Columbus Day

In 1492

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

“Indians!  Indians!”  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

-author unknown

Columbus Day at PCA

Columbus was many things, some notable and some not. Aren’t we all that way? Yet he has gone down in history as the brave and bright man who diligently sailed the ocean blue to bring trade and new civilization to America, an admirable thing indeed.

At Pinnacle, our kids talked about Columbus last week and took Columbus Day off from school. One thing I’ve always appreciated about PCA is their value for family time and their generosity in giving days off. They work very hard at school and spend more time at home than the usual school. We have enjoyed our Columbus Day off to be together as a family (minus Daddy who had to go to work). We even made a family of snow men to put on a shelf, smiling down on us with their peppercorn smiles. I know, it’s a little early for snowmen, but that’s what the kids wanted to do! It was a great Columbus Day.

Half Day

It’s a Perk

One of the things that is unique about Pinnacle Classical Academy is that both Kindergarten and 1st grade only meet for a half day. I’ve always considered this one of the perks of the school. They seem to cram in more education than the average school in less time. As a stay-at-home mom, I have treasured the extra time with my children. When my daughter went to Kindergarten a couple years ago, we were all ready for her to have her own adventures outside of our house. But a half day was plenty. It continued to be plenty for her and our family in 1st grade as well. By 2nd grade, she was so excited to stay those two extra hours. So far I feel the same about my son now that he’s in Kindergarten this year. It’s just enough for him to have a world of his own and for him to learn a lot, but then he still has lots of time to be home and play and be a little kid.

Complication?

There is one little complication to this lovely perk. Now that I have a daughter in 2nd grade and a son in Kindergarten, that means that one child is dismissed at 12:30 p.m. and one child is dismissed at 2:30 p.m. And the worst part is that my two-year-old generally takes a 2 1/2 hour nap right during pick ups. Can you see an issue here? I was really worried about it going into this year, but I have good news! It’s been FINE. In fact, I still see it as a perk!

The reality is that I am not the only parent with double pick-ups, which means we’ve been able to help each other out and take turns carpooling. I still have double pick-ups twice each week, but to be honest, it hasn’t been an issue. The naps are not always as long as they used to be, but my two-year-old has adjusted fine and on those days when I have to wake him up early, he just goes to bed early. After about a week of getting used to the new routine, it no longer seems like an issue to me. In fact I love helping drive my son’s classmate home because I get to hear them chat about their morning together. That is something I could never hear so well if my reserved son and my chatty daughter got out of school at the same time!

The Best Part

The best part about it is that I get a couple hours with my Kindergartener before my 2nd grader comes home. My 2nd grader got a lot of my attention when she was in Kindergarten, processing the fun new world she was a part of. Now she is a pro at school. But my Kindergartener is in the process of conquering new territory and I want to be a part of it. He LOVES school. He’s also 5 and he still loves to play with Mommy. Most days, he comes home from school, little brother takes a nap, and we get to play Foosball or some other game. It’s as if time stops in the world for about an hour and I get to be a part of his brave new world. I cherish the one-on-one time that I have with him and he seems to look forward to it, too. I love the half-day!

Why I Chose PCA – Part 2

Public or Private?

I used to think it was silly to spend money on Kindergarten. What complex subject matter could possibly be taught that would be worth the tuition of private school? I mean really, how hard is it to teach a kid about basic numbers and the calendar and cutting and pasting and how to read. Shouldn’t we have our kids go to public school to start with and then potentially switch to a Christian school when their minds are tackling more complex matters? That’s what I used to think at least, but that was before I really understood that school does not just teach knowledge.

Worldview

True, knowledge is gained by going to any decent school. But kids learn a lot more than how to read and write in their first year of school. They learn how to interact with a new group of people. They learn how to obey new adult authority-figures. They learn how to change the calendar and laugh at recess and tuck their shirt in. But most important of all, they learn the way the world works – according to those around them. It’s called worldview. It’s like a colored lens that shades the way a person sees and perceives everything; like the old saying that everything looks better through rose-colored glasses. That’s a worldview. Everyone has a worldview or a lens by which they perceive the world around them, and every school teaches a worldview, whether intentionally or accidentally. And when the worldview at school doesn’t match up with the worldview at home, even a 5 year old notices and starts to question which one is true and which one they prefer. Mom and Dad do not always win.

For example, let’s say at home Mom and Dad tell their son Jason that God created the world and Adam and Eve. This is a story they have presented as truth. During share time at public school, classmate Billy talks about his understanding that the world went “Bang!” and appeared and that we used to be apes a long time ago. This is also a story that Billy has presented as truth. Let’s say best case scenario, the teacher responds by saying it’s okay for Billy to believe that (as opposed to a very realistic scenario where she tells Billy he’s right and shows him “evidence” in an illustrated book). Now Jason has heard two opposing stories that were presented as truth. He now has a choice. He can believe Mom and Dad, he can believe Billy, or he can remain unsure and believe some combination of the two. All of this is about what Jason believes, which is important, but I want to talk about Jason’s worldview.

