The “Other” Graduation Requirements

Forging potent worshipers is hard. It’s hard enough to just remain in fellowship all the time with those we love. How much more difficult is it to develop – in others – loves that you cannot see?

And yet that’s what we believe we’re called to do here at Evangel Classical School. Our work of enculturation includes the important and necessary element of academic training. We believe education is a good thing (which is probably good, since we’re a school), but we also believe that education is an element of enculturation. Immersion of our students in a certain kind of culture is our self-conscious aim. And our students flourish when they move from the spiritual greenhouses of church, home, and school with regular forays into the world.

As parents, our task is to fashion arrows, and we’re enlisting the loving help of the ECS community to help us.

We happily affirm Psalm 127:3-5:

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
   the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
   are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
   who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
   when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

The effectiveness of these proverbial arrows depends, in part, on their academic training. We utilize the classical and Christian model as we straighten and smooth out these fresh shafts.

As a guy who likes to shoot bows and arrows, I can tell you that not all arrows are effective or of lethal design. Some are built more effective than others. The more effective the arrows, the greater the confidence of the father who “speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

Indulge me for a moment, as I tease out this illustration a bit more.

If academic training can be likened to the straightening of an arrow shaft, training in character is like the application of feathers to the back end of the arrow. If you’ve ever tried to fire a featherless arrow, you’ve seen that it flies erratically after ten feet or so. Character steadies the scholar to “fly” truly.

Since this is all so important, we think it is also important to check in on our students regularly to gauge progress in the forging of Raggant character. How do we do that? Glad you asked.

The HOW Behind the Other Graduation Requirements

We’ve identified six different descriptors for the fully-trained Raggant. We want our Raggants to be…

  1. Stout Image Bearers
  2. Generous Disciples of Christ
  3. Copious Producers
  4. Prodigious Learners
  5. Thankful Stewards
  6. Jovial Warriors

Now, we recognize that we will not enjoy full maturity in any of these areas this side of glory, but we all need to be progressing in these areas if we would be the sorts of people we’re aiming to produce…the sorts of people who are a threat to our enemies and a fragrance of life to the world.

And if this is our aim, then it behooves us to keep these attributes before our people. We do that in three ways:

Application for Enrollment

In each of our application packets, we have a document with the “Other Graduation Requirements,” and as a part of the application, the applicant must review and sign the document. This signature is not itself a wholesale endorsement, but it requires that the incoming family at least be exposed to the character pieces we aim for.

Report Cards

The attribute grading on each report card includes six different headings (one for each of the Requirements above), and each of our criteria for evaluation falls under one of these headings. For instance, the criterion “Accepts Responsibility” falls under the category of “Stout Image-Bearer.” Maybe you can take a closer look at these headings next time you review your child’s report card.

Interviews with Secondary Families

We implemented this piece last spring for the first time, and it was met with good success. If, for instance, we want our graduates to be identified as Copious Producers, then it is good for us to check in with families along the way to ensure they’re making progress in this area. It’s a pretty bad idea to bring this concern to the fore on the doorstep of graduation. Just because a student has collected twenty academic credits does not mean he’s ready to graduate as a Raggant.

So we meet with each eighth, tenth, and twelfth grader (and his or her parents) in the fourth quarter to talk through these requirements, identifying strengths and areas where each student needs to grow. Before the meeting, the students (for themselves) and their house advisors have completed an evaluation of the student in light of these six Requirements and compared (and talked through) the responses.

By God’s grace, may this be effective for helping us to identify areas where our students need to be shepherded, and may God give their parents (and us!) the grace and wisdom to do so well. Please pray for us to maintain faithfulness to our mission, and we’ll be praying for you as you fletch those straightened arrow shafts…and speak with your enemies in the gate.

