If you’re a parent considering whether to send your child to a private school, you’ve undoubtedly looked into the school’s curriculum and compared it to that of public schools. One question that comes to most parents minds: How will this particular school impact my child’s future career path? And like most parents these days, you’ve probably also heard a lot about the push for students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Heritage Oak School, along with more than 250 other schools across the U.S., follow the Classical Christian method. This education movement has sprouted up across the country in the past 25 years and has grown exponentially from 10 schools back in 1993. If you don’t know what the Classical method is all about and want to learn more, you can find more information here. At first glance, parents who want their children to pursue STEM careers may be hesitant to send them to such a school because there may appear to be a lack of technical courses. On the contrary though, a Classical Christian education is a great way to prepare students for an eventual specialty in a STEM field.
A Classical Christian education is designed to develop the whole student, and one of the main goals is to teach students to learn how to learn. In other words, students gain the cognitive abilities that will enable them to succeed in learning a wide range of subjects, whether that be STEM or liberal arts. This is accomplished through the Trivium, which seeks to harness children’s natural learning tendencies at different ages. For example, Logic students, or those of middle school age, naturally question authority and love a good argument. The Logic phase channels this behavior by helping students to systematically formulate arguments based on sound reasoning and to analyze facts to explain why something is true or false.
In a Classical Christian education, students will study source documents pertaining to a subject. This is exactly the kind of thinking that benefits scientists and engineers. Unlike a textbook, where the author has largely formed an opinion in advance, source documents require a student to analyze the subject to form their own opinion. In the same way, an engineer may have to make sense of large datasets to determine whether a design meets a specification. A scientist may have to take pieces of information from many different sources in order to validate a theory. In my own line of work, I interact with flight test engineers from many different disciplines to decide if a test flight was successful or if a system needs to be tweaked or redesigned. The kind of reasoning skills required for these fields are the same skills that a Classical Christian education aims to develop.
Many STEM fields are filled with brilliant minds, but sometimes being brilliant in a particular subject is only part of the puzzle. To be truly good in one’s field of study, a person must be able to effectively communicate. How many of us have met an engineer or scientist who is clearly smart in their field, but cannot hold a conversation in a social setting? There’s a joke that goes something like this: “How do you tell if an engineer is an extrovert? Because he looks at your shoes when he talks to you.”
Being technically smart is simply not enough these days. I would argue that in a STEM field, communication is one of the most important skills required. A truly smart engineer or scientist should be able to present meaningful insight to the layperson without using a lot of technical jargon that the average person wouldn’t understand. In the Rhetoric stage, one of the focus areas is to teach students to communicate eloquently and persuasively, skills that will benefit them whether they go on to study liberal arts or STEM.
So whatever your student’s interests, a Classical Christian education aims to form the foundation of their educational journey and enable them to succeed in a wide range of subjects. Developing the “whole” student is a cornerstone of Classical Christian education, one that will help them reach their goals, no matter where those goals may take them.
For more reading, the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) has a great overview here.
- Wikipedia Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_education_movement
- TEDx Talk by Rebecca Hagstrom: https://youtu.be/0m5yDZCy2pE
- Steve Turley Classical Christian Education Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFpgVw8dsGS3mvbshSeuPcHd__-UnB2QO
Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?: Part 2
In our first part of this blog series a couple weeks ago, we discussed the background and history of Halloween. This laid the foundation of this two part discussion and seeing how it was originally intended helped us gain perspective on the holiday. From our research, we discovered what originally started out as as a pagan holiday in the land of the Celts, turned into something positive through Christian missionaries sharing the gospel with the Druids.
Don’t Violate Your Convictions
The Christian perspective on Halloween is widely divided. Some people feel free to celebrate this holiday, while others choose not to participate. We must always keep in mind that the Bible is very clear on some issues and gray on others. Many people have a personal conviction regarding Halloween from God, while other people are not convicted in the same way. However, if you are convicted by God not to celebrate Halloween, then please don’t violate that conviction. (Romans 14:23)
Honor God With Your Actions
Halloween can be a holiday that can honor God or honor the world. As Christians, we are called to be in this world but not of it. We are clearly not to react to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Therefore, our actions at Halloween should always be wise and honoring to God. That includes the style of costumes that we or our children wear, the parties that we attend, the decorations on our house, and the way we act. They should not be pagan or evil in nature.
Guiding Questions to Ask Yourself
In order to make sure that we are not dishonoring God, we should always ask how others would view us if they saw us. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- If a person who knows I’m a Christian, saw me on Halloween, would they question my Christianity? For example, if a coworker who knows you are a Christian, sees you wearing some bloody, gory Halloween costume, how will they view your dedication to Christianity?
- If you decorate your house in an evil Halloween theme, how would your neighbor view your commitment to Christ?
- If you attend a party and participate in a way that dishonors God (drinking excessively, acting inappropriately), how will the other guests perceive your Christian convictions?
- Are you doing something that would give you the opportunity to witness to someone else?
- If your family decides to take part in Halloween activities, what kinds of conversations have you had with your own children about the holiday so they understand what is honoring and dishonoring to God and why?
