One of the distinctives of a classical education is an emphasis on training in logic and rhetoric. Learning to think and speak well serves our students for their whole lives in whatever calling they pursue. A cadre of our Upper School students experienced a tour de force in these matters under the tutelage of two experienced U.S. attorneys who pioneered Covenant’s first ever Moot Court elective.
Gordon Zubrod was a captain in the Marine Corps before going on to serve over three decades as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Senior Litigation Counsel for the Department of Justice. His career included the investigation and prosecution of organized crime, political corruption, human trafficking, money laundering, and complex white-collar crimes. He was joined by Stephen Cerutti, an Assistant State’s Attorney for the Middle District of PA who specializes in criminal appeals. He is also a father of a Covenant student.
Together they gave our students a 10 week course in constitutional law, trial procedure, rules of evidence, cross examination, and other facets of America’s legal system. Their razor sharp reasoning and decades of experience helped students to hone their logical skills as they prepared their cases.
The elective came to a dramatic conclusion on February 22nd when the students presented their cases before Chief Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson in his court at the Federal Building in Harrisburg. The students were dealt a difficult fact set fraught with constitutional and ethical challenges requiring careful reasoning and analysis. The facts were borne out of Zubrod and Cerutti’s many years of experience and imagination, giving the students a challenging yet true to life case to try. The students performed all of the major roles for the trial, serving as a prosecution team, defense team, and witnesses. (Then the roles were switched around for round two).
It was exciting to watch the students rise to the occasion, answering questions and responding to challenges before the gaze of the jurors (their parents and Head of School) and the formidable presence of Judge Carlson. The students acquitted themselves well. Judge Carlson went out of his way to complement their achievement in his closing remarks:
You should be very proud of the work you have done in this courtroom. The work you have collectively done vastly exceeds the quality of the work that I see from seasoned litigators on a daily basis. . . You have done an exceptional job of presenting very complex constitutional issues, and you and your families and the school should be very proud of the work you’ve done here.
The course also made a powerful impact on the students as they learned about the freedoms and rights we enjoy as citizens of our constitutional republic. One student remarked that,
It is so easy to distance oneself from the criminal activity that occurs very close to us all, and this elective made me realize how relevant our constitutional rights are and how important it is to understand the system dedicated to protecting the American citizens.
We are grateful that these students had such a wonderful experience through this elective this year.
Litigators Jason Bryce, Brett Montefour, and Ben Snyder deep in thought.
At our 20th anniversary banquet in November we asked both a current and former student to share about “what I am thankful for about my classical education at Covenant.” We thought their speeches were worth sharing again as they well describe many of the things we thank God for at Covenant.
Lucas Lanza: The Joy of Fellowship
I thought about what I would share with you all here for a while, because I really do owe so much to Covenant Christian Academy. I’ve attended Covenant for a little over 12 years so there’s a lot to be grateful for. I thought about critical thinking, social skills, and art, but in the end I decided I would share my gratitude for an equally important take away from Covenant.
I owe my love and desire for fellowship to Covenant. Obviously, everybody enjoys time spent with friends, but I would make the distinction between that time and my idea of fellowship. To me, fellowship is a time when believers come together and talk with one another about their walks with Christ, what they’re grateful for, and their struggles. It’s a yearning for this kind of interaction that Covenant has implanted in me. Many of my classmates have been at Covenant since kindergarten, we’ve matured together and experienced many of the same struggles throughout our young lives, so I find it extremely rewarding to fellowship with them. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to grow much closer to my friends in this way. As Covenant has encouraged us to engage the word in more depth, I have been able to think about my life and my faith with the same depth, and I’ve observed this in my friends as well.
As well as encouraging this idea of fellowship in me, Covenant also provides a number of great opportunities for fellowship. Various activities during the day, such as hallway liturgies, lunch, and class discussions, as well as extra curricular activities like sports are great environments for this kind of Christian interaction. For me, a fantastic fellowship opportunity was opened when I joined the Covenant soccer team.
Personally, this past soccer season, my final season, was an incredibly formative experience that I shared with a really solid group of guys. Despite how short and mildly depressing this season was, it actually was an incredibly positive experience compared to its preceding years, and it was really exciting to see how God worked through us during the good times and the hard ones.
