The 10th grade class, with their teacher, Mr. David Henry, recently completed their readings in the Ancient Greek period — such classics as Homer’s Iliad and Thucydides’ History of the Pelopennesian War. They celebrated their accomplishment by experiencing some Greek culture for themselves — food, costumes, weaponry, and, naturally, funeral games (Thor Anderson finished as champion).
The 4th grade class, with their teacher Mrs. Katrina Terrell, and the 8th grade class, with their teacher, Mrs. Sherry Wiggins, celebrated their studies of the Medieval era with a Medieval Feast day: games, costumes, family crests, weaponry, skits, and, of course, food. What a celebration it was!
Congratulations to our students who won this year’s TOWA (Texas Outdoor Writers Association) essay contest out of approximately 100 middle school entries from across the state.
Holden Kelly, 6th grade student of Mrs. Tanya Kelly, won first place and was awarded a laptop computer at their annual conference. Caroline Alders, 8th grade student of Mrs. Sherry Wiggins, placed second and was awarded a $100 monetary prize. Lilly Hook, 8th grade student of Mrs. Sherry Wiggins, placed third and was awarded a $25 monetary prize. We are proud of our students and their teachers for their hard work and extra effort. Great job!
Pictured from left are Lilly Hook, Holden Kelly, and Caroline Alders.
Three Regents Academy students won all three places in this year’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Patriot’s Pen essay contest among all 6th-8th grade students in Nacogdoches County. Students submitted essays with the theme, “The America I Believe In” to the local post last fall, and Mr. Don Kirkley with VFW Post 3893 recently came to the school to present our students their awards. Eighth graders Caroline Alders and Sophie Jordan won first and second places respectively, and seventh grade Grant Cooper won third place for their Patriot’s Pen essays. Caroline’s essay also placed first at the district-level contest.
Senior Sarah Grace Alders placed third for her audio essay with this year’s theme, “My Responsibility to America” in the VFW Voice of Democracy high school contest. All four students were awarded monetary prizes ranging from $25 to $500.
Pictured, from left, are Sarah Grace Alders, Commander Don Kirkley, Sophie Jordan, Caroline Alders, and Grant Cooper.
Your child’s school is in the business of training students in virtue. But virtue doesn’t come in a single swallow or a wallop at a certain age. It is cultivated over a long period of time; nurtured in the home, church, and school; and fed with the good soil, clean water, and bright sunshine of the Holy Spirit, as we weed the vices that crop up all around the virtues. I hope you didn’t lose me in my flights of metaphor. I am trying to say that Regents Academy is interested in much more than the gray matter between your child’s ears and the numbers that appear on their test results bar graphs. We are working toward shaping their character, their souls, their vision, their worldview. And in this work, tucked-in shirts matter. Classical teacher Joshua Gibbs over at the Circe Institute blog has done us all a great favor by writing an article called “The Little Rules: Heaven, Hell, & Untucked Shirts.” Gibbs shines a light on the shaping of virtue by observing the little rules. Please read it and discuss it with your family – it’s well worth your time.
My students break the little rules. They do not like to tuck in their shirts. They are like pack-a-day smokers in class, their hands itching to untuck those shirts. They rush outside for lunch, untucking their shirts and sighing deeply as that untucked nicotine hits their blood. They try to get away with untucking their shirts in class, in the halls. When I tell them their shirts are untucked, they feign looks of surprise as they slowly crane their necks down towards their flapping hems, and say, “Oh, I didn’t know. How did that happen?” They then become detectives, replaying the last hour of their lives, trying to figure out how their shirts could have possibly become untucked. In brief, my students break the little rules and then lie about it. I do this, too. At times I do not believe Jesus is the actual hope of mankind. The real hope of mankind is this: I am going to break the rules and no one is going to notice. This is the maxim most people live by.
