Thursday, September 3, 2020

Happy Birthday HCA!

In the fall of 1994, God provided a vision to two young moms at Highland Baptist Church to begin a school for their children, and for the kids of other dedicated believers in the community.  Desiring their kids simultaneously have a strong spiritual foundation as well as a strong academic environment, they were discouraged by the lack of choices, and followed the Lord’s lead to begin Hickory Christian Academy. 

On September 5, 1995, HCA opened its doors to 19 students.  Four children entered Mrs. Ennis’ 1st grade, Five kids were in Mrs. Huffine’s Kindergarten class, and Mrs. Ragan had 10 in her K4 class.  And, all of a sudden, HCA was off and running!  The original Mission Statement, which we still adhere to today, was written as “Equipping children today to become God’s leaders tomorrow.”

25 years later, as the school hovers around 500 students and 40 teachers, a lot has changed.  We have our own campus, students through 12th grade, over 325 alumni (seven of whom now have their kids back at HCA as current students).  We have student athletes, a daily lunch program, hundreds of college graduates, an alumni association, and a community footprint where we are respected and appreciated as a beneficial asset to the Catawba Valley. 

But, the mission has not changed.  Our desire was, and is, to produce Christian leaders.  That does not necessarily mean that every student becomes a boss, but rather that they become steadfast in their faith, unwavering in their commitment to Jesus through a combination of true biblical worldview (Christian) and training of the mind (Classical).  Upon graduation, an HCA student will be a combination of spiritual and intellectual strength, making them difference makers for the gospel. 

From year two.  Wearing uniforms for the first time!
I don’t know exactly what Karen Johnson and Debbie Bolch had in mind when they founded the school 25 years ago, but I do know that something beautiful has emerged from their prayers and obedience, and every one of us benefits from that today.  Any time you do something significant, you will encounter resistance, rough patches, and fears (including this year for sure), but when you receive the reward, it is all worth the work. 

As Hickory Christian Academy celebrates 25 years of Classical Christian education, I invite you all to be a part of the celebration.  For now, we cannot hold a large gathering, but maybe soon we will be able to do something a little more formal.  Until then, let me simply say THANK YOU to all who have played a part in the success of this school, from founders to teachers to board members to parents and students.  And, let me just say Happy Birthday HCA! to each of you.  So, wherever you are, and however you choose, please join me in celebrating God’s faithfulness to our precious school.  Whether you have been with us for 25 years, or just a couple weeks, you are now part of a very special story, and we are excited to rejoice over this milestone, and the ones to come, alongside each of you.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Rejoice in the wife of your youth

Gayle and I have been married for 27 1/2 years.  July 11, 1992 was a scorching hot day in Hickory, and I was wearing a tuxedo.  Normally, that would put me in a crabby mood, but on that particular day, I didn't bother to think about the drops of sweat dripping down my back, or my lack of oxygen.  Rather, I was focused on the moment in time that would shape my future, and everything about me from that day forward.  I was a mature 22 year old, or so I believed at the time.  I had just graduated college, and landed a job teaching high school math and physics, making a whopping $19,000/year, which, fresh out of college, seemed like a million bucks to me.  We had arranged a honeymoon through a timeshare tour agreement in Florida and the Bahamas, bought a plane ticket, had the world on a string, and were ready to share life.
She still looks at me like this!

Well, as you know, "life" has many flavors and seasons.  Six kids, one son-in-law, four colleges, 20 used cars, aging parents, 5 houses, and a dozen pets later, we have seen a lot, and shared a lot.  When two individuals choose to unite in one household, there are many more ramifications to that decision than a glossy-eyed 22 year old can possibly comprehend.  It would be nice if we always agreed on everything, but the fact is, we don't.  It would be great if we always said kind words to each other, but we fail there as well.  It would also be nice if we were both always self-sacrificial, thinking of the other first, but...

