If we surveyed 100 Americans in the year 2020 for their understanding of vita bona, or the good life, we probably would not get 100 different answers. In fact, we would likely get an overwhelming consensus. Our popular conception of the good life, according to Francis Schaeffer in his timeless classic, How Should We Then Live, is peace and affluence. We desire to live in undisturbed comfort with every possible convenience at our fingertips. We have developed an uncanny ability (or maybe we were born with it) for justifying anything that helps us maintain peace and affluence. Change is not in our nature and especially if it means taking a contentious or unpopular position or diminishing our wealth. But Jesus came with a sword, not peace (Matt 10:34), and he commanded us to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matt 6:19-20).
As COVID19 school closures continue, Florida is being held up to the nation as an example of how well internet based instruction can be done. Still, in almost daily briefings I receive about Florida’s schools, administrators and teachers are dealing with problems ranging from poor connectivity to students simply not showing up for online class. To say teachers, parents, and students everywhere are just trying to make the best of a nearly impossible situation would be the epitome of understatement.
Last week I decided to write about the downside of internet based instruction in an attempt to offer some balance to the idea that online school is the next best thing to being there. I am convinced it is not. Still, the internet does offer schools another tool to overcome the new hurdles we are all facing. In full disclosure, even since I posted last week, Trinitas has increased its online instruction for 9th – 12th grades. Most classes are now offering the option of meeting at least once a week online for some face-to-virtual-face time with instructors. Technology offers us a tool, and we are using it sparingly, cautiously. I suggested last week that the carryover from using the internet for entertainment will taint its use as a tool. Three detrimental effects particularly concern me as an administrator and teacher: passivity, shortened attention span, and diminished imagination.
It became clear in mid-March that most of the nation’s schools would have to close for weeks that could turn into months. There ensued then a mad rush to get electronic devices into the hands of students. The nation’s school districts spent millions of dollars in the effort, and probably billions once the final tallies come in. Hand wringing over lack of internet access for rural and low income students quickly followed. When all was said and done, however, many of the nation’s students were engaged in some kind of internet-based learning by the first week of April.
And for what? One Florida school district set the goal of having students complete “at least one assignment each day.” I am acquainted with a freshman and a junior in another Florida school district who spend fewer than two hours each day on their internet-based school work, and a large portion of that time is squandered waiting for completed assignments to upload. Zoombombing has occurred to the horror of teachers and students. With each passing week attendance wains in many Florida school districts, and some teachers refuse to take attendance. Certainly there is no single reason this internet schooling doesn’t seem to be as successful as many had hoped, but I suggest that it can even be detrimental to the habits of good students.
(This is the second post from Trinitas Junior Kindergarten teacher Sarah Hadley with tips for effective schooling at home during this difficult season.)
With all of us working at home and schooling at home in these unusual times, it might be tempting to think of children as a disruption. When the disciples had a similar moment, Jesus reminded them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). I need that verse stamped on each of my children’s foreheads. I need to see it in those moments of feeling frustrated and pulled in five different directions. As a parent, an employee, and a teacher, I feel stretched thin, but there are a few more steps we have taken in our home that have helped us be successful so far.
(This week we continue our series about schooling at home during this difficult season. Trinitas Junior Kindergarten teacher Sarah Hadley shares ideas she has found helpful while running an organized classroom in her dining room. To make it easier to implement these tips, we've divided this post into two parts.)
With all of us working at home and schooling at home in these unusual times, it might be tempting to think of children as a disruption. When the disciples had a similar moment, Jesus reminded them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). I need that verse stamped on each of my children’s foreheads. I need to see it in those moments of feeling frustrated and pulled in five different directions. As a parent, an employee, and a teacher, I feel stretched thin, but there are a few steps we have taken in our home that have helped us be successful so far.
How classical are you? Take this quick quiz and find out!
Spoiler... there is no quiz; though, our recent forays into remote learning might tempt us to think that the work of classical education is as easy as an online quiz. And anyway, if we were to post an online quiz on remote learning, we would be far more interested in responses to the following question:
Has our experiment in remote learning been a success?
And the follow up question:
In what sense has it been successful?
One can imagine our returning to school, thoroughly thanking everyone for participating in this grand experiment, and calling remote learning a smashing success. But will it really have been a success if all we do is complete math lessons and history worksheets? If that is all it takes to constitute a successful classical Christian education, why do we even spend all day at school? Why not just keep the kids home next year and let them work through a history textbook on their own time?
As Christian parents, our most important aim is to see our children walking with the Lord all the days of their lives. When they live under our roof, we can see to it that they are reading the Word, praying, and going to church because those are things we do together as families. We can demand from them, and then hold them accountable to, living like a Christian should live, practicing Christianity. At some point, however, a child has to take ownership of his own faith. At some point it is not only the God of his fathers, but it has to be his God too, his Lord and Savior. Have you ever considered what role the school plays in that?
One of the most important elements for successful gardening is rich, fertile soil. Plants cannot flourish in bad soil, but they do thrive in good soil. Last summer we set up a container garden at the school. Our generous patron for that project, Mr. Dave DeBlander, insisted upon our having good soil from the start. “That is the secret sauce,” he insisted, and he is right. No plant can reach its potential without excellent nutrients for the all-important root system. The soil is the beginning of everything for the plant.
The same can be said about growing children—they need good soil if they are going to thrive. Well, not soil exactly, but its equivalent. The environment children grow up in—their home, church, and school—is for them what soil is for plants. It is either good soil or bad soil. They either thrive or wither. A lot goes into preparing good soil, but ultimately, the best way to know if the soil is good or bad is to evaluate the harvest—ask, “How did the kid turn out?”