Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Students’ Category

Three Years: A Hard and Happy Time

In Calling, Church, Family, Friends, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Places & Spaces, Students, Teachers, The Academy, Veritas on June 9, 2014 at 7:45 am

City Pres Particularization

Reflecting on the fact that, as of this week, we’ve lived in Oklahoma City for three years. Here’s a video tour (or more accurately, a tour of videos) to commemorate the milestone.

We’ve had a hand in creating a new mascot

…a new school

…and a new church.

We’ve fostered and become advocates for foster care…

…mourned loss…

…reminisced and remembered…

…partied…

…had fun at another’s expense (quite justified)…

…had fun at our own expense (quite amusing)…

…and periodically had a little too much time on our hands (quite disturbing).

By God’s grace and providence, it’s been a hard and happy time – rarely one or the other; more frequently, one and the same. There’s more to say than anyone would read, and still more to do that too much nostalgic navel-gazing would allow.

Perhaps we should just let Psalm 16 have the last word:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

God’s Will for Your Life

In Calling, Holidays, Students, Thought on November 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm

fork

(A meditation I gave our North Campus students ten days before Thanksgiving.)

This morning, I am going to tell each and every one of you what God wants you to be when you grow up. You’re going to have to pay attention because I’m going to move very quickly, but by the end of our time this morning, you will know God’s will for your life.

Before I get to you, though, I thought you might like to know what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I was five or six, I wanted to be a farmer like my father. I loved my dad and he loved what he did, so I thought that seemed to make sense. But our farm had been in our family for five generations and I was scared I would mess it all up, so that didn’t really work out.

Like a lot of boys, I went through a firefighter phase, mostly because I watched a lot of Emergency! and the trucks were big and red and the idea of driving one seemed pretty neat (unlike the idea of actually fighting fires, which I had no desire to do).

I remember also thinking about becoming an astronaut, but I was afraid if my nose itched I wouldn’t be able to scratch it while wearing my spacesuit, so that was out.

When I was 10, I wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones, because finding things like the Ark of the Covenant and Holy Grail before the bad guys did just seemed awesome. I later learned that that’s not what most (if any) archaeologists do.

When I was 12, I wanted to be a professional baseball player and play for anyone who would take me. I wasn’t bad and I would have played for free, but most major league teams don’t take 12-year-olds except as bat boys and that was when I peaked.

When I turned 16, I wanted to be a rock star. I got my first keyboard and started writing songs. I visited and dreamed about moving to Nashville, which lasted until I was about 25, when I figured out I wanted to be a husband and got married instead.

When I turned 27, I became a father for the first time and liked it so much that I did it three more times. I still like being a father and am just glad I have the kids I have because I’m not very good at it.

When I turned 30, I went through a slight mid-life crisis ten years early and thought I might like to be an FBI agent. I actually filled out a preliminary application, but the Bureau apparently didn’t like “Because I like The X-Files” in answer to their question of “Why do you want to be an FBI agent?”

Through most of my early thirties, I wanted to be a published author, which I became; however, unless your published book sells millions and millions of copies (which mine didn’t), you usually have to write more than one for that to work out.

From there, I wanted to be a college professor, so I went to graduate school and graduated, but I never went on to get those letters behind my name so I could put Dr. in front of my name. And that was okay.

In my mid-to-late 30s, I became a teacher like my mom and my grandfather, and then when I turned 40, I became a Head of School for the first time. My mother wasn’t convinced I knew what I was doing and asked me if I was qualified for the job. I honestly didn’t know and couldn’t think of a good answer, so I just said “No.”

I won’t bore you with my tales of being a nursing home touring musician, or Christmas tree shearer, or Illinois State Capitol tour guide, or camp director, or conference coordinator, or graphic designer/webmaster. Good times, all.

So what is God’s will for your life? Same as it’s been for me these past 42 years, as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

What does God want you to be when you grow up? Thankful.

Better get to it.

Understanding That Energizes

In Education, Oklahoma City, Students, Teachers, The Academy, Young Ones on September 13, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Lightbulb

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

Earlier this morning, I flew out of Oklahoma City for Merrimack, New Hampshire, where I’ll take part in a weekend conference called the Biblical Imagination Series with author and musician Michael Card. Mike and I have been friends for more than a decade, and we occasionally partner together to help believers engage with the Bible at the level of an informed imagination.