Marriage can be hard, and over the years, Gayle and I often found ourselves co-existing more than celebrating our union.  Many times, we were defined more accurately as business partners than husband and wife.  After all, there is a BIG household of children to manage, a bank account to watch shrink, and a busy schedule to check off, among a myriad of other things that life throws at each of us.

But, she stuck it out with me all these years, and put up with my quirks, pride, attitudes, and snoring, and I am so thankful that she did.  Because, I cannot imagine a better scenario for my life than to be married to Gayle.  She is compassionate, caring, honest and joyful.  She is a prayer warrior for our family, and for many of yours as well.  She taught me how to love Jesus unconditionally , and continues to do so daily.  Marriage is not about being happy every day (repeat that 100 times).  Rather, it is about choosing someone to share the daily grind of life with...the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, victories and defeats.  It is also a reflection of Christ's relationship with His people (Eph. 5:25), and the sacrificial love which forms that relationship.  We have an opportunity every day, just by being married, to show people how much Jesus loves His Church, starting with the people living in our house...

Two became Nine

So, as I think of my Valentine today, and the legacy we are forming through this spiritual bond God has placed us in, I just want to encourage all of you to rejoice in the wife (or husband) of your youth today (Prov. 5:18).  She is worth rejoicing in because she is more than a roommate or business partner.  She is a gift from God.  She's not perfect, and neither am I, but the One who placed us together is perfect, and therefore we are excited to trust Him with our lives and with our family.

I love you Gayle.  I can't wait to see what the next 27 1/2 years holds for us!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Word became Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... - John 1:14a

I am a big sports fan. I love competition. I love the battle between teams, and the dedication, sacrifice, and teamwork that goes into a successful sports season. Most of my time on the field as a kid was in baseball. My dad was a baseball player, and taught me the beauty of a cognitive game without a clock, that is one-on-one (pitcher vs. batter), while simultaneously team vs. team. I also played basketball, golf, and even a season of soccer in the 6th grade. I wasn't very good at that one, but I could kick pretty far.  

But, in light of that personal draw toward athletics, I must say I HATE the modern phenomenon of instant replay. I am old school to the core. Part of the fun of sports used to be the "can you believe that call!?!" conversations the day after. Now, we spend an extra 30 minutes in every game to review every breath to death just to make sure the call was correct, and eliminate the controversy. I like human umpires and referees overseeing human athletes apart from cameras and computers, even if it is not perfect. The flow of the game was better. The excitement was better. The constant stoppages in today's games just mess it up.  

However, I totally understand the reason we rely on instant replay these days - because it reveals the truth. Did the guy really catch the ball? Let's check the replay. Was his foot on the line? Let's go to the review booth. Did he beat the throw to 1st base? We need to take a look because we want to know the truth, or it will negatively affect the bigger outcome. Hopefully, that is the same attitude we all have in life. What is the truth? How do I find it? Who ultimately has the authority to declare what is true?  

This is all the more important in today's crazy world of emotionalism, political correctness, and media sensationalism. We are inundated with everyone's opinions on everything. For those of us who are the pre-internet generation (graduated high school before 1995), we can cope with today's world, because we grew up in a time when we were influenced by only a few dozen people (parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, friends), and still hold those simple values. No one else's opinions really mattered. But, for those who came along afterward, every day of life is filled with thousands of opinions on hundreds of topics. We no longer ask key life questions to our mentors and friends; instead, we "Google" them (and tend to believe whatever pops out of that search, regardless of who wrote it). This is our children's world.

So, truth is at stake more today than it has ever been, and is watered down at times beyond recognition. How do we know what we are reading is true? How do we know what we are feeling is true? How do we know what we are seeing is true? (There used to be a saying, "seeing is believing", but with Photoshop, virtual reality, and other altering technologies, you just never know anymore).

