Parents are the most vital constituency in any Christian school. They entrust their children to teachers and administrators during the formative years; they pay tuitions that underwrite a school’s existence; they volunteer their time, talents, and treasure to provide needed support for a school’s operations. While schools exist in part to serve the needs of children, a serious case can be made that a Christian school’s primary reason for existence is to serve the needs of parents.
From a biblical perspective, parents – fathers in particular – are entrusted by God with the responsibility for ensuring children receive a Godly education (Eph. 6:4). Recognizing this fact, Christian schools seek to come along side parents to provide expertise, resources, and a community in which this educational responsibility can be fulfilled. In classical Christian schools, this principle is often referred with the Latin phrase “In Loco Parentis.” Classical Christian educators see themselves as “standing in the place of parents,” exercising delegated parental authority and responsibility to educate, nurture, instruct, and discipline. Standing behind every teacher, a student should see his parents. Given this vital partnership between parents and school, it is essential that the Christian school provide organized efforts to meaningfully connect parents with the school’s core vision, philosophy, values, and practices. One of the best ways to do this is for the school to host a Parent Academy.
Parent Academies will look different depending on the unique mission and culture of a given school. At Annapolis Christian Academy, Parent Academy flows out of the school’s mission to “Glorify God by providing an educational community committed to the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty, the cultivation of wisdom and virtue, and the integration of faith and learning with all of life.” As a Christian classical academy, Annapolis is committed to the ideal that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being and that the Academy, as an institution, is more than just a place where parents drop off kids to “get educated” while they go to work. Annapolis’ mission is first and foremost to foster a community of people, young and old, devoted to life-long learning and the Christ-centered pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
Annapolis seeks to cultivate this passion for learning in its students of course, but following the advice of the ancient and wise philosopher, Socrates, the school also desires to cultivate this passion for learning in parents as well:
Every one of us should seek out the best teacher whom he can find, first for ourselves, who are greatly in need of one, and then for the youth, regardless of expense or anything. But I cannot advise that we remain as we are. And if anyone laughs at us for going to school at our age, I would quote to them the authority of Homer, who says that ‘Modesty is not good for a needy man.’ Let us then, regardless of what may be said of us, make the education of the youths our own education” (Laches, 201).
If we are totally honest, we have to admit that learning and education are not the business of children but rather the privilege of adults. While children may need education more than parents, parents deserve it more than children. It’s often said that education is wasted on the young. At the time they get it, they don’t appreciate it. By the time they appreciate it, they can no longer get it. Such are the paradoxes of life! Parent Academies are one way to “make the education of the youths our own education.”
The logistics of a Parent Academy are simple. At Annapolis, Parent Academy is generally held in the evening on a weeknight two weeks after the start of school. Parents attend educational workshops, follow their child’s schedule, listen to presentations from teachers, interact with the school curricula, and develop relationships with other parents in their child’s class. The school encourages both parents to attend in order to effectively engage with their children’s teachers. To make this possible, Annapolis hosts the event in the evening when both parents are off from work and provides childcare so one parent doesn’t have to stay home. Providing refreshments is a must as well! To appeal to new and veteran families, school’s should develop a variety of content specific to the various stages of parenting and education.
In our current cultural context, a school’s parent body undoubtedly includes many dual-working families. With increased professional and family demands, parents are busier than ever. Today’s parents are also more demanding than ever. With tuition payments come high expectations and parents want those expectations met. Despite having less time for involvement, parents still want to feel informed and have their questions answered. Though it’s not the only thing a school should do to connect with parents, Parent Academy is essential in helping keep parents informed, validating their choice of school, and making them fully aware of the uniqueness of your school’s programs and specific advantages. At Annapolis, it is an important way of fulfilling the mission of cultivating a classical Christian community of learning.