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Rigorous Training of the Mind

I want to share with you an eloquent article by Pastor John Piper in which he argues for the rigorous training of the mind in our children so that they will be able to read the Bible with understanding. Pastor Piper does not mention classical Christian education directly, but he doesn’t have to. 


A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind:
Thoughts on the Significance of Reading

by John Piper

I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education—the rigorous training of the mind—is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.

This sounds too obvious to be useful or compelling. But that’s just because we take the preciousness of reading so for granted; or, even more, because we appreciate so little the kind of thinking that a complex Bible passage requires of us.

The book of Hebrews, for example, is an intellectually challenging argument from Old Testament texts. The points that the author makes hang on biblical observations that come only from rigorous reading, not light skimming. And the understanding of these Old Testament interpretations in the text of Hebrews requires rigorous thought and mental effort. The same could be said for the extended argumentation of Romans and Galatians and the other books of the Bible.

This is an overwhelming argument for giving our children a disciplined and rigorous training in how to think an author’s thoughts after him from a text—especially a biblical text. An alphabet must be learned, as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, the rudiments of logic, and the way meaning is imparted through sustained connections of sentences and paragraphs.

The reason Christians have always planted schools where they have planted churches is because we are a people of THE BOOK. It is true that THE BOOK will never have its proper effect without prayer and the Holy Spirit. It is not a textbook to be debated; it is a fountain for spiritual thirst, and food for the soul, and a revelation of God, and a living power, and a two-edged sword. But none of this changes the fact: apart from the discipline of reading, the Bible is as powerless as paper. Someone might have to read it for you; but without reading, the meaning and the power of it are locked up.

Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).

The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (2 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.

The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!

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Jr. High Soccer Takes 4th

The Regents Jr. High soccer team played three hard-fought games on October 10 and placed 4th in the CSAC Soccer Tournament in Longview.

Well done, students! Many thanks to coaches Jeremy Terrell and Lance Vermillion.

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Piney Woods Fair Grand Champions

Cason Cobb, 3rd grader at Regents Academy, was named grand champion in the market broiler competition. Cason raised the broilers for 6 weeks, providing all the care needed to raise chickens with the most meat. He competed against 45 other competitors.

Elizabeth Nichols, 1st grader at Regents Academy, was named grand champion in the breeding buck competition. Elizabeth cared for the rabbit for two months before the competition and competed with over 50 other children.

Congratulations, Cason and Elizabeth! We are so proud of you!

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5th Grade Visits Texas Fresh Water Fisheries

The Regents 5th grade class studies water-dwelling creatures in their science class. But as they focus on sea creatures, they don’t forget about our very own Texas ponds and lakes. Fishing is a favorite hobby for many Texans, and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens helps to keep the tradition going strong. On their visit the 5th graders got to see fish production facilities first hand. They are able to go eyeball to eyeball with massive catfish, bass, and even alligator gars! They are excited to feed them handful after handful of fish food until the water is nearly boiling with the frenzy!

At the end of the tour, the students have the opportunity to wet a hook (and hopefully not too much of their clothing!) and catch catfish using kernel corn as bait. Most students caught at least one fish, and most students eagerly tried to take the fish off the hook without help.

Happy fish-filled memories!

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4-H Officers Hard at Work

The Regents Academy 4-H club is in full swing. The club’s officers recently met to plan their monthly meeting. Pictured are club president Abby Powers, along with officers Sydney Cunyus, Ethan Fairley, Clayton Terrell, and Caroline Alders. These students are providing excellent leadership for their fellow 4-H club members.

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A 2nd Grade Tower of Babel

The second grade students got a small taste of what a massive project the Tower of Babel must have been when they built their own miniature replica in their classroom. The class, with their teacher Miss Kendall DeKerlegand, has been reading and studying the early chapters of Genesis.

The class continued to learn about the story of the Towel of Babel when the Tower was knocked over.

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The Value of Memorizing Scripture

Each month at Regents Academy students memorize passages from the Bible and then recite them before their classmates. Why are we using valuable time and effort to memorize Scripture? Here are some thoughts (and these are things that I have shared in the past – but I thought that they are worth putting before us again).

First, we memorize Scripture because we are a Christian school. A school can, of course, be a Christian school without a Bible memorization program, but on the other hand, would you expect a school that is not Christian to memorize God’s Word? Psalm 1 teaches us that God blesses the man who does not “walk in the counsel of the ungodly” but instead delights in His law and “in His law he meditates day and night.” The psalmist said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Ps 119:11). St. Paul reminded Timothy that he had known the Holy Scriptures since his childhood, and he had grown wise in salvation as a result (2 Tim 3:15). In the early centuries of the church, prospective church leaders were often required to memorize all 150 psalms. There are tremendous spiritual benefits to hiding God’s Word in our minds and hearts. We are better able to listen to God and trust in Him while meditating on His promises and commands that have been hidden away in our minds and hearts.

Memorizing Scripture accords well with the methodology of classical education. In the grammar phase of the Trivium students memorize large volumes of information: spelling rules, history facts, multiplication tables, as well as lots of names, dates, and places. Young children, of course, don’t understand the significance of all that they are memorizing, but we teach it to them over and over again until it is rote, and then later that knowledge will be developed as their ability to understand grows. Likewise, children may not understand all that they are called upon to memorize when they learn Bible passages. But as we place God’s words in their hearts and minds, it affects them nonetheless and is tucked away safely for later days when it will be understood better. Older students in the logic and rhetoric schools, with their greater capacity for understanding, receive great benefit from memorizing the Bible as they consider what it means and how it connects to their lives.