I feel this same excitement when I think about my future. In a couple of months my high school journey will come to an end and I’ll be shipped off to college. I’ll be in an entirely unfamiliar place filled with new people, but I rest assured knowing that because of Covenant I have what it takes to glorify God in this new place. And that I have made lasting relationships with people who I can rely on for fellowship during hard times even if they are far away. I’m eternally grateful for the skills that Covenant has given me that I know will be useful for the rest of my walk with Christ. Thank you, God bless.
Erin Burlew: Thinking and Conversing Well
Good evening! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Erin Burlew. I graduated from Covenant, or more affectionately known the to alumni as CCA, in 2010 and work in public accounting in Richmond, Virginia.
It’s been wonderful to see so many familiar faces tonight. Some of you might remember one of the last times I spoke at Covenant, though probably not as vividly as I do, a nervous 18 year old dressed in a plaid skirt presenting my senior thesis hoping the board would be gracious with their questions and critiques.
I’m astounded that that day was almost 8 years ago. At that point I could never have anticipated being asked to stand here today, celebrating twenty years of this school.
In line with the theme of this evening, I was asked to share with you what I am grateful for about Covenant. But the evening is too short to truly convey all the gifts my time here provided. I could tell stories from the good old days of Covenant for hours, but for the sake of time I’ve chosen two elements of my education for which I am particularly thankful that continue to impact my daily life, both in and out of the workplace.
Covenant was the place where I was taught to think and was taught to converse.
Now, certainly CCA was not my only classroom for these. In fact, I primarily learned to think and converse at home. But school often felt like an extension of home, partially because of my family’s involvement, but also because the values which were taught at CCA aligned with what I learned at home. Learning was always part of life in the Burlew household.
But the classrooms of CCA provided the formal setting in which I discovered how to learn and how to follow my curiosity. Of course, by learning, I mean so much more than memorizing facts. I learned how to think, to problem solve, to ask good questions, to read critically and evaluate teaching. Our teachers answered questions with questions to lead us to conclusions and taught us to defend positions with valid arguments.
These skills have served me well – not only during my time at Grove City College, but also in my career.
I know that accountants don’t have the most exciting stereotype. I can’t say that I ever dreamed of being an auditor growing up, but I’m thrilled to have found a career that uses my skills and encourages both personal and professional growth.
At its roots, my job involves learning about an organization – from the big picture down to the small details. We make conclusions about how facts affect money. In this way we are able to evaluate our client’s accounting records. What it really looks like is asking “Does this make sense?” many times throughout the day. This question is one that I learned to both ask and answer in logic and rhetoric class at Covenant.
I’ve used these skills in all areas of life, not just my career. Since leaving my parents’ home after high school, I first moved to Grove City for college, back to Harrisburg after graduation, and finally to Richmond. In each of these stages of life I’ve entered into a new community and searched for a new church. This isn’t a situation I was directly taught to handle. There was no class for how to move to a new city and find a church. But because I learned how to think, to read, and to listen critically, I’ve been able to apply these skills in evaluating the teaching and theology of a new church.
The second element of a CCA education that I am grateful for is my ability to converse.
Accountant’s aren’t generally known for conversation skills. In fact, when I explained my job, some of you probably pictured me crunching numbers on a calculator alone in a dark windowless room. But knowing how to have challenging conversations is a critical part of an auditor’s role. There were several times as a recent college graduate where I needed to challenge a [decision made by a] client’s CFO. To say that these conversations are intimidating is an understatement.
But walking through life avoiding intimidating conversations is what creates adults more equipped to spout off a disagreement on social media than work through an issue in real life. CCA makes students face these conversations head on, in an environment that encourages speaking the truth in love, an environment that doesn’t equate being respectful with being in agreement. We not only had classroom debates with fellow students, but visited a mosque, a hindu temple, and other religious sites in apologetics class, enabling us to have an educated view of other religions. We learned to see those in disagreement as people to be loved, not enemies to avoid.
