Mrs. Wark’s first grade class created a plentiful pile of pancakes this morning. After reading Nate the Great, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, the students learned that Nate, the great detective, LOVES pancakes as well as solving mysteries! The students followed a recipe to make a bounty of delicious breakfast treats. They learned about correct measuring, cracking eggs, mixing ingredients, and following directions. They worked together and reaped the benefits by enjoying chocolate chip pancakes and sausage galore.
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Choosing a school for your children is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Only the home and church affect the upbringing and therefore the future of a child as much as the school he or she attends. Think about it: from kindergarten through twelfth grade, a child spends more than 16,000 hours in school, and that doesn’t count homework, studying with school friends, or extra-curricular activities organized and managed by the school. Sleeping is the only other single activity that will consume as much of your child’s time during that season of life.
Hopefully you are very discerning when deciding with whom you should trust that much of your child’s time. For Christian parents, a Christian education is likely the first priority, which eliminates most of the other education options from the start. But even with that priority established, in a city like Pensacola you are still left with lots of Christian options. Sorting through them all can be a chore, depending upon what other priorities your family may have already established. There are lots of similarities among Christian schools, but even more differences—some obvious, but some subtle and requiring a close look. One difference I would like to explore briefly is the difference between evangelistic and covenantal (or discipleship) schools.
First, let’s look closer at our terms. When we see the word evangelistic, we should think evangelize, preach the Gospel, share the good news of what Jesus has done for sinners. This may lead us to think a school that isn’t evangelistic doesn’t preach the Gospel or talk about Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in some ways covenantal schools can be more Gospel centered than evangelistic schools because they are freer to go beyond preaching the Gospel to teaching students how to live the Gospel. But I am getting ahead of myself. The main takeaway from this closer look at terms is that both evangelistic and covenantal schools preach the Gospel of a crucified, resurrected, and ascended Jesus.
Evangelistic schools enroll non-believing students of non-believing parents right alongside students who come from strong Christian homes and churches. These schools endeavor to preach the Gospel to lost families through the education of their children. An important part of their mission is to work toward the conversion of those students who are not hearing the Gospel at home and are not even engaged in a church. It’s hard to find fault with such a mission; after all, Christians are Great Commission people. We are to be about spreading the Gospel to make converts.
The evangelistic school model does come with some drawbacks, though, especially for Christian parents. Perhaps the most obvious drawback is that your children will be attending school with many students who do not believe what they believe about the Triune God—just like at a public or other non-Christian school—which automatically creates a divide within the school community. This is somewhat counteracted by the fact that the authority, the school, does believe what you and your child believe; still, an important part of the school’s mission is to cater to the non-believers.
What I am calling “cater to” brings up another potential drawback in evangelistic schools: much time that could be spent teaching children who are being raised in a believing home how to live the Christian life is instead spent teaching them how to be saved. I am a firm believer that Christians should, as Jerry Bridges says so frequently in his book Disciplines of Grace, “preach the Gospel to ourselves every day,” but children who are being raised in a Christian home and a solid church where they are saturated in Gospel teaching and Gospel living daily can be taken beyond a salvation message and on to training in living the Christian life. That’s what they get at home and church, so why not give it to them at school? But the evangelistic school cannot easily spend a lot of energy on such training because they risk leaving their non-believing students behind.
On the other hand, the covenantal school only enrolls children of believing parents. These schools will usually require a written Christian testimony from parents and a reference from the family’s pastor. The school community therefore is made up of students from Christian homes who regularly attend strong churches. In the covenantal model, the school comes alongside the home and church to reinforce what its students are already learning there. The Gospel is preached, yes, daily, but not usually with an altar call or invitation. The focus is on helping students understand the kind of life God calls His people to once He saves them. The mission is to help students learn to love God with their whole heart, soul, and mind. The drawback, of course, is the possibility a student could be hard-hearted toward the faith in spite of his home, church, and school. Remember, there are always a large number of such students in an evangelistic school—that is by design—but in a covenantal school, such a child will usually convert or leave. The community is a distinctly Christian one, after all, and a student antagonistic to the faith will himself be miserable and will make the community miserable as well. The two will not stay together long. The mission of the covenantal school is one primarily of discipleship, not evangelism.
At the risk of over-simplifying, the summary goes something like this: evangelistic schools spend a large portion of their resources trying to convert students from unbelieving families in a school community made up of believers and other students who may be antagonistic to the Christian faith. Covenantal schools spend a large portion of their resources teaching and training students from believing families how to live the Christian life in a community of people who believe the same things about God and who sign a statement of faith binding them together.