Truth vs. Belief

The teacher has started to teach Jason and Billy an important (and false) worldview all in one conversation. It’s the worldview that teachers in public school are required by law to teach, even if accidentally; the worldview that says truth is relative, and belief is permissible but personal. And although Mom and Dad’s story may come out as the winner in Jason’s mind, the infallible truth of the Bible has been compromised in his little worldview. That little worldview is going to develop more and more every day until his little worldview becomes a big solid worldview that was accidentally (and sometimes purposefully) taught to him by law by a handful of individuals who were probably genuinely wonderful teachers. The result is a grown Jason who may be lucky enough to have held tight to the true stories of the Bible, but who perceives them through a secular lens, leaving him at times confused and even skeptical. I know because I am like Jason. After 12 years in public school in Oregon, I am having to retrain my mind to see the world through a Biblical lens as opposed to the relativistic, postmodern perspective that I naturally (unfortunately) filter everything through.

Shaping a worldview is something that happens subtly and it’s hard to see, but it paints our perspective on everything we hear and say and believe to be true for the rest of our lives. Worldview is our perspective on everything and everyone. So would I pay money to ensure that my child grows up with a Biblically sound worldview? Because in reality a worldview is something precious that money CAN buy. Yes! Ten times over, yes. And 2 years later, it has been worth every penny.

K – 1st Grade

Mrs. Reed

It takes a special person to love teaching Kindergarten and 1st grade, and Pinnacle has that special person! Renee Reed is on her second year at the school. However, one glance in the classroom and you would think she’s been doing this for years! There are only 3 kids in the classroom right now, but the “Owl’s Nest” has enough life and song in it to fill the entire school! Renee is the kind of teacher I always dreamed my kids would have as a first teacher at school. She is very energetic, animated, positive and patient. She covers a lot of material, is careful to keep each child appropriately challenged, and enhances every subject through hands-on projects and experiences. And best of all, she is spiritually mature and specially gifted with being sensitive to each child’s spirit and what is going on in their world. It’s easy to love Mrs. Reed’s class!

Apples and Other Lessons

This week the class started studying apples. Over the next few weeks, while learning their phonograms (a great way to teach phonics), reciting 1 Corinthians 13:1-6, singing a LOT of songs, writing letters and numbers, and running out of breath counting to 100 every day, they will also study an apple cut in half, counting seeds, graphing seeds, saving seeds, and painting apple prints. I’m excited about this! It makes me want to take my family to an apple orchard, make homemade applesauce, eat apple pie, and drink apple cider as we enjoy the Fall. Having a child in Kindergarten is such a wonderful way to enjoy the moment!

Apple Painting

Here’s a couple pictures Mrs. Reed took on her iPhone during apple painting!

Why I Chose PCA – Part 1

The Background

Every parent has their own reasons for choosing their child’s school, these are simply mine. This is the first of several posts describing the major reasons why my husband and I chose Pinnacle Classical Academy for our kids’ education.

Let me start by saying that I grew up going to public schools and always thought my kids would do the same. I believe there is great value in learning to face the world and be a witness as a child, so public school was the plan. But before the time came for our first child to enter Kindergarten, I discovered another way to accomplish this goal, one that I now prefer and believe to be more effective.

The first thing that caught my attention happened before we had children while we lived in Franklin, Tennessee. We worked with the middle and high school students at our church, a ministry of several hundred students. There were always a handful of students in the ministry that stood out. The majority of the students in the church were from solid Christian homes, and many had been Christians since childhood, but this group that stood out was noticeably exceptional.

The Cream of the Crop

They communicated their ideas clearly with confidence. They answered questions logically; their thought processes made sense and could easily have come out of the mouth of someone four years older. They asked questions that demonstrated a deep understanding of spiritual matters. At the same time, they weren’t just scholarly about their faith, they were bold to share their faith and engage with unbelievers. These attributes distinguished this group of students, but it gets better.

As we got to know these students, we began to see them as the students who knew their Bibles and Bible stories and verses better than we did. They added helpful Biblical content and context to our small group lessons regularly and my favorite part of all, these were the students that stood out as having the most fun, being the most innocent, and valuing modesty and friendship over dating and fashion. They were the cream of the crop, the best you could ask for, and they all went to a Classical school. As you can imagine, my interest in Classical Education peaked.