I mention this because I have the same goal when I teach the New Testament to Dialectic students. However, I have a huge advantage teaching our eighth graders over the majority of adult audiences we teach through Biblical Imagination, as our eighth graders – especially those who have been with our school multiple years – know their world history.

Just yesterday, we were learning about the intertestamental period – the roughly 400 years between Old and New Testaments and an important period to at least be familiar to better understand the historical and cultural context surrounding Jesus’ incarnation as recorded in the gospels. (It also makes for a fantastic mini-lesson on God’s prospering of his people Israel throughout history, but I digress.)

Drawing a timeline to chart some dates, places, and people groups, I was pleased at what my students already knew – not just the basic grammar of when, where, and who, but also the how and why of the order and power transitions from the Persians to the Greeks to the Romans (and before those, from the Assyrians to the Babylonians to the Persians). It was not just one particularly bright student helping me fill out the timeline; it was the entire class seemingly not even thinking twice about doing so.

As we continued, I mentioned to the students how they knew more about the history of the world at 14 than I did at 34 when I began seminary. I shared that, to my regret, it wasn’t until then that I really studied these cultures and civilizations in any systematic manner that stuck, and I was glad to learn more with them as we asked questions and discussed these periods and people of these times.

Later that afternoon, when I mentioned the joy of my experience to one of my teaching colleagues, she smiled knowingly. “They don’t even know how smart they are,” she replied. “It’s amazing.” Indeed, there was a matter-of-factness to their answers, all without a hint of arrogance (at least that I could pick up externally).

I’ve taught the Bible to plenty of 14-year-olds in my day; the difference at The Academy is that so many others have also taught them – when they were 12…8…6. It’s a privilege to teach New Testament to students who have taken two years of Old Testament with our own Josh Spears. It’s a gift to ask students to reference certain biblical stories and turn to particular books, the content and order of both their grammar school teachers have ensured they have learned. It’s humbling to talk with students about the Jesus of the Bible, knowing that these conversations have and will continue with parents around the dinner table at home (I know this because I’ve already had parents email to tell me about them).

As one teacher emailed me this week (and multiple teachers in both models and at all three trivium levels have echoed in conversation), “I have never been more energized by my students.” This sentiment, of course, doesn’t guarantee that every day will be this way or that our kids are perfect (newsflash: they aren’t), but it does speak of what our kids are capable – learning that goes beyond just knowledge for their own sakes to understanding that energizes and inspires those around them.

If there’s a better gift to offer our students and our inspiration-hungry world, I don’t know what it is. I’m grateful for our kids.

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.

Why We Test (and Why We Don’t)

In Pedagogy, Students on April 17, 2013 at 10:56 am


Standardized-testing

"Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted."

Albert Einstein

As is true of many schools in our state and nation, Veritas is administering standardized tests this week. Our Grammar and Logic students (1st-through 8th grades) are taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, while our 9th and 10th graders are taking the PLAN Test. (We're doing some other developmental things with PreK, Kindergarten, and 11th and 12th grades so they don't feel left out.)

We test because we can, not because we have to; this is unfortunately not the case for a majority of American schools. Education in the United States has been preoccupied with standardized testing this past century, but especially so during the past decade. From President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" in 2001 to President Obama's "Race to the Top" in 2009, we have not lacked for modernity's attempts to measure educational success.

There's little conceptually wrong with this; assessment is a good thing,
which is why we at Veritas test our students every year. For us, good uses of testing include identifying general areas of instruction
that need improvement as well as facilitating home/school interaction as to
future specific differentiated instruction within
our unique blended model. We take test results seriously, but not so
seriously that they blind us to the bigger picture captured in our
portrait of a graduate.

Over the past eight years, Veritas
students have scored in the 90th percentile of the ITBS.
In addition, over this same period of time, we've tracked a 10-point
improvement over students' own pre-admission assessment scores, which
means students are improving while with us (for comparison, most public schools report only a 1-to-2-point improvement over the year).

In 2012, across the core subjects (defined by the ITBS as language
skills, reading, and mathematics), our students’ national percentile
rank for K through 8th grades was 84th and our school’s national
percentile rank for K through 8th grade was 97th. This means that, on
average, Veritas students scored higher than 83% of American students
and we as a school scored higher than 96% of American schools taking the
ITBS in these subjects. Also (and as in previous years), our
students tested an average of three grade levels above their grade
level.

