) without the insecurity that some feel not yet having a location for next year. If anything, with The Academy rolling out and the only current known location being in far north OKC, I empathize that this probably felt like a double-whammy to Norman families, which was unfortunate for all of us.

I can see why a long-term-VCA family from Norman would feel like being expected to drive 30-40 minutes to a north OKC campus might seem dismissive of prior years of sacrifice and just another expectation to sacrifice for families in the north. Keep in mind, though, that Upper School North families will be doing the same thing the other direction – possibly for multiple years – beginning with Phase III and the establishment of our south learning cottage campus, which we are working to do everything we can to ensure that that happens.

While the board and I strongly believe in the idea of The Academy, we are still working out many of the implementation particulars as we look closely at the details. We think we have a good vision and a plan to fulfill it, but definitely feel we can have additional dialogue about how we stay true to the overall mission while still providing for our south families. As mentioned, while we have thought through dozens of scenarios, none of us has the perspective that we have exhausted them all. We want to take seriously every possible idea that has a real chance of making sense for all involved, so please continue to think with us as we work toward the best solutions.

It’s Town Hall Week

In Parents, Veritas on January 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm


Town HallThis is Town Hall week – one week each quarter that we invite parents to come out and meet as part of our WISE (Walking in Step Educationally) parent group.

As you might imagine, in light of last week's announcement about The Academy, RSVPs for January's Town Halls are through the roof (for more information or to RSVP, please go here). In anticipation of the crowd and subject matter, here are a couple of guidelines for our time that will help things go smoothly.

Emcees for the evening will be our respective WISE Council Chairs, Catherine Brown (Central Campus) and Jennifer Lafferty (North Campus). Catherine and Jennifer will pray, welcome everyone, and make a few introductions. They then have several things to cover up front, the list of which includes:

As most parents have taken the opportunity to read up on The Academy, I do not feel the need to revisit the proposal in full, but after a few opening remarks, will move quickly into an open forum of question and answer in which parents will be welcome to freely ask whatever questions you would like to ask.

However, in the spirit of trying to be as open with the conversation as possible, here are a few parameters to help us make the most of the evening (as well as avoid the stereotypical school meetings seen on television and in the movies):

  1. Come with a list of prepared questions and be brief in asking them. This will allow for more of an answer to be given, as well as for more questions to be asked on the whole.
  2. Make sure your questions apply to more than just you. The best questions for a forum such as this are ones that everyone's wondering about but nobody has asked yet.
  3. Be courteous and respectful of each other, keeping in mind our relational covenant to believe the best, stand shoulder to shoulder, and talk to and not about one another. We're all after God's best here, and we want to pursue it together.


We will start on time and our emcess will close in prayer and end on time. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and hope it will be a good step into a great future together.

Introducing: The Academy

In Colleges & Universities, Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Teachers, Veritas on January 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm




Excited for what's ahead in 2013…and, by God's grace, beyond. Watch, then go here.

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
!

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).

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.

Beating Busyness (Part 2)

In Educators, Parents, Students on July 31, 2012 at 7:11 am

Prosser Clock

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Ephesians 5:15-17

All of us are called to be good stewards of the time God has given us, but when we get down to it, our struggle tends to be not as much a matter of time management as it is of priority management. This sounds simple enough, but our culture does us a disservice by pluralizing the word “priority,” confusing us as to what our “priorities” are. When we talk about our “priorities,” we’re talking about something that doesn’t make sense—the nature of priority is singular. We are only able to have one priority.

Below are some of my personal time-tested applications of this idea, my own "stop doing" list, and my suggested reading list to help you focus more on this idea of priority management. I've also recommend this helpful worksheet from my friend, Adam Holz, to serve as a simple "assignment" if you'd like to more closely evaluate how you think about to whom/what you're giving yourself.

Craig's Applications
These are different things I've tried over time – not all at once, but usually more than one or two at a time. Figure out what works for you and make your own list.