In John 17:17, Jesus was praying for His disciples, as well as for all those who would be born after his crucifixion, when He said, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." To sanctify means to grow in the knowledge and image of God - To become more like Him. When Jesus spoke these words, He was literally saying that to become more like God, we need to have access to the truth. Then, He immediately identifies the source of that truth - The Word. A Robinson Version paraphrase of this verse might read something like this: "Lord, make these people more and more like you each day by reinforcing in them the truths found in your Word." This would be very similar to the overall vision HCA has for its students on campus.

So, assuming that Christians reading this blog believe that Jesus speaks absolute truths, we can bank on the fact that God's Word is truth, and can be relied upon for our daily and eternal direction. In the first verse of scripture, we see that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." God's first recorded words are found in Genesis 1:3, "Let there be light". God is the only one who can make light out of darkness. This is deeper than just physical lights, like the sun and moon. It also refers to intellectual and spiritual light - the revealing of absolute truth to a dark, confused, lost world. This is why Jesus is referred to as the Light of the World. He didn't just make the sun shine brighter. He illuminated our minds and souls to the truth.  

In those first few verses of the Bible, we see all of creation come into being through words. God spoke light into existence. He spoke the earth, sky, water, plants, birds, and animals into being. Then, he spoke mankind out of the dust of the earth into His image bearers. The words of God were all that existed, and all that was needed.  

Later, in the first chapter of John, we see it all come together in verses one and fourteen. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." The Word of God that spoke into existence all life, embodied all truth, and existed from the beginning was born in a feeding trough in Bethlehem around 2000 years ago, and walked the earth just as you and I. To quote the familiar song:

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you're holding is the great I am?

The truth is simply this: God created the heavens and the earth by speaking them into existence, and then entered the world in the flesh to become the only source of truth for mankind, meaning He is the only hope we have. Everything else is a smokescreen and a distraction, pointing us in other directions. So, as we watch the evening news, and hear about the political circus, the vying for attention and power, and the emotional breakdown of our culture, the simple story of a virgin holding her divine infant under the celebratory watch of angels, shepherds and wise men is indeed cause for joy. A baby born to die for our sins, when we could not save ourselves is Good News of Great Joy for all mankind. 

How do I know this is truth? Let's watch the replay again for the 2000th time. 

"For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." - Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Each summer for the past 19 years, I have asked the Lord to provide a focal verse for HCA for that school year.  This simple concept has become something that our faculty now annually waits on with eager anticipation.  By the time the calendar turns to July, the questions always begin..."Do we have our verse yet?  I want to include it in my lessons and correspondence with my students."  I love the enthusiasm for placing scripture in a prominent place at school, and for having a spiritual anchor to our daily routines of planning, grading, meeting, disciplining, mentoring, etc. 

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  Following that example, HCA chooses to put the Word at the beginning of each year and each day.  As we read that verse, we quickly see that the "Word" is not simply a word, but a person.  A divine person.  He was with God and was God.  The fact that God's Word is not only a spoken narrative, but the embodiment of our Savior is paramount in our Christian walk.  It would be easy to assume that God is difficult for us to reach because He is God, and we are sinful us.  But, when Jesus became the living Word, it was no longer impossible for us to reach God because He had already reached us through His life, death, resurrection, and through the truth of His Word, gracefully placed in the hands of each of His children, now in the form of our Bibles. 

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that "the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

In the depravity of our flesh, it is critical that we have grace, rescue, accountability, and direction.  The Word provides those things.  And unlike other ancient documents that need to be dug up, dusted off, and placed in the context of time, our Word is "living and active".  The truth of scripture is the same today as it was 2000 years ago, continuing to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Apart from it, we can do nothing (John 15:5)

Transferring to the present day, as we blankly stare at the ridiculousness of the newscasts about our politics and modern culture, as believers we must stay anchored to the truth of the Word.  That is essentially why we do the verse of the year each year.  The assault on "words" in our culture is immense.  Just think about it.  15 years ago, the definition of certain words was obvious and not up for debate.  Words like male, female, marriage, family, love, life, God....These were no-brainers.  Everyone knew what they meant, and they were not up for debate.  Just a few years later, no one agrees on the definition of any of these words.

