Archive for christian education


Sheriff Kerss Visits Regents

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Regents Academy was very glad to welcome Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss to campus on April 11.

Sheriff Kerss made a presentation to the 9th grade government class and was joined by the 6th graders as well. Sheriff Kerss explained where the office of sheriff came from, what his job entails, and what the sheriff’s office’s responsibilities are.

We appreciate Sheriff Kerss’s generosity and service in coming to visit our students.

Categories : school life
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I recently read an article by Pastor John Piper in which he argues for providing rigorous training of our children’s minds so that they will be able to read the Bible with understanding. He presents his case with such eloquence that I decided to share it with you. Pastor Piper does not mention classical Christian education directly, but he doesn’t have to.

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!


Why Memorize Scripture?

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Last year Regents Academy began a school-wide Scripture memory program. Each month the students memorize passages from the Bible and then recite them before their classmates. We’ve seen wonderful success from this memorization program, and it is continuing this school year. Why are we using valuable time and effort to memorize Scripture?

First, we memorize Scripture because we are a Christian school. I’m only being halfway facetious. 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.

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 a Christian worldview.

Bible memorization also helps develop recitation skills. Students at Regents Academy recite a lot: Latin conjugations, poems, prayers, memorized pieces. 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 has provided good accountability for my home. Busyness, distractions, and laziness keep me from making Bible memorization a priority. But with the Bible being consistently placed in the minds of my children at school, I can call on that knowledge and be better equipped to lead my children to honor and trust Christ.

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

Categories : from the headmaster
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We use the word “Christian” a lot. But what does the word really mean when we apply it to education? And to Classical education no less. My answer is that Christian education is Christ-centered education, both in content and method. I have discussed Christian content. But what about method? What about how we go about educating?

Once again I quote my good friend Justin Hughes as he briefly answers that question.

An important part of any education in a public setting is order.  A teacher cannot teach if students are lighting fires in the wastebasket, talking over the teacher, and stealing answers from each other on tests.  That’s why education students learn classroom management in college.

But a Christian educator is concerned with much more than managing a classroom.  If our concern is educating the whole person, we desire not just to teach minds, but we want to shepherd hearts.  Discipleship must be the driving force of a teacher’s interactions with his students.  It is important that a student remains quiet while others are speaking so that he can hear him, but it is more important that he learns to love his neighbor as himself.  If he does love his neighbor, he will want to hear what his neighbor has to say.

As Moses spoke God’s Word to Israel, he commanded them to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart” (Deut. 6:5-6).  God’s instruction for his people was not merely that they offer him external obedience.  He wanted their love.  His commands that they not make carved images and not use His name in vain were not the essence of his desire for his people.  Behind those laws for their behavior was His desire for their heart.  He wanted them to love Him with every part of their being, and He wanted His words to inhabit their hearts.  If we are to follow our God and disciple as He does, we are to aim our instructions at the hearts of our pupils.  Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount that sins like murder and adultery begin in the heart.  He taught that the man who hates has already murdered and the man who lusts has already committed adultery.  He taught that true obedience to God is obedience from the heart.

To be like Jesus, our discipleship of our students must be like His.  We can’t simply make laws for our classroom and enforce them with an iron fist.  Like Jesus, we must teach our students to obey from the heart.  We must teach them to love the Law of the Lord.  We must disciple them with grace and love.  We must disciple them like Jesus.

Categories : christian education
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In a previous post I offered a few thoughts on what it means that education at Regents Academy is a “Classical” education. Now I offer a few thoughts on how Classical Christian education is “Christian” education.

To say that the education being offered at Regents is “Christian” is to say that the word Christian is more than a label. It is to say that this education is Christ-centered. Christ is at the center, both in terms of content and method. Content means pedagogy – the actual curriculum and how that curriculum is taught. And method involves how we go about doing education in an atmosphere of discipleship, in a uniquely Christian culture.

Christ-centered content and Christ-centered method.

First, Christ-centered content. My good friend Justin Hughes did us all a great service a couple of years back by discussing Christ-centered content for us. Here is what he wrote.

As we essay to pass on to our posterity the knowledge and skills they need not just to survive but to carry on the great task of culture-building that we have inherited from our progenitors, isn’t it true that we are simply communicating the truth about the world?  Aren’t we just telling them what we know about what has happened and what happens in the world?  Consider a course in science.  The purpose is for students to learn how one part of the created order maintains existence and interacts with other parts of nature.  In art we teach them the effect of placing one value alongside another or when one color is added to its complement.  Everything students learn can be summed up in this:  something that occurred, is occurring, or will occur in the world.