What ECS is Not

It’s Thursday morning, as I write this. On Wednesday afternoon, two completely disconnected and unexpected parties dropped by the school to check us out. Times like these give me surprise opportunities to articulate our mission and vision. When a conscientious parent lobs me a softball like, “I saw a lot about laughter on your website; tell me more about that…,” I get to talk about what we are. When another conscientious parent says something like, “I want a place where my kid is not going to be influenced by punks, drugs and porn…,” I get to talk about what we are not. So I thought – for sake of my own mental clarity, if nothing else – I’d take a moment to revisit some about what Evangel Classical School is and is not.

Support vs. Substitue

ECS is a support system for parents. Parents own the ultimate responsibility to “bring up” their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). As parents, we have the responsibility not only top love the commands of God ourselves, but also to “teach them diligently to [our] children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). When a family chooses ECS, they are soliciting our support as they answer this charge from God. As a school, our authority to train and admonish our students is delegated authority from like-minded families. When that like-mindedness is threatened, we must come to an agreement or part ways, because those parents still bear that responsibility with or without the school’s involvement.

ECS is not a substitute for parents. When I’m speaking to a student in my office, I do so only with that delegated authority. I’ll sometimes envision a student’s dad standing behind me as I’m talking to his child; I always want to represent parents well when shepherding their children, enjoying that paternal support, but also not going too far as I represent him in that conversation.

In some other contexts (which I’ve even experienced), the school-home relationship is adversarial. I’ve spoken with parents who expected me (as the “professional”) to “do [my] job” and keep their disobedient kids in line. When the school starts to do the parents’ job, we’re substitutes (or even usurpers), not supporters. When that happens, sinning parties need to repent or the family needs to withdraw.

Boot Camp vs. Summer Camp

ECS is like a spiritual boot camp. Like in boot camp, we use live rounds, not blanks or Nerf guns. Our conversations are real. Our wounds are sometimes inflicted by friends (in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6), and they actually hurt. The students train hard as they prepare to fight a real enemy. They study the battle plans of previous victors and losers. They are surrounded with trainers and fellow soldiers who are invested in their success, and – importantly – they are all on the same side, with their enemies on the outside. With the muscles they build and the skills they develop, they’re prepared to do spiritual battle, with weapons like logic, holiness, and a grin.

ECS is not like a spiritual summer camp. Summer camp tends to be a retreat, or an escape from difficulties. It’s a shelter of protection where we’re safe from the harms of the world outside of camp. Summer camps often are characterized by the so-called “mountaintop experience,” where a spiritual “high” arrives around Friday night of the camp. The bummer about summer camp is that you have to leave. And when you’re on a mountain top, there’s only one way to go.

A Collection of Christians vs. a Church

ECS is a collection of Christian families. The school exists to support churched families as they shepherd their children. We love Jesus, we love justification by faith alone, we love singing psalms and hymns, we love to laugh, and we love being together. When there’s conflict, we appeal to Scripture. We thank God for our Western (and Christian-scented) heritage, while loving those with other heritages. We help one another to grow and encourage one another amid failures. We sip coffee, feast, and pray…together. These are sweet joys because of a Spirit who indwells us all.

This does not make ECS a church.

ECS is not a church. We teach Scripture, but we do not preach the Word in the same sense as your pastor does. We don’t practice church discipline, and we don’t take communion. These are classic hallmarks of a true church, and we don’t do them. Neither does the Board of Evangel Classical School give account for the souls of the Raggants (or their parents) in the same way your elders do. Of course, Christians love Christ and we love His people, and we do wise to surround ourselves and our children with Christian influences. But it is a mistake to rely on ECS to shepherd our families.

The work we’re doing at ECS ought to bear sweet fruit in the fifteen churches represented at the school. By God’s grace and with the Spirit’s help, our work should grow greater appetites for Bible teaching and worship that can only be satisfied on Sunday mornings.

Of course this list is not exhaustive, but it is orienting. I am grateful for each of you and your contributions to our community. May God enable us to sharpen one another in like-minded labor.

Immeasurable Blessings

To the one who fears God and lives faithfully, immeasurable blessings await.

This is the message of Psalm 128, and worth our consideration here at the start of another school year.

