Faith & Learning Blog
Connecting Faith and Learning Blog
My husband and I have worked in public schools for almost two decades. Education and school community are important ideas to both of us. When it came to our own children, we enrolled them in public school to begin their educational journey. And yet it didn’t meet our needs. The school was too big and the teachers, for all their hard work and dedication, didn’t have time for the personalized attention we had hoped for our children.
So we began to research other options and through a recommendation from some friends of my in-laws, we discovered Calvin. We toured in the spring and fell in love with the elementary school. There were small classes with amazing teachers who nurtured, educated, and showered God’s love on little ones helping them grow into thoughtful, kind, young adults. In the elementary school hallways, students of all grades said good morning to each other and laughter filled the air. In the classrooms, children learned new ideas and grew in their love for God as well.
Fast-forward a couple of years later and my children love going to Calvin. During square time in the morning, the Principal leads a thoughtful discussion and prayer, which centers their morning and supports their spiritual growth and character development. For my son, who was the one who moved from public school to Calvin, his teachers at Calvin have been an amazing resource for him. They have been a blessing in his life, supporting him and helping him to find a new home. My daughter, who started in the Calvin preschool and then transitioned to kindergarten with a whole class of friends, has thrived at Calvin from the very beginning. Her favorite classes are Math, Art, and Bible and her faith grows daily alongside her academic learning. She believes she can be anything because her teachers have taught her she can conquer any challenge.
For our part, my husband and I have found our community as well. Volunteering at Calvin has broadened my faith and my friendship circle. Working with the amazing parents on the Calvin Christian Service Group allows me to give back to a school that has already given my children so much. Through Calvin, our children have also learned the importance of service, completing projects for Interfaith and Little Angels Service Dogs, as well as many other nonprofit organizations. They are learning that they are part of a much larger world and that we must show compassion and love to all people. Calvin has given so much to our family in just a couple years and I look forward to the journey of faith and compassion in the years to come.
When you are asked the question, “Why Christian school?”, what is your reply? Do you perhaps point to the biblical imperative that parents should teach their children the faith, or perhaps you cite the sociological evidence that subcultures are effective at reproducing religious faith? Maybe you argue that Christian schools are a conserving force in the face of moral decay in our culture, and perhaps you point out that the broader liberal arts curriculum found in many independent Christian schools generally produces better academic outcomes compared to public school. Data from the Cardus education survey would help you to underline many of those points with empirical evidence. I think they are all good reasons, yet none of them is the answer I am inclined to give.
The Historical Perspective
I want to begin with some time travel. I was a high school history teacher so it is my natural inclination to look backward. This may frustrate those of you dying to shake the dust of the past from your feet and do something new and exciting with school. Please be patient, because the most profitable time travel moves between worlds and not just chronology. The best time travelers, of course, are children like Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy or the Murry and O’Keefe families. On their travels, they learn to think differently about questions common to all the ages, they learn what is real and lasting, and they learn who they are. They do this because they leave what is familiar and they wrestle with these questions in the midst of new adventures, although they remain in the same storybook.
We enjoy universal, free public education in the West, largely because the Church cared enough to educate the poor. We are also constrained today, in both our private and public school systems, by an outdated industrial model. This is because the priority in the nineteenth century was a virtuous, efficient, numerate, and literate workforce. That remains a significant priority today and it matters, but on its own it’s not a big enough reason for Christian school. Historians of education profitably trace for us the theological, denominational, and constitutional discussions that gave rise to separate systems of education (public, parochial, independent, Catholic, and Protestant schools)—but a good time traveler will go a step further.
A good time traveler will ask if Christians had some different answers that we have forgotten about today. They might wonder if the small one-roomed schoolhouse fitted to the times and seasons of an agrarian community has something to say to our obsession with timetables, early starts, and after-school clubs. They might wonder about the fact that teachers had respect in the local community and that older children often instructed their peers. They might also wonder about the dangers of only forming young people for limited vocations determined by class, race, religion, or gender. They might wonder about the fact that our ancestors thought that religious and spiritual literacy were part of being an informed and well-rounded person, not dangerous tools of indoctrination. They might wonder about the fact that in many cases, these were schools for all of the children who lived in the parish. The point is not to romanticize Christian schooling in the past, but neither should we treat it as an anachronism. A good time traveler will be inspired by a generation that—without any model of what systems of Christian education should look like—built them in an attempt to provide some of the things that our culture needs from school, if our culture is going to flourish.
The Same Answer, No Matter the Time
Jesus was not a time traveler; the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus split time and space, they did not merely wrinkle it. God’s intervention in this tear through the fabric of the universe was Himself, His presence, and His kingdom. Jesus is God’s answer to what our culture needs. Jesus is my answer to, “Why Christian school?”