As you do the work of deciding what kind of Christian school to send your children to, know that Pensacola has both kinds—evangelistic and covenantal. If a distinctly Christian school community sounds right for your family, you should look closely at covenantal schools. Trinitas Christian School is a covenantal school. We labor daily alongside our families and their churches to teach our students how to live the Christian life. Our desire is that our students would love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and their neighbors as themselves. If that sounds like what you want for your children, let us set up a tour for your family today.
Mr. Ron Gilley
The days of the westward expansion were a time period filled with Conestoga wagons, horses, Indians, and cowboys. Our 6th grade class enjoyed another fun, hands-on day of learning this week as they rode horses, learned to lasso, and ate cowboy stew while singing songs around an open campfire. The students learned some lessons in working hard such as chopping wood for their fire, cleaning horseshoes, and grooming their horse. They also learned some of the skills a cowboy needed such as braiding leather, branding, and shooting a rifle. The day ended with a good ‘ole shoot out (using cap guns – of course). The students enjoyed their day in the life of a cowboy and are thankful to Mrs. Usita and all of the parents who helped make their special day a success.
Recently our school celebrated what we call the Night of Recitation. It is a twenty year old tradition that has a different theme each year. Imagine every class from Junior Kindergarten to the Seniors performing a short skit or reciting some piece of excellent prose or poetry—and not only every class, but every student in every class. Why do we do it? Why do we ask our students to recite in public? Recitation is a valuable and important aspect of a classical education. It helps students develop excellent rhetorical skills, it gives them almost immediate feedback on their hard work, and it challenges their fear of speaking in public.
Develops Rhetorical Skills
Rhetoric is a huge part of any good classical education. At Trinitas we teach formal classes in rhetoric beginning in the tenth grade, but training in rhetoric skills begins in Junior Kindergarten and continues through graduation. Part of the vision for our graduates is that they would articulate precisely and reason persuasively—those things take training over time. The Night of Recitation is one important aspect of that training. In preparation for the Night of Recitation, teachers assign parts to all students a few weeks ahead of the big night. A first grader may get only a few lines of an excellent poem while a ninth grader may be asked to memorize twenty or more lines of prose. But the memorization is the easy part.
Teachers actually teach the piece the students are performing so that the students gain a thorough understanding of the point they must get across to the audience. Teachers then work with the students on the stage several times each week on such things as enunciation, diction, and inflection so they do get the right point across to the audience. The recitations often include dialogue between students on stage so that each student must pull his weight well to properly communicate the piece to the audience. If one student’s inflection is wrong on a keyword, he will have made the rest of the class’s work null. No pressure!
All of this preparation is great for the big night, but it also gives teachers a touchstone from which to work for all sorts of other rhetorical exercises during a student’s academic career. The touchstone is no less valuable for the student, who can recall his lessons in preparation for the Night of Recitation and apply it in the delivery of a speech or in a college or job interview.
Provides Immediate Feedback
Few areas of study offer feedback as immediately as preparing and performing a recitation. With recitation, teachers are able to model just what they’re after by speaking the piece for the student. The student can mimic the teacher and practice that with repetitions until he has it perfect. The student can hear for himself right away the difference the change in inflection or intonation makes. Video comes in handy too. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and I have seen students learn in an instant from watching themselves on video what it might have taken days to teach them otherwise.
This kind of feedback builds the teacher/student relationship because as the student puts into practice what the teacher asks him for, he can see the results—he can see his teacher was steering him right. Similarly, on the stage for the big night students often perform based on the feedback of the crowd. When a certain way of presenting or an intentional mannerism is funny to the crowd, the students learn to play it up, adjusting their performance to the feedback of the crowd. That is just good rhetoric at work and it is the kind of experience that quickly builds confidence in students because they can immediately see the reward for their effort.
Challenges Fear of Public Speaking
I once heard that the widest spread fear in the world is the fear of speaking in public. I’m not sure that is true, but I do know it is a big concern for many parents who consider bringing their children to our school. They see how much speaking our students do and fear their children cannot do the same. I am happy to report that no Trinitas student has ever run off the Night of Recitation stage screaming or melted into a puddle during the performance. Our children are often capable of so much more than we think!
The best way to overcome fear of speaking in public is to speak in public. Our students get lots of opportunities to do it, and Night of Recitation is by far the grandest. We find our students well prepared on that night. Nervous? Yes, but not afraid. And that is even true for the “shy” students who arrive at our school peeking from behind their parents’ legs. By the time that night comes around, they will have practiced so well that they know not just their own part but their classmates’ parts too, and I daresay even the most nervous among them exudes confidence.