To think and to converse are behaviors that all humans engage in. But to think and to converse well are honed skills, that must be trained and ingrained over time as a partnership between teachers and parents. I consider it an honor to have been educated in a school that put more effort into these disciplines than in scores on standardized tests or acceptance rates to prestigious universities. However, many who attend CCA are blessed with the opportunity to continue on in their education, as I was. I made my way from the halls of CCA to the halls of Grove City College.
This leads me to my second reason for standing here tonight, to introduce the main speaker for the evening, Mr. Paul McNulty. Prior to returning to Grove City as President, Mr. McNulty worked as an attorney in Washington D.C., including holding the position of Deputy Attorney General. Many of his other impressive accomplishments are listed in tonight’s program. As a Grove City alum, I think of President McNulty as the one who tirelessly leads Grove City College as it provides a liberal arts education to young adults. He is much beloved by faculty and students alike.
It is my profound honor to introduce to you the Honorable Paul McNulty.
Students pass beneath a beautiful stained-glass window each morning as they walk into school. The glass was crafted by fellow classmates, teachers, parents, grandparents, and friends over the course of two years before being installed in September 2016. It is a reminder that students are entering into a different kind of place – a school where beauty surrounds us, where the sound of singing is oft heard, and where a love for learning is cultivated. Classical Christian education is meant to be a joyful education, filled with discovery, delight, and friendship.
Susan Wise Bauer once said,
Because it uses real, living books and hands-on experimentation rather than relying on textbooks and canned presentations, classical education is a matter of exploration, of reading, thinking, and talking and of discovery – not of rote memorization and regurgitation.
For those with questions like, “isn’t classical education too structured?” or “doesn’t all the memorization take away the joy of learning?” all I can say is, come, taste and see the fruit. Here are four ways that classical education at Covenant is suited to bring joy to your child’s life.
Delight in Discovery
Though much of modern education and life serves to deaden this instinct, children are filled with a natural curiosity and wonder of the world. At Covenant, we want to respect the image of God in our students in this way.
A. G. Sertillanges recognized this fact by saying,
Every intellectual work begins by a moment of ecstasy; . . . Now what is this ecstasy but a flight upwards, away from self, a forgetting to live our own poor life, in order that the object of our delight may live in our thought and in our heart.
We want our students to marvel at the fall colors. To wonder at the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly, to stand awestruck at the moon eclipsing the sun, to dream of where the geese fly in the fall, to ponder triads in music and in nature. This delight in discovery is at the heart of a classical education at Covenant.
Overcoming Obstacles Together
Not much worthwhile in life comes easy. Teddy Roosevelt stated the idea like this:
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. . . I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.
Yes, of course, classical education is hard at certain points. We are seeking to turn boys and girls into courageous and wise men and women. It’s a challenging road, and that’s why it’s so important that our students learn in a community where this effort is honored by their teachers and peers. These habits and skills must be learned by each individual, but not alone. Our students learn and grow with other students facing similar challenges, and taught by teachers who love Jesus and who want what is best for them. This friendship makes all the difference.
A Living Curriculum
One of the best things that we give to our students at Covenant is our teachers. Teachers who love Jesus, who love their students, and who love what they teach. Listen to how John Milton Gregory described the excellent teacher a century ago:
He must ever be a cold and lifeless teacher who only half knows the lessons he would teach; but he whose soul has caught fire from the truths which he carries, glows with a contagious enthusiasm and unconsciously inspires his teachers with his own deep interest.
We are blessed to have teachers who embody a love for learning and teaching. Having consistently seen their Christ-like character, I am thankful that my children are being shaped and formed by Covenant’s teachers. Gregory describes what happens when a school is filled with teachers like this:
There will come to our schools an attractive charm which would at once increase their numbers and double their usefulness. The school-rooms, now so often dark and dull, would glow as with a living light, and teachers and pupils, instead of dragging to their weary task, would hasten to their meeting as to a joyous feast.
Inheritors of Freedom
The ultimate goal of our education at Covenant is the formation of our students into young men and women who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. But who is able to do this? To love God rightly, to have affections ordered toward their proper end, to seek what is good and beautiful, and to turn away from what distracts and diminishes glory – this takes training in the Spirit.
