from the headmaster


With Foresight and Courage

The mass shooting in Sutherland Springs is too horrific for most of us to imagine. The tragic deaths of 26 people and at least that many wounded, gathered in a church to worship the Lord God, no less, at the hands of a bloodthirsty, evil man bent on destroying as many men, women, and children as possible, leaves us all shaken and disturbed. The headline has become all too common, and the locales are etched in our memories: Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Aurora. Churches and schools should be safe places, yet, in a world we feel hardly able to recognize, they have become dangerous places.

One of the reasons parents send their children to Regents Academy is so that they will be in a secure environment. Parents want their child’s mind, soul, and relationships to be safe; a Christ-centered school offers the promise of these types of safety. But parents want their child’s physical safety to be guarded also. Ultimately, of course, no place is perfectly safe. The reality of a sin-sick, fallen world means that evil men bent on doing harm will do their harm, despite our precautions. Living in a free and open society means that we take the risk of people abusing their freedoms with perverted purposes.

The board and staff of Regents Academy know that our school’s parents care deeply about the safety of their children. We take it upon ourselves as a sacred trust to secure and guard the students throughout the school day to the best of our ability. We have many safety precautions and protocols in place: safety plans, security cameras, locked doors, lockdown procedures, 911 buttons, and others. Ultimately, our best safety feature is our teachers themselves, who carefully shepherd their students, watching for threats and staying ready to take action if the need arises. Vigilance is their byword.

Threats do exist, and no multiplication of plans and protocols can prevent all dangers. Ultimately, we pray for the Lord’s watchcare, and we trust Him to be our strong tower. “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved” (Ps 62:6). God does not promise that no harm will ever come to us. Indeed, His sovereign purpose for us often includes danger, hardship, and suffering. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Yet the Lord calls us to exercise prudence, to fulfill our duties with foresight and courage. Please know that it is our purpose at Regents to do so to the best of our ability.

Together, we trust the Lord, and we ask for His mercy on us, our children, and our grandchildren. And we pray for the hurting folks in Sutherland Springs, who have been asked to drink a bitter cup we hope never to drink.


A Vision for Scholar-Teachers

I minored in history in college, and one of my professors was, um, memorable, in his own way. The class was called “The Age of Reason,” and we were supposed to be learning about the Enlightenment in the 18th C. However, this professor had dedicated his scholarly life to studying 18th C. French gardens, and that was all – I mean all – he lectured on. He assigned three books (all about French gardens), and gardens were all he appeared to care about. In fact, it was obvious to me that while he loved his subject, he merely tolerated his students (oddly, he hardly ever made eye contact with us). Did you ever have a teacher like that?

Arthur Holmes, in his book Building the Christian Academy, wrote,

If we consider the art or science that is taught, then it is a contemplative life devoted to the truth; but if we consider students and their needs, then it is indeed an active life engaged in the affairs of this world for the common good. It is not a choice between the two, for with a duty to both the discipline and the student, the teacher should in reality be a teacher-scholar.

So which is it: should teachers love their subject or their students? If Dr. Holmes is right, the answer is “yes.”

In the classical Christian vision for education, the teacher is a not simply a technician who has studied the science of pedagogy. Rather, the teacher is a scholar who leads “a contemplative life devoted to the truth.” Should the teacher be skilled in the science of pedagogy? Absolutely. But a teacher’s greatest trait is a love for learning and for truth (historical truth, mathematical truth, language truth, etc.). She shares that love for learning with her students. She is first and foremost a pursuer of truth and of the One who is the Truth.

And of course a classical Christian teacher doesn’t just love his subject; he loves his students. He leads “an active life engaged in the affairs of this world for the common good” – and what greater good is there than training children to live for God? Students are image bearers of the Triune God. They aren’t pupils filling desks, with teachers filling their pockets by filling the students’ heads. Teachers are called to give themselves away to their students, to invest in them, and to approach them as dearly loved children.

Teachers who love their students but don’t love their subject can never lead their students to love learning. Teaching is always incarnational, and teachers are called to model their love for truth before their pupils in order for them to be transformed into their teacher’s image.