Individual words are now up for debate because THE WORD has been devalued and forgotten.  But, regardless of what direction society may choose to go, the truth of scripture is still living and active.  The standards and truths within have not changed, nor will they ever change.  Hebrews 13:8 tells us that The Word, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

In our verse of the year, John 14:6, we hear Jesus say about Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."  The real question for all of us is simply whether we believe scripture is really God's spoken word.  This is a YES or NO question, without any valid in-between options.  If we believe some of it is true, but not all of it, then we relegate the Bible to the hands of so-called "experts" who will tell us which portions we should trust.  I'm sure that most who are reading this would agree that scripture is true, but do we really live that out?  Or do we try to blend our faith with the world's cultural trends?

If Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father (and to heaven), and if His words are the ONLY source of truth, and if He is our ONLY path to life (abundant life on earth and eternal life beyond), then why would we pay attention to anything else?  Yet, like me, I am sure you all find yourselves caught in this crazy time of angry, entitled, confused people wondering what in the world is going on, and how we ever got here.  Of course, the answer to that is in the Word. 

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.  -  Romans 1:28-32

So, let me tell you what HCA offers to our community.  As a Classical Christian School, we are committed to the training of the whole child; body, mind, soul, and spirit.  The people of the culture described in the passage above will tell you that all our woes will be solved through the mechanics of education.  They will tell you that SAT scores and AP classes and college acceptances are the way to success for your children.  And they will tell you that through the secular education they have created, your child will be enlightened to understand what all those ambiguous definitions really mean.  We agree that the training of the mind is critical, and I believe we do that as well as anyone here at HCA.  But the most important question to ask yourself is "WHO is training the mind of my children?"  Is it the world of people described in Romans chapter one? 

Scripture makes it clear that the training up of children is first and foremost the job of the parents of those children.  Unofficially, 80% of what your child ends up believing is on the shoulders of mom and dad.  But, who controls that other 20% is a question we should not take lightly.  HCA is not perfect, and is made up of very imperfect people who have our own sets of struggles each day.  But, what HCA does have is people who believe that God is God, truth is truth, and grace is abundant through Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. 

While the majority of the world now trains children, based on our feelings and their feelings, and what we perceive to be right and wrong in our minds, HCA will continue to base every bit of our training on the Holy Bible. 

19th century writer and art critic John Ruskin wrote,
The entire object of true education is to make people not merely do the right things, but to enjoy the right things - not merely industrious, but to love industry - not merely learned, but to love knowledge - not merely pure, to to love purity - not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after justice.

As was noted Megan Best's article in the last edition of the Classical Difference magazine, Ruskin's idea of true education implies the existence of a false education.  False education only teaches students "how to get through" the academic disciplines (simply to pass the quiz on Friday each week), and fails to mention that there is an opportunity to love the disciplines themselves.  True education, or classical Christian education, stretches students' imaginations beyond immediate results and stirs a sense of wonder that endures eternally. 

We latch onto Jesus' words with regard to Him being the way because core evangelical teaching tells us that Jesus is the only way to heaven each Sunday.  We resonate with Him being the truth, because, again, if He is the word, and the word is truth, then He is truth.  But, sometimes assigning THE LIFE to Jesus is ambiguous.  What exactly does He mean by that?  I think it is partially answered in the Ruskin quote.  When we get past the basic requirement of obedience of scriptural truths, and begin to LOVE being obedient to scriptural truths, we begin to live the life that Jesus calls "abundant". 

Hickory Christian Academy is more than the safe place from the world to drop off your kids each morning.  It is a place where the authority of the parent is honored, and the truth of scripture is treasured, and the image of God upon each individual is recognized and fostered.  When we train up children to be intelligent thinkers and communicators (not just memorizers), and couple that with an understanding of the Savior who shows them the only way to truth and life, we produce young adults who are ready to stand firm in a hostile world.  While we admit we are not perfect, and often stumble in our own flesh along the way, I hope that this is the overarching theme you see for your family this school year, and that you find comfort in knowing that we are partnering alongside of you in fighting the assault on truth in the lives of our children each day. 

