I grew up on the farm that my great-grandfather farmed. The white barn on the property is over hundred years old and is still a working barn. I remember as a boy walking into the tack room and seeing pictures of his teams of draft horses placed among the actual yokes and harnesses that those horses were hitched up to plow and pull the farm equipment to take care of his 80-acre farm.
Dear Annapolis families and friends (and other bezoomy chelovecks and devotchkas!),
In the perennial size matters debate, bigger is usually better, right? Not when it comes to schooling. I’ve spent my whole life in small, private schools. I graduated high school from Annapolis Christian Prep School (the predecessor to Annapolis Christian Academy) the proud salutatorian of the class of ’94 – a class of four graduates! I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree from Hillsdale college (1,200 students) and my master’s degree from St. John’s College (800 students), both small, private liberal arts colleges. For the past decade, I have served as head of school for Annapolis Christian Academy and seen the school grow from a mere 180 students to almost 300 students over the course of my administration. My experience in small, private schools has left an indelible mark on my character for which I am profoundly grateful and I am convinced more than ever that small, private schools like Annapolis are simply the safest and most effective model of schooling. Period.
I grew up on a farm and one of the things I hated the most was during the summer was when my mom would make a list of chores for me to finish before I could do anything else. The thing that I wanted to do more than anything else was to go fishing but I knew I had to do chores first. Of all the chores that my mom could write down, the worst ones were cleaning. This wasn’t vacuuming or dusting, no it was cleaning up after animals. You see we had a fair number of chickens and horses and they would spend their nights in the coop or stall and they would make their mess inside. Someone, usually me, had to keep these buildings clean. It was a hot, dirty, smelly job. In the 1500’s, people would look at someone who did those kinds of jobs and think, only people who work in the church are really doing the work of God. Today I am going to talk briefly about an idea that Martin Luther brought forward during the reformation that was completely revolutionary for its time. It was the idea of calling. He insisted that the farmer shoveling manure and the maid milking her cow could please God as much as the minister preaching or praying.
Dear Annapolis Friends and Families (and other concerned citizens),
I recently returned from a head of school retreat hosted by the Society for Classical Learning. We were a motley crew of 40 battle-hardened, classical Christian heads of school with plenty of stories to share and scars to show. There was lots of coffee drinking, khaki pants and loafer wearing, and lamenting the general decline of Western Civilization brought on by the ubiquitous presence of hand-held, soul-destroying digital devices. We were a sight to behold; but it was a truly wonderful time of fellowship and renewal of vision as we were challenged to think through the big “why.” Why do our schools exist? Why in the world did we ever choose to subject ourselves to careers in Classical Christian school leadership? Stuff like that.
So, maybe out of a self-flagellating compulsion to confess, or maybe even out of a repressed desire to simply say “I’m sorry,” for better or worse, I leave to posterity my personal confession, my why:
Who do you think talks to you the most? Your teacher? Your parents? Your annoying brother or sister who won’t be quiet? I think the answer may surprise you. The person who talks to you the most is you. No one talks to yourself more than you do. It is helpful if you keep the conversation in your head and not talk to yourself out loud because people may think you’re a bit weird. God created you and me to try to make sense out of life. We are constantly trying to figure out what in the world is going on and we do that by talking to ourselves.
The year was 1695. It was midnight. There were no street lights or electricity. It was pitch black in the house. A ten-year-old boy is tiptoeing down the stairs with only a candle to light his way. He shields the light with his hand to keep the light from spilling all over and waking up the adults. He slowly opens the door to the study, knowing if he pushes too fast, the hinges will squeak and his adventure will be found out. He has a burning passion for music but he has been told that the music used for the church is too valuable to be used by children. He squeezes his arm through an opening in the lattice and he rolls up a piece of organ music and pulls it out. He spends the rest of the night copying the music on another piece of paper, all by candlelight. He cannot wait to play this music the next day.
Let me ask you this question, what sets apart someone who is in favor with God and on the way to enjoy the blessings of heaven and someone who is turning away from God and on the path of destruction? The answer is, what makes you happy. I mean deep down, what you really want to satisfy your heart desire.
As “there are no small things” we are told to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23), something as simple as making your bed can do wonders for your happiness and health, and carefulness is a virtue, according to Aristotle, then paying attention to details and concentrating on bettering seemingly unimportant small skills is important for the overall well-being, success, and fulfillment of a student. Thus, the insistence when a teacher makes you put your heading in the correct corner with each piece of information, or makes you use graph paper for math, or makes you re-do an answer that she cannot read—are all examples of an effort to help a student realize the importance of being careful with details.
The sermon uses the metaphor of games for resource allocation and human cooperation to help understand the story of the creation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 2. Students were challenged to ask themselves about the goals of the various games they play in life (family, school, religious, etc) and whether or not the strategies they employ will lead them to desirable outcomes. The standard is God’s claim that the world is a better place with humanity than without it (Genesis 1:26-31). Are you handling your life in a way that allows you to assess it the way God originally assessed man’s presence in his creation?