A classical education is designed to answer the question Anthony Esolen asks in Life Under Compulsion:
How to raise children who can sit with a good book and read? Who are moved by beauty? Who delight in innocence? Who can walk outdoors and enjoy the beauty of weeds and sparrows? Who still possess youth, which lends them both a frolic childlikeness and a wisdom beyond their years? Who have no compulsions – who don’t have to attend to the constant buzzing of a smartphone, or click on the next link and the next link and the next link, or buy the latest gadget, or submit to the instant urge?
He answers the question this way:
To resist Life Under Compulsion, to raise children who can throw off the shackles and enjoy truly free, and full, lives, we must affirm the old meaning of the English word free, which is related to joy and greatness of heart . . .
But what is it to be free? How do we cultivate this outward-looking freedom that sets our hearts toward what is good and beautiful? The answer is what a wise pastor once called the “expulsive power of a new affection.” We will not, and our students will not, undertake the hard work of saying no to lesser things – at least not for long – until we are gripped by the beauty and goodness of something greater. “To free oneself from the accumulated sludge of sin,” Esolen writes, “is to free oneself for the freedom of heart that is love.”
Parents choose the challenge of classical education because they want their children to learn to know this freedom. There is an easier road, for sure:
. . . you may wish to raise up Contented Cows, placidly chewing their cuds in a field of creature comforts, or Harried Hamsters, racing on the Mill of the World. . . . The chains are right here, if you like.
Yet so is the window.
Although it is not as easy or “fun” as other roads, there is much joy on the journey to be had. And what is more – there is a harvest, for those who faint not. (Gal 6:9).
A Reflection on the Blessings of Classical Christian Education
By John Hayward
“The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17 (ESV)
“The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.” Proverbs 14:8 (ESV)
“The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Proverbs 16:21 (ESV)
The second blessing I have received from classical Christian education that I have reflected upon is discernment (links to the first and the intro). Specifically, the training I received in Logic and Rhetoric equipped me to be able to understand and sort through any idea or approach that I encountered. This enabled me to thoughtfully be engaged with an often hostile world rather than be dismissive of it or simply digesting it all as is. This discernment that has flowed from training in Logic and Rhetoric has led to pragmatic and personal blessings.
Studying Logic has enabled me to be a better listener in conversations and analyze someone’s explicit or implicit reasoning. Another pragmatic blessing of training in careful, precise, and accurate reasoning has been the ability to read and read around contracts for mortgages and such things. Similarly, the study of Rhetoric bears much practical fruit with being able to discern the subtle messages and methods of advertisers and politicians. Logic and Rhetoric help me be a more discerning consumer and voter.
More significant than any pragmatic benefits of my classical training in Logic and Rhetoric are the personal blessings. Studying Logic trains the mind to objectively figure what truly follows from sets of premises regardless of your feelings or social circle. I experienced the fruit of that training in college when I went through some dark seasons of melancholy. My feelings and experience of life was that there is nothing good, but I had been trained that the voice of my feelings is not the authoritative voice. The truth about who I was because of what Jesus has done and is doing dictated that certain conclusions regarding the meaning of life and my identity follow. Feelings do not define reality. God used my training in Logic directed by His word (along with other things) to comfort me in the face of despairing suffering. I could tell many stories about how Rhetoric has shaped some of my communication in my marriage but those stories are best told in person. So I will rather close by saying that learning to consider the person you are speaking to with understanding and sympathy and learning that how you say something really matters equips the student to live out Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (ESV)
This Saturday, Covenant Christian Academy celebrated “An Evening of Gratitude”, commemorating 20 years of God’s faithfulness. About 200 attendees gathered together at Messiah College, including Covenant’s faculty, staff, students, board, parents and supporters. The group enjoyed fellowship, good food, a silent auction, slideshows of years past, celebration of the school’s history, and speeches from the founding headmaster, a current Upper School student, an alumna, and the keynote speaker: Hon. Paul J. McNulty, President of Grove City College.