Convincing people they ought not break the little rules is very difficult because nothing really happens when you break the little rules. No one dies. No one is pregnant. No one goes to jail. When I tell students it is important to keep the little rules, some explanation is necessary. “It is important to keep the little rules” is not a truism. The student hears this and thinks, “You are mistaken. I regularly break the little rules and I am not caught. Nothing bad happens. We are all sinners from birth. Breaking little rules is what humans do. It does not matter. I am not a saint, neither do I have ambitions to become a saint. Breaking little rules is simply the cost of doing business. Breaking little rules keeps me sane.”
Most students are under the impression that something magical happens when a person turns eighteen and moves out on his own. Reading Scripture becomes suddenly interesting. Prayer begins to yield genuine results and is thus worth doing. Work becomes enjoyable. Telling the truth becomes easy. All of the juvenile tastes (Adam Sandler, Lil Wayne, Halo) which characterize youth are suddenly replaced by more mature tastes which the opposite sex finds attractive. The belief that responsibility comes easy in adulthood is not unique to our era. The New England Primer (1687) concludes with a short play entitled “Dialog between Christ, Youth, and the Devil” wherein Old Scratch is successfully employing the same lies he uses today:
Thou may be drunk,
and swear and curse,
And sinners think thee none the worse ;
At any time thou may’st repent,
‘Twill do when all thy days are spent.
As usual, the Devil is mostly right. You can sin all you want while young and repent on your deathbed, having enjoyed all the wine, women, and song as your miserable animated corpse can sustain. Teachers can fight the young man’s desire to be so miserable with the memento mori (“reminder of death”), as Christ does in the “Dialog,” and remind students that there is no guarantee of a tomorrow. When I preach to myself, the memento mori works wonders, but this is because I already suffer sundry physical maladies. The young do not fear the Reaper, though, and I am not content I have ever actually prevailed against their bravado.
The great problem with the idea that a man can sin now and repent later, though, is the assumption that after devoting his life to vice a man will even want to repent. Most people enjoy things they are good at. If a young man becomes good at lying to his mother, he will take the skill of deceiving women into his marriage. If a young man develops the ability to escape responsibility in work at school, such prowess will serve him equally when he is employed as an adult. Classical music does not magically become interesting once you are old enough to vote. I never forced myself to listen to classical music when I was young, and now I must force myself to do it, for I am rarely willing to do it of my own accord. A man will not likely read more chapters of Scripture in the second half of his life than he read in the first half. “Every chapter of Scripture you read as an adult must be paid for. It must be paid for by reading a chapter of Scripture as a young man,” I tell students. “If you don’t read the Scriptures now, you won’t be able to read them when you’re older.”
The teacher of virtue needs to break through the student’s ingrained doubt that pursuing virtue while young is worthwhile. Teachers must dispel the satanic lie that goodness comes easy to the aged. On the one hand, tucking in your shirt doesn’t matter. If it is untucked, who cares? However, not untucking your shirt when you could get away with it is an investment into caring about petty rules. Obeying petty rules is an investment in obeying life-or-death rules. A man does not go to Heaven or Hell all at once, but bit by bit by bit.
The Nacogdoches Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) recently announced their area winners for this year’s American History essay contest and Junior American Citizens (JAC) banner contest. The theme for both contests this year focused on the centennial celebration of the creation of the National Parks Service. Mrs. Lori Cunyus’s fifth grade class participated in this year’s JAC banner contest, and the team of Lilly Anderson, Cate Baker, Mary Kate Hill and Kaitlyn McKenna won first place in our area. Additionally, Mrs. Cunyus’s class participated in the American History essay contest, and Tatum Smith placed second for her essay, and Cate Baker won first place for her essay in the fifth grade division for our area. Mrs. Sherry Wiggins’s 7th and 8th grade classes also participated in this year’s American History essay contest. Seventh grader Will Furniss won first place among all 7th grade entries in our area, and Caroline Alders won first place among all 8th grade entries in our area. (pictured from left are Caroline Alders, Tatum Smith, Cate Baker, Mary Kate Hill, Lilly Anderson, Kaitlyn McKenna, and Will Furniss).
