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How Firm a Kindergarten Foundation

May 26, 2022
By Rachel Fix

Remember playing with blocks? I don’t know about you, but as a child, I had one singular goal when stacking a tower of wooden blocks: build it as high as humanly possible! So, I stacked one block on top of another to try and reach the stars—or at least the ceiling of my living room. But despite my stacking efforts, my towers inevitably came crashing down. My young brain couldn’t quite comprehend that the key to building a solid structure was to start with a solid foundation.

Clearly, as the right foundation is key to toy tower construction, it is all the more so in regard to education. How we start has direct implications on how far and how high we can go; the foundation is critical.

At Rockbridge Academy, the groundwork of love is laid first. Knowing they are loved by God and by their teachers, each child learns to marvel at the world God has created. The foundations are set to enable them to grow in the Lord as lifelong learners.

After my childhood career of tower construction, I eventually ended up working at this school, and from my desk outside the kindergarten classrooms, I have had the pleasure of watching and listening in on all the joy and learning taking place all year long.  

First and foremost, students learn more of Christ in kindergarten. Yes, they memorize Scripture (over 30 verses!) and study God’s Word in their Bible lessons, but like the red and blue lenses that make sense of 3D films, Jesus is the filter through which each lesson comes to life.

When they work on fine and gross motor skills in Motor Lab, they rejoice over how God made their bodies to move. When they study grammar, the students are reminded that the structure of our language was given by God. When they giggle through a funny book together, they are reminded of the joy we have in Christ.

A deep love of the Savior informs the way Mrs. Geverdt and Mrs. Lytikainen engage with the students. One of my favorite things about Mrs. Lytikainen is how she calls the students “Treasure.” When I asked her about it, she said it was the term of endearment she used for her own children when they were young. It falls off her tongue in the classroom because she sees each of her students as precious—to her and to the Lord.

Second, the Rockbridge kindergarten experience sets the foundation of life-long learning. As kindergarten mom, Adrienne DeGodt put it, “What we love about kindergarten is the joyful learning that’s cultivated in them. My daughter comes home ready to tell and retell what she learned in class that day. It is fun to see just how alive and vibrant everything is in her mind because of the way in which they are discovering together.”

Kindergarten is a hands-on experience from day one. After talking about the rhythm of the seasons in September, the students visited a local farm and saw God’s world changing colors. After reading the story of The Little Red Hen, they went through the steps of grinding flour, mixing ingredients, and kneading dough to experience the hard work it takes to bake bread. Of course, they enjoyed the labors of their hard work, too! As spring rolled around, Mrs. Geverdt brought baby chicks into their classroom so the children could watch them grow and learn to care for them.

Daily kindergarten lessons are taught in interactive ways. Kindergarten math has recently implemented a new curriculum called Think!Math that uses the principles of Singapore Math to meet young minds where they are. Students work math problems following a CPA approach: C for concrete (holding 5 blocks in their hand and taking away 3 to feel and see that there are 2 blocks left), P for pictorial (looking at a picture of 5 blocks and imagining 3 going away to leave 2 behind), and A for Abstract (seeing the number sentence 5-3= and knowing the answer is 2). While those ideas don’t feel that different to the adult mind, they can be hugely different for a kindergartener. Adding a tactile element has helped so many little ones to conquer this challenge. This procedural understanding of math is the building block that will help them grasp division and fractions and trigonometry one day, but for kindergarten kids, it doesn’t feel burdensome. It feels like an adventure!

Finally, in Rockbridge kindergarten, students learn how to interact socially and graciously with one another, with their teachers, and with the larger Rockbridge community. Although it will be a long time before they need these skills for a college interview or to communicate with their colleagues at work, the foundations of human interactions begin in kindergarten. As tiny as they are, they learn how to put others first. They explore and express themselves, but they also learn how to respect their teachers and to listen to their classmates. For many entering students (especially this post-Covid group who missed in-person interactions for their preschool years), this is their first chance to really interact with their peers. It has been a privilege to see them blossom socially under the guidance of their teachers. The year-end Teddy Bear Serenade serves as a wonderful celebration and opportunity to put into practice all the manners and socially appropriate skills they have learned.