Dr. Sonju, Covenant’s head of school, set the tone for the evening, by welcoming everyone to enjoy a wonderful night of fellowship together in celebration of 20 years of God’s faithfulness at Covenant. Dr. Dean Curry, Dean of the Honors College at Messiah College, then offered a welcome on behalf of Messiah College since the event was hosted in the beautiful Martin Commons on Messiah’s campus. Dr. Curry praised Covenant graduates who have “enriched the academic and co-curricular culture of Messiah College in innumerable and meaningful ways”, including six Covenant alumni who currently attend there.
Following a delicious main course, Mr. Jesse Mauer led Covenant’s Chamber choir in blessing the audience through song. They sang a choral arrangement of the traditional hymn, “Abide with Me”, an evening hymn fitting for the occasion. Dr. Sonju pointed out that several of the choir singers were members of our Covenant Volleyball team who earlier that day had played in a state quarterfinals match. Since a classical education aims to form students in the fullness of their humanity, it is fitting to hear a choir made up of athletes and scholars.
Our first speaker was Covenant’s first headmaster, Dr. Christopher Perrin, who stole the show with hilarious stories from the early years, remarking that it was like “riding a tiger…we were taking chances everywhere…we were trying to learn as we moved along.” Classical education was something they were trying to recover and renew, providing an education to their children that they hadn’t received themselves. “Education” he said, “used to be the cultivation of a soul, on truth, goodness and beauty, by reading the great books, by means of the liberal arts, under the Lordship of Christ.” As Covenant developed as a school, “we were reading things about what education used to be and then trying to bring it to life at Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” Dr. Perrin also praised Covenant for its close community, warm and welcoming atmosphere and relational integrity; all of which it has maintained as a small school. He called upon those in attendance to strengthen the wobbly bridge back to classical education that he and the early founders of Covenant began slowly to forge.
Lucas Lanza (class of 2018) shared that his love and desire for fellowship is one of the greatest gifts being part of the Covenant community has given him. He sees fellowship as a time “when believers come together and share their walks with Christ, what they are grateful for, and their struggles.” He has been able to think about his life and faith with depth, in accordance with the Word.
Erin Burlew (class of 2010) shared her gratitude for the education she received at Covenant. Ms. Burlew shared that Covenant taught her to think and speak well which has served her well in her career as a CPA. She quipped that although her profession is not typically associated with eloquence and confidence, she argued that her Covenant education has given her confidence to argue her points with clients –a task that can require much courage when disagreeing with a senior financial executive on a particular point. She is also grateful for how her classical, Christian education has given her discernment to evaluate and choose a new church and community upon moving to Richmond.
Hon. Paul J. McNulty gave the keynote address, speaking from his own experiences as a Christian educator and from his personal walk with the Lord. He spoke in particular about what makes education truly transformative. President McNulty compared transformative education to the farm to table movement in the restaurant: how do we really know which is the real deal? Christians seeking a transformative education, McNulty said, should look to the truth of God’s word first. He quoted Romans 12:1-2, pointing out that, in order to be truly transformational, there must be holistic change, dedication to God, a non-conformity to the world, and a mind renewal. He reminds that “it’s more important than ever that through schools such as this…that we are training up young people to have discernment, to understand God’s word, and then to apply it faithfully in all circumstances.” We live between a period where God is transforming and a period where God will have transformed all, when we eat the richest “farm to table” food there is in His new kingdom. President McNulty concluded that “education serves the purpose of bringing [students] to that wonderful place where they are celebrating that fantastic, eternal fellowship with Christ.”
Mr. Michael Geer, proud parent of Covenant alumni and board member closed the night in prayer and an invitation to partner with Covenant. A generous donor has offered to match donations up to $75,000, creating a special opportunity for those wanting to partner with the work God is doing at Covenant. The school is very thankful to have been able to raise over $73,000 through this event. Reflecting on this outcome, Dr. Sonju remarked that “this is a record-breaking fund-raising night for our school. It is incredibly encouraging to know that so many people want to support our mission as we move into our third decade together.”
Covenant’s varsity volleyball team made history this weekend by winning the school’s first ever CCAC League Championship in volleyball, defeating Conestoga Christian School in Lancaster on Saturday! The championship comes after a stunning regular season in which the Falcons went undefeated in league play, losing only one match to the much larger Trinity High School. The team now moves on to district playoffs, facing off as the number one seed against eighth seeded Millersburg High School on Tuesday. A win Tuesday and Thursday will move them on to States. Covenant’s team is seeded fifth in the state in PIAA class A.
