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Posts Tagged "classical Christian education"

Loving Words and THE WORD

October 05, 2022
By Heidi Stevens, Rockbridge Academy Board Member

The following is adapted from a speech delivered by Heidi Stevens on September 29, 2022, at the Rockbridge Academy Library Grand Opening. 

Long before Rockbridge Academy opened its doors in 1995—with three teachers and just shy of two dozen students—a small group of families gathered to dream and plan what a school like this could be. The founding families met together, read together, and prayed together, talking about building a place where our children could thrive and grow, where they could learn in an environment committed to academic excellence that encouraged them to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

We loved our own children, of course, and dreamed of how a school like Rockbridge could come alongside and complement what God called us to as parents: training the children He’d given us to love their Creator with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

We also spent a lot of time talking about how what we were building should be built on a firm foundation that reached beyond our own generation. We spoke of cultivating a “500-year vision” for a place that would serve the parents of our community in educating our children’s children, and their children, and the children for generations beyond, if God would graciously bless and prosper the work.

In addition to talking about those things, you might be surprised to learn how that group of men and women regularly prayed for YOU. They prayed for you, and for your children, even as they went about the arduous work of building a school for their children.

Of course, we who were part of that younger Rockbridge Academy prayed fervently for our own children. But we knew that it was the next generation—and all the generations to come, long after we were gone - that would prove whether our work had been built on the right foundation or on shifting sand.  Consider the communion of saints—across time—who prayed for YOU, the Rockbridge parents of the future! You were prayed for: that you would be found faithful in seeking to raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. 

There were so many other things prayed for, But one thing—of particular significance for this night—was the prayer that the future students at this school would be lovers of the Word … and lovers of words. 

● Words! The means by which God chose to reveal Himself to His people, even before His incarnation as the Living Word.  
● Words! The amazing vehicle of language through which so much of our learning happens. 
● Words! The mysteriously powerful, beautiful medium through which we can bless or curse, bring healing or hurt, speak life or death.
● Words! The avenue of our understanding, the tool through which we read and speak truth, and the stuff of which stories are spun to captivate, delight, and lead.

And so, we dreamed of a library: of the smell of books and the lure of comfortable chairs; of a repository of the most wonderous stories and the greatest ideas of mankind; and of a gathering of the collected knowledge of God’s good Creation that has yet only begun to plumb the depths of its extravagant complexity.  

We envisioned our children, and the many children to come, being enamored by tales of adventure that would whet their appetites for the real adventure of reigning and ruling as dearly loved sons and daughters of our Eternal Father King.  

We smiled to think of our students being brought up on tales of bravery and valor, of justice and love, and all the other noble things that the truest and best stories are both made up of and point to. 

We longed for our children to recognize the great Story behind all good stories: the story of a King who is making all things right again and restoring his original pattern of what’s Beautiful, Good, and True.

I was listening to an interview the other day with Carolyn Weber, whose memoir, Surprised By Oxford, is currently being made into a motion picture. Dr. Weber has been on the faculty of prestigious colleges across the United States and Canada, and she was the first female dean of St. Peter’s College, Oxford. She recently moved to middle Tennessee to begin teaching at New College Franklin, a small college that teaches the seven liberal arts—the trivium and the quadrivium—from a Christian perspective. 

Knowing her vast experience but recognizing that many of the students she now teaches would likely have been classically educated, the interviewer asked Dr. Weber if she saw much difference between those young men and women and others from more traditional school backgrounds. Her answer struck me.  She said that the classically educated students, for the most part, could “think in the dark”  in a way that many of her past students couldn’t. 

“They know how to think in the dark. They can think unplugged,” she said. “They don’t need Google and they don’t need gadgets.” 

That description struck me, because it’s what we hope for in our students, isn’t it? We want them to be able to engage with what they read, regardless of genre, on its own terms. We want them to be able to open a book without opening their computers. To be able to dive in without needing the “light” of predigested information that will tell them what to think before they’ve even begun. 

Will this library create that sort of student by itself? Will a library ensure that we have students who can “think in the dark”? No. But it’s evidence that we believe that sort of student will routinely inhabit these halls.

We want our students, who’ve been trained to read in such a way, to have this place to come and experience the riches you see around you. To be lovers of words who come here to be with—to pursue—ideas made incarnate on these printed pages. May they do so, reminded of that more excellent Word and truer Incarnation who came to be with—to pursue—us.

Heidi Stevens taught art and humanities courses for twenty years and now serves on the Rockbridge Academy Board of Directors. She and her husband, Rick, have two grown daughters, both Rockbridge graduates.