Of course it is not uncommon for someone to forget a line at Night of Recitation, but that is the beauty of a classically trained mind—they are able to get back on track without help, or their classmates make a quick adjustment and carry the show forward. That’s a pretty amazing thing to see, especially when it’s third or fourth graders doing it. Their familiarity with their pieces and the support of their classmates are just the sort of things to make them successful and help them lose the fear of public speaking.
The Night of Recitation may be the biggest night for our students to display their rhetoric skills, but it is one performance among many smaller ones Trinitas students experience in their day-to-day academic work. This work helps our students learn to articulate precisely and reason persuasively. Every adult finds himself or herself in interactions that either feel like or actually are public performances. Even an impromptu conversation in a staff meeting could turn into an opportunity to use speaking (rhetoric) skills to strengthen an argument. That opportunity to tell someone about the Gospel will at the very least require us to be winsome and to speak precisely. At Trinitas, we aim to find our students well prepared for all those situations and more, and part of preparing them is having them recite on the public stage.
Mr. Ron Gilley
Making stone soup takes a village. Our Junior Kindergarten “villagers” learned all about contributing one small thing to make one beautiful big thing….of soup! Mrs. Hadley’s class assembled, chopped, and sorted veggies and other delicious items to add to their stone soup last week, creating a celebrated feast! After reading the ancient tale of hungry travelers, these four year olds realized the delightful concept of sharing, loving your neighbor, and working together to complete a task.
For the past two weeks I have suggested that Christian parents are called to something different; specifically, they’re called to parent differently in keeping with God’s direction for His people, which necessarily means they’re called to partner with a school that is in line with their parenting (remember, there is no such thing as a neutral education). But it may not be as simple as just sending your child to any old Christian school. You want a school that is in lock step with your church and home, a school that teaches your children how to be Christians out in the wide world. Unfortunately, all Christian education is not the same, and because you want more for your children, I suggest you take a look at classical Christian education.
True, most traditional Christian schools will claim to give your child a Christian “worldview,” but the meaning of the word “worldview” seems to have been somewhat muddled in recent years. Often in traditional Christian schools, students are taught what to think about every issue that comes along. But sometimes the teaching sounds like Christians can do these things but not those things without much explanation of why. Students may leave the school with a Christian worldview, but they may not know why they hold the positions they hold; therefore, when their worldview is challenged by real world scenarios they may not have been trained to think about, it can break down.
On the other hand, a student who is trained how to think Christianly about everything, how to examine his entire range of experience in light of the Scriptures, is not only a student who probably holds a Christian worldview, but is a student who can tell you why he holds the positions he holds. And so those positions will not be shaken easily when the world throws him a moral curve ball.
That is part of the strength of classical Christian schools. They endeavor to teach students how to think and learn for themselves. They ask why and then search for the answers. These schools usually do not fall into the error of instructing students to stick their heads in the sand and pretend the world is not there, but neither do they fall into the error of teaching students to embrace everything the world has to offer by Christianizing it with a fish symbol. What they do is saturate their students with the Scriptures. They don’t treat their faith like a social club they choose to belong to but as a gift from God and a heritage handed down over the past two-thousand years. What it means to be Christian and to live Christianly is not a riddle. We can know not only what to believe but also why we believe it; the answers are available if you know where to look and have the gumption to do so.
Christianity has shaped the entire West, and classical Christian schools teach our Western heritage by taking students back to the original sources instead of to textbooks. Through the reading of ancient works from church fathers and great philosophers, and through the singing of ancient psalms, classical Christian schools connect students to their Christian inheritance so that students understand they are not alone in their Christian beliefs but are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) that have walked the path before them for hundreds of years, through hardship and sacrifice and even martyrdom.
Thus armed, classical Christian schools can also work to cultivate Christian virtue in their students by holding up those virtuous Christians who have gone before them. Students can see for themselves that trying to be human apart from the way Scripture instructs us to be human isn’t really being human at all. They learn that living according to the Scriptures takes practice in (and later out of) Christian community. And in classical Christian schools they find such a community to practice in.
So yes, Christian parents should give their children a Christian education—no, they must—but all Christian education isn’t the same. There is something afoot in classical Christian schools across the nation. A brand of Christian education is being offered in such a way that students’ faith isn’t just surviving their education, but is actually being informed, strengthened, and even built by it. What Christian parent would want less? Not you. You want more for your children.
