Yearly Archives: 2014


Sin, Temptations, and Humility

I know something about you. Everyone knows it. It’s an open secret. You are flawed. You sin. In fact, your heart is tangled up with sin. … what’s that? You know something about me, too?

There are at least two constants that we can always count on at our school. First, we are all sinners and bring our sins and flaws to school with us. It is impossible for our classical Christian school to exist apart from sin because it is made up of sinful children, sinful parents, sinful teachers, and sinful administrators. But second, (and more important) where sin abounds, God’s grace in Christ abounds still more. God abundantly forgives and redeems, and He overcomes the destructive effects of sin in the lives of His repentant and redeemed people.

Regents Academy is a wonderful school. We have a lot to be thankful for, and there is a lot that is right about what we are doing. But it is all by grace – all of it. Every good thing about our school is an undeserved gift, and everything that we do well is from our Heavenly Father. And this fact should humble us. We should, truly, humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord so that He will lift us up (James 4:10). Part of this self-humbling is acknowledging the temptations that we are prone to fall into. Schools have particular temptations, and classical Christian schools have their own temptations as well. We are not immune.

A couple of years ago, a classical educator from Idaho named Brian Douglas wrote in First Things about five temptations for classical Christian schools. I intend to share them with you over the next week or two. Here are his introductory comments along with the first temptation. I hope we all take his wise words to heart.

Having taught at a classical Christian school for five years and followed the classical Christian education movement for some years prior, I have come to believe that it is the best approach to K-12 education available today.

Due to its understanding of education as the reshaping of a child’s soul (in contrast to “discovery” models of education, for example), the method tends to develop thinkers defined by who they are instead of workers defined by what they do. Its focus on the Great Conversation gives students respect for history and helps them see themselves as contributors to that conversation. Unlike inward-facing fundamentalist approaches to education, this movement does not shy away from the world, but instead teaches students to interact thoughtfully with contemporary culture.

Classical Christian schools do these and many other things well, and consequently their numbers, acceptance, and influence are on the rise. However, as this form of education comes of age, it needs to be wary of certain temptations. Five specific cautions come to mind.

The first temptation is to overemphasize mistaken notions of success. The bigger our schools grow, the more respected a faculty we attract, the better we implement a Trivium-based curriculum, and the more accomplished our graduates become, the more we will be tempted to slip into something of a prep school mentality. Staff members and families begin to think of their school as an elite academic institution, one that produces a better “product” (by whatever measure) than others in the area.

In contrast to a more “successful” classical Christian school, less established schools may feel inferior because they lack the appearance or reputation of other schools. They might yearn for the facilities and programs that they see as their ticket to being an elite school: “If only we had …” It is easy for any educator to mistake the trappings of education for education itself.

The history of the movement demonstrates that amazing things can be done despite want, but as our schools grow richer, the temptation grows to consider these things the keys to success. Buildings, labs, athletics, the best materials, and other tangible things are good and helpful (and probably even necessary), but they can become the same kind of covetous idolatry that Israel displayed when it asked God for a king. Our focus must always be on the one thing that actually determines our success: God’s power and promises.

Mistaken notions of success are best revealed by our attitude toward our graduates. When they are prominent and successful, we hold them up as evidence that our school is prominent and successful. We must be doing something right, the argument goes. But when graduates fall short of our expectations, we feel the need to explain them away: They failed because of family influences, they had spent years in public schools, they had a weak church background, etc.

The reality is that our students are like our own children. Parents know that even if they do everything in their power to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, whether or not the children ultimately have genuine Christian faith is beyond our control. Likewise, teachers can guide students toward God, but only the work of the Holy Spirit in their souls can make them into the kind of Christ-honoring graduates that we would like to produce.

Instead of lifting up our best students as proof that we are doing things “the right way,” our response to their success should be gratitude. God be praised for his work in the lives of these students, in many cases despite our flaws. Rather than feeling ashamed of less successful students, we should pray that the seeds once planted would come to life by God’s grace. The idea that they are evidence of our failure reveals an errant and unhealthy understanding of success.

Stay tuned for more temptations to beware of next week.

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Haiku Contest Winners 2014

Congratulations to the winners of the Regents Academy Haiku Contest. Students composed haikus on the theme of autumn and had them judged by the seniors.

Winners in the 4th-6th grade division included Grant Cooper (3rd), Morgan Justice (2nd), and Liane Muir (1st). Winners in the 7th-9th grade division included Conner Young (2nd), Drew Middlebrook (2nd), and Robert Moore (1st). Thank you to Mrs. Nicole Alders for putting the contest together!

haiku

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Seniors Red-y to Serve

Regents Academy’s class of 2015 helped serve Butterbraid during drop-off recently. While serving, they had a great time together. This year’s seniors include Jon Sowell, Michaela Hill, Kendall DeKerlegand, Alice Bryant, and Will Young.

seniorssm

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Grace: Right Here, Right Now

Our faculty has learned a lot from pastor and conference speaker Paul David Tripp about fostering a culture of grace at our school. I want to share with you some words from Tripp about the grace of God in Christ that, if we take them to heart, will transform us and our world.

Do you understand the majesty and practicality of the grace you have been given? If you don’t, in subtle and not so subtle ways, you are looking to other things to get you through. You don’t need to go out searching for hope and help, because they are already yours in the resources of grace that you have been given as God’s child.