These questions can help guide your decisions on what to wear and how to act on Halloween.
Final Thoughts on Halloween
While, there is nothing that is specifically evil about trick-or-treating, decorating your home, or wearing costumes, we just need to be sure not to dishonor God. In fact, this can be a time to build good will among other members of your neighborhood. It can be a time to witness and further God’s kingdom with a loving attitude toward your co-workers, friends and family.
Whether you participate in Halloween or not, it can be an amazing time to share the ultimate message that Christ has overcome death, sin and evil spirits by dying on the cross, driving out the fear of any witch, goblin or skeleton. Just like the missionaries did with the Druids (read Part 1 of the blog series), we should use every opportunity to share Christ. This story in history shows we can use holidays, such as Halloween, to share God’s love with the world, while being set apart from it.
Fall is now upon us and Halloween is just around the corner. Scary decorations catch your eye in the store, popular character costumes fill the racks, and kids are talking at school about what they want to dress up as. But for many Christians, this is a difficult holiday to deal with. Is it honoring to God to celebrate Halloween? Is it an evil holiday that we should avoid? Is it something that we should celebrate? Is it something we should be extremely cautious about? Hopefully this two part series will provide some information and guidance so that you can make an informed decision for your family. And of course, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God on this matter will guide you to the right decision.
The History of Halloween from a Christian Perspective
Before we discuss if and how we should celebrate Halloween with our children, we need to start by looking at the history of Halloween. This is really the foundation of our discussion and seeing how it was originally intended will help you gain perspective on the holiday. It is not what most people think: what started out as a pagan holiday developed into a positive celebration of Christ’s power over evil.
A Celtic Beginning
While there are many beliefs about how Halloween came about, let’s first look at the history that most people agree with. Halloween started out as a Celtic holiday in Ireland as a costume party the night before a feast called Samhain. It was a feast to commemorate lost relatives and to give thanks for the end of summer. Superstition made them believe that the eve before the feast was a time to ward off the evil spirits that would attack the feast. The Druids, who were the Celtic ruling class, would then require everyone to dress up like goblins, witches, and devils and carve ugly faces into gourds and put candles inside them in order to ward off the evil spirits. This would then ward off the spirits from the feast the next day.
A Christian Conversion?
When the Christian missionaries journeyed from Europe and arrived in the land of the Celts, the Druids became eager for all their people to become Christians after hearing the gospel from the missionaries. They wanted to denounce their pagan gods and the practices of appeasing or casting off evil spirits. In time, they adapted and combined the tradition of their feast on November 1 and “all Hallows Eve” together with the Gospel. The Christian monks decided it would be an effective way to share the Gospel and dispel and lay to rest the Celts’ superstition about ghosts and the power of demonic spirits. That Christ, their Creator and Savior, defeated Satan, death, and evil at the cross and through Him alone, evil demons were powerless and would flee.
Halloween and the Samhain Feast also provided an opportunity to be reminded of or learn about Christian heroes and martyrs along with the Celts continuing to officially recognize and commemorate the souls of their blessed dead who had been declared saints.
Many scholars agree that the commemoration of saints on November 1 first originated in Ireland, spread from there to England, and then to the continent of Europe with the rise of Christianity. By the ninth century, the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Celts’ Halloween tradition and Pope Gregory IV sent out an official letter of notification urging that Halloween be observed in harmony with All Saints Day throughout the Roman Empire.
The History of Halloween Summary
So what originally started out as a pagan holiday eventually became a celebration. It reminded people that Christ overcame death and Satan by dying on the cross. And no matter what Satan throws at the believer, Christ has overcome! (I John 4:4)
Now that we have a deeper understanding of the history of Halloween, the question is: How should we celebrate Halloween with our children as Christians? Look for Part 2 of this blog series that addresses this question in the coming weeks.
Human beings are creatures of habit and don’t do well with change. Think about those adolescent years when you were going through numerous changes and how awkward life seemed. Even as adults, once we are established in our family, daily work schedule, and hobbies, we tend to get comfortable in our lives and can have significant emotional events when presented with changes like moving or changing jobs, or even with less-consequential events like trying out a new church. Even worse, have you ever had a job where you had multiple managers or bosses with wildly different expectations and the confusion that can cause?
Just as adults get used to a routine, so do children. One of the challenges of parenting, particularly in young children, is developing a structured routine that encompasses all of the daily tasks and activities a child needs during development.
Once a routine is established, however, ask any parent and they’ll tell you how much easier life is, particularly at bed time. If a child knows that they eat dinner, take a bath, read a book, and brush their teeth before bed, those activities help prepare their mind for sleep. It’s painfully obvious how disastrous a botched routine can be when parents come home to the babysitter and wide-awake or crying children. As humans, we all need consistency.
So too should be our approach to school and parent-involvement in school, especially when it comes to our expectations of the students. At Heritage Oak School, maintaining a level of consistency between parents and teachers is so important that new parents are required to take a parenting class.
A parenting class might sound ridiculous or unnecessary but it shouldn’t scare parents of prospective students away from the school. On the contrary, the class encourages parents with the knowledge that raising school-aged children is a team effort with teachers and parents working together for the betterment of the students. Not only does this class teach biblical techniques for parenting, but enforces the idea that parents play a vital role in a child’s education.