Some of the founders of the classical Christian education resurgence have put together this short film to provide more information on the rise of classical Christian education over the past thirty-five-plus years. The film will cost you about twenty minutes of your life, but it could have an impact on your family that lasts generations.
Mr. Ron Gilley
The Trinitas Classical Christian School curriculum includes studying ancient Egypt in the second grade. In the process of learning about Egyptian times and rituals, Mrs. Robson’s class is creating mummies. What better way to appreciate and understand the process of mummifying than to mummify a chicken? Her students completely agreed and enjoyed the process of mixing the baking powder, salt, and baking soda to prepare the hens for the 40 day waiting (or mummifying) process. Once the preservation project is complete, the students will wrap the hens with glue and gauze, creating the long awaited chicken mummy!
Being in the Christian education business, one of the things I hear often from Christian parents is, We send our children to non-Christian schools so they can be salt and light to the lost children and teachers. Yikes! I want to suggest to those parents that they’re asking something nearly impossible of their young ones. In fact, if your Christian children are in a secular school, here are three reasons to get them out of there before they lose their faith.
Before I get started, let me make one thing clear, I fully believe that every Christian must be engaged in Christ’s Great Commission to His followers found in Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” That is a command we must obey. But does obedience from a six year old manifest itself the same way as obedience from a twenty-six year old? Does obedience to that command look the same from a brand new Christian as from a more mature Christian? Of course not. Where do our school-aged children fit into that commission? Does Christ want us to send our young, (mostly) spiritually defenseless children alone into the lair of the enemy in an attempt to convert them?
#1 The Concrete Isn’t Dry
I want to suggest that the answer to that last question is almost always a resounding, no. Of course we want our children walking in faith and learning how to bear witness to the Gospel, but do we really think our nine-year-old is spiritually strong enough, prepared enough, mature enough to have more of an impact on his unbelieving schoolmates than five, ten, or more of them will have on him? Again, I think the answer is most often, no. And the reason is that the concrete isn’t dry. Our Christian children aren’t nearly the mature Christians they will be someday after much nurturing and mentoring. You don’t send the Pop Warner Champs to play the Super Bowl Champs; similarly, you don’t send your eight year old Christian kid to convert a public school that has the force of the federal government behind its secularism. Yes, God often uses foolish things to school the worldly wise, but are you sure your child is the foolish thing He will use to thwart the effects of secular education, even in one of his classmates? We can be faithful without testing God.
#2 Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals
The Proverbs caution repeatedly against aligning ourselves with certain kinds of companions—from the foolish to the guy with a bad temper (both frequent behaviors of the non-believer)—and then warn us that bad company corrupts good morals. Some may argue that these proverbs are not actually commands, but we can agree that at the very least they are wisdom for the believer, and they seem to be saying that it isn’t wise to spend too much time with people who serve other gods, especially if they outnumber you. And that goes double for the nine-year-old who, by the simple fact of his age and lack of experience, does not possess the discernment and wisdom necessary not just to defend himself but to go on the offense with the Gospel.
#3 It’s in the Water
Of course, every child in a secular school is not anti-Christ and, in fact, it would be foolish to think your child would not find a couple good Christian friends to help sustain him. Certainly there are some good Christian teachers in secular schools as well (and they definitely have a more valid salt and light argument for being there than your child does). Unfortunately for your child, though, a couple of like-minded friends and an undercover Christian teacher usually isn’t enough community to protect against the secular attack on Christian presuppositions and ideals even when it is not attacking Christianity directly by name. In other words, it isn’t simply that there are a few predators in this pond you’ve let your little Christian minnow loose in; it is that the whole pond is toxic to your minnow, and he is going to bring more toxic waste home with him each night than you can possibly wipe off of him before he goes back for another seven hours tomorrow.
The Barna Group, known for its work compiling a variety of Christian statistics, reported in the early 2000s, that 59% of young Christians leave the church permanently or for an extended period of time. This study was not related to Christian education, but one should ask himself how many of those students were getting one unified message from home and church while the school—the third influence in a child’s life and the one that spends the most instructive time with the child—was teaching and training a message radically different from home and church, a message toxic to Christianity.
Scripture and common sense should prevail in this argument. If I want my child to be a great football player, I’m not going to send him to music camp to be trained for football. If I want my child to be a faithful Christian, I’m not going to send him for 1,200 hours a year to be trained in anti-Christian thought and practice. Don’t send your lambs to slaughter. Get them out of the secular schools before they lose their faith.