  1. Put together a time budget. Like money, do you even know where your time really goes?
  2. Schedule and plan a personal retreat. Even if it's for just half a day, get some time away and make a plan.
  3. Re-evaluate your commute and how you use it. Much time gets wasted in the car. Listen to audio books, review Scripture, pray, or try initiating actual meaningful conversation with your kids (you might be surprised what happens).
  4. Read (and don’t feel guilty). There's nothing like reading to make you slow down because you can't really multi-task in doing it.
  5. Make a “stop doing” list. Over time, tasks and responsibilities accumulate, and not always for the best reasons. What do you need to stop doing?
  6. Plan blocks of time for projects. The alternative here is to figure out how to make those 5-15 minute windows of time work.
  7. Delegate (but don’t abdicate) what you can. Maybe you need to ask/pay/beg someone for help. This is not a sign of weakness; nobody's omni-competent.
  8. Get to a point of being able to declare to yourself (and others) how much time you actually have. It's a thought experiment – try it.
  9. Be sure to match the reason to the season (and vice versa); that is, there is a time for everything (and this may not be it).
  10. Make the word “priorities” singular again (“priority”) in your mind and vernacular. It can make a big difference in your thinking.

Craig's "Stop Doing" List
While this list is philosophical, I periodically make practical "stop doing" lists each year to help me discern if something I've been doing needs me to be the one doing it.

  1. Stop whining about being so busy. No one wants to hear it, and it’s probably not that tremendously interesting to anyone but you.
  2. Stop believing that you can have it all. You can’t, so you’ll have to choose what you want to have instead.
  3. Stop ignoring the Fourth Commandment. True, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, but you’re not even close to violating that, so stop pretending.
  4. Stop feeling guilty about not being able to help everyone for every reason. Jesus is the Savior; you are not.
  5. Stop being so lazy. There’s very little on television or the Internet worth viewing, so why spend hours trying to find it?
  6. Stop refusing to delegate to others. They may want (or need) to help.
  7. Stop letting yourself get overburdened and overworked. Cars were made to be driven; you were not.
  8. Stop believing the lie that you are important because of all you do; rather, learn to believe you are important because of all Jesus did.
  9. Stop wearing a watch (at least not on your wrist). Make access to a timepiece just a little more complicated so you might stop reaching for it as much as you would otherwise.
  10. Stop letting busy people speak into your life. Why let them make you into who they are?

Suggested Reading List
I've read all or most of each of these books and found them most helpful in considering priority in life and how it does (or doesn't) direct everything else. Good stuff.

Sounding the Trumpet of Communication

In Parents, Veritas, Web/Tech on July 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Trumpet

There's an important (and favorite) passage of Scripture that illustrates and reminds me of the value of communication in leadership. In Nehemiah 4:15-18, Nehemiah records:

"When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me."

As Head of School, I love the value Nehemiah places on communicating with those he is leading. He makes no apologies, nor justifies his actions; he just keeps the man who sounds the trumpet with him to communicate with those building the wall.

Besides basic email, we have multiple digital venues through which we try to communicate and interact with our Veritas community. None of these are meant to replace human interaction, but they are helpful in the interim between meetings. And, as long as we're careful that the technology serves us (and not the other way around), why not use these amazing tools for the Kingdom?

Information

Interaction

 

To be sure, it's a lot of work to keep up with all of these, and thankfully, I don't have to do so alone. But Nehemiah's example speaks as much as any biblical leader's as to the importance of communication in leading others, so I do need to make sure it happens.

Sure, we still put out some printed mailings here and there, and we've also created and put some quality physical pieces into people's hands about who we are and what we do. But everything is designed to direct folks to our digital communication tools as much as possible. This is where we can most consistently, quickly, and personally (to a degree) connect with folks as we – or they – have need to do so.

We're not perfect at it, and we certainly don't get everything right or always in the timeliest of manners (my personal inbox is currently a sad reminder of this reality), but Nehemiah's example continues to challenge me as we build Veritas.

Learning from Our Mistakes

In Educators, Parents, Pedagogy, Veritas on July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

Facepalm_statue

Six month ago, I spoke with a very disheartened returning Veritas mom about her family's fall semester experience. She confessed that both she and her husband felt disorganized and lacked clear routines for their homedays, that their kids were unable to focus for any length of time alone, and that they wished they had taken more seriously the orientation help at the beginning of the year.