I recently came across an article by homeschooling mom and Circe Institute Blog contributor Jessica Burke called “Not Everything Good Is Measurable.” I found that when I reached the end of the piece I let out a hearty “Amen.” Truly, not everything good – and most everything besides – is measurable. Forming students into lifelong learners skilled in the tools of learning can’t be reduced to a percentage, a stanine, a score, or an average. Our school is built on that premise. I hope Mrs. Burke’s words provoke a hearty, concurring “Amen” from you also.
One day, when my husband got home from work, he joined me at the kitchen window to watch our children. “What are they doing?” he asked.
“Digging, of course.”
While searching for a new house, my children had had one request: a place to dig.
“What do they want with a hole? When will they know to stop?”
I looked at him and shrugged, unknowing.
After a few months, we had a hole that the Burke children were quite proud of. “It’s a great hole,” they tell their friends. “We have the best hole!” they exclaim. It isn’t terribly deep, probably just over two feet, but it has a diameter of about four feet. Lots of small children can hide in it if they ball up.
What intrigues me the most about the dig hole, as we affectionately know it around here, is what the kids do with it. Sometimes they use it to accomplish more tasks that I don’t understand. They almost filled it up with acorns this fall. They discovered that slipping around on thousands of acorns in a hole is great fun. After they emptied out the acorns, they filled it up with leaves. This made for a perfect place to bury themselves.
If we define our children’s education solely by measurements then our children may think that there is a point where education is finished.
They play countless imaginary games in it. It has been the hideout for good guys to tunnel to other worlds, a storeroom for their secret treasures, a trap for bad guys (and they were delighted when they watched an actual trespasser almost fall in the hole one day).
The work of a child is fascinating. What seems like meaningless work or just child’s-play to adults is really a powerful way for them discover this world and to think about other worlds.
As a home educator, feeling the weight of the responsibility of my children’s education, I can get concerned about doing enough. I hear my friends’ anxiety when we discuss choosing the right curricula that will teach the children everything they need to know. We stress over the number of books we’ve read and the scores on standardized tests, and as we measure the children, we measure ourselves. We determine to do better, to do more, to finish ahead of everyone.
In North Carolina, where I live, third grade is the first year for high stakes tests in public school. Friends tell me about their eight-year-olds crying every day before school. They tell me about the weekly practice tests, the threats of retention and summer school, the concern from the teachers over their own professional evaluations influenced heavily by the test results.
When I was a public school teacher, I was expected to have every minute of instruction time accounted for, and everything that was part of the scope and sequence had to be covered in 180 days. There was no time left for idleness or invention, for the students nor for me. My job description was to keep my students’ minds engaged, to fill up their mind with everything they need to know based on the state’s standards. I worked hard to ask them the right questions that would lead to the right answers. The most important thing, we were told, was that the students must do well on their tests, that everything important to a child’s education can be measured.
But how do you measure what a child does in a hole? How do you measure the stretching of their imagination? How do I measure the growth of virtue and the roots of truth in a child’s heart? Do I need to?
Education is not about passing a test. Education is not about achievement. If we reduce it to measurements, we discredit the importance of beauty, of truth, and of virtue. In Teaching from Rest, Sarah Mackenzie says, “Remember how far we progress in a book does not matter nearly as much as what happens in the mind and heart of our student, and for that matter, in ourselves.”
When we share laughter and conversation at the dinner table, we can’t see how our family is growing in love for each other. When we read aloud to our children, we cannot see what is happening in their imaginations. When we study Latin, we cannot see the growth in character that comes from hard work. When we memorize poetry, we cannot see a love of beautiful words developing. Much of our job does not generate measurements. Much of the work of a child cannot be measured.
Four Regents students qualified for the regional competition of the National History Bee: Mason Rasberry, Kelso McEntire, Cate Baker, and Ella Li. It was a great honor for these students to join the competition in Houston on February 17, 2017.
Mason and Kelso each made it to the Championship Round (top 8) of their age divisions. In addition, we are proud to announce that Mason, Kelso, and Ella qualified for the national competition in Atlanta in June.
Great job, young historians!