It would be foolish to say that only Rockbridge Academy kindergarten graduates could go on to achieve success, but I truly believe our program is the BEST start for any child’s education. It is a beautiful expression of Zechariah 4:10, which says “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Like our Heavenly Father, we rejoice to see the small beginnings of these beautiful souls and look forward to who they will become as they build on this firm foundation.

Rachel Fix works as the front desk receptionist, photography teacher, and social media specialist for the school. She has four children at Rockbridge Academy and experienced kindergarten first-hand through her own children.  

Posted in Grammar

Trusting God with College Plans

April 28, 2022
By Sarah Soltis, Class of 2020

In the fall of 2019, I danced through the halls of Rockbridge with a head held high and a smile secured, for I regarded myself as the early bird who had “gotten the worm.” Before senior year started, I ordered my path for the next season of my life. I applied to the College of William and Mary to study English in W&M’s Joint Degree Programme with the University of St. Andrews; I was accepted and ready to attend before the new year. Even Covid-19, when it came, could not diminish my eagerness for my neatly-crafted plan.

A Zoom bible study early in the pandemic directed my attention to Proverbs 16, particularly verse 9: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” While I nodded along to my peers’ reflections regarding the Lord’s sovereignty despite the virus’s disintegration of man’s plans, my heart stood secure against the truth of the proverb. Blessed, as I was, with rich resources of fellowship and support through my family and the Rockbridge community, I felt little of the pandemic’s mutilation until I left for school.

My first semester revealed not only the virus’s disintegrating effect but also my own pride in planning. By my calculations, if I could only attend a prestigious school, participate in an international program, and do so while achieving good grades and making good connections, I would arrive at a state of accomplished contentment. My efforts, I imagined, would yield happiness.

I completed my supposed prerequisites. Still, my desired result–satisfaction in my work as a student, as well as contentment and spiritual peace in my everyday life–evaded me. When I worked harder, I felt even more discontent.

Upon return after my first semester, the truths I had attempted to scurry away from found me out through various unexpected pathways, such as subbing for my mother’s fifth grade class and working in children’s ministry at my church. Simple truths that I taught to children–including verses like “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want” and ideas like “God is in control” and even “Jesus loves me, this I know”–riddled my sense of self-sovereignty.

Over the course of several months, I learned to listen to the Lord as he led me “in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Such listening prodded me to consider that perhaps I, with my perfectly-ordered path towards success, could be mistaken.

Our culture feeds us the notion that mastery over one’s own plans is inherently good. Such self-actualization sates the human hunger to declare oneself “master of my fate, captain of my soul”–a hunger that has been grumbling since Adam and Eve tasted the bitterness of sin. Yet the myth of self-actualization cannot provide sustenance for life or satisfy the soul.

As Augustine wrote in The Confessions, addressing God, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” In finding my sustenance and rest in the Lord’s plans rather than my own, I released my schema of prestige and international opportunities and began the process of transferring schools.

Contrary to the notions of our culture, the Lord provided a place for me, as he provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. In the end, I am not, after all, that triumphant early bird with his self-selected worm but a bird fed by my Father.

Submission to the Lord’s rod and staff must not be a singular stance but a daily posture.

C. S. Lewis famously wrote that “relying on God has to begin all over again each day as if nothing had yet been done.” Since transferring to Grove City College last year, I have often reminded myself that submission to the Lord’s rod and staff must not be a singular stance but a daily posture. Surrender, especially of a seemingly-satisfactory schema for success, requires faithful practice, but the Lord has rewarded my surrender, opening further unexpected pathways before me.

The Valley of Vision contains a prayer I often return to during this practice of surrender: “I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal, and I love to leave them there. Then prayer turns wholly into praise, and all I can do is to adore and love thee.” May we indeed rejoice as we release our plans into the Father’s hands.

Sarah Soltis (class of 2020) is studying English and classical studies at Grove City College. She writes for GCC's newspaper, The Collegian, and the cultural magazine, Cogitare Magazine. Sarah works as an editorial intern for the online and print magazine Front Porch Republic, and she has contributed to Front Porch Republic, as well as The American Conservative and several online literary magazines. This summer, Sarah will be working at The Trinity Forum, a D.C.-based non-profit focused on cultivating Christian thought on faith and culture.

Posted in Upper School

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