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I minored in history in college, and one of my professors was a real piece of work. The class was called “The Age of Reason,” and we were supposed to be learning about the Enlightenment in the 18th C. However, this professor had dedicated his scholarly life to studying 18th C. French gardens, and that was all – I mean all – he lectured on. He assigned three books (all about French gardens), and gardens were all he appeared to care about. In fact, it was obvious to me that while he loved his subject, he merely tolerated his students. Did you ever have a teacher like that?

Arthur Holmes, in his book Building the Christian Academy, wrote,
If we consider the art or science that is taught, then it is a contemplative life devoted to the truth; but if we consider students and their needs, then it is indeed an active life engaged in the affairs of this world for the common good. It is not a choice between the two, for with a duty to both the discipline and the student, the teacher should in reality be a teacher-scholar.

So which is it: should teachers love their subject or their students? If Dr. Holmes is right, the answer is “yes.”

In the classical Christian vision for education, the teacher is a not simply a technician who has studied the science of pedagogy. Rather, the teacher is a scholar who leads “a contemplative life devoted to the truth.” Should the teacher be skilled in the science of pedagogy? Absolutely. But a teacher’s greatest trait is a love for learning and for truth (historical truth, mathematical truth, language truth, etc.). She shares that love for learning with her students. She is first and foremost a pursuer of truth and of the One who is the Truth.

And of course a classical Christian teacher doesn’t just love his subject; he loves his students. He leads “an active life engaged in the affairs of this world for the common good” – and what greater good is there than training children to live for God? Students are image bearers of the Triune God. They aren’t pupils filling desks, by which a teacher gets a paycheck. Teachers are called to give themselves away to their students, to invest in them, and to approach them as dearly loved children.

Teachers who love their students but don’t love their subject can never lead their students to love learning. Teaching is always incarnational, and teachers are called to model their love for truth before their pupils in order for them to be transformed into their teacher’s image.

Teachers who love their subject but don’t love their students will be distant, harsh, and self-involved. Learning is drudgery when it’s about the teacher grinding through his pet subject or it’s merely about checking off the stuff you have to do to fulfill the class requirements. That drives students away. But love draws them. Relationships are powerful things.

I can still remember those long periods sitting under my French garden professor (I struggle even to remember his name). But let me tell you about Mr. Grove or Mr. Orlofsky or Dr. Lea. They were passionate for their subjects, but they loved me, too (somehow – I don’t think I was very lovable back then).

Teachers at Regents Academy aim to properly balance passion for our subjects and love for our students. The vision for scholar-teachers, with “duty to both the discipline and the student,” is a worthy vision. It is one we are committed to.

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Are students Latin?

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The word student is a Latin word. It is 3rd person, plural, present. It comes from the Latin word studeo, studere, studui- to pursue, be diligent in, strive after. Therefore, it can be translated- they strive after, they pursue, they are diligent in.

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Have you ever had a tooth extracted? The most common definition for extract is- to draw out by effort; pull out. This word comes from the Latin roots ex-, out + trahere, to draw, drag. Looking at the principal parts (traho, trahere, traxi, tractus) it is easy to see where we get the words traction and tractor.

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The dictionary defines conjecture as guesswork; inferring, theorizing, or predicting from incomplete evidence. The Latin roots are cum, together + jacere, to throw. Therefore the student trained in Latin could easily figure out that conjecture is something that is ‘thrown together.’

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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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Regents Academy has openings in its K-prep and K5 classes for 2010-2011. Call (936) 559-7343 now for information about the school or to enroll for next school year. There are openings in both these classes now, but these opening may not last for long.

The Regents K-prep program is a full day kindergarten program for 4-year-olds, while the K5 program is a full-day program for 5-year-olds.

Regents Academy is a K-12 classical Christian school located on 10 acres in Nacogdoches, Texas, and offers excellent academics and discipleship for Christian families in East Texas. The Regents Academy facility has recently undergone major renovations and expansion. The school’s classical curriculum and teachers are second to none.

If you have rising kindergarteners in your home, please call Mrs. Mary Ann Bentley now at the Regents school office at (936) 559-7343.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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Why, in education, are we so reluctant to tell a short person that the letter “A” has three different sounds? Why are we afraid to read a Bible story to God’s children because it might be too long or too difficult to understand? Why do we keep so much information from them until we deem it the age appropriate time? Shouldn’t we just give them the information that we know they will need to succeed and allow them the opportunity to store it or allow us the opportunity to teach it again? Little children love to learn, let’s stop keeping them from it.

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From Comics to Classics

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It was a gratifying conversation.

I was visiting with a parent of a Regents student a few days back. She described her son’s reading habits which had, until recently at least, included mostly comic books. Regents began a reading program this year that requires our students to read one book per quarter on their own. These books are significant works of literature and essential reading material for a well-educated, thinking Christian. Many of the books – like those of P.G. Wodehouse or Mark Twain – are just plain fun. But all of them have real literary merit and power to inspire, entertain, inform, and transport.

This parent shared with me that she had begun to see her son find real joy in reading, a desire and a delight that had not been there before. I see it in her son. He is a bright boy who loves sports – but who now has also begun to love to read.

I am reminded that these small victories are what teachers and parents strive for. Not every student makes a dramatic or instantaneous turn-around. But students make small strides every day. God has called Christian educators and parents to have a vision for small steps toward the eventual goal of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

I am reminded that loving books and ideas and the printed and spoken word are at the heart of true education. Classical education is, if anything, a passion for and delight in the word, both spoken and printed. To see that delight cultivated in a young man is a thrill.

I am reminded also that Christian education is intensely personal. Sticking this young man at a table with a book might not accomplish anything, but modeling a love for books and nurturing that love through guiding him toward good books is powerful.  Education is essentially relational.

I am reminded also that Christians are people of the word. St. John teaches us that Christ is the Word, and He has called His people to be people of the word. Classical Christian education propels us toward this vision. I am so thankful to see it in action.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Psalms 127:4

Here is my job description, simply stated.   Living in a small town of East Texas, driving used vehicles, teaching in an old day-care building, rubbing shoulders daily with people who bet that “ain’t ” is in the dictionary, this seems to be a high calling for someone like me.   God is in the business of issuing high callings, or tall orders to seemingly small and insignificant people.   Just thinking of Mary’s birth story or David’s size when taking on Goliath or Abraham’s trek in the wilderness and one realizes God expects great things out of his rather small people.   Here we are in a rural Southern town and God has asked or rather required me to prepare His arrows, sharpen their points and ensure that they will fly straight when released into flight.   This is God’s story and I’m simply a small character trying my best to play my part to the glory of God.   Some days will be foggy, a few will be rainy, but most days will be sunny with a sure chance of God’s goodness.

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