The Bible is a basic text required for cultural fluency. In fact, we might say that it is THE text for cultural fluency. Not only is it impossible to read and understand Shakespeare or Milton or Austen or Eliot without knowing the Bible. It is also impossible to understand our times without knowing the Bible. Students are given instant access to the language, ideas, and doctrines of the Bible when they memorize it – and that is invaluable for students to make a difference in our culture for Christ.

Bible memorization also helps develop recitation skills. Students at Regents Academy recite a lot: Latin conjugations, poems, prayers, memorized pieces, history facts. As students grow up through the Trivium, they are trained to recite and speak to audiences with confidence and poise, with a strong voice, and with rhetorical skill. Memorized Bible passages, then, are another training tool in preparing students to be persuasive, winsome public speakers. Francis Bacon famously asserted that “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” We might add that recitation maketh an eloquent man.

Finally, I can say from my own experience that a school-sponsored Scripture memorization program provides accountability. Busyness, distractions, and laziness keep me from making Bible memorization a priority. But with the Bible being consistently placed in my mind at school, I can call on that knowledge and be better equipped to trust Christ.

I encourage us all to see the value of memorizing the Bible, to memorize the Bible along with our children, and to thank the Lord for yet another gift He has given us through classical Christian education at Regents Academy.

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Stupendous Soccer Seniors

What a joy it was to honor the five Regents Academy seniors who lead the Regents Academy high school soccer team. During halftime of their final regularly scheduled home game of the season on September 27, Coach Rick Bertke presented the seniors with game balls and honored them with words of praise.

These five excellent young men have played soccer all four years of high school and helped lead the team to a TAPPS state championship in the 2018 season. The team is currently undefeated and vying for another state championship in 2019.

Pictured above are Coach Rick Bertke with seniors Zane Anderson, Knox Fairley, James Vermillion, Conner Young, and Ethan Fairley.

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Wise Words from Gandalf

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterful tale The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf accompanies the story’s unlikely hero, Bilbo Baggins, and his dwarf friends on their adventure across the Misty Mountains. As they prepare to enter the forbidding forest of Mirkwood, Gandalf announces that he must leave his friends. Danger awaits them ahead, he assures them, but they will be safe as long as they follow a simple rule: “Stay on the path!”

It strikes me that this is good counsel for us all, parents. We need to stay on the path of classical Christian education to the end. There are plenty of detours and dangers ahead. Our own children will probably want to veer off the path at some point (yes, you should expect your child at some point to see greener grass elsewhere). But in the adventure of raising children toward Christian maturity, our children need the right path, and so do we.

Classical education is predicated on a final destination, an ending point, a vision for where the education is going. The vision for a graduate of a classical Christian school includes love for learning, virtue and mature character, sound reason and sound faith, service to others, a masterful command of language, well-rounded competence, and literacy with broad exposure to books. Don’t you want those traits to describe your children when they are 17 or 18 and are preparing to enter the larger world?

The Trivium – grammar, logic, and rhetoric – are the road map to arriving at this vision for a graduate. In other words, making the educational journey through the years of grammar school, logic school, and rhetoric school is a voyage toward a final ideal, a great vision for our children to become mature, thinking Christians who know how to learn and who are prepared for a lifetime of faithful service and vocation.

But if we get on the classical path for only a short time, though our children will certainly benefit, they will never gain the long-term, life-shaping benefit of completing the journey. I want my children to make it all the way to the final destination that the classical map shows me, not end up in the middle of the wilderness with the path nowhere to be found.

All of this is to encourage you, parents, to consider the long-term vision of classical Christian education in the lives of your children. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric are more than just buzz words. They are distinct stages in your children’s voyage toward a lofty vision of preparedness for all that will come next for them. The journey is arduous and can be expensive, for sure. The struggles of today are real, and the work is hard. But the undertaking is well worth the effort and expense. And though the voyage seems long, in fact travelling from kindergarten to graduation really just takes the blink of an eye. Ask a parent of a graduate how long it seems since their children were being dropped off for kindergarten!

What is your vision for your children? How high are your goals? What kind of person do you want them to be? Is classical education just a stopping off point on the path to a different destination? Today is the day to plan for your vision for your children to become a reality. 

Regents Academy’s classical Christian education and Christ-centered culture is the best path I know for your children. Let me encourage you to stay on the path, to persist to the end, and then (to mix my metaphors) to anticipate reaping the good fruit of grammar, logic, and rhetoric in the appointed season. 

Remember the words of Gandalf at the entrance to the dark paths of Mirkwood: “Stay on the path!”

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House Kick-Off Launches a Year of Service and Togetherness

Upper School Regents students enjoyed a day together at the SFA ropes course at the House Kick-Off on September 13. Here are a few more pictures to enjoy!

Our vision for the House System is to give students opportunities to lead and shape the culture at Regents. Our hope is that through weekly service projects, friendly competitions, House worship, and through connecting the Grammar and Upper schools, a pervading love for one another and the Lord will deepen.

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