To Everything There is a Season

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    By Monica Cappelli

(Editor’s note: Please excuse us for the delay in posts. We’ve been having some technical difficulties and are working diligently to fix them. We’ll resume our regular posting as soon as possible.)

Autumn = Baking.

Muffins. Bread. Cake. Pies. When autumn days are crisp and a roaring fire warms the night, my circadian clock chimes the magic words, “Let’s bake!” My family agrees.

Autumn is a wonderful time to bring your kids into the kitchen. Yes, as a homeschooling mom and nerd, I appreciate the math lessons inherent in any baking project. As I parent two ten-year-olds, I love having a fun and delicious way of teaching basic homemaking skills such as planning a dessert to complement dinner (especially if you plan to eat dessert first), shopping for a recipe and, best of all, kitchen clean-up. Gifting baked goods is also a yummy opportunity to teach your child the Godly art of hospitality: Invite a friend for tea and scones; be a great guest and take along a treat when you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, and give baked goods to home-bound or sickly people in the community. And nothing says “geography” like preparing desserts or meals from other times and cultures. Most importantly, though, I love the creativity my kids experience as they measure, mix, adjust, embellish, decorate, and anticipate eating their yummy confections.

Over the years, strangely enough, I’ve discovered a happy truth: even ugly baked goods are delicious! Trust me, I’ve received several unappetizing custom creations over the years, and I have never ever turned one down. Lopsided loaves, rubbery rolls, fallen cakes, terribly “crispy” cookies, sunken cupcakes, and even sad-looking pies (private joke, dear Renee), can be redeemed with laughter and a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s — or a serious whirl of whipped cream! Moreover, a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar is like fairy dust to an ugly pie
crust! In other words, you’ll be able to survive with grace and encourage your child’s earliest forays into the world of baking. Know that friends, kind neighbors, aunts and uncles, grandparents and pastors (especially the last two) are willing recipients of even the most disastrous dessert gift when presented by your child with their very proudest grin.

Last week I posted some of the kids’ and my favorite bread recipes (yes, on Facebook! Yes, I spend too much time there. Yes, it’s a problem.) That post led to requests for gingerbread from friends. Those requests (slurping solicitations, really) led to this article. Which leads me to invite you all to post or link to kid-friendly recipes or some of your other autumn favorites!

P.S. Those ugly pie crusts? Yep. They’re mine. Somebody, help me, please. I could really use a good high altitude recipe!

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    Monica Blog PicMonica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

Raising Our Children to be Like Jesus

    by Renee Miller

Image by Stephen C. Weber.

Image by Stephen C. Weber.

One aspect I love most about Classical and Christian Education is introducing our children to the greatest minds of history and the heroes of the faith. Jesus says in Luke 6:40: “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

I believe this scripture is saying that no one is above Jesus, the ultimate teacher. It is my job as a parent and homeschooler to lead my children to be like Jesus.

The Bible instructs us to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord as we stand up, sit down, and live our lives. This gives me great motivation to continue to grow and learn myself. But it also worries me that I might be limiting my children. So as a humble mother who lives in a small rural town, I try to connect my children with both mentors as well as men and women throughout history who have walked with God and, “it was counted unto them as righteousness.” I’m constantly on the lookout for other mentors who can help my children be more like Jesus.

I find it interesting that who is teaching our children is given so little thought in our current culture. In a study done by the Barna Group Research Institute, upwards of 75% of children will leave the faith of their parents as adults. Is there a connection between who mentors/teaches them throughout their childhood and whether or not they stay faithful? I think so.

I’ve known a number of parents who haven’t left their children with even a babysitter until they turn five. Then they leave their vulnerable child with an adult they don’t even know for 40 hours, five days a week for the next 13 years. Somehow our culture has convinced us this is normal–even desirable–and to question this puts you out of the norm. And, honestly, most kindergarten teachers I know are lovely people, so it seems so reasonable at first.

This leads me to reflecting on comments I heard recently in a lecture by Voddie Baucham. He recounts how people always ask the same questions when they realize he homeschools his children. First, there is always the socialization question. (My answer: “I’m not sending them to school to become a socialist.”) The next question: Is it legal or approved by the government? (“Of course it’s legal and who made it the government’s job to teach my children?”) What struck him was the sameness of the objections. I’ve experienced these questions, too.

When the majority have been schooled by the government, we really do think more the same than we realize. This is in stark contrast to my experience working with our children. They rarely ask the same questions about anything. In contrast to the 75% of children raised in Christian homes but who attend government schools, 95% of homeschooled children will remain in the faith. These are the children who have grown up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, steeped in Biblical wisdom, and nourished by the great men and women of history.