The Heart Issue

My husband and I have kept up with a handful of the students from that school. They’re in college now, and it’s no surprise that they are at Samford, Auburn, UT Chattanooga, and other well respected colleges and universities. To this day, what I love most about these students is not the schools they have gone on to study at, but the quotes and posts on their Facebook pages that scream of their higher intellect, compassion for the lost, and deep love for the Lord. The students from the Classical school in Franklin are impressive because they glorify God with their lives. The aim at Pinnacle Classical Academy is to train and inspire our children to do the same. I feel so fortunate to have my kids at PCA, where the priority in education is to”love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

God is Front and Center

This week I got to be a fly on the wall at PCA; a fly with a camera that is. It was fun to roam room to room and watch all the kids try to ignore me as I took pictures for the blog. It was even more fun to find some of the great books and curriculum they’re going to get to read through this year. And there’s nothing like the songs and motions and sweet faces of the Kindergarten class. But my favorite thing that I found was in Mr. Izard’s room. He is the headmaster and teacher of the upper grades. His desk was neatly stacked with Latin curriculum, a logic textbook, grammar books, and many other things you would expect to see on a teacher’s desk. But front and center, in the middle, obviously there from recent use, was his Bible. It was a wonderful thing to see! It represents what I know to be true of PCA. Great curriculum, orderly function, and above all else, God is front and center in everything.

A Joyful Noise

I love the songs I hear around my house now that my kids are back in school! This summer my kids got into a rut singing Alvin and the Chipmunks and other fairly innocent pop songs. It was funny for a week, but it dragged on for the whole summer. The songs have an upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics and yet they’re void of any worthwhile value or sometimes even meaning. “Party Rock is in the house tonight, everybody just have a good time.” Yeah, once or twice of that song was enough for me.

However, now that my kids are back in school, the songs they’re excited about are so uplifting! After three days, both my 5 year old and 7 year old were singing the first verse of Come Christians Join To Sing in the morning while they were getting dressed, in the car together over and over till they got it just right, and after dinner as a performance for the rest of the family. We don’t often sing hymns at the church we go to, but I love them. They are so rich with meaning and praise, and it is precious to see my children sing them with smiles on their faces, lost in the luscious words of Alleluia, Amen.

There is something special about the culture at Pinnacle Classical Academy. As a mother, I can sing hymns and teach songs of praise to my children, but inevitably, 99% of the time it’s not exciting to them. My window of coolness is quickly closing, and whatever is taught or seen at school catches their attention like it’s the newest and coolest and greatest thing ever. I am so fortunate to have my kids at a school that teaches my kids that the latest and greatest and most excellent things are all wrapped up in glorifying God. To them, it’s the new popular! And that makes me want to sing!

Come, Christians, join to sing Alleluia! Amen! Loud praise to Christ our King; Alleluia! Amen! Let all, with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice; praise is His gracious choice: Alleluia! Amen!

Uniforms

I’ve grown to love school uniforms. It’s so contrary to the culture I was raised in so it has taken me awhile. I grew up in Oregon, a rather apathetic and wear-your-pajama-pants-anywhere type of place. Everything is casual, and reverence and respect are scarce and rarely appreciated. For example, I called all of my friends’ parents, most of my coaches, several of my teachers and one principle by their first names, at their request. The only clothing regulation I was ever given at school was that I could not wear any words or pictures of profanity. Outside of my parents and youth group, no one ever talked to me about my clothes. And so I melded with my culture, wearing whatever was most comfortable and casual and Birkenstocks were the norm.

Out of ignorance I spent years talking bad about schools that made kids wear uniforms. I believed it stifled creativity and individuality. While this may be true in the realm of personal fashion, I’ve grown to see that over-valuing individuality and personal uniqueness, especially in my outward appearances, is a side effect of focusing more on myself and my world than on Christ and His Kingdom. It is often a symptom of self-worship as opposed to Christ-worship. In reality, creativity and originality can be used to glorify me by drawing attention to me, or they can be used to glorify Christ by drawing attention to Christ. And this is where PCA’s intentionality about clothing and uniforms won me over.

Uniforms do not take away personal freedoms of expression, they provide a blank canvas where the students’ talents and creations and expressions can point to someone greater and holier than any individual person. Allowing students to wear uniforms is a very simple way of removing the distraction of what they are wearing in comparison to what other kids are wearing, and instead allows more attention to fall where it ought to be – on studies and Christ and our role in His Kingdom. Not our clothes and our uniqueness and how cool we are in our kingdom. HIS Kingdom, where we reign as co-heirs in unity with others, glorifying HIS uniqueness, or better said, His Holiness.

On a practical level, as a parent I have found uniforms to be very helpful in the mornings! There are very few decisions that need to be made about clothing. My daughter gets to decide which hair accessory she wants to wear, my son gets to decide if he wants brown socks or white, and they both get to choose whether to wear a white or blue shirt. We don’t have to argue about how striped shirts don’t match with plaid shorts or how maroon and red just don’t look right together. They know what they’re expected to wear and they seem to really like their uniforms.