To further the idea of expectations, teachers are the leaders in the classroom and set the tone and the standards that students should follow. As Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
For parent classroom aides, it’s important to get on the same page as the teacher to provide a seamless environment for the students. For teachers with multiple parent helpers throughout the week, it is especially critical to make sure that all of the different parents are maintaining a consistent standard from day to day. Think back to the example of two bosses with different expectations. Can you imagine being a student and having one set of standards on Monday, another on Tuesday, and so on throughout the week? You’d feel extremely frustrated!
Heritage Oak also holds regular meetings for all of the parents called the Parent Academy. One goal of the meetings is to present parents with a topic that we can all work on with our kids. Past topics include things like how to handle social media use with our kids. The idea is that a partnership is established between the school and parents so we can address different situations that may arise in life with the same correct solution, giving our children consistency to guide them down the right path.
I talked a lot about having consistency and not subjecting students to unnecessary change. That isn’t to say that all change is bad. In fact, being able to adapt to change and stress is good. The important thing, though, is that we should maintain consistent expectations and standards for our children to help them succeed, and do it in a way that reflects God’s love!
A pressing concern of parents considering a private Christian grammar and high school is whether attending this type of school will hurt their children’s chances of elite private college admission to schools such as Yale, Harvard, Berkeley or a military Service Academy. In fact, though not true, the myth that attending public school with all of its extracurricular activities and AP classes increases the chances of elite university admission continues to be propagated. Let’s dispel this common myth. Yale’s entering class of 2021 included 37% who attended a non public school with 7% of those who attended a religious school. Despite only educating 10% of US high school students, private schools accounted for almost 40% of Yale students! Let’s break down why private Christian schools may raise students’ education prospects.
Elite colleges and universities have very rigorous academic standards but they also seek candidates with similar academic achievements. 96% of entering Yale students were in the top 10% of their graduating public or private high school class. The majority had SAT scores greater than 750 and ACT scores greater than 32. Turning to my Alma Mater, the United States Air Force Academy, the majority of students were in the top 10% of their class and had ACT scores greater than 30 and SAT scores greater than 650. From these quick facts, we discover the majority of students were top ACT/SAT performers and were in their class’ top percentiles.
But do private Christian schools help students accomplish these outcomes? A Canadian research study following over 7000 15 year olds through age 23, found that private high school students scored 8-9% higher on standardized tests (like the ACT and SAT). From this, attending a private school makes for higher test scores. The same study demonstrated that private high school students were more likely to complete college in 4 years than their public high school peers (35% to 21%). While parental wealth and educational attainment partially explain the differences, the researchers noted that surrounding children with similar peers likely raised their educational prospects. Private schools tend to have smaller class sizes, making it easier for high performing students to attain higher class ranks. So yes, for high performing students, attending private schools does increase the likelihood of elite university admission.
At my private Christian school, Redwood Christian, most of the 67 graduating students attended college. My best friend went to UC Berkeley and attended the Air Force Academy. From the same school, years later, among other elite university admissions, two other individuals attended the Air Force Academy. Importantly, this school is not known as a ‘pipeline’ school for attendance to elite universities, but like Heritage Oak School and other affiliated Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) schools, this school’s rigorous academics and low teacher to student ratios facilitated elite admission success.
But my attendance at a private Christian School went far beyond mere academic preparation. More important than this preparation, was the assistance Redwood Christian provided to build a comprehensive Biblical worldview. In a university Biology class, a professor stated his goal was to teach us to “compartmentalize” our faith by essentially ignoring it when a contradiction with established “science” arose. In other words, science held the keys to ultimate truth and all other truth, including the revealed word of Scripture, was subordinate (and could be ignored). I realized then the superiority of the Biblical worldview’s unity of knowledge, theology and philosophy to a schizophrenic compartmentalization championed by this professor. I am confident my Christian education enabled my effective and winsome defense of Christianity throughout my college years. My gratitude to Redwood Christian for preparing me to face worldview challenges extends to this day.
In summary, admission to elite colleges and universities is predicated on rigorous academic achievements such as test scores and class rank. Based on demographics, attending a private school in no way hurts a student’s chances (and likely helps it). For a variety of reasons, test scores and class rank tend to be higher for attendees at private schools. Finally, while elite college preparation is important, being prepared to defend one’s worldview is of much greater and lasting worth.
- Facts and Studies. Council for American Private Education. Accessed from http://www.capenet.org/facts.html on 16 Sept 2018
- Yale College Class of 2021 First year class profile. Yale University. Accessed from https://admissions.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/class_profile_2021_final.pdf on 16 Sept 2018.
- Demographic Profile of the class of 2021. United States Air Force Academy. Accessed from http://www.neoafapa.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/2021_-_Demographic_Profiles.224160126.pdf on 16 Sept 2018.
- Frenette, M. and P. Chan. 2015. Academic Outcome of Public and Private High School Students: What Lies Behind the Differences? Accessed from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2015367-eng.htm on 16 Sept 2018.