Teachers who love their subject but don’t love their students will be distant, harsh, and self-involved. Learning is drudgery when it’s about the teacher grinding through his pet subject or it’s merely about checking off the stuff you have to do to fulfill the class requirements. That drives students away. But love draws them. Relationships are powerful things.

I can still remember those long periods sitting under my French garden professor (I struggle even to remember his name). But let me tell you about Mr. Grove or Mr. Orlofsky or Dr. Lea. They were passionate for their subjects, but they loved me, too (somehow – I don’t think I was very lovable back then).

Teachers at Regents Academy aim to properly balance passion for our subjects and love for our students. The vision for scholar-teachers, with “duty to both the discipline and the student,” is a worthy vision. It is one we are committed to.


Living in a Circle

He was called the gadfly of Athens for good reason, pestering 5th century Greeks with endless questions. Ultimately, the Athenians shut him up by giving him hemlock to drink, ostensibly for polluting the minds of Athenian youth. But his quest for wisdom remains and is embodied in anyone who admits ignorance in order to find truth.

Imagine Socrates having a conversation with a college student on the campus of a contemporary American university. Author Peter Kreeft envisions just this scenario in The Best Things in Life. Here we pick up in the middle of a conversation between Socrates and college student Peter Pragma (Pragma – get it?):

Socrates: What do you need money for?

Peter: Everything! Everything I want costs money.

Socrates: For instance?

Peter: Do you know how much it costs to raise a family nowadays?

Socrates: And what would you say is the largest expense in raising a family nowadays?

Peter: Probably sending the kids to college.

Socrates: I see. Let’s review what you have said. You are reading this book to study for your exam, so that you can pass it and your course, to graduate and get a degree, to get a good job, to make a lot of money, to raise a family and send your children to college.

Peter: Right.

Socrates: And why will they go to college?

Peter: Same reason I’m here. To get good jobs, of course.

Socrates: So they can send their children to college?

Peter: Yes.

Socrates: Have you ever heard the expression “arguing in a circle”?

Peter: No, I never took logic.

Socrates: Really? I never would have guessed it.

Peter: You’re teasing me.

Socrates: Really?

Peter: I’m a practical man. I don’t care about logic, just life.

Socrates: Then perhaps we should call what you are doing “living in a circle.” Have you ever asked yourself a terrifying question? What is the whole circle there for?

Kreeft, through the voice of Socrates, is exposing a great flaw of modern thinking about education: pragmatism. A pragmatic philosophy of education puts people on the hamster wheel of passing tests to pass classes to get degrees to get jobs to make money to have children who will start the vicious cycle all over again.

There is certainly a practical dimension to education. We need jobs that will pay bills, and our children need them also. But something we need more than jobs and money is an answer to Socrates’ question: “What is the whole circle there for?” And that is precisely what classical Christian education brings to the table.

The wealth of wisdom bequeathed to us from the Great Tradition and a robust Christian worldview show us the way. And when children are immersed in the wisdom and virtue and worldview-shaping influences of the Great Conversation, under the tutelage of godly teachers committed to Christian truth, then our children learn not just skills that will get them jobs and money but receive eternal gifts that surpass these things beyond measure.

“What is the whole circle there for?” We strive to take this question into account every day as we educate children at Regents Academy. We are glad to partner with you to do so.


Music and Memorization: Tried-and-True Methods

Recently the Imaginative Conservative published an article titled “How Music and Memorization Can Save Our Failing Schools.” The article, by Annie Holmquist, suggests that tried-and-true methods such as rote learning are a big part of the cure for what is ailing contemporary education. Indeed, classical Christian education goes “back to the future,” with its rediscovery of practices used for centuries but largely abandoned in most contemporary settings. Holmquist’s article is well worth your time.

————–

How Music and Memorization Can Save Our Failing Schools

By Annie Holmquist

We all want the best for our kids. Because of this desire, it’s quite discouraging to see when efforts to boost progress in reading, math, and other subjects flatline in schools across the country.

On the other hand, this perpetual stagnation causes us to sit up and notice when a school manages to boost its achievement in dramatic fashion.

Such is the case with Feversham Primary Academy in Great Britain. According to The Guardian, Feversham was a failure a few years ago. Achievement was low and seemed unlikely to improve given that many students hail from disadvantaged backgrounds or are English Language Learners.