It’s worth noting that the verse before Luke 6:40 reads, “[Jesus] told them this parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?’” Great mentors and teachers are to be found everywhere: in Scripture, in classic literature, in your community, in your home. These teachers will encourage our children to not only “keep the faith,” but to lead our children to be like Jesus.

    _________________________

    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.

7 Ways to Conquer Your Morning Routine

Last week Monica Cappelli shared a few links to some great resources. Continuing in the spirit of that, we found an awesome article with some great tips about how best to maximize your mornings.

To read the article, visit “Joyful Mothering” here: http://joyfulmothering.net/7-ways-to-conquer-your-morning-routine/

Foundations for Learning

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    By Dave Miller

[Dave’s note: What follows is a personal essay for a college application from a graduate of The Garden School. I hope it will encourage parents who have chosen private or homeschool education to “stay the course.”]

I’ve been blessed to be born into a wonderful family (in both the nuclear and extended sense) and to attend a quite extraordinary school from a very young age. My family has always cultivated my education and supported my quest for knowledge, but it was at The Garden School that I eventually understood what learning truly is. The Garden School is a classical Christian private school that students attend twice a week. The students work at home the other three days, following the instructors’ guidelines. The school is based on the idea that there is a Grammar stage, a Logic stage, and a Rhetoric stage. You learn facts, then you learn causes and meaning, and are finally able to communicate your ideas. The Garden School’s foundational principle is teaching students how to think, not what to think. And I thrived in this environment.

At The Garden School, I learned Philosophy from Plato, Chemistry from Lavoisier, Humor from Cervantes, and Poetry from Homer. I learned how science and music and art and government are intricately connected and cannot be separated without losing meaning. I learned to look at the stars and see Pegasus, to look at a snowy field and hear the poetry of Frost, to read a news story and recall a similar event our modern times have all but forgotten. I learned to love knowledge. I found I could dig deeper and understand, follow a path of logic and find a mistake, speak and have my opinions heard. The Garden School instilled in me a deep and passionate longing to know and understand.

[The essay goes on to talk about the writer’s decision to attend Colorado Mountain College to earn an Associate of Arts Degree as well as her desire to transfer to a four-year university. I hope you’ll agree that for this student, the years spent at The Garden School as well as the freedom of homeschooling provided a strong foundation for furthering her education.]

As a homeschool parent, what kinds of things do you do to help your child build a solid foundation for life-long learning?

    ___________________

    A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.

Tell Us Your Story

talk-bubble_17-416124326[1]At this point, you know a lot about us. But we don’t know a whole lot about you.

So we decided to take a break from the usual this week to get to know you, our readers!

So tell us: what made you first decide an alternative education (such as The Garden School, homeschooling, etc.) fit the needs of your family? Was it a hard decision to make? What advice would you give to parents considering an alternative education for their children?

Cultivating Confidence

    By Renee Miller

self-confidence[1]A while back, a teacher at a local dance studio commented that our Garden School students show a lot of self-confidence. She said they’re always “game” and willing to try new things. I’ve noticed this, too, and was reflecting on what helps to instill this quality in our children.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

We try to keep a lid on kids ridiculing each other. This is often their first response when they feel nervous or afraid themselves. It is also common in most of our own school experiences. So it takes a concerted, conscious effort to develop a school culture where the students respect each other and support one another’s efforts. We give our students lots of opportunities to succeed in a supportive environment, and that builds their confidence.

This is not to be confused with the “Oh, Johnny, you’re so amazing” nonsense when, in fact, he’s not, and we both know it. Truth must always under gird any culture where we expect respect. Boys especially can’t stand empty falseness. This means there is a time when a student’s effort is questioned and he or she is encouraged to do better.

Also, we are of the opinion that every child is uniquely gifted for a purpose in this world. This powerful idea intrigues children. We aren’t expecting them to excel at everything. Instead we ask them, “What has God given you a passion for?” and, further, “How can you encourage another student to discover his or her areas of giftedness?” This is quite different from the notion that you can be anything you want to be.

Another thing we do is to foster an environment that has rich, multi-age interactions. A group of thirty 13-year-old girls just don’t behave as well as a group of thirty girls from the ages of 2 to 80. Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time with groups of junior high girls. It tends to bring the best out in people to be aware that they are setting an example for someone else or being admired by a younger person.

This brings us to keeping them from being raised in an environment where they learn to be peer dependent, or where they would only do something because it was “approved” by their group. I’ve found the best way to move children from this mindset is through significant time with family and the community at large. What makes a student successful in the local high school does not make him or her successful in life. Bill Gates is credited with saying, “Be nice to nerds. You will probably work for one.” This will become obviously apparent to our students as they spend time with other adults who are worthy of imitation.

While it’s difficult to put my finger on just what exactly fosters confidence in students, I hope the above thoughts will spur our readers to explore this topic further and leave comments below.

    ___________________________

    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.

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?

    __________________________
    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.