I spent some time recently talking to parents and young people in my community about their dreams and their fears. I would encourage you to do the same. What I heard back was a combination of exciting plans for the future, desires for relationships of love and friendship—tempered with nostalgia for things left behind, and fears about being hurt, lonely, and rejected. Good time travelers would tell us that these are universal to humans across time and place. What happens is that we express these desires in concrete ways when we ask questions like: How will this school equip my child to succeed in the future? Will you be teaching math the way it was taught when I was at school? What will happen to this class if we let in lots of non-English speakers? Will my child fall away from the faith when they go to university?
The point of school is teaching and learning; it is never less than that, but teaching and learning is a big important vision and it happens most effectively in community. It happens in school, in family, and in your place of worship. In our contemporary culture, that place of worship could easily be a shopping mall or sports field. When Jesus meets with us and shows Himself to be the answer to all that our culture lacks or destroys, He is teaching and forming us. In turn, we are learning and being formed by Jesus more and more into His likeness. We need to participate in Christian community in order to know Jesus. We need to participate in Christian community so that the kingdom of God can shape us, and we need Christian community in order to be a blessing to our time and place. I have summed this up elsewhere as purpose, rigor, and service.
This doesn’t happen accidentally, as a by-product of one particular curriculum, or because everyone has signed a covenantal statement. It happens intentionally as we look for Jesus to be the answer to the new cultural questions, worlds, and stories that are turning up in our schools.
Questions to Consider
If you are interested in thinking more deeply about how today’s Christian school engages with culture, here is a checklist for you:
Have we asked the local community recently about what they might need from this school? Have we talked with our school community about their hopes and fears for the future? Have we talked recently with local church leaders about our partnership in faith formation? Have we asked our students recently to tell us what they think school is for? Have we asked them to share with us the questions they have about Jesus and the kingdom of God?
Christian school at its best is a signpost to the kingdom of God. It is a way of showing what flourishing community looks like with the potential to bless our culture for good.
This post originally appeared in the Connecting Faith & Learning blog in 2015. We're sharing it again because it's just so good!
Who is God? Who am I? Who are these other people? These are some questions that we will struggle with at some point in our lives. When things are going well, these questions seem easy to answer. But, when we face trials and temptations, these questions suddenly become much more difficult.
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation for a moment: Perhaps one day you find yourself stuck on top of Palomar Mountain at midnight with two flat tires and bent rims after dropping your Cheetos (they are dangerously cheesy after all) and hitting a wall with your truck when you reach over to pick them up. You have 5% left on your phone’s battery and your wife can’t come pick you up because she’s at home with a sleeping baby. In that moment, how would you answer those questions? Would God still seem like a good and loving father? Would you put your confidence in the Lord to provide everything that you need? Would you be able to show grace and love to others?
In times of trial, who or what we put our hope in becomes apparent. When we face struggles, we start to see that our vision of the world has become corrupted and our view of God, ourselves, and others is skewed. These moments of utter despair are rare opportunities God gives us to refocus our sight and consider how we look at the world. Guided by His word and the Holy Spirit, we can start to set our sights on what is truly important.
In the book of Colossians, the apostle Paul begins his letter by reminding the people of Colossae of the most important truth that they should know. He reminds them that Jesus is at the very center of all creation and their redemption. He shows them their need for reconciliation with God, and how he accomplishes it:
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” - Colossians 1:11-14
These are some amazing truths! Knowing that God loves us and has sacrificed so much for us, we don’t need to question his goodness. We don’t need to fear that there has been some horrible mistake when we find ourselves in difficult situations, and we get to see other people in a whole new light through the lens of the gospel.
Rather than despairing in times of trial, we can look at our struggles through “gospel glasses” and we can rest in the knowledge that God has already given us the best thing we could ever ask for.
Rather than despairing in times of trial, we can look at our struggles through “gospel glasses” and we can rest in the knowledge that God has already given us the best thing we could ever ask for. He has given us life, and that abundantly (John 10:10), through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. How much more will he give us exactly what we really need in every circumstance?
It's time for the 3rd annual Exploration Week at Calvin Christian Elementary School. Exploration Week is an intentional week of school-wide learning crafted with the following goal: to cultivate awe in God and His creation through hands-on, meaningful exploration.
Using materials developed by the Museum of Science in Boston, we are focusing our studies on disciplines of engineering.
Students in kindergarten, 2, and 4 have been formed into the Green Team and will learn about design by creating vehicles from recycled materials.
Students in Grades 1, 3, and 5 have been formed into the Electrical Team and will learn about electrical currents by creating basic circuitry projects.
Within each team, students will be working in smaller groups of five to eight students called pods. Over the next seven school days, each pod will be working together to complete a project that will be displayed and operated at our showcase event on Wednesday, March 28, starting at 6pm.