But as The Guardian explains, the school began using the “Kodály approach, which involves teaching children to learn, subconsciously at first, through playing musical games.” By teaching these musical games and encouraging memorization of classic works such as Shakespeare, the school has experienced the following change:

Seven years ago Feversham was in special measures and making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Today it is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted and is in the top 10% nationally for pupil progress in reading, writing and maths, according to the most recent data. In 2011, the school was 3.2 percentage points behind the national average in English. This year 74% of its pupils achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, against a national average of 53%. It is 7.1 points above the average for reading and 3.4 above for writing. In maths, the school was 2.4 points behind the national average in 2011 and is now 6.5 above it. Its results for disadvantaged pupils are well above average.

Such increases are quite impressive and appear to mirror the forty percent achievement gains another British school experienced after incorporating Shakespeare into lesson plans.

So why is it that these simple techniques appear to produce such stellar results?

The answer to that question may be found in what music and memorization appear to do the brain. Research suggests that exposing children to music fosters brain development and boosts their “vocabulary and reading ability.” Likewise, memorization “exercises” a child’s brain, training children to pay attention while also laying a foundation upon which they can build future facts and insights.

These components are core elements of classical education. In the grade school years, also known as the grammar stage, classical education capitalizes on the love children have for rote learning, using songs and rhymes to instill historical dates, scientific facts, and famous literature in their brains. When they move beyond these years, they find they have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips from which they can draw, make connections, and spin off new thoughts.

The funny thing is, while this common-sense approach to early childhood education was standard practice for centuries, it has been abandoned in recent years. Shunning rote learning, we have instead told young children to draw on their own (limited) experience or feelings when completing school assignments.

Classical education methods of music and rote learning have been experiencing a revival in many home and private schools in recent years and have enjoyed a good deal of success. The dramatic turnaround in the Feversham school suggests the success of these methods is not limited to those of a “privileged” status.

Is it time we ask ourselves if modern schools have been too hasty in tossing out the rote learning methods of music and memorization?


What’s Going On?

Let me brag on our school for a minute or two. God has blessed us in so many ways, and I am continually thankful for all the good gifts and wonderful people He has brought together at Regents Academy. Right now I’m thinking about the many extracurricular opportunities at our school these days. They are so much more than just extra stuff to do! Through our extracurriculars students’ abilities and gifts grow and develop, students find platforms to explore interests and passions, and students are given opportunities to be servant leaders.

What are these opportunities?

High School Clubs

The Regents chapters of the Key Club and the National Honor Society afford many opportunities for service, leadership, and academic recognition. These groups are active both within our school and also in the community.

Sports Programs

Regents has active teams in cross country, soccer, basketball, and track and field. Each team is led by a devoted volunteer coach, and our student athletes excel, even with a rigorous academic load and many other commitments. Students also participate in Volleyball Club and Golf Club.

Music Programs

The Regents Orchestra meets weekly and performs several times per year. Competitive choirs also meet weekly and compete through the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS). Many students also compete individually through TAPPS in piano, strings, guitar, and voice. In addition, three music teachers provide lessons on campus during the school day.

4-H

The brand new Regents chapter of 4-H has gotten off to a strong start, with much interest among students and parents, and a new grant for gardens that will be tended by students. A dedicated group of student officers is doing a great job leading the club.

Speech and Academics Team

Also competing through TAPPS, our high school team meets weekly, with students preparing to compete in tests (math, current events, literary criticism, etc.) and speaking events (solo and duet acting, prose and poetry, extemporaneous speaking, etc.). Our team has had a lot of success in recent years, winning several state championships.

Spelling Club

A number of excited students gather frequently to prepare for the spelling bee, which is coming up in late November.

And remember – all of this is in addition to classes, field trips, music, art, drama, and plentiful activities that fill our halls and classrooms during the school day!

Our school’s mission is, in part, to “equip students to lead lives of virtue, display mature character, love learning, and serve the Triune God.” Extracurricular activities are one important avenue for students to benefit from this great purpose. There’s a place for every student to get involved and grow into the man or woman God wants them to become.