Most of what you hear or read about testing is negative, and rightly so due to the unintended consequence of
schools choosing to "teach to the test" for the sake of
increased government funding. In addition, the modernist mentality of
"all success must be measurable" is limiting in evaluating
what a student has learned and not just what he or she can regurgitate.
Test
scores can be a helpful measure of past and/or current realities, but
often are poor predictors of true success (especially a more biblically-informed definition of success currently missing from our Department of Education).

Here are just a few things that testing does not help us
evaluate about a student's experience across a school year:

  • Leadership potential and growth
  • Enjoyment of spontaneous creation
  • Value of actively engaging with community
  • Risk-taking and innovation
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Ability to ask deep questions
  • Reception of constructive criticism
  • Integrity and humility
  • Desire for truth, goodness, and beauty
  • Collaboration with others
  • Overall love of learning


The list could go on and on, but the point is this: testing provides some insight into a student's academic achievement, but not all of it.

Of course, on the flip side of the testing question is the concern that kids shouldn't be made to test for reasons of pressure creating or contributing to existing test anxiety. Some argue that standardized testing (and its results, particularly if they're not what the parent – not always the student – hoped for) could work against a kid's self-esteem and confidence and therefore should not be used.

We must not forget that the only real way students build
confidence is to attempt, struggle through, and overcome challenging things.
The lie is that education should be easy; learning (i.e. that which goes beyond
mere regurgitation of information and crosses over into character formation) is
difficult. When it comes to helping our students deal with testing anxieties, the key for us as parents is not to over-emphasize perfect test results, but to help students shoot for improved ones.


Our goal should be to help students
lean into and learn to stand up under stress rather than run away or hide from it.
Stress is both a part of life and an important formation tool God uses in the
lives of people (think of all the stress He intentionally brought upon those in
the Bible He chose to use!). We should help students respond with
faithfulness as they take hold of the task at hand, for as James 1 speaks specifically to spiritual growth, the principle applies to growth that is of an educational nature as well.

So we test our Grammar and Logic School
students and take seriously the results. But we want to help them understand that the ultimate goal of assessment is not to pass the test and then fail life.
That just would not not be very smart at all.

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.

Spring Bling Masquerade Ball

In Students, Veritas on March 13, 2013 at 8:20 am

Spring Bling

"Say, what abridgement have you for this evening?
What masque? What music? How shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some delight?"

from A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Pretty excited for our 9th-12th graders next month…

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.

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.

Thanksgiving (or “How to Make Upper Schoolers Squirm”)

In Students, Teachers, Veritas on November 21, 2012 at 5:12 am

Tuesday was our last day of school at Veritas before Thanksgiving break, and as I was scheduled to lead our morning assembly called RISE, I thought it might be a good opportunity to do something appropriate to the day. Our students and staff seemed in a pretty good mood (as they usually are on the last day before a break), so what did I have to lose?

I started out by talking about the fact that Thursday was Thanksgiving and that most of us are told to think about what we're thankful for this time of year. Then I told the students and staff that I wanted to turn the tables on the what thinking, and instead offer some thanks for (and to) whom I was thankful. I then proceeded to work my way around the room, calling each of the 80+ 6th-12 grade students and staff by name, and taking 10-20 seconds each to tell them why I was thankful for them.

You've never seen a more quiet group of Upper Schoolers squirm. It was great.

I had some fears in doing this. First, while I know the names of all of our Upper School students and staff, I was a little nervous that my rapid-fire approach would backfire and, for some reason, I might momentarily blank out and forget somebody, embarrassing him/her (and me) along the way. I had a few milli-second lapses, but nothing too huge…until I came to one of my daughter's best friends, whose name I could not for the life of me recall. (I had already gone through about two-thirds of the room with no major snafus so far, but this one was unfortunate; thankfully, she was very gracious – it was my daughter who was later less forgiving).

Second, while I knew this would take a little time, I didn't know it would take as much time as it did (about 20 minutes, which was double what it should have been within our normal parameters for RISE). When I finished the first half of the room and it was 8:30 already, I knew I was in trouble and I internally lamented that I was taking time from our first-hour teachers (particuarly since I still had half a room to go and it wasn't going to be until 8:45 until everyone finally made it to class). Thankfully, our teachers were their normal flexible selves, and several of them came up to me afterward to express appreciation for doing what I did even as they scurried to their classrooms.

Third, I was just afraid that this whole idea would come off as obligatory or trite, as if I wasn't really thankful for every student or staff member in the room but had to be because I said I was, or that it would seem like I was just making stuff and keeping it general enough because I really didn't know any of those I was thanking. If I would have had the idea earlier (and the time to do something with it), I might (and probably should) have printed a formal list and prepared a more solid sentence or two of appreciation for each person. Unfortunately, not all of my best ideas (very few of them, actually) come with prep time built in, so I just prayed and went with it on the fly.