Grace is the most transformational word in the Bible. The entire content of the Bible is a narrative of God’s grace, a story of undeserved redemption. By the transformational power of his grace, God unilaterally reaches his hands into the muck of this fallen world, through the presence of his Son, and radically transforms his children from what we are (sinners) into what we are becoming by his power (Christ-like). The famous Newton hymn uses the best word possible, maybe the only word big enough, for that grace—amazing.

So grace is a story and grace is a gift. It is God’s character and it is your only hope. Grace is a transforming tool and a state of relationship. Grace is a beautiful theology and a wonderful invitation. Grace is a life-long experience and a life-changing calling. Grace will turn your life upside down while giving you a rest you have never known. Grace will require you to face your unworthiness without ever making you feel unloved.

Grace will make you finally acknowledge that you cannot earn God’s favor, and it will once and for all remove your fear of not measuring up to his standards. Grace will humble you with the fact that you are much less than you thought you were, even as it assures you that you can be far more than you had ever imagined. You can be sure that grace will put you in your place without ever putting you down.

Grace will enable you to face shocking truths about yourself that you have hesitated to consider, while freeing you from being self-consciously introspective. Grace will confront you with profound weaknesses, and at the same time bless you with new-found strength. Grace will tell you again and again what you aren’t, while welcoming you again and again to what you can now be. Grace will make you as uncomfortable as you have ever been, while offering you a more lasting comfort than you have never before known .

Grace will work to drive you to the end of yourself, while it invites you to fresh starts and new beginnings. Grace will dash your ill-founded hopes, but never walk away and leave you hopeless. Grace will decimate your little kingdom of one as it introduces you to a much, much better King. Grace will expose to you the extent of your blindness as it gives you eyes to see what you so desperately need to see. Grace will make you sadder than you have ever been, while it gives you greater cause for celebration than you have ever known.

Grace enters your life in a moment and will occupy you for eternity. You simply cannot live a productive life in this broken-down world unless you have a practical grasp of the grace you have been given.

Are you living out of this amazing grace? Does it shape the way you respond to your personal struggles, your relationships, and your work? Does your trust in this grace form how you live with your husband or wife? Does it propel the way you parent your children? Does it give you comfort when friends have disappointed you? Does it give you rest when life is unpredictable and hard? Does it make you bold and give you courage in places where you would have once been timid? Does it make the idols that tempt you less attractive and less powerful? Do you wake up and say, “I don’t know what I will face today, but this I do know: I have been given amazing grace to face it right here, right now.”

May God help you to understand and rest in the grace that you have been given!

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Talk to the Teacher

A little girl came home from school and said to her mother, “Mommy, today in school I was punished for something that I didn’t do.” The mother exclaimed, “But that’s terrible! I can’t believe the teacher would treat you that way. By the way, what was it that you didn’t do?” The little girl replied, “My homework.”

Every parent knows what it’s like for his or her child to come home and tell a story about something bad that happened at school. What should a parent do when his or her child comes home and tells about something that happened at school that is upsetting or negative?

Let me suggest several things not to do:

  • Try not to overreact. It’s easy to get upset, especially if our children are upset. The best thing we can do is maintain our calm and think through our responses.
  • Don’t believe everything your child tells you. I’m not suggesting you should accuse your child of lying! Rather, we should have the attitude of Ronald Reagan: Trust but verify. As an old friend used to say, “There are three sides to every story – your side, my side, and the truth.”
  • Avoid talking to other parents to find out if they are upset, too. Of course, sometimes speaking to other parents is needful if the issue involves their children. However, “parking lot chatter” rarely does anything more than stir up other parents.
  • Finally, don’t give in to the temptation to believe what your child says, get angry, and then stuff the feelings down and harbor resentment. That is a formula for dissatisfaction and bitterness that will certainly not help your children – and doing what is best for our children is what we all want.

Rather than reacting in these ways, what ought parents to do when they get a report from their child about something upsetting at school? First, listen to your children. Seek to comfort them and even to pray with them. Next, contact your child’s teacher. This is so important! Your children’s teachers are accessible to you. Call them, text them, visit them after school, email them – but find a way to ask your child’s teacher what went on. If the teacher doesn’t know, she will get to the bottom of it, and I, as headmaster, stand ready to help sort through what happened and address issues appropriately. When you call, ask questions. What happened? What was going on when it occurred? Who else was involved? Why did you choose to handle it the way you did? How can I help?

One last thing to consider: what if the issue involves something that the teacher him or herself did? All the more reason to contact the teacher directly! Perhaps it is a misunderstanding. Maybe your child is either lying or putting something the teacher did in a bad light. But then again, maybe the teacher is at fault. Teachers are prone to mistakes and sins, like all of us; sometimes it is only through a faithful and diligent parent that a teacher is asked about an issue they themselves caused. Christ taught us, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15). Regents teachers are humble, approachable Christian ladies and gentlemen who are ready to hear from parents and address whatever the issue is, even if the fault is in him or herself.

As parents sometimes we feel torn between two competing impulses. One is the God-given zeal we have to protect and aid our children. The other is the biblical command, “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13). I want to suggest that the way to accomplish both is to go straight to your children’s teachers and get to the bottom of whatever the concern is. We are ready and willing to help.

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