Most Needful for a Child’s Education

If you think of a school as a machine, then you have to conclude that every part of a school is necessary. A car with all its parts except for a radiator hose is not going far. Likewise, a school without, say, books or desks won’t get very far either. But what is the most important part of a school? What is most needful for a child’s education to be successful?

Is it technology? Maybe if we put a computer in every classroom, teach students to be computer-savvy, and connect every school to the internet, then education will be effective.

Is it money? One might be led to conclude so based on the headlines. Spending on education in our country has grown exponentially in recent decades, even while student performance has steadily declined.

Is it teachers? Again, if you follow the nightly news, you might conclude that teachers are the sine qua non of a successful education. Many educational policy makers are advocating that teacher pay be based on student outcomes. Poor teachers, then, get washed out of the system, and what is broken gets fixed (or test scores rise, at least).

Or is it facilities? Opportunities for students to escape failing schools? New methods and progressive curriculum? Government-mandated standards?

Possibilities could be multiplied ad nauseam. But ask teachers who are actually in the classroom day by day. They will tell you what theorists and politicians may very well have missed: what is most needful for a successful education is committed parents. A class could meet under a shade tree on a picnic table with nothing but a teacher and a shared book, but if the students have parents who are involved in their children’s learning, motivated to excellence, and committed to holding their children accountable, then that education will still be effective.

A Christian worldview teaches that God governs mankind through several overlapping realms: the church, the civil magistrate, and the family. And it is the family – parents, not governments – that is tasked with educating children (see Deuteronomy 6). So parents are called by the Lord God to educate their children for Him, and good schools know that they educate children in loco parentis, in the place of parents. Schools don’t replace parents; rather, they partner with parents to aid them in their responsibility under God to train their children.

Therefore, parents should recognize this responsibility. Parents should see that their part in the educational machine is essential and irreplaceable. And more: parents should embrace a vision for their children’s education. So look carefully at your own attitudes about reading, math, Latin, and writing. Your children share your attitude about these things. If you think a subject is a waste of time, your children will, too. If you love to read, fill your home with books and ideas, and let your imagination spill over to your children, you are doing something that teachers, curricula, and computers can never accomplish alone.

God has created you, parents, to educate your children. It is the most important business you can engage in. We can praise God for excellent teachers at Regents Academy, for the riches of classical Christian education, and for wonderful books and buildings. But we must remember that visionary and dedicated parents are what is most needful for a child’s education to be successful.


In Loco Parentis

Regents Academy fosters a unique relationship between parents and educators that is summarized in the Latin phrase in loco parentis. While the phrase means literally “in the place of parents,” the best English word to render this phrase is “partnership.” At classical Christian schools, there is a meaningful partnership between the parents, who have the primary responsibility under God to educate their children, and the school, which assists the parents in their job. The practical implications of this partnership are many; teachers and parents work together each day to fulfill our lofty classical Christian vision for students through a lot of communication, hard work, and understanding.

Christopher Perrin, in his booklet An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents, does a great job explaining the in loco parentis partnership. The following excerpt is from that booklet, which briefly and cogently explains this thing we call classical Christian education. I recommend it to you wholeheartedly.

Partnership with Parents

Classical schools work with and for parents. Since we believe that it is the parent’s responsibility (not the state’s) to educate their children, it cannot be otherwise. Our authority over children is delegated to us from parents who have enlisted us to help them in their educational task. We see ourselves as in loco parentis?in the place of the parents. This does not mean that parents dictate the curriculum or pedagogy; it does mean that teachers serve the parents, listen carefully to their feedback about child and curricula, and seek to forge true relationships with parents in order to best understand and educate their children. It usually means that parents are welcome in the classroom; it means that parents take their responsibility seriously by reviewing and helping with homework, encouraging their child to be disciplined and diligent and generally supporting the teachers and staff of the school.

When parents abdicate their responsibility to educate their children, it is inevitable that some other institution will step in to take over. T. S. Eliot warned that as parents become passive, the schools would increasingly replace parental roles and responsibilities:

Instead of congratulating ourselves on our progress, whenever the school assumes another responsibility hitherto left to parents, we might do better to admit that we have arrived at a stage of civilization at which the family is irresponsible, or incompetent, or helpless; at which parents cannot be expected to train their children properly; at which many parents cannot afford to feed them properly, and would not know how, even if they had the means; and that Education must step in and make the best of a bad job.