As we processed together, it was obvious they felt like failures. But it was also obvious we could do better helping them do better.

School starts in five-and-a-half weeks. Between now and then, all parents new to Veritas will take part in our new 2-day WISE Parent Conferences (North: August 10-11; Central, August 17-18) designed to orient them in the ways and nuances of Veritas.

But this orientation is not just for new families. Returning parents are required to join us for at least the second day of each conference, and will be welcomed (and encouraged) to join us for the whole time as well.

We've given great consideration to parent and staff suggestions, expanded the allotted time to interact with each other about intricacies of the blended model, and are confident that the conferences will be worth your time. (We wouldn't ask you to be a part if we weren't.)

If you're a new parent, you already know you're going. However, if you're a returning parent, we need you to RSVP and let us know how much of the conference you plan to attend (at minimum, the Saturday that goes with your respective campus…or more). We've made the process simple and quick.

Returning families, don't make the mistake in thinking you've "got" this. Every year is different, and the more we can prepare each other for this reality, the better off we're all sure to be. Learn more about the WISE Conferences. See you in August!

Redeeming An Ambiguous, Adaptability-Demanding World

In Parents, Students on May 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Graduates (low res)I gave my first official Head of School commencement charge tonight to our two graduates, Faith and J.C. The ceremony went swimmingly and took all of 34 minutes from the first to the last sound of live bagpipes (always a plus). Here's what I said (give or take a word) in my seven-minute talk:

Before I offer a charge to our graduates, I would first like to offer thanks to our faculty for their part in our success. Staff, would you stand that we might applaud your efforts this year?

This is a significant moment in the history of our school. After eight years, we are graduating our first official senior class. In saying this, I mean that Faith and J.C. are the first students who, having started at Veritas in the early days of its existence, stuck things out – not everybody did. Now as 12th graders, they have completed all academic requirements set forth by our Board of Directors for receiving a diploma. You are to be commended for your perseverance. Well done.

This is a significant moment for our graduates and their families as well. Throughout these past eight years, Faith and J.C., along with Brian and Christie and Curt and Carla, have had to adjust to a school coming into its own, not always smoothly and rarely perfectly. Our graduates and their families have been through location switches, administration transitions, first versions of curriculum, a merry-go-round of teachers (sometimes within the same semester), and a dozen other complications – and yet they have pioneered faithfully to this point, mostly without complaint, and we celebrate them this evening as a result.

As much as I, as Head of School, would like to say and believe that you have received the perfect education at Veritas Classical Academy, I cannot do either. At times we have fallen short in figuring out all that it takes “to provide an exceptional classical Christian education serving the Oklahoma City metro,” which is the vision we see, but only in glimpses so far. Because you are our first two graduates, you have borne much of the brunt of our attempts and you have probably felt our growing pains of progress as much as anyone.

And yet in doing so – and I can only say this with the comfort of a Sovereign God – perhaps this has been the perfect education to prepare you for a world that is far from perfect. While neither is formally in our curriculum scope and sequence, learning to live with ambiguity and responding with a spirit of adaptability will serve you well. You have learned these abilities – you have had to! – as God, in his infinite wisdom, has chosen this for you from before time.

Faith and J.C., in considering our Veritas portrait of a graduate, by God’s grace, I believe you know you are Christians and that you know your place in the world. You know you still have much to learn, but I know you know how to learn and desire to discover it. You have witnessed firsthand that insight and creativity take time, but you have also learned how to take the basic facts of multiple disciplines, make sense of them, and communicate meaning using them – accurately evaluating the world’s work as well as your own.

Most importantly, you know how to think Christianly (though whether you choose to or not is up to you), and as a result, you know the Lord’s call to act and lead on behalf of the broken and marginalized. I believe you love and believe that God is sovereign over the entirety of your lives, not just because the Bible tells you so, but because of all you’ve experienced in this eight-year experiment known as Veritas Classical Academy.

We love you and pray God’s best for you. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each of you. And may you love and live well in this ambiguous, adaptability-demanding world so desperately in need of God’s redemption.