Mr. Ron Gilley, headmaster
Our science and math teacher, Mrs. Kaunitz, was taking a break from her academics to practice piano. Several of the staff members at Trinitas Christian School are accomplished pianists, many of whom lead music in their own churches. Our teachers are gifted in singing, in math, in art, in history, in cooking, in creating, in science, in speaking, and in teaching. With so many gifts to share, it is no wonder what a blessing any time at Trinitas can be for those who work and attend school here.
Happy New Year! The older I get, the faster the years seem to come and go. It is as if we began 2018 just yesterday, but 2019 is now upon us and already a week old. Many of us like to begin each new year by making resolutions—new year, new start. This year I am encouraging Christian parents to make three resolutions for raising Christian children: correct our children according to God’s word, eat at least one meal together as a family every day, and engage in family worship or devotions daily. If we pursue these resolutions diligently and pray continually for guidance and help from the Holy Spirit, 2019 can be a year of great spiritual growth for our families.
First, let’s resolve to correct our children according to God’s word. Parenting is hard work, and sometimes we find ourselves, tired and frazzled, correcting our children because they have inconvenienced us or embarrassed us or because we just want peace and quiet. What if we put our own desires aside, though, and lovingly corrected our children according to God’s word? I encourage you to start with the end in mind. Christian parents all want their children to become God-honoring Christian adults, and training for that begins when they are children—it doesn’t happen in the twinkling of an eye when they turn eighteen or twenty-one or thirty-two. So parents have to ask themselves, how does God intend for His people to live? What should Christians do and not do? I suggest spending some time in the epistles of Paul. Books like Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians, and Titus all have some very clear passages about which behaviors Christian people should put off and which ones they should put on. Correct your children for those things. Train them to put off ungodly behaviors associated with what the Bible calls the “old man” and to put on the godly characteristics of the “new man” they have become in Christ. For example, teach them not only to put off dishonesty but also to put on a love for the truth. Correcting your children according to the Scriptures and with the end in mind will cultivate virtue in their lives, replacing sinful habits with godly habits.
Next, let’s resolve to eat at least one meal together as a family every day. I know this is a lot to ask for some families because of work schedules and different things, but it is a goal worth pursuing. Any meal will do, but the evening meal is the one I suggest taking together because it affords an opportunity for everyone to talk about how their day went. Debriefing in a safe family setting can be a huge stress reliever for children and parents. It also gives parents an opportunity to teach through things that come up in the normal day-to-day business of life without having to create make-believe scenarios or talk at their children about things that seem irrelevant. Believe me, when you invite your children to talk at the family table, every topic will come up eventually. Besides the teaching opportunity, just eating together is good. God made us for community, and the community found at the family table is truly sweet. I have lingered at table for hours at a time with my family, and those memories are among the fondest I have. Few families have time to linger at the table for hours every evening, but even the short meal taken together daily is edifying and bond-strengthening.
Finally, Christian parents (and especially you, dads), let’s resolve to conduct family worship or devotions in our homes daily. I know the reaction many of you have right now is one of horror at trying to lead your family in worship, but let me assure you that if you stick to a few basics, you can hardly go wrong. The ingredients I suggest for family worship are a Scripture reading, singing, and prayer. If you are unsure about which passages to read, try working your way through the whole Bible over time by reading just a chapter or two each day. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on exposition, just read God’s word together. (As your children get older, you will need to be prepared for their questions, which is a good spiritual challenge for you—get prepared.) If that seems like too much, follow a daily devotional from one your favorite pastors. Follow the reading with a song. Sing songs you normally sing at your church, thereby preparing your family to be better worshippers on Sunday. If no one in the family plays an instrument, acapella is just fine. Finally, pray together. In the beginning it may be necessary for the parents to pray aloud and the children listen, but eventually, everyone should get a turn to pray. This is a great way to teach your children the all-important Christian privilege of going to God’s throne of grace in prayer. While family worship should never replace going to church, it is an excellent supplement for your family’s spiritual growth.
As a Christian parent, your most important task on earth for a season is to raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If you think just taking them to Sunday school or even enrolling them in a private Christian school is enough to accomplish that task, you have woefully underestimated to work ahead of you. You have much to do, but fear not, the Holy Spirit will enable you to do all God has called you to do if you will approach it faithfully, diligently, and prayerfully. I hope these three resolutions for the New Year will give you a practical starting point for the journey. Godspeed!
Mr. Ron Gilley