Posted in School Culture

A 300-Year Vision

January 06, 2021
By Melanie Kaiss, Staff Member and PE Teacher

What do you have planned for 2321? Before you answer, make sure your mind hasn’t auto-corrected that number. The question is not, “What have you planned for the year 2021?”, but in fact, “What have you planned for the year 2321?”  The question casts a vision beyond paying off the mortgage, finally taking that trip you’ve been saving for—across the country or around the world, beyond cleaning out the attic (oh, yeah, you did that during COVID), or reading “War and Peace.”

Well, if you don’t have a 300-year plan, the ACCS does. And you are already part of it. The ACCS is the Association of Classical Christian Schools. If your child attends Rockbridge Academy, or any other member school, then your family is part of a generational plan to change and redeem our culture, to restore Christian norms and standards that were once the hallmark of a flourishing society.

I got “on the plan” roughly 20 years ago when my husband and I first discovered classical Christian Education (CCE). When we joined the Rockbridge community in 2002, we heard often of this kind of very long-term thinking. At one school dinner, the story was told by way of illustration, of a group of oak trees planted at Oxford University for the specific purpose of providing new roofing beams in the dining hall centuries hence, when the trees maturity and the roof’s wear would dovetail in this ideal replacement plan. The story is considered myth by some, but even so, the illustration is no less impactful, especially for a community of believers whose God thinks and speaks in just such long terms. God promised to deliver his people out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery, and He sent his son, the savior of the world, into first-century Palestine after a 400 years of silent anticipation. For a God outside of time, centuries and generations take on a different meaning.

Former Rockbridge parent and board chair, Stu Caton, cast a similar vision of time before a group gathered at the Evergreen campus in October 2019 to celebrate the start of Rockbridge Academy’s 25th year. He told the group not to think of this 25th year, but of the 50th year and beyond; not of bringing their children to school, but of driving down Evergreen road to bring, or pickup, or see a history parade with, their grandchildren. Classical and Christian education is always about looking ahead, casting forward, looking to the horizon, expectantly “Look[ing] further up. . . further in” (C.S. Lewis) for the realization of God’s plan.

Which brings us back to the ACCS and your part of the plan. Consider your child[ren] generation one, if you will. Then look ahead two, or three generations. If you are convinced that your children are being uniquely educated to appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty; to think and speak clearly from a biblical worldview, all the while affirming the integration of all creation by God’s making, then you must thrill at the idea of being part of that legacy and seeing the legacy deepen and widen. And that’s why the ACCS exists—to see the growth of CCE and the kind of impact that will ultimately change our world.

If you haven’t visited the ACCS website recently, do it. Maybe you can already easily explain CCE. You did your research and ended up at Rockbridge following thoughtful and thorough decision-making. Even so, a visit to this website will give you renewed encouragement and stimulus about why you are here.

In practical terms, the ACCS is, “The primary public advocate for classical Christian education.” The organization offers, “a wide array of services that help build distinctive schools, [and]. . . provide accountability through accreditation.” In short, “The ACCS seeks to set an educational standard for a unified and directed approach to classical and Christian learning.”

But what makes classical Christian learning such a worthy pursuit? Read on to find out that progressives in the early 20th century set out to deliberately undermine our educational system and its classical Christian heritage. And the plan worked! Fast forward a hundred years and, “The ideas behind classical Christian schools are foreign to modern educators.” That’s because, “progressives worked to remove Christian ideas and purposes from the classroom.” But the ACCS affirms, and by extension, so do you, that CCE’s, “transformative power lies in one truth:  Christ is Lord of all.”

So, “What does that mean for how we live?  How we think about things?  What we value and what we love? In short, education is primarily about what we are trained to love, not just what we are taught to know. Put another way, education is about soul formation, not information. And this formation builds a culture.

To further promote culture-building among ACCS member schools, the ACCS sponsors several contests and awards, including the Blakely Prize in Fine Art and the Chrysostom Oratory Competition. Rockbridge Academy boasts five Blakely and seven Chrysostom winners among its alumni, going back to the inception of these competitions in 2015.  These students reflect not only the excellence of our teachers in instructing and cultivating an expression of truth, goodness, and beauty, but the students’ excellent ability to embrace and express these same virtues. The speeches and artwork are themselves are like redemptive cultural artifacts.

The ACCS does a host of other things, from training and certifying teachers, to cultivating relationships with like-minded businesses and higher educational institutions. They also host an annual conference called Repairing the Ruins, which our school participates in.  The organization tracks and promotes the success of students in member schools, and has developed The ACCS Initiative, an effort designed and being implemented to expand CCE nationally over the next decade. When you do visit the ACCS website, I encourage you to read through the tabs under “About ACCS” and “What We Do.” Your own vision will be refreshed, and you will be encouraged about the real potential for change that you are making possible, through your own child, and generations beyond.

Visit the website for ACCS here. 

Posted in School Culture

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