They are precious in the sight of God, and are capable of so much more than the sorry standards this world has to offer them!

May God bless you in your journey.  One quarter down...let us know if you need anything. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Prince of Peace

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6

About 700 years before the baby in the manger, the prophet Isaiah wrote several passages predicting the events and person of the coming messiah.  The striking similarities in Isaiah's description and the Nativity story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke lead to the obvious conclusion that both are referring to the same baby Jesus.  

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God with us). - Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah's description not only includes the birth of a baby boy, but also the life mission and immortal identity of this child.  This was no ordinary infant, who grew into an extraordinary man, with supernatural attributes.

Take the title "Wonderful Counselor".  The word "wonderful" here literally means "supernatural".  Jesus is not simply a wonderful counselor according to human terms, the best that money can buy, but instead He is a counselor with supernatural power.  He has the ability to repair what man cannot.  Broken marriages, clinical depression, rebellious hearts, political strife, and even international conflict. 

The baby in the manger also is given the title of "Mighty God" and "Everlasting Father".  Obviously, Isaiah was speaking on behalf of the Lord here... or he was completely insane.  Who looks at a baby and calls him Mighty God?  Who predicts a birth of a child, and refers in advance to this kid as the Everlasting Father?  The coming messiah was an event that all the world anticipated, especially in the nation of Israel.  But, even men of royalty from foreign lands traveled hundreds of miles across the desert to see this little boy, further evidence of the extreme nature of his identity.  The world is a messy place, with much strife and conflict.  Who can resolve these deep issues?  Only Deity in flesh. 

Isaiah's final title for Jesus is "Prince of Peace".  When sin entered the word in the Garden of Eden, peace between God and man disappeared, and without a peaceful relationship with God, mankind quickly developed strife with one another as well (see Cain and Abel).  This is why Isaiah's prediction that the Government will be upon His shoulders is so important.  Just look at the world around us.  Regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, Muslim or Jew, or Capitalist or Communist, we have clearly proven that we cannot govern ourselves in unity and peace.  The promise of the Government being on the shoulders of Jesus is so refreshing, given the venomous relationships between nations, politicians, and everyday people in our world. 

All this sounds nice, but what evidence do we have that Jesus actually brings this kind of counter-culture to our world?  An interesting story comes to us under the title of "The Christmas Truce of 1914". 

World War I was probably the most brutal war in the history of the world.  Modern technology had allowed nations to produce weapons of destruction that were so new on the scene that no one had had the chance to evaluate their effect, or the morality in using them.  Tanks, submarines, planes, artillery, mines, machine guns, and chemical weapons were used throughout the war with devastating results, because there was no defense and no moral boundary set.  Prior wars had been fought with men facing one another with single shot rifles.  All of a sudden, any given battle resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of lives.

In four years, over 16 million people died in the Great War.  While this number pales in comparison to the raw numbers of World War II (you could make an argument that it was really one long conflict), the brutality of the war, and the way people died, caused the entire world to stop in horror and consider future conflict.  The Treaty of Versailles and the Geneva Convention set rules of war regarding chemical weapons, treatment of prisoners of war, and other boundaries of international conflict, that were agreed upon by virtually every nation on earth.  In other words, "We know we will have future wars, but when we do, there needs to be rules set to protect us from going too far."  An amazing thought  when considering the win-at-all-costs mentality of war.

In the midst of this great conflict, on the Western Front in Belgium and France, an amazing thing took place.  After months of shooting, bombing, poisoning, and killing, opposing troops were holed up in trenches on opposite sides of "No Man's Land".  It was Christmas Eve, 1914.  As night came, and darkness fell across the battlefield, there began the sound of singing.  German troops on one side, and Allied troops on the other.  As each listened to the Christmas Carols sounding from their enemy, hearts began to soften, and the realization of a common Savior took precedent. 