First, here are all six verses of the psalm:

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
    who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion!
    May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children!
    Peace be upon Israel!

The first week of school, we sang this psalm (Blessed the Man That Fears Jehovah) four times as a group, because I want this to be a theme for the school (whether officially or otherwise). It is a fantastic tone-setter for our days and our lives, and the message (mentioned above) is simple:

To the one who fears God and lives faithfully, immeasurable blessings await.

These sorts of blessings cannot be purchased, but they’re common in the home of the faithful. For instance:

  • A full belly as the result of hard work (v. 2).
  • A flourishing wife and children (v. 3).
  • The blessing of our community (v. 5).
  • Watching our grandchildren grow up (v. 6).

We want the Raggants thinking generationally, so we study the labors, victories and failures of past generations, all with thankfulness. We also want for them to realize they have a job to do in this culture as they represent Christ in the world and as they serve their own families. This helps them to think about generations that will follow them.

We have over forty households represented at ECS, and it’s my prayer that they would all look like the vignette in Psalm 128. One day soon our eighty students will represent more than seventy (note the probable overlap as some may well combine) households of their own and they will grow up knowing this reality: To the one who fears God and lives faithfully, immeasurable blessings await. What would Snohomish County look like if it included seventy more Christian households with men laboring diligently, wives thriving like vines, children sprouting up like olive shoots, and grateful grandparents looking on with a smile?

Our changing of the culture will no doubt begin around our own dinner tables.

So with that in mind, let us fear God, live faithfully, and sing Psalm 128…a lot.

Risus est bellum.

Jonathan

The Headmaster’s Summer Reading List

One of the things I love about my job is the number of things I have to read in order to (try to!) stay ahead of the students. It means blowing through a silly number of books in the course of a year (this year it was 39 texts in Omnibus plus some fun essays). But when the summer comes and some the external accountability goes away, not surprisingly, the pace slackens profoundly, and the focus shifts to one of personal leisure and enjoyment.

C.S. Lewis taught, in essence, that a liberal arts education trains students in how to spend their discretionary time well; it trains you for what to do with your day off. This is on full display in the summer. In addition to a mountain of logistical planning for school next year, I plan to clean my house, pull a lot of weeds, and do a lot of reading…of my own choosing (but with some admitted help from others). So while it may not be impressive, I thought I’d share with you my summer reading list. (Subject to expansion, but not shrinkage). Enjoy.

Bible

This year, I’ve decided to read through the New Testament four times. That’s once a quarter. This morning I read Ephesians, and I’m on track to finish my second round this month. So this summer, I’ll read through the New Testament again, finishing by September 30. It works out to about three chapters a day, in case you’re wondering.

Fiction

Some of these books I’ve read, others are firsts for me. But good fiction is always in order.

First, your illustrious school board (of which I’m a part) has decided – for a host of reasons – that we’d do well to read The Chronicles of Narnia. Since we meet monthly, we plan to tick off one book a month and then talk about it at our meetings. So for the next three months, we’ll be reading…

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • The Magician’s Nephew
  • The Horse and His Boy

Additionally, I’ve just started The Door Before, which is the prequel to the 100 Cupboards series, also by N.D. Wilson. So I’ll finish that sooner than later, God willing.

Beyond this, I aim to read the third book in the Outlaws of Time Series, by N.D. Wilson. It’s entitled The Last of the Lost Boys.

You may have noticed how these are all modern youth fiction. There are a few reasons for this, but chief among them is that I’m a dad, and I want to cultivate the right sorts of loves in my children. I love the imagination and lessons that all these books promote, and I want to talk about them with my kids. If they see me reading them, hear me talking about them, and discuss them with me, I’m hoping it’ll whet their appetites to spend their days off craving good books.

If I finish these, any other fiction reading is just icing.

Nonfiction

With the elders of Trinity Evangel Church, we continue to plod through Antifragile, which is a very thought-provoking book. It’s not a Christian book per se, though a number of the principles promoted in the book are fitting for those who want to raise sturdy children or shepherd sturdy sheep. And it’s about the right sort of rough handling that builds character-muscle.