Christians have special knowledge about this world.  We know the One who created all the things that make up this world, who ordered all of their interactions, and who sustains their existence by the power of His Word.  “For by [the Son] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).  If there is anything that exists, whether visible or invisible, He created it.  In this passage Paul drives home his point by pronouncing that even thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers are the work of God’s creative hand.  His point is that if these abstractions like dominions and powers are God’s creation, then certainly all the tangible world belongs to him by virtue of creation as well.  In order to truly know the world in which we live, we must know the One by whom it was created—Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to pray for the Colossians that they may attain understanding “of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:2).  Of course wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ if He is the Creator of all things.  Who knows better a work of art than the artist Himself?  The form of the creation originated in the mind of God and the substance of creation proceeded from the Word of God.  So to know creation, we must see it as an expression of its prime Cause.  We would be foolish to suppose that an autonomous search for wisdom apart from Him would be anything short of futile.  This humble posture must be our starting place in education.  We must acknowledge that if we know anything, and if we are able to pass any knowledge on to our students, not only did the thing that we know originate in God, but our very ability to conceptualize is from God.  To deny God in education would be to deny ourselves not only the substance of what we know and teach but also to deny ourselves and our students the actual ability to know.

Categories : christian education
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The Case for CCE, chapter 6

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In chapter 6 of The Case for Classical Christian Education, Douglas Wilson takes up a theme that seems missing in many treatments of the philosophy of education: “the Centrality of Worship.”

Several years ago I read a book that purported to be a statement of the Christian worldview. But there was something about this book that separated it from others I had read. The author asserted there was a glaring blind spot in most Christian books about worldview — they glossed over the Trinity, or they at least treated the Trinity as a tertiary truth. The author’s point was that the Trinity is the most essential truth about God and therefore about reality, yet this essential truth got only sideways treatment in many books about worldview. He was attempting to orient his whole statement of the Christian worldview around the Trinity. It was something of a paradigm-changer for me.

Wilson’s treatment on the centrality of worship in education is a paradigm-changer also.

Is not a human essentially a worshiping creature? Are we not created for worship, so that we are bent either toward idolatry or, by God’s grace, toward worship of the true God? We cannot ignore this truth when we begin talking about education, as if education is a tightly sealed, airtight compartment that concerns rational, intellectual, or vocational matters only. Children are worshipers, not just empty containers into whom we pour multiplication tables, principles of grammar, Latin vocabulary, and history facts. Their education leads them toward worship.

In other words, “worship is central to life; therefore, it is central to education for that life.” Wilson makes several salient points.

  • Worship is incarnational. “We have to learn how to worship. And then, having worshiped, we are sent out into the world to study it, subdue it, replenish it. But education and learning follow worship and proceed from it.” In other words, “sitting in neat rows in a classroom, doing push-ups with the brain” is not enough — students must learn how to worship in a local church in order to be complete, and in order for their education to cohere into a complete life.
  • Worship is centered on Christ. “Jesus Christ is the arche, the One in whom all things hold together (Col 1:18). But Christ is not a mere word we use; Jesus Christ is the Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father. There is no Christian worldview where He is not present.” And He has promised to be present among the people who worship Him and Him alone. Education in His presence, worshiping Him as Lord, is the only true education. Therefore, “education that does not begin and end in heaven is not true education.”
  • Finally, “a classical Christian school will not succeed in its mission unless it has the strong support of a worshiping community.” And let me say at this point how thankful I am for the support Regents Academy receives from the churches of the Nacogdoches community. Our school cannot succeed if it is not linked up with local churches who recognize a common goal of exalting and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ and who are partnering with parents to train up children in the way they should go.
  • One final quote: “The major reason why worship is central concerns the children. Worship is the point of integration for all Christian living, including the living that goes on at the school. When children who are members of the race homo adorans worship God rightly, everything comes together in their lives. When they do not, everything is out of joint.”

Avoiding Lord of the Flies

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Here is another reason Regents Academy strives to inculcate proper manners in its students:

Manners are minor morals. They are the everyday ways we respect other people and facilitate social relations. They make up the moral fabric of our shared lives. They need to be taught.

— Author and education professor Thomas Lickona

Children do not naturally come by manners. Leave them alone, and, well, have you read Lord of the Flies? Manners must be taught, trained, reinforced, modeled, corrected, and then trained some more.

This is an essential component of a Christian education.

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British statesman and conservative author Edmund Burke wrote the following about manners:

Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in great measure, the laws depend. Manners are what vex or smooth, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us . . . . According to their quality, they aid morals, or they destroy them.

This is one key reason we stress proper manners, etiquette, and respect at Regents Academy. Manners are not just window dressing for a bygone generation. They are essential building blocks for a culture that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.

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What is “Education” Anyway?

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Here is Noah Webster’s definition from his landmark 1828 dictionary:

The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

Notice how all-embracing this definition is. Notice how it includes not just an intellectual, rational component, but also “temper” and “manners and morals.” True education, true Christian education, is all-encompassing — it teaches the whole child in obedience to the whole Word of God. If we think of education merely as what goes on when students are learning subjects or merely as a rational exercise or merely what goes on at a school building, we are thinking wrongly.

Education is all-encompassing. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reminds us of this reality:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

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The Case for CCE, chapter 5

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Chapter 5 of The Case for CCE is called “The Case Against Government Schools.” Wilson states his bottom line clearly: “Given what we have seen to this point, there is no good reason for Christian parents to entrust their children to the government school system.”

We need to remember that Wilson’s purpose here is to tear down — but not to tear down in the sense of spreading wanton destruction, confusion, and division. Rather, he means to tear down in order to build up in its place. Wilson wants to do what good teachers do — discover existing erroneous assumptions and eat away at those so that sound assumptions can be inserted in their place.

For example, when I teach about Medieval Europe, in order to show that this period was an era of remarkable wisdom and light, the first thing I attempt to do is to tear down the assumption that this period was a thousand-year experiment in darkness, ignorance, and bigotry. There exist powerful assumptions saying that the Medieval millennium was a “Dark Age” (light came only after we got over Christianity) or the “Middle Ages” (coming between something good before and even better after). Where did these ideas come from? Are they accurate? Do they lead to a proper understanding? Assumptions are powerful, and in order to have a right understanding of something, we often have to have our assumptions challenged. Teachers who know their stuff know this.

So Wilson is challenging assumptions in The Case of CCE. One of the most powerful assumptions among American Christians is that their children ought to be educated in the local school system. Wilson is attacking this assumption and asserting instead the assumption that “Christian education is not a luxury or an option. It is part of Christian discipleship for those who have been blessed with children.”

He is also challenging the assumption that the government school system is “neutral ground” for Christians. If education is an inherently religious activity, then schools have inescapable objects of worship. Christians are called to worship only one Lord. A unified life under the Lordship of Christ, according to Wilson, cannot include multiple lords.

Government education was birthed in a revolutionary rejection of the historic Christian faith, and the progressive claims for the saving power of education were breathtaking. . . . But many Christians still think of local government schools as being somehow “our” schools. Because local government was significant at the founding of our nation, and because many of the forms of local government have been kept intact, many Christians still think this is the case.

Thus, many Christians argue for the reform of the schools by restoring school prayer or the teaching of creation or making schools safer. But “Why prayer in an officially agnostic institution? Why the teaching of creation in an officially pluralistic institution? Why do we think it is a victory when the pagans admit our Lord, as an option just for some, to their pantheon of gods many and lords many?”

Further, Wilson argues that merely reacting to the ills of the schools — things like danger, academic incompetence, and immorality — “is not good enough. Believing parents must come to see Christian education as a demand of the covenant.” “God requires that covenant children be brought up in covenant truths.” Biblical passages like Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:5-8 make this clear.

Wilson takes up corollary issues: the “salt and light” argument for leaving children in public schools so that they can be an influence for good, and the issue of Christian teachers in public schools. But his central point is clear: Christian parents are to give their children a Christian education, and this simply cannot be accomplished in the local school system.

One last quote that begins to point in the direction of a positive argument for classical and Christian education:

Educated under the wrong kind of fear, our children will become servile in their thinking. Educated under no fear at all, they will become arrogant. . . .  God demands that we teach our children (His children) in accordance with their station. They are royalty and should receive a royal education. The mark of such an education is confident humility.


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