One of my favorite parts about the uniforms is something I never experienced at school. It’s the simple chin lift of confidence that I see happen on a regular basis. Something is different when they put on that uniform. Like a man who puts on his suit and tie to go to a big meeting, or a woman who puts on her heels and make-up to speak at an important conference, clothes somehow transform a person into the man or woman or student they need to be for the task at hand. And when we dress up, somehow it makes us feel like we can conquer anything. I’ve seen that look in my children when they’re in their uniforms. The uniform gives them confidence and it puts them in the mindset of school. At PCA, the mindset of school is academics, but even more so the mindset is glorifying Christ and walking in unity (not individuals) as citizens of His Kingdom.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3 (ESV)

If you would like more information about PCA’s uniform policy, check out the complete rationale behind the uniform policy, including the specifics of the uniforms.

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school at PCA. The returning students fell right into place, the girls beaming to be back together, the boys smiling and laughing like they never skipped a beat. The new students probably felt a little nervous, perhaps apprehensive or shy. But the smile pictured above, taken of a little girl who just entered Kindergarten, tells a thousand tales of how she felt today. It’s the shy smile that says, “I’m new here, but this is so cool.” I know because it is the same smile I saw on my daughter’s face when she entered Kindergarten at PCA two years ago. She left the house a little girl who rarely spoke to other children and came home raving about the time she had at school and her new best friends. You would have thought she was taken to an amusement park, but it was just school. Just a really great school. It’s the same smile I saw on my son’s face today as he left to become an Owl in Mrs. Reed’s Kindergarten class. He came home and shared with great pride and confidence how he was in charge of changing the calendar this week. As if someone had bestowed a position of great honor upon him at this new place called school. One of the great things about PCA is that even the shy or timid child feels right at home from the first day, and it doesn’t take long to sense what a fun place it is to be. And like a new pair of shoes that feel better after being broken in, being at PCA just keeps getting better.

 

School is Starting Soon

After weeks of careful preparation, I walked through the parking lot carrying a bag of fresh pencils and new markers and pretty colored notebooks and all those little things that spark the first light of excitement that school is starting soon. Officially tonight may have been a night to meet the teachers and go over logistics, but behind all the official business of the evening was an overwhelming buzz of excitement and anticipation.

I sat in my seat listening as headmaster Mr. Izard and board member Dr. Moody inspired us with their words, while simultaneously watching the swinging legs and fidgety fingers of the little heads in the room, feeling their anticipation of their new rooms, their new desks, their new teachers, and ice cream. I heard Mr. Izard say we’ve grown from 13 to 20 students and more than doubled our number of teachers. I heard Dr. Moody encourage us to set our sights on something higher than building a school that will simply educate children to go on to higher education and make good grades and someday get jobs. Rather, PCA is about setting our sights on glorifying God and being members of His eternal Kingdom, which will never crumble or fade. Considering I know from experience that this school is rigorous about challenging their students academically, I love knowing that the top priority is higher than simply education. The priority is Christ and Christ-likeness. I want that perspective in my kids’ school. I want that perspective in my family. I want that perspective.

A 3rd grader slouched in her chair. A Kindergartener looked around the room. Logistics were almost done. Fun was just around the corner. Mr. Izard shared the schools’ theme for the year – the fruit of the Spirit. He encouraged us all to pray this year for the Spirit to fill the board, the teachers, the parents and the students with the fruit of the Spirit. He didn’t ask us to pray for high test scores. He didn’t ask for prayer for the football team (I know, we don’t have a football team, but that’s not the point). He asked us to pray for Christ-likeness in our school. The fruit of the Spirit; the visible, tangible evidence that God is at work in the people of PCA. And if the Spirit of God moves and shows himself evident in the people of this school, isn’t this a great place to be?! I love it.

We were dismissed to classes where I saw the smiles get bigger and the giggles get louder and then hush as the teacher introduced herself. So much anticipation and leg swinging and smiling. Who knew that listening to a new teacher talk about rules and school parties and schedules could inspire a classroom of grade school students to smile so big. “I already know she’s going to be a great teacher,” I heard one of the students say later about Ms. Claxton. I was thinking the same thing about all the teachers. We have a great team of teachers and I am so grateful!

Finally we were all dismissed to go outside and visit the famous ice cream truck, treats on the house! The brightly colored popsicles and fancy chocolate covered ice cream was a hit, but what I noticed was not the novel treats, it was the buzz of relational excitement. The parents and teachers jumped right into a flood of conversations. The students were all together, old and new.  Their smiles grew, they ran around, they told stories and they laughed. I can’t imagine anything better than a school that values rigorous education, holds their students to high standards, and yet has students who can hardly wait for school to start back up, who are so healthy and happy, and who are being led into genuine Christ-likeness simply by going to school. This is a great place to be.