I simply love John Piper’s The Swans Are Not Silent series. It currently has seven volumes. I read the first five within weeks of receiving them. I haven’t been able to get to volumes six and seven as yet, but I aim to do so this summer. They are…

In each of the books, Piper follows a consistent layout: he takes three historical figures and connects them with the thread of some spiritual lesson. That overview is the first chapter. What follows is a biographical snippet of each of the three saints, with particular attention on the theme-thread he’s tugging through each life. I enjoy the style, Piper’s heart, and the accessible introduction to a variety of figures from Church history. So check them out!

That’s it. But subject to change, as I said. Once more…

  • The New Testament
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • The Magician’s Nephew
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • The Door Before
  • The Last of the Lost Boys
  • Antifragile
  • Swans Series Book 6
  • Swans Series Book 7

I hope that offers you some encouragement too plan your own reading, rather than winging it.

And do have an excellent summer, everyone.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan

Fundraising Like a Calvinist

If God is in control of everything, then why do we bother to work? Why bother to pray? If He’s got it all figured out, knowing which blessings He plans to dole out and the best times to do so, why ask for anything at all? And more to the point, why should we ask Him to bless the school financially when doing so doesn’t change His plan?

In brief, knowing God is in control is not intended to prevent our faithful behavior. Rather, it ought to energize it.

First, God commands us to ask. Knowing our anxious thoughts doesn’t keep God from wanting us to bring Him our requests: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).

Our faithful praying makes God’s act of blessing an answer to prayer. And He loves to answer the prayers of His saints.

What’s more, God commands outcomes as well as means to those outcomes. When it comes to growing our school, we all have opportunity to be used by God, whether it means bringing in families or funds.

Last, our confidence in the sovereign control of God frees us to rest and feast. Come next Friday night, my biggest concern will be that my heart is rightly oriented to give God thanks along with you, as I fully trust that He will bring in as many dollars as He wants. No more, no less. And while I care deeply about the school, I won’t fret a moment over the dollars; He is in charge, not me.

If you’re reading this, consider feasting with us on May 11 and becoming part of the extended family of our school. If you can give cheerfully to the school, awesome. If your contribution is grateful and merry feasting and packing away a second dessert, then cheers! Regardless, please RSVP to Jolie Hall (jhall@evangelcs.org) by this Friday (May 4) so we can plan for your presence.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan

Lessons from the Trenches

In Omnibus VI, we’re currently reading Citizen Soldiers, which is a treatment of “The US Army from the Normandy Beaches to The Bulge to the Surrender of Germany.” It’s been a fascinating study, and many of the students have devoured the this hefty historical volume, intrigued by the European Theater of WWII.

This week as we discussed the book, we took the helicopter up another thousand feet to examine how the young men whose character was forged in the foxholes and firefights of France and Belgium were uniquely prepared on their return to lead America into a time of remarkable prosperity.

I’m sure there are a host of factors, but I would suggest that at least part of the explanation is that in post-WWII America we had introduced to our workforce and society thousands of men who had been forced (in battle) to perform under pressure, to adapt to terrible circumstances, and to persevere in unfavorable conditions. These skills transferred well to just about any context, and the result was America’s economic and political flourishing.

But there were down sides, too. These very young men went off to war before many of them had learned how to be faithful husbands, loving fathers, and sacrificial leaders. In war, many of their leadership examples led from a safe distance, making some terrible decisions because they were so safely removed from the grind of the front lines. Not surprisingly, many of the front-line soldiers returned to American society and practiced the same thing with their children. Many of those Baby Boomers were then born to incredibly capable but sometimes detached parents who wanted their children to have a great life, but who did not train their children to handle responsibility and adversity as they had learned in battle. The moral revolution of the 60s and 70s didn’t come from nowhere.

