A Return to Chivalry

    By Renee Miller

Many of us are lamenting our culture’s quick descent into coarseness and vulgarity. How do we even begin to slow this free fall so we can inject some civility? One area we’ve given some thought to as a school are rites of passage for our teens.

One rite of passage most of us are familiar with is High School Prom. I’ve begun to wonder: when did reasonable parents decide it was okay for their daughters to dress like street-walkers, spend all night in the company of a boy of questionable morals (or even a boy with impeccable morals), and have the school hire cops to police the craziness? Having worked with teens for years, I can assure you most of the fun has gone out of the event. I think it’s time to take another look at what these events could be like for our children who are coming of age.

Here are a few examples of how we’ve tried to do this in the Garden School community:

First, we teach the teens how to dance. We have some people in our community who have been willing to teach them how to swing, waltz, folk, and contra dance, all while interacting with several different age groups. This has the added bonus of teaching lifelong skills that will give them confidence at things like weddings and other social and cross-cultural events.

Next, we encourage them to learn manners. Yes, the young men open the doors for the young women, pull out their chairs for them, learn how to ask someone to dance, and even how to hold their forks. The girls learn to be gracious and how to dress so as not to scandalize everyone present and even be comfortable when dancing. Indeed, it is the ancient beauty of chivalry that has currently been thrown aside-and for a poor substitute.

And then we take them out to a classy community event. Our local symphony has a yearly fundraiser where they play big band music. The dinner is first-rate. Once our students experience dancing to a live orchestra, dressed to the nines, it is pretty hard to beat. We call it promenade. And not just the students attend, but their parents, too. We all look forward to this yearly event.

Garden School's promenade on March 19th, 2013. Image courtesy of Rachael Koschak.

Garden School’s promenade on March 19th, 2013. Image courtesy of Rachael Koschak.

What are your ideas for bringing civility back into our communities?

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    Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School.”) Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.

Beyond Socialization

    By Renee Miller

In the midst of a discussion about Garden Schooling/homeschooling the other day, I was asked, “What about socialization?” After traveling the non-public school road for over fifteen years, I’ve heard this so often my first instinct is to laugh. I’m not overly impressed with the social skills of students who spend the bulk of their childhood confined to interacting with masses of their peers.school_building[1]

Those of us who attended years of mass schooling know that not standing out kept you from ridicule. And who wants their child to be ridiculed? Yet, if we are going to raise strong leaders, they must expect and know not only how to stand apart, but also how to weather ridicule. And one thing I learned in government schools? Popular opinion shifts with the wind.

To take a different path than the crowd challenges the people around you – your family, your in-laws, your friends. It flies in the face of the billions of dollars of advertising that saturate our waking hours. Yet, that is precisely how God created us to be: different, no two alike.

Each of us with our own calling and gifts to bring to the world-that immeasurable something for which standardized tests cannot account.

The current hyper-socialization children have to endure is rarely questioned. Our society is working from the vantage point that the family and the church are not viable entities to raise children. Only the government is capable enough for the job. However, from our Christian viewpoint, one result of that is people with a thousand Facebook friends and no true community.

community-work-of-the-people[1]Being in genuine community-learning to truly be civil and social-is hard work. It doesn’t happen in an environment of bells and whistles with hundreds of same-aged peers.

People have a deep longing for family and community, and yet little to no idea of how to become a part of one.

So I encourage you in this new year to slow down the pace of our current culture. Step off the conveyor belt of mass education, and get to know a few people well.

To stay in community through thick and thin is rare. Yet the reward is a small glimpse into the richness of the heavenly family that God has in store for us. To provide this “taste of heaven” is what our community is all about.

It’s time we went beyond socialization and got back to community.

May our children venture out into the world with their cup full and their feet firmly on the ground.

Your Thoughts: What does being in community mean for you?

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    Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School”). Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.