Parents at classical schools do not assume that education is the school’s responsibility. They understand that the school is assisting them to fulfill their responsibility. Many parents choose to classically educate their children at home; these parents are certainly taking their education responsibility to heart. However, most parents have themselves not been classically educated. We are, after all, recovering something that has been neglected for at least two generations. So parents are learning along with their children. Many a parent at our school is studying Latin along with his or her third grader; many parents are finally learning English grammar, or studying logic. As you can imagine, this kind of collaboration and commitment among parents, teachers and students involves a good bit of hard work. Parents in our schools think this labor is worth the prize, not only for their children but for themselves. To varying degrees, we are all trying to get the education we were not given.

On any given night, parents are encouraging children as they do homework. They are checking homework, reading notes from teachers, writing or calling teachers, helping students stay organized and ready for what lies ahead. Beyond this, they are reading to their children, praying with them, instructing them in a myriad of ways around the house and the dinner table, discussing books, field trips and the experience of the day, counseling and exhorting them regarding peer relationships, school work, homework, chores and play. They are parenting. The school helps them parent, but does not become the parent. Parents come onto campus and into classes as they wish; they assist in classes, substitute, come on field trips, help serve lunch, coach a team. Many teachers are parents with their own children in the school; board members are parents, administrators are parents. Parenting and educating, in such a school, are not easily distinguished.


Homework Q & A

Homework. It’s something most families live with. For some families it feels burdensome while for others it is a welcome step in reaching their academic goals. Some children bring home more homework than others. Some parents are far more involved in their children’s homework than others. Every situation is different, but we all need wisdom to think through homework – how to keep it in proper bounds, how to use it well, and how to use it to help our children grow academically.

Our friends at the Ambrose School, a fellow-ACCS school in Boise, Idaho, published a series of questions and answers that addresses several homework-related issues. I hope it provides some food for thought and some clarification.

Q: I’m spending hours with my grammar school student doing homework. I don’t even know how to do some of this stuff! (Latin for example).

A: Throughout the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade, students should work toward independence. Parents often make students dependent by being too involved in their homework. While this may make one feel needed, depending on the student it can be counterproductive. We encourage parents to gradually but continually put pressure on students to do their own work.

Q: If I don’t check my student’s work, he makes lots of careless mistakes. What do I do?

A: On the contrary, if you continually prevent your children from turning in assignments with careless mistakes, they will not learn to be more careful. Let them make the mistakes and learn from their failures.

Q: My child gets very stressed if he or she doesn’t get high marks on every assignment. We spend hours trying to get everything “just right.”

A: This “perfectionism” is best addressed at a young age. Students develop healthier practices overall when they learn to do work that is less than “perfect.” If not addressed, your student will likely develop difficulties accepting their performance in many areas of life. No one is perfect. Students need to accept B’s and C’s when they have done their best in the allotted homework time. This is resolved best by through strictly limiting homework time. [Recommended reading here: Ending the Homework Hassle by John Rosemond]

Q: My older student spends between 4 and 6 hours every night doing homework. He is really frustrated, even to the point of sneaking time in the middle of the night to do homework. Sometimes he even cries. I’m not sure how long he can keep this up. What can we do?

A: 7th through 12th grade students are expected to do up to 3 hours of homework nightly. When students exceed this amount on a regular basis, a problem needs to be addressed or they will be overwhelmed. First, speak with the teacher to verify that the student is doing their work in class and is approaching it correctly. The most common reason for this problem is a lack of diligence, even if this does not seem to be the case. Many students are prone to distractions: they take breaks when the work becomes difficult; they rotate between activities (homework, practicing an instrument, eating, drinking, playing, etc.); or they rotate between subjects too frequently (although this can sometimes help when the student is stuck on a problem). Even when it appears that the student is working diligently, his concentration may be scattered. He may be putting a lot of energy in, but accomplishing very little. Diligence requires structure and self-discipline. In our experience, this is a gradual process that takes 2 to 3 months to develop. The key is not to allow the student to spend more than 3 or 3 ½ hours on homework during this adjustment time. The overall time restriction will help them budget their time and move more quickly. The pressure actually makes them more efficient. This prevents the “doldrums” that occur when a student labors without being productive. Students need a time incentive to “run for the prize” rather than just labor, seemingly in vain.

Q: My student seems to be doing well, but I’m not! He’s only in the 4th grade and he’s already asking questions I can’t answer, particularly in Latin, English grammar, Science, and Math.

A: Our curriculum challenges students, and often parents. Our teachers realize this and will gladly help with questions after school or on break. Encourage your student to plan their work so that they have time to ask questions of their teacher.

Q: My student has many activities that keep him from doing homework on certain nights. How can we manage this?

A: Many of our students have busy activities. This provides an opportunity for them to learn how to plan in advance. Teachers publish homework assignments on a weekly basis and in advance by several days (often over a week). These are available on Renweb, our internet parent information system. Students can also obtain these directly from teachers. Students should be encouraged on Friday or Saturday to plan the upcoming week. For example, if a student has activities on Tuesday and Thursday, they should plan on the previous Friday to get at least one of the assignments for each of those days done over the weekend.

If you have questions about the work your child is bringing home from school, please let me encourage you to go see your child’s teacher. He or she is ready to talk it out and provide the clarification or help that is needed.


Challenging our Children to Do Hard Things

Parents sometimes become distressed when their children are asked to do hard things. After all, we love our children and want to protect them. When children are challenged, stretched, or required to do things that are above them, they respond in different ways. More adventurous souls will get excited by the challenge while more timid children may shrink away. One thing is sure: our children will rise to the level of the expectations that we hold them to.

We are preparing our children to be adults. That’s why we should constantly be finding ways to prepare them for an adult world. In our culture, in which the perpetual adolescence of marathon gaming sessions, pizza on the couch, and gallons of Mountain Dew till early in the morning is the ideal, training your children to be adults will be counter-cultural. Young children who act like young children are cute, but older children who act like young children, well, that’s a different matter.

When you require your children to do hard things, hold them accountable to your instructions, maintain a high standard, and expect maturity and responsibility, you are preparing them to succeed not just in school but in life. You are preparing them to be adults.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying: children should be allowed to be children. Children should play and use their imaginations and be given the freedom to explore the world as children. But a romanticized view of childhood that wants me-centered children only to play, continually to let themselves go in a Willy Wonka-like candyland of childhood pleasures, is a myopic view. There is an adult world that we are preparing our children to enter, and we must indeed prepare them. We have children, but we are training adults.

The Christian Scriptures require it of us. The Triune God raises His children toward maturity (Eph. 4:13-14), and so should we. So when we require children to memorize Scripture passages that they do not fully understand, when we lead children to pray prayers that are far too profound for them, when we teach children historical facts that have ramifications reaching far beyond their grasp, we are creating grooves for a lifetime. Children’s minds and hearts can run along these grooves as they mature, and then when they are adults, they will have familiarity with Scriptures, prayers, historical facts, and worldviews that fit them for usefulness in God’s kingdom and in the world.

Do you have a vision for your children’s maturity? Are you creating grooves for their maturity? Are you challenging them to do hard things? Regents loves childhood, silliness, and play. But we reject foolishness. We want to help you propel your children toward maturity and greater usefulness to God and to the world.


In Loco Parentis Maximized

There is a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that pictures Calvin as a square peg being beaten into a round hole, then as a zombie, a robot, a hamster on a wheel, a parrot, and a prisoner on a chain gang. At the end of the strip, Hobbes asks, “Another typical day at school?”

I hope you (and your children!) don’t share Calvin’s impressions of school, but I know you want your child’s experience at school to be as happy and beneficial as possible. Your child’s teachers share that desire. The Christian school and parents have a unique partnership, in which each has specific roles and responsibilities.

Please allow me to share a few thoughts on what parents can do to maximize this partnership and make your child’s experience at Regents Academy as beneficial as possible.

First, realize the fact that the school relationship is a partnership, not a solo act.

Resist the temptation to be a drop-off parent who thinks, “They do the educating. I do the parenting. I pay them thousands of dollars so that I don’t have to worry about the education part.” No, parenting is educating. We are your partners in fulfilling your responsibility under God to educate your children.

When you approach school as a partnership rather than as a responsibility that you have abdicated or shifted, it changes everything. You get involved with the day-to-day progress of your children. You go over spelling lists and discuss the literature of the week and review math facts and probe your child’s Bible knowledge. You spot weaknesses to work on and strengths to praise and celebrate. You see the teacher’s role as an adjunct to what you are already doing. You support the teacher in countless ways as a co-laborer rather than as a mere spectator. You develop trust with your child’s teacher as you work together with him or her.

Teachers love it when parents are deeply involved with the academic progress of their students. And the opposite is true as well: teachers get frustrated with parents who are distant and only minimally involved in the education of their children. We, as parents, must take seriously our responsibility under to God in the education of our children.

Second, cultivate a healthy skepticism that follows the dictum, “Trust but verify.” In short, don’t believe everything your children tell you happened at school.

I am not suggesting that you regard your child as a liar. I am suggesting that you be wise. A pastor I once worked with used to say, “There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth.” There is truth to his statement. Your child will inevitably tell the story from her perspective and so will tell it a certain way. She will include certain details while omitting others. She will reverse the order of events or remember something wrong or make inferences that sound like facts.

Or perhaps she is lying. That is indeed a possibility. Solomon wrote in Proverbs that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. That includes sins like lying. If you believe your child is incapable of lying, you should go back to what the Bible says about her.

So don’t automatically believe everything your child says about what happened at school. Instead, try to understand what happened as best you can. Ask your child questions in a calm and even tone. Seek facts, not interpretations and inferences. Then, call or approach your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Avoid accusing your teacher before hearing her perspective. Ask what happened and listen carefully.

I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells and then go to the teacher and point the finger angrily, accusing the teacher of unfairness or inconsistency without allowing the teacher a single word of explanation. Also, I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells, accept every word, and then refuse to go to the teacher at all but instead bury the grievance, which quickly rots into bitterness and anger. In either case, this is a formula for a poisoned parent-teacher relationship. The Bible calls us to peace, not poison.

My own children have come home and reported an occurrence at school that was unsettling or problematic. We talked to the teacher and found out that what really happened was quite different from what we were told. Or, we found out that what happened was accurate, but it had been dealt with. In either case reacting based on my children’s account alone — or reacting with my emotions bent out of shape — would have been the worst thing I could have done.

A teacher once said, “If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I’ll promise not to believe everything he says happens at home.” Sounds like a good agreement to abide by.

Finally, let me suggest that if you have a problem or an issue with your child’s teacher, go directly to the teacher as soon as possible.

You will be tempted to gossip about it with others. You will be tempted to bury it until it festers into anger or bitterness. You will be tempted to send a scathing text or email. You will be tempted to stew over it until it bursts out later. You will be tempted to do lots of things that are neither productive nor biblical.

The right response is to go to your child’s teacher with a gentle and gracious spirit and simply ask to talk about the issue. In Matthew 18 our Lord taught us that if someone sins against us, we ought to go to that person and tell him his fault. Talking about it with others, unless you are genuinely seeking counsel in dealing with the issue, is not an option. It requires humility in parents to go to a teacher with the right spirit. It also requires humility in a teacher to be willing to acknowledge his faults and rectify them. It takes wisdom, too, because sometimes the teacher has done nothing wrong or has unintentionally hurt feelings.

Regents teachers are not only willing to talk things over with you, they are eager to do so. Almost every week, I see or hear of faithful parents who come to a teacher and share their concern, and the issue is dealt with peacefully and effectively. We live in a community, with teachers partnering with parents to teach and train children for Christ. We are fellow believers — grown-ups — who are called to act in love.

Now, I know that these are your children, and it is easy to get emotional or upset when you perceive an issue with a teacher. All the more reason to pray, get control, and go straight to the one who needs to work it out: the teacher.

What do you do if that meeting doesn’t yield results? That is the time, perhaps, to go to the headmaster and seek another hearing. Maybe there is more information that will clear things up, or maybe the headmaster can go to the teacher and get to the bottom of things and bring a resolution to the matter.

Please know this, parents: we are thankful for you and for the trust you place in us.