One of the biggest shocks of my parenting life came nearly two decades ago when a wise, gray-haired teacher confessed to me that she did not care about my son’s grade. The conversation was about his grade in some grammar school subject that was just low enough to prevent his earning an academic award if something did not change soon. I swooned at her remark. All I could think of was my child’s future. How would he get into a good college and then on to a good career if he couldn’t get all A’s in second grade?“How will he learn what is truly valuable in the Christian life if all we focus on is his grade,” she continued as if reading my mind. “If he is focused solely on the outcome without learning to love the process, what will he be left with if the outcome is not what he had hoped for? Wouldn’t it be better to teach him to first honor God in everything he does, including second grade math, to really commit his works to the Lord? You see, Mr. Gilley, my concern is for his soul. My interest is in permanent things, eternal things really. Sure, his grades are a reflection of the work he does, but I am not teaching him to get good grades; I am teaching him to live a godly life. Once he learns that, he will earn exactly the grades he deserves.”
It was at that point I realized I had been imagining the wrong end of education. I had been focused on the wrong future for my son. That is when I began to understand classical Christian education and fall in love with it. I received the correction to my own thinking and embraced an education that was about a whole lot more than reading, writing, and arithmetic—it was about forming my son’s soul.
Over the years, we changed our focus, and that gray-haired lady’s words came true. My son became a godly young man. His desire became living a life surrendered to Christ. He began to do whatever was put in front of him as unto the Lord and not unto himself or other men (Eccl 9:10; Col 3:23). In the end, he got into a prestigious university. His professors recognized something different in him. His work was excellent. He did not pester them about grades but engaged them in mature conversation about what he was learning from them and how it related to the bigger questions of life. He soon garnered many prestigious academic honors, including being nominated for a Lily Fellowship by university faculty. He is an editor of the university’s literary journal. He has an opportunity to go to the graduate school of his choosing and to get paid for it.
My son has, since he started applying to colleges, been competing against prep-school alumni who were groomed to beat out kids like him for all the good scholarships and academic honors, but he has prevailed in every instance. The result was the same for my other son too, both of them graduates of Trinitas. Both of them recipients of a classical Christian education that has as its foremost goal, not academic success, but soul formation. Counter-intuitive, one may ask? No. Jesus’ followers are told to seek first the kingdom of God.
This is not the post I set out to write. We are, after all, supposed to be exploring the “Good Soil” report, and I have been boasting about my kids. (Please forgive me.) But the point of the post is how classical Christian alumni are better prepared for college and life than alumni from other kinds of schools. Sometimes real life experience is more informative than statistics. Next week, I promise to give you the statistics. This week, I implore you to meditate on the idea that what we are doing at Trinitas Christian School is soul formation—an extension of what parents are doing at home and pastors are doing at church. The classical Christian model of education is an unparalleled means for schools to do that. When it is done right, one additional benefit is a graduate who is well prepared for not only college, but also for a life well lived.