I really wish that I could say that our culture learned its lesson, repented, and started taking more proactive measures to disciple and provide for our children. Quite the contrary, we’ve outsourced their training to the state. We’ve modeled for them that work is bad and we should do as little of it as possible. We’ve even taken measures to eliminate them before they’re born if they’re too much trouble.

We still reap the benefits of the remarkable, dominion-taking labors of The Greatest Generation. But three generations later, we have nearly none of their work ethic. It’s our desire that Raggants who are stout image bearers and copious producers have the work ethic of their great grandparents while also having modern resources.

But in order to cultivate that in them, we have to try as best we can to reproduce some of the lessons from the Belgian trenches and make them happen in the classroom, the kitchen, the back yard, or our imaginations. (Praise God for good books). May God bless our efforts as we do so.

–Mr. Sarr

Novel Mirrors


Novel Mirrors
2018 Fiction Festival

 
 
00:00 / 43:07
 
1X
 

An Invitation to Our Fundraising Feast

Evidently, feasting is important.

Throughout the Old Testament and the Church Age, the people of God have feasted for a number of reasons. The practice continues today. We feast for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and more. At Evangel Classical School, we feast for Reformation Day, at Christmas, and again in the spring at our Fundraising Feast.

I write now to invite you to join us at this year’s Feast. As I do, I’d like to consider quickly some reasons why we feast.

We feast to remember. Carving time out of the calendar to rehearse God’s blessings and provision is a good practice. Where the Israelites celebrated Passover to remember God’s provision of the Passover Lamb and their subsequent delivery from Egypt, we feast to remember God’s many and various blessings to ECS. Whether physical or spiritual, they all come from Him.

We feast to receive. Good earthly fathers love to give good gifts to their children, and they love it when their children receive and enjoy those good gifts. How much more is this the case with our heavenly Father? He gives us good gifts, and loving the Giver enables us to rightly enjoy the gifts. Our proper receiving and enjoying what He has provided doesn’t make us idolaters; it keeps us from becoming idolaters.

We feast to give thanks. When we eat, drink, sing, and make merry with grateful hearts, we can be sure the God looks on us with delight. Routine and frequent giving of thanks shapes our hearts like water over a rock. As we rehearse God’s generosity and our unworthiness, it elicits proper gratitude from us, which is a necessary ingredient to feasting.

It’s little wonder that our enemy hates our feasting. Feasting is a sword for which there is no shield. There are spray-painted cardboard counterfeit swords of gluttony and entitlement, but what shield can our enemy raise to stop our merry feasting? Right. There isn’t one.

So this isn’t just another private school fundraising dinner. This is a low-pressure, high-mirth call to thank God, enjoy His blessings, lock arms, and advance culture…and all together. I invite you to join us. If this is your first introduction to our school, this is a fantastic opportunity to hear our mission and vision. And the company is first-rate. Please pass along this invitation to those whom you believe would be interested in joining us.

This year we are going to be at a new venue. It’s at Marion Field Farm outside of Arlington (about 20 minutes from ECS). It’s a beautiful and elegant setting for the Feast, and we’re very grateful for the opportunity to dine there. All of the ECS student will be performing. We will provide dinner and activities for the students when they’re not singing in the program. Unfortunately there is no childcare facility or staff available for small children or younger siblings of the Raggants. (If you need help finding a sitter, I recommend the ECS Parents Facebook page, as some ladies have already done a bit of brainstorming.)

The dinner is free, but your RSVP by Friday May 4 will be most helpful so we can make the appropriate arrangements. (Please RSVP to Jolie Hall: jhall@evangelcs.org)

Once more, here are the details:

  • What: 6th Annual Evangel Classical School Fundraising Feast
  • When: Friday May 11, 2018, 6:30pm
  • Where: Marion Field Farm, 10611 Moran Road, Arlington WA 98223
  • Who: Friends of Evangel Classical School
  • Why: To remember, to receive, and to give thanks
  • RSVP: Please RSVP by May 4 to Jolie Hall: jhall@evangelcs.org

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions at all.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan Sarr

Tofu Christians and Cultural Bouillon

I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten tofu…at least on purpose. Some people are not sure they’ve ever been around a Christian. This ought not be the case.