The team is coached by Mark Spoonhour and assistant Natalie Martin and led by captains Lindsey Keener and Felicity Bailey. Players (and parents) remember that it was only 4 short years ago that they had not yet ever won a single match! This season, along with their championship victory, each match the girls have played has been won in only 3 games – 3 out of 5 wins a match – making them undefeated not only in each league match, but each game they have played!
Covenant’s athletic director, Erin Hoover, was “very thankful and impressed by the number of people who came all the way out to Lancaster” to support the girls. She said it “felt like a home game” with a “good cheering section that was loud and large.” Head of School David Sonju echoed the thought, saying “There was a real energy in the stands! It was a great night for Covenant athletics!”
Coach Spoonhour was especially proud of “how the girls stepped up to the challenge and…made plays all night long.” He gave special honor to Felicity Bailey for 30 good serves in the Saturday match without error. Coach Spoonhour also credited Lindsey Keener with another all-around great performance with 5 aces, 13 kills and 16 digs. Maddy Enders contributed 2 aces, 19 assists, 12 digs and 2 blocks and Alyssa Martin had a solid defensive game with 12 digs, 1 block and 4 kills.
The Girls Volleyball League Champions banner is hanging proud in Covenant’s main lobby and a “Good Luck, Volleyball!” sign seconds the message downstairs. The Covenant family is cheering on these girls as they battle their way to states! In the words of Coach Spoonhour, on behalf of the Covenant girls: “it’s a tough week, but it could be filled with a lot of excitement as well!”
Come out to cheer the girls on Tuesday evening at the Camp Hill Sports Center at 7:30 p.m. Go Falcons!
– Thank you to Alexia Gerber for compiling and writing this post.
September is an exciting time for us each year. There is a bustle in the air as our teachers make lesson plans and set up classrooms for the new year. It is wonderful to have our students here again!
We have adopted a theme this year of joy on the journey. This text from Colossians chapter one expresses well the prayer we have for our students for this school year:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
We pray that our students will each feel the Lord’s pleasure this year. In that spirit, I wanted to suggest a few ways to help bring joy to your journey at Covenant this year.
1. Pray with other parents
When I think of our mission and how it is embodied in the growth and education of each individual student, I am humbled. How could we possibly be up to the task set before us to teach students to love to learn? Or to help them see and submit to the Lordship of Christ in every sphere of life? Or to shape their minds with a distinctly Christian view of the world? We need your prayers!
Did you know that there is a prayer team that meets together almost every Thursday morning from 8:00 to 9:00 to pray for our students and teachers? Please contact our prayer team coordinator, Dana Kenny, if you would like to join.
2. Talk frequently with your teachers and dean
We are so blessed with the faculty we have here at Covenant. Our teachers love Jesus, love your child, and are committed to helping your child grow and mature this year, both in what they learn in their classes, but also in the habits, skills, and virtues they acquire. As one who once hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, I know that any long journey worth taking will involve some missteps and stumbles along the way. I encourage you to keep in close contact with your teacher – we want to see each child joyfully reach the summit at Covenant this year.
3. Equip Yourselves
The classical path is not a wide thoroughfare, it’s not intended to be easy, but it leads to such a good place. You need to strengthen yourself for the journey. In addition to praying with other parents, and keeping good communication with teachers, it’s also helpful to learn more about classical education and why we do the things we do. There are some great resources to help parents and students better understand what we’re about. Here are a few:
- Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education by Rebekah Merkle This is a terrific new book to students written by a former classical Christian student. The classical Christian movement has done a pretty good job of explaining what we’re doing to parents, but we haven’t always done a great job explaining it to our students themselves. This book would be great for 6th grade and up.
- BaseCampLive podcasts. These free 20 minute podcasts are a terrific way for parents to learn more about classical education. Subscribe with iTunes or RSS. I look forward to the new one every week.
- Classical Refreshment – We will be hosting a series of morning coffees this fall to encourage parents on their journey at Covenant. Come and join fellow parents for coffee and discussion about classical Christian education. Please RSVP with Dana.Mershon@DiscoverCovenant.com to attend.
- September 21: “Joy on the Journey: Hints from the Head of School”
- November 2: “Help! School Makes My Child Anxious.”
- December 7: “Top Tips from Parents Who’ve Gone Before”
4. Look Forward to the Fruit
One piece of advice I consistently give to families is to always look forward to the fruit. Of course there are going to be challenges along the way. We are trying to lead students toward maturity not indulgence. Toward wisdom and discernment and self-control and joy. We are teaching them to be worthy possessors of freedom! When a struggle or difficulty comes, I urge you to remember where the road leads, and the fruit that awaits you at the end of that journey.
As I consider the kind of person each graduate is on his or her way to becoming, I am encouraged. They have spent years being shaped in their affections to love and value good and beautiful things. Their minds have been sharpened by an attention to logic so that they are not easily “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” that comes along. (Eph 4:14). They can speak and write persuasively so that they can be a voice for truth in our world.
One way to get a foretaste of that fruit is to come out and enjoy our community events throughout the year. Our Poetry festival, Christmas Concert, Spring Concert, Art reception, Senior Thesis, and Graduation, to name a few. Come, taste and see the fruit that awaits your child as he or she journeys toward graduation.
John Henry Newman, a profound thinker from another era, once described how a liberal arts education can form a person in extraordinary ways. Such a person’s mind, he writes,
is almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; it is almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature; it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it; it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation, so intimate it is with the eternal order of things and the music of the sphere. (Newman, The Idea of a University, 105).
Only by God’s grace do we have any hope of approaching the vision that Newman describes. But by His grace, I pray we will see glimpses of such fruit growing in our students this year at Covenant.
Head of School
A Reflection on Classical Christian Education
By John Hayward
Convictions, according to Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, are not beliefs that you hold but beliefs that hold you. Convictions give steady direction and governance to choices. They function like default settings for life. Being a disciple of Jesus and seeking to see his Lordship in all of life lead to certain convictions that must govern a life of faithfulness. Jesus’ life and teachings show us that a life of submission to these convictions is the true life of freedom. In a later article I will reflect specifically on how my education formed those ultimate convictions in me but here I want to point to convictions in two areas that have meaningfully shaped my life: authority and ideas.
Authority is not a popular concept and it’s not hard to understand why. Authority implies power and power can be and frequently is abused. It is however an inescapable reality. Parents, employers, pastors and government officials will be a part of each of our lives. My experience at a classical Christian school was a blessing because I was instructed by teaching and example in a Christian vision of authority. Essentially this consisted of two aspects which became my convictions. First, I was told and expected to respect authority because it has been put into my life by God. Second, I was taught and expected to keep authority accountable to God’s standards. This one-two combo punch of convictions about authority has humbled and protected me in my life.
In the first part of Anna Karrenina, Tolstoy introduces us to a character partly with this line, “he liked his newspaper, as he liked a cigar after dinner, for the slight haze it produced in his head.” This captures the approach to ideas that is repugnant (like the smell of a bad cigar) to me because of the convictions my education gave me. Ideas matter. They lead to life or death. They glorify or profane the LORD. Therefore engaging in ideas (like gears engage a bicycle chain) personally is an act of Christian service. We need to promulgate good ideas that are good for people and fight bad ideas that are bad for people. Tinkering with ideas in detached pondering will tend to make us like Jude’s opponents “waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted.” (Jude 12, ESV) I was taught to have this conviction because I tasted the opposite. I tasted meaningful education through lessons that had, as C. S. Lewis would say, “Blood and sap in it. The trees of Knowledge and Life growing together.”
The culture in which we live insinuates, cajoles and finally screams that boundaries are inherently oppressive. Convictions require commitments and commitments lead to less freedom, the logic goes. The destructive floods of foolishness around us point to the contrary. Everyone prefers the Susquehanna keeps to its boundaries. Fire is only productive, fun and a blessing when it is under tight control. The boundary lines of my life have been laid in pleasant places thanks to the convictions formed in me through my education.
“Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!”
Psalm 34:3 (ESV)
 Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky