Monthly Archives: November 2010

Reading on Our Tip-Toes

Each afternoon I join the Regents juniors and seniors in Omnibus class and read great literature with them. It would be hard work if it weren’t so much fun.

The last few weeks we have been reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau. One of the most read and well-loved books in the American canon, Walden is Thoreau’s meditations on his two-year experiment in living alone at Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts, where he endeavored to find a simpler life so that he might better know himself and his environment. The book reads sometimes like a diary, sometimes like a naturalist’s journal, sometimes like a collection of essays, and sometimes like a prophet’s screed. Some of Thoreau’s most trenchant comments concern the reading of books. The classically trained Thoreau was a devoted bibliophile who kept a copy of Homer’s Iliad open on his table in his cabin at Walden Pond.

In his chapter titled “Reading,” he makes many comments worth considering:

  • “For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man?”
  • “A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art.”
  • “Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
  • “[Books’] authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.”
  • “Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to.”
  • “We are underbred and low-lived and illiterate; and in this respect I confess I do not make any very broad distinction between the illiterateness of my townsman who cannot read at all and the illiterateness of him who has learned to read only what is for children and feeble intellects.”
  • “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!”

Thoreau states it far more eloquently than I can: it is through reading great books, the books “we have to stand on tip-toe to read,” that we come into contact with the great and transforming truths that have shaped our culture for generations. This is the guiding principle behind the Omnibus curriculum.

When students behold what is true and good and beautiful in the printed word, they find their souls being nourished and their minds being challenged. They find wisdom and eloquence being formed in them. They often find “a new era in their lives” being birthed.

The hard truth is that we are naturally shallow, lazy, and self-centered. Only God’s grace can shake us from our superficiality, lethargy, and egotism. One way God does so is through teachers who expose our minds to the beauty and power of the printed word, especially in the books of the Great Tradition, and the ideas they contain.

At Regents Academy we teach great literature, “the noblest recorded thoughts of man.” We do so unashamedly, and we aspire to do so with excellence. We hope to do nothing less than change students lives. With God’s help and with inspiration from thinkers like Thoreau, we will do so for years to come.

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We Are Thankful Indeed!

Our first and second graders caused no little excitement as they entered the hallway decked out in their best Native American and Pilgrim costumes!  Instead of eating their regular lunch, the children gathered in the second grade room to feast on a myriad of delicious items ranging from pomegranates to tandori bread and fresh raw carrots to tender smoked ham.  Our sweet teachers thanked the mothers and grandmother who had dedicated so much energy into the feast and then the class prayed.

The scene was beautiful as my gaze passed from one precious face to the next, thinking about how much the children are loved and prayed for in the tiny little school on the hill.  I asked a few of the children, “Who were the Indians and Pilgrims?”  One or two pointed around the room, identifying their friends that were dressed as Indians or Pilgrims.  One little first grader told me rather matter-of-fact, “The Pilgrims were from England and they came over on the Mayflower.”  When asked what they were thankful for, most answered like a good little lad or lass in Sunday School with “God!”  My favorite response was the second grader who didn’t miss a beat when he told me that he was thankful for “Tyron!”  This particular second grader happens to be my nephew and this wasn’t a name I was familiar with.  My puzzled look triggered him to quickly whip out his penpal card.  Lo and behold, wouldn’t you know…his pen pal from New Zealand is named Tyron!

First and second grade has much to be thankful for as I’m sure you do as well during this thankful season!

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6th Grade Pushes West in Covered Wagons

We enjoy studying history in 6th grade; in fact, we love history so much that I often must remind my class that we should honor each person’s insight and comments for we all want to jump in regularly with our own knowledge or wonderment!

Our Veritas cards take us through the early 1800’s right up through Modern America!  That’s an abundance of material to cover and it’s my job to make each lesson as meaningful as possible so that my children will retain an appreciation of their roots in our Great Land.  We study settlers on more than one occasion but this week’s card was “Westward Expansion,” and the students’ assignment was to create a covered wagon.  We worked on our wagons during class for a few days and some of my students took their covered wagon home to put the finishing touches on!  Through blistered fingers from the glue gun, pricked palms from the needle that stitched the covered canvas and smocks that blocked straying paint strokes, my students produced some very artistic and sturdy wagons!

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Have you ever had a tooth extracted? The most common definition for extract is- to draw out by effort; pull out. This word comes from the Latin roots ex-, out + trahere, to draw, drag. Looking at the principal parts (traho, trahere, traxi, tractus) it is easy to see where we get the words traction and tractor.

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Running and Swimming Young

Two members of the Young family have earned notoriety lately.

Eighth grader Will Young recently competed in a 5K run to benefit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) here in Nacogdoches. Will finished first in the race, which is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that he is 13 years old and competed against 169 other runners. Read about it here.

Mrs. Kelly Young was recently inducted into the University of Evansville Hall of Fame. Kelly was a swimmer at UE, where she set one conference record and three school records, won several championships, and was named most outstanding athlete of the year in 1992. Click here for more details.

Congrats, Young family!

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Big Risks and Revolutions

In Fortune magazine’s November 22, 2010, edition author Andy Greenberg tells the story of Pumpkin Inc. An unusual firm based in San Francisco and founded by Stanford professor Andrew Kalman, Pumpkin Inc. produces components for 2-pound, 4-inch-tall “personal satellites” ready to be launched into orbit around Earth. For about $7,500 you can buy your own Rubik’s cube-sized unmanned spacecraft that can circle the globe 400 miles high. But before you get your hopes set on a cool new Christmas gift, plan to spend tens of thousands of dollars more to rent space on a NASA rocket. Most Pumpkin Inc. customers are universities and observatories.

Interesting as this innovation is, what drew my attention was what the article had to say about the relatively small size of the company and product and their disproportionately large potential for impact. Noting that big companies are steering clear of nanosatellites because the profits look minute by comparison, Kalman says that “there’s an opportunity for someone like us to try to pull off something this risky.”

The article concludes (and here’s what grabbed my eye), “Big risks – and revolutions – are sometimes best approached by the very small.”

Regents Academy is a small school in a small town in a small corner of East Texas. By comparison, our student population is tiny, and our funding base is miniscule. In a society mesmerized by newness and technological whizbangery, founding a school built on a centuries-old method of education resting on the premise that if something is old and proven, it ought not be ignored – this is risky. Dozens of families have ventured the education of their children – their greatest responsibility under God – by hitching their wagon to the success of our school.
But “big risks – and revolutions – are sometimes best approached by the very small.”

Consider that Gideon needed not a large army but the right army. Remember the small band of outcasts and misfits that gathered around David, who later led an army. And consider that the Lord Jesus Himself turned the world upside down through just 12 men, people who by all accounts were just like you and me. The history of the Christian church continues God’s story of the amazing, revolutionizing force, not of the impressive, but of the small and the outsider.

My point is not that we should glory in our smallness – as if there is virtue in intentionally situating ourselves as outcasts who must remain itty-bitty. That will guarantee our own marginalization. No, my point is that we need to see the unique position that God has providentially placed us in and how that unique position situates us for having a disproportionate impact. Can the large public school down the road accomplish what we can accomplish? Just think for a moment about the impact our school can have on one young life, and then think about the huge effect that impact has down the line as that student’s transformation influences others. It’s stunning if you stop and think about the great power of the right impact being made at the right place at the right time. You don’t have to be big to do that, and in fact being one of the big boys might just cause you to miss an opportunity that only a company like Pumpkin Inc. or a school like Regents could seize.

Our school is daring to be part of something revolutionary: we are educating children as image bearers of the Triune God who are being uniquely equipped to lead lives of service to Him and their neighbors. Our school is less than a decade old, a mere tick of the divine clock. We remain a small, young school. The revolutionary results of our efforts remain to be seen.

But of one thing I am sure: they will not be small results.

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Something We Need More Than Jobs and Money

He was called the gadfly of Athens for good reason, pestering 5th century Greeks with endless questions. Ultimately, they shut him up by causing him to drink hemlock, 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:

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, their real humanity is not only acknowledged but is honored.

“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.

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Family Soccer Night 2010

Family Soccer Night was October 28. It was a beautiful fall evening and a fun event for students and parents alike.

The Junior High team played the parents and won 1-0 while the High School team played to a 2-2 tie. Thankfully, there were no injuries, though there undoubtedly many sore muscles and aching joints the next couple of days.

Thanks goes to the makers of Advil and to all the parents who came out and gave it up for the team. Thanks also to our coaches, Rick Bertke and Dirk DeKerlegand, to Michael Kunk for officiating (what generous calls!), and to Francesca Kunk for organizing the hot dog dinner.

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The Olympics Come to Regents

The first Olympic Games took place in ancient Greece in 776 B.C. The Regents third grade class studied the Olympics last week, led by their teacher Mrs. Amy Tyre. History came to life as the third graders participated in their own Olympiad at the school. Among the events were the long jump, discus (frisbee) throw, relay race, and hoola-hoop competition. Yes, hoola-hoops have been unearthed from ancient Greece.

Thankfully, Mrs. Tyre modernized the Olympic competitions, with girls competing and all athletes fully clothed.

Great job, Olympians!

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