If you ask any vegetarian or fan of Asian cuisine, they’ll tell you that tofu takes on the flavors of other ingredients around it, whether they’re salty, spicy, or sweet. This parallels the cultural influence of many modern Christians. We are told to flavor the culture like salt on a steak, but we perform like spongy tofu instead. And this is what our culture not only expects, but demands of Christians.

Many modern Christians are like tofu, taking on the cultural flavor of those other social ingredients around them. They don’t stand out, they don’t make waves, and they contribute about as much value to their social context as a lump of tofu in your curry dish. Perhaps you can’t taste it, but it gives you a bit of nutritional benefit (some protein, amino acids, etc.). Having Christians around is nice, isn’t it? They’re easy to push around, they don’t make waves or even curse. How pleasant! But beyond that, many Christians, like tofu, don’t actually do much of anything. They’re more identifiable for what they’re not: they’re not unbelievers…and tofu is not meat.

Increasingly, Christians are shouted down in the public square by those who have read neither the Bible nor the Constitution. We’re told to keep spiritual principles and practices to ourselves. Our opponents may cite a separation of Church and state, or invoke anti-discrimination clauses, or even spin some of the Bible back at us (Judge not, lest ye be judged. Turn the other cheek. What do you have against love?)

Decreasingly, our children are taught to submit first to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to obey Him first and principally in private, public, and political matters. The world is not asking for a reason for their hopefulness and joy. But then again, the ginger-scented tofu is rarely asked how it got its unique aroma, either.

The more we capitulate to the tyranny of this moral revolution, the less distinct we are from the world. We even take on the world’s cultural flavor. We all know this, but few Christian parents know how to navigate (and flavor!) these waters when the waves just keep getting bigger and bigger.

Which is why I’m excited about the mission of Evangel Classical School. It is this:

> We commend the works of the Lord to another generation with the tools of classical education, weaponized laughter, and sacrificial labors so that they will carry and advance Christ-honoring culture.

This is big, but it’s not really complicated.

We’re trying to train our students to face their opponents with a gracious word and a confident grin. As they read many of the great works of Western Civilization, our students gain an understanding of where we have come from and where we are headed, philosophically, historically, ideologically and otherwise. They learn that Scripture provides the key for unlocking and answering many of the mysteries that have confounded Western thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche.

When we teach them Latin, we aim to teach them in precision of thought and the chief language in which the story of the West is told. There’s no room for ambiguity in Latin.

When we teach them Logic, we aim to teach them in order of thought, giving them the ability to identify flaws in their own reasoning, and we teach them to identify the fallacious tricks that our opponents employ to deceive us and others.

When we teach them Rhetoric, we aim to train them in expression of thought. Those who can speak clearly, winsomely, and well…and who have something to say, will be the cultural bouillon cubes of the next generation.

We’re trying to train them not to be free from work, but to be free to do a lot of work with joy. As we train them rigorously, they grow a big capacity for work. Work is good; it predates the fall. We don’t want for our students to try to escape it, but rather to do a lot of it happily.

We’re trying to train our students to laugh and sing at the right times, for the right reasons. We can laugh because we serve a sovereign and good God, and we’re on the winning side of an already-determined outcome…even if it’s still playing out right now. Happy Raggants have a song on their lips and a psalm in their hearts. People like that are hard to beat down. And boy, does that make Grendel cranky.

In an age of tofu-like Christians, what we need are for Christians to be cultural bouillon cubes. Bouillon cubes are not obnoxious, but when they’re introduced to the boiling pot of veggies, it boosts and determines the flavor of the mixture. A few years from now, when our Raggant bouillon cubes are dropped into the spheres of politics, education, the arts and sciences and commerce, by God’s grace may they have a potent and delightful impact…with that confident grin.

–Mr. Sarr

In the Middle of It

Showing up at Disneyland on a whim is good. But maximizing your Disneyland experience involves a bit of planning and prioritizing. Intentionality, even. Your school experience is the same.