Though there were plenty to mention (and I mentioned plenty), I tried not to focus on obvious outward things like talents and abilities, but instead concentrated more on character virtues in our students and staff for which I was thankful. This was hard, of course, as we are so conditioned by our culture to thank people for what they do rather than who they are, but I wanted to try to help our students and staff understand that, though they have many, they are not their gifts.

A few general observations:

  • Whether students or adults, none seemed comfortable with genuine public appreciation. I noticed two different main responses: 1) forced eye contact, in which they were bound and determined to look at me because I was speaking to/about them in public; or 2) the avoidance of eye contact at all costs, as it was just too intimate of a moment to share in front of others.
  • While I don't think it was too obvious externally, I
    recognized internally that I knew some students (and even staff)
    better than others, which mentally worked against me if I let myself go
    too far down the road of evaluating real-time every ten-second attempt
    at thankfulness. I had to let this go (at least for the time being) so
    as to not sabotage the attempt, but it was a good reason and reminder to
    work harder at getting to know all of our people better.
  • The twenty minutes it took to work through everyone was the easiest period of full attention I've ever requested from a room full of 6th-12th graders. Students were fascinated (appalled?) by the fact that, not only were they being singled out in front of their peers, but they were being singled out for positive and personal reasons. While there were plenty of laughs and lots of smiles, there seemed a subtle insecurity running through the room that I might come to one of them, not have anything nice to say, and just skip over someone to someone else as a result. Thankfully, that was not the case.

What was the case was a renewed appreciation in my own heart for whom these students and staff are as people, as well as a really nice start to a really nice last day before Thanksgiving break. We forget – I forget – how desperate all of us are for validation. We're affirmation junkies! My little attempt at something different for RISE was a big reminder personally that gratitude must be communicated (and not just stored up) to fully harness its helpful (and often healing) power.

"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right,
because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of
you for one another is increasing." 2 Thessalonians 1:3


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).

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.

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.

Senioritis Rapture

In Students on May 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

One of our seniors welcomed me with this message at the beginning of class last week. Though our eschatological views differ, I understand his desired outcome.

IMG_0343

To Whom Shall Educators Go?

In Educators, Parents, Students, Veritas on April 26, 2012 at 9:55 am

Wednesday was a bad news day.

From the morning edition of The Oklahoman to that night's national and local newscasts, there was a lot I (Craig) found myself sighing over: a middle schooler in Enid gets beaten unconscious at school; a teacher aide (who actually worked with a friend of mine) at Southmoore high school is caught sexting photos of herself to sophomores.

To top it off, I got an email from a colleague at my former school telling me about a senior prank gone wrong. Apparently, the Head of School's email was hacked and the following message sent to the entire parent community:

"We would like to inform you of some small changes that will take place, this year, regarding Junior/Senior Banquet. As servants of God, we strive to protect our community. For this reason, we have arranged for condoms to be available at this event. Every male student attending will have the option of taking a complementary condom at the door. This is to encourage our students to practice safe sex. We hope that by doing this, we can set a positive example, so that other schools may recognize our efforts and take action against sexually transmitted diseases. Thank you, and have a blessed day."

Sometimes it's hard to see God at work, particularly in our schools and especially despite our human capability to really mess things up. And yet I read a quote on Wednesday from United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon that was particularly helpful in the midst of trying to do some good in the midst of that bad news day. Willimon wrote: "Scripture teaches that time and again, God refuses to be stumped by our inadequacies. Therein is our hope."

Indeed, therein is our hope. "Whom have I in heaven but you?," wrote the psalmist, "And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you" (Psalm 73:25). John records that, "Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

With four weeks to go, I take comfort that any hope we have cannot be in ourselves – which of us this time of year has anything left to hope in? In the face of what's ahead, let's confess to God, each other, and ourselves where our true and only hope is: in Christ, his love, and his grace. Pray this for yourself, your students, and our families.

This is what I'm praying for all of us these next four weeks.

Veritas Video Goodness

In Parents, Pedagogy, Students, Veritas on April 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Really proud of these videos produced for our Constructing the Vision banquet in March. Thanks to Veritas parent Jody Wickersham and all our parents, faculty, staff, and students for their good thoughts and inspiring examples.