After hours of back and forth, both sides simultaneously joined in singing "O Come All Ye Faithful", each in his own language.  The unity of the song brought heads carefully above the edge of the trench, and exchanges of "Merry Christmas" in the opposite language to the other side.  Eventually over 100,000 men emerged from the trenches and met between their battle lines to sing hymns, exchange gifts, pose for pictures, and even play some soccer matches.  in this stretch of battlefield, on Christmas Day 1914, no shots were fired, and the Prince of Peace prevailed.  There was an agreement that Christ reigned supreme over political conflict, and that recognition of His incarnation is much more important than proving points and gaining power. 

I bring this story up to suggest that our society's avoidance of anything Christian is the root of the problem in America, and around the world, today.  Jesus promised to be our Prince of Peace.  He is identified as our Wonderful Counselor.  And, after all, since He is Mighty God and Eternal Father, He surely has the power to be what He claims to be.  If warring nations can lay down mustard gas and machine guns in the name of Christ, why can't Americans tap into the Savior in our time of need?

Laying our Bibles aside, removing prayer from our kids routine, and doing what is right in our own eyes has led to disaster.  The answer to our conflict is not more education or reason or dialogue or acquiescence.  The solution is the recognition of our true spiritual enemies and of our own flesh as the sources of our sin, and pointing ourselves to the only true remedy - a Savior. 

This baby in a manger is much more than a picturesque Christmas card.  He is our Eternal Father and our Prince of Peace.  He is our only hope.  Our future depends on our faithfulness to that truth. 

Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Why Classical Education? (subtitle, "What is wrong with modern education?")

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain

Like anything else these days, it is important that we examine education in light of reality and truth to see what exactly our kids are getting, or not getting.  Our culture pushes the term "education" on us so hard, that we cannot help but be influenced by the movement in a major way.  We are told that education will be the solution to hatred and prejudice.  We are told that education will be the solution to economic hardships.  We are told that education will be the gateway to all kinds of bliss and joy.  The message is clear: Education will produce happiness, peace, and contentment for individuals and society as a whole.  How's that working?

The fact is that America is the most educated is has ever been, and the most educated nation on earth, at least in spending.  The federal government spends $650 Billion on education each year, or about $12,500 per public school student.  Those numbers do not reflect additional state funding to boost the amounts even higher.  In other words, the cost to put a child through public school each year is significantly higher than the cost of most private schools.  And yet, the mantra from Washington and state capitals across the nation is a call to increase spending on education.  In order to get the results you want in the classroom, all we need is more money.  Is that really a true statement?  A 2016 Harris poll revealed that only 31% of Americans would say they are "happy".  How can this be, when we are so educated, and constantly promised that education will be our savior?

Similarly, the federal government, and other large organizations, have dictated how we measure success in our classrooms.  Standardized testing has become our end-all-be-all across the board.  Someone in Washington DC (or Raleigh, etc.) makes a decision on what is essential for a child in Hickory to learn at a certain age, and creates a test to determine the level of learning success.  Teachers are pushed to teach to that test, as their success and reputation, as well as the reputation of the school, directly depend on the scores.  The 185 days of interaction with the teacher, and his/her determination of whether a student has successfully traversed the 3rd grade are rendered meaningless in light of that standardized test score.  It is no wonder teachers are frustrated. 

Every spring, I interact with teachers, students, and parents, who are overly stressed out about these tests, and rightfully so.  A teacher's professional standing is on the line.  A student's progression to the next grade is in question.  A parent's bragging rights with the neighbors about their child's intellect is in the balance.  And, as the children age, the pressure gets greater.  We move from, "how does my child measure up to other 3rd graders?" to "Is my child going to be accepted into college?".  And after all, a college acceptance to the preferred school is the pinnacle of all parenting, right? (that was sarcasm). 

In reality, when our kids take End of Grade Tests, or the SAT, or the ACT, what are we really learning about our child's education and ability?  And do those results match our priorities of what is really important in the development of young people?  Before going there, I will reluctantly admit that we are stuck.  The state government of North Carolina requires every student in the state to take standardized tests in certain grades.  Virtually every college in America requires an SAT or ACT (or both) score for admission, which makes sense on some level, because it is the only consistent number they can measure across thousands of schools.  But, the structure of the questioning of these tests is problematic to say the least.  At the end of the day, we determine whether our kids can memorize facts and spout them out on a ABCD bubble sheet, but can they reason and think on their own?  Can they hold an intelligent conversation?  Can they examine a situation to determine right or wrong, without being caught up in the emotion of the moment?  Can they write intelligibly?  We are producing Trivial Pursuit champions who cannot effectively debate a difficult topic with someone, form an opinion on their own, or present themselves before a group of people, or even in a job interview. 

This is why HCA has chosen Classical Christian education as our modus operandi (Latin pun intended).  Classical education is time honored, and proven through the great historical figures of western civilization.  From Aristotle to Martin Luther to Thomas Jefferson to CS Lewis to your child, classical education has successfully formed young minds into great thinkers for thousands of years.  This is not because it is necessarily harder, but because it is simply more effective.  The chanting and memorization of the Grammar Stage, followed by the debate and analysis of the Logic Stage, leading into the eloquence, presentation, and beauty of the Rhetoric Stage produces a well-rounded thinker with potential to contribute to society, far beyond the basic Jeopardy questions for college acceptance.  Coupled with a Christian Biblical Worldview, we hope to produce eternity changers with much higher aspirations than report card grades. 

Topics like Latin, Logic, Rhetoric, Western Civilization, and Apologetics stand out in this genre of education at the surface, but deep in the core of a classical education is a heart that is not satisfied with modern educational bubble sheets as its standard of success.  God expects so much more when asks us to love Him with all of our minds (Luke 10:27).

So, as a parent, I must question myself daily.  What do I desire in the life of my child?  If I am being honest, I would choose righteousness, holiness, character, integrity, common sense, diligence, and joy well before high test scores and degrees.  But, do my actions match that priority list?  I am not saying that some of those things are not important.  They certainly can be, and HCA students consistently score significantly higher than other schools on college entry exams, and typically perform at a higher level than their peers in college classes.  But, sacrificing the eternal for the temporal is always foolish, regardless of what the culture around me says.  And a quest for truth should always supersede the satisfaction of memorizing the answers long enough to pass Friday's quiz.  Wouldn't it be great if we could hold students to a high spiritual standard, character standard, and academic standard simultaneously? 

In the next few months, I hope to highlight some key aspects of a Classical Christian Education with the goal of making sure we are all on the same page, and appreciative of the opportunity our kids have to experience this unique form of education in modern America.  From a mile away, HCA can look very much like every other school.  We have long dropoff and pickup lines.  We host multiple sports teams.  We give homework assignments.  We learn math, read books, and make science projects.  But, there is a difference that I hope you will clearly see as the years go by, because it gets clearer as students get older.  My own three children who graduated from HCA have all reported that they were amazed at how much more prepared they were for post high school life than the vast majority of their college peers.  Some of that has to do with the way we parent, some with their own unique personalities, but I attribute a great deal of that preparedness to Classical Christian Education.  They were ready, not only for college, but for life.  There is a difference. 

Stay Tuned... 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Finding Beauty in Education

As 21st Century Americans, we are inundated with information and opinions from all angles, virtually all day, every day.  The amount of people who fill our airwaves on television, internet, and social media is too high to count, but make no mistake, they have a tremendous impact on each one of us.  Visible folks on the news, in athletics, entertainers, and politicians all want us to know their take on life, and to convince us that we should agree with them, sometimes accompanied by threats of what will happen if we don't.

An example of this is the change in culture from my childhood to today.  When I was a kid, growing up in Virginia and North Carolina, we enjoyed small town culture.  We rode bikes, played baseball, went to church, talked with our neighbors, and generally felt secure in our simple existence.  We were taught that truth and integrity were more valuable than money and fame.  We knew that places like Los Angeles and New York had differing cultures, and that many of our values were foreign to them (and vice versa), but the prevailing sentiment was that they were free to live over there and do as they please, and we would stay here and do the same.  Everyone seemed OK with that arrangement at the time.  How times have changed.

With the onset of the internet in the 1990's, the world rapidly got smaller.  It is no longer acceptable for people to live in various places with differing beliefs and values in our country.  If you are an American, then you should automatically buy into the prevailing culture, as depicted through electronic communication.  Whatever the pundits on FoxNews and CNN say, should now be what we all believe.  However Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift view the world should dictate our own viewpoints a well.  If Tom Brady or LeBron James say something is important, then if must be important.  College professors and politicians have control of the mindset of the future.  In other words, we have become a bunch of "yes men" who don't need brains of our own as long as we have famous people to do all our thinking for us.

In many ways, this is the prime reason for the existence of Hickory Christian Academy.  As a Classical Christian School, our core value is that we would produce thinkers, not just memorizers.  It is far too easy (and dangerous) for a teacher to simply be handed a textbook to complete, and administer a government test at the end.  Even if our kids score perfect scores on those tests, and even if it impresses a college, what have we really gained?  All that is proven at that point is that our kids have memorized the educational agenda deemed most important by the politicians we wish were out of office.  But, we have been so convinced by the establishment that this is quality education that we just blindly follow the crowd, without asking questions.  

This year's theme at HCA is "Beauty".  Our reference comes from Psalm 27:4, which states "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to mediate in His temple."

A few years ago, I wrote an article for a local magazine about our school.  I hope that its words reaffirm your desire that your children become thinkers and culture-changers, not just test takers and degree earners.  The latter are a dime a dozen these days.  We need more of the former, if our core values are to survive the modern storm.

Beauty in Education

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. – Colossians 2:8

The human brain is an intricately delicate flower.  When neglected or poisoned, it wilts away and dies.  But when properly cared for, nourished, and cultivated, it produces a product so beautiful, that nothing can compare with its radiance. 

As we work with children of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds, we see a common theme:  A child’s mind was meant for much more than memorizing facts to spout out on standardized testing.  It was created to be molded and challenged; to be developed and unfolded; to be watered, fertilized, grown, and harvested. 

At Hickory Christian Academy, we seek to develop the entire person, and to create learners who hunger to continue to grow in knowledge far beyond Friday’s test.  We seek to promote an intellectual curiosity that will increase the quality of a long life, not just gain them acceptance into college.  Most of all, we seek to understand that Christ is the center of all knowledge and truth.  It was He who said, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b), to which Paul added, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).  If the Bible is true, and we really can do all things through Christ, but nothing apart from Him, why would we separate Jesus from the education of our children?   He is the key to their success. 

HCA strives to educate children through the time-honored methodology of Classical Christian education.  We integrate instruction in Latin, Logic, and Rhetoric to stimulate the mind of young learners, and to enhance their understanding of their own English language, as well as literature, math, science, and history.  The methodology of a classical education changes with the natural changing of the human brain, from a “soaking in” of information when young, to a topical debate format when adolescents, to a self-expression environment as young adults.  Education is much more complex than answering A,B,C,D on a bubble sheet.  It is truly the formation of thought processes that will grow a student into a successful adult who makes a difference, and who strives to continue to deepen their knowledge of things that really matter in life. 

We invite you to explore the Christian community of Hickory Christian Academy.  It is a community where families seek to partner with one another to protect and enhance the spiritual walk of our children, challenging them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and MIND.  If it truly does take a village to raise a child, this is where it happens.