First, a disclaimer. By the remarks that follow, I do not mean to suggest that we have arrived at our philosophical or cultural destination. Neither do I wish to suggest that we’re awesome in and of ourselves. It is unmistakable, however, that God has blessed ECS beyond our most presumptuous requests, and He’s done so using lots of crazy means, like people, curriculum and the gospel. We cannot take credit for any of this, even though we’ve been in the middle of it.

Rather, I say this as one who has been shaped and grown in staggering and unexpected ways the last six years, as both a teacher and as a parent who is trying to navigate some unfamiliar waters…and I’m very glad to be joined by some pretty good swimmers.

Parents, I believe that your intentional investment in our school’s culture is good for you and your children. You get to know the people who are pouring into your children and you get to be a part of making the culture better. That said, I would like to suggest (in no particular order) some ways that you can maximize your family’s experience with Evangel Classical School.

Stay for Matins.

Matins sets the tone for the day at ECS. I love seeing all the Raggants in one place, excited to start the day. More than once their enthusiasm has swept me up and my hurried heart has been warmed and filled. When you come to drop off your student, consider sticking around until about 9:07 to see the school come together, to get to join some happy treble voices in a hymn or psalm, to be reminded of our Creed, and to pray. You can even give one more hug before sending them off to first period.

Get out of your car after school.

I love Matins, but the 3:00 hour is my favorite part of the school day, and not just because the lessons are over. I enjoy our people rubbing off on one another, sharing thoughts, victories, struggles and stories while the Raggants scamper about filling the air with giggles and footballs.

Some administrators get nervous when they see a knot of moms yammering in the parking lot. I love it.

Take some time to talk and visit and brainstorm and just enjoy the other school families. Odds are you’ll leave encouraged.

Have your child’s teacher over for dinner.

Relationships are important, and spending time cultivating a relationship with the person who is investing in your child is well spent. What’s more, when we are engaged in the sort of heart-work demanded of education, there are bound to be opportunities to practice forgiveness, and that’s easier when the relationships have been strengthened.

I would rather have the ECS teachers than any teaching staff on the planet, and it’s not just for sentimental reasons. They are a gift to our school and our families, and getting to know them (and their spouses) is wise. You’ll get to show your appreciation for them, and they’ll get to know you and your students better, better enabling them to serve you.

Read your Raggant’s literature books.

I love talking with my children about the books they’re reading, and even more so when I’m familiar with the books. I’m able to help them make sense of what they’re reading and discuss themes, issues and characters.

If your child is in Omnibus and you cannot keep up with that reading load, consider at least reading the introductions to the text in the Omnibus textbook. (Ask your students what I mean; they can tell you). You’ll be better equipped to help and support your student while also getting some great worldview training yourself.

Besides, many of us are (righteously, of course) jealous of what our children are getting; this is one small way to make up for lost time and opportunities.

Tell a friend about the school.

When you tell others about ECS, you may find yourself forced to articulate the school’s vision and mission. This is always a good exercise.

It’s a normal Christian practice to gush to others about the stuff we love. Hopefully you feel this way about the school.

Pray for the teachers and other families.

Praying for people impacts my attitude toward them. It grows my compassion and helps to align my own attitudes as I go to God on their behalf. What’s more, it’s loving and obedient…two things we’d like to see in our children.

Visit a class unannounced.

This may be hard to believe, but I mean it. When I drop in on classes, I always leave encouraged, and I trust you would, too. Perhaps you’d like to hear Mr. Higgins’ Nacho Libre impersonations or how Mr. Bowers makes Prince Henry the Navigator a fascinating character. Perhaps you want to learn how Miss Bour puts awesome dance moves to the Bible songs or eavesdrop while Omnibus students discuss Just War Theory.

We love having parents around the school, so you’re most welcome to drop in.

And there’re likely more ideas, and I’d be glad to hear them all. The more we’re investing in our school community, the better it will be, and the more we’ll get out of it.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan