Oh how I love learning, let me count the ways! But if you must know the truth, I didn’t always love learning. I used to think of learning as a means to an end, something you did to get a grade, a job, a future. If you were to ask me how long I have loved learning, I would have to answer like the great Elizabeth Bennett when asked to name the moment her love for Mr. Darcy began.
`It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began….’ but I believe I must date it from my first year as a foundations tutor for Classical Conversations when I began to memorize copious amounts of facts with my children growing ever more as I moved on to tutoring Essentials, Challenge A and now Challenge B.
The motto of Classical Conversations is “To know God and to make Him known.” And the manner in which we know Him is not only through His Word but also through His world. Therefore, Classical Conversations places a high value on studying the arts and sciences. Instead of studying to pass a test or attain a degree, we are studying to know the very Creator of the universe. We are studying so that we will have an answer for the hope that lies within us. We are studying because great are the works of the Lord. And they are studied by all who delight in Him. Yes, that includes math and Latin! Sadly, however, it is more common than not that those in the church look at “School Studies” as less than theological studies, when they really should be one in the same.
I used to consider myself a “Math” person, definitely not a history person. And God help me if my high school history teacher asked us to remember dates for a test. Remembering dates was so hard. And what was the point? However, after studying the history, geography, and timeline facts in CC over the last 8 years, learning dates has become a breeze. In addition, I discovered that knowing the details began to bring the whole story into focus. History. His-story. The same can also be said of English and Latin. Learning these simple facts made the entire world come alive for me. God’s world. And now I consider myself a learning person rather than a math person! However, it wasn’t until I tutored these classes for CC, that I really began to get excited about learning. If tutoring foundations and essentials increased my love for academics, directing the Challenge levels (7-12 grade) completely blew it out of the water! I watched one of my daughters, with a small amount of confidence, produce large results as she worked diligently, although hesitantly, through her Challenge A year. She never imagined she was capable of drawing the world with all of its countries and capitals and features. Yet she did, and did it beautifully. Furthermore, we began to dig into the art of rhetoric through studying apologetics, and learning how to persuade through essays in our writing program, all of which only served to strengthen our love and knowledge for the One who created it all.
It was for these reasons and more, that when a position opened in our community to direct Challenge III, which is mostly comprised of 11th graders, I suggested to my husband Paul that he should think and pray about doing it! You see for the last 7 years, I have watched our family grow together in a pursuit for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to a degree I have never witnessed with other programs and knew what a tremendous blessing this would be. But how could he, a full time pastor, add more to his schedule?
Ultimately, we thought it would be a phenomenal fit for our family for several reasons. First of all, pastors regularly to go back to school for additional theological training to enhance their teaching and ability to counsel effectively. But if Paul were to go back to school, he would be attending a class as a passive learner. As a Challenge director, on the other hand, he would be the lead learner, directing and facilitating conversations about American history, philosophy, and logic, and Shakespeare all through a Biblical lens, while becoming a mentor to a small group of world changers.
Secondly, my husband has been studying scripture for decades, but now, by focusing on God’s world in addition to His Word, his knowledge of God would take on immeasurable depth and dimension. For instance, we have recently been studying Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” in which we saw a tremendous correlation between what is real, and what is never to be. People tend to let ideas, or the “what ifs” affect their reality. We discussed relationships and compared personality types deciding that I was probably Shakespeare’s type of girl (read complicated)! That night while hashing out the plight of Horatio and Hero, we had a deeper and richer discussion about marriage than we had ever experienced studying the typical relationship book. Studying Shakespeare brought the principles of God’s Word to life!
Finally, by diving headfirst into our homeschool curriculum, my husband would be able to be a deeper part of the conversations in our family. You see, studying God’s world, the art of persuasion, the essentials of the English language, the Lost Tools of Writing and more, is teaching us how to communicate and write while strengthening the way we listen and truly hear others. Never was a program more aptly named, for the conversations in our house have grown each year in ways I could never have imagined. This alone is reason enough to praise the Lord! Our two oldest are just at the beginning of their teen years, and I am so thankful for the tools we are all learning through this program. We are logically discussing ideas with kindness, listening and defining our terms, comparing history with the present, and researching evidence.
However, despite all of our rationale and excitement, I did have some anxiety as the summer came to an end and the school year loomed in front of us. How would we pull this off? What would it look like? Did we bite off more than we could chew? Yet through every step I have seen God’s sovereignty in the details. A new focus strengthened in our family with a common desire to learn about God’s world with purpose and intention. And here’s why. We have a whole generation of people who have ignored logic, forgotten history, and belittled the importance of studying language, science, and math. And we are reaping the consequences. But we, in the church, should be different. The next time your student asks why they need to study history, math, or fill in the blank, remind them that by knowing God’s world, we get to know God and each other more, enhancing our love for Him, while growing our ability to know and love others with a strong bond of community. That is the true value. Remember those two great commandments, Love the Lord your God with all your soul, heart, MIND, and strength. And love your neighbor as your self.
We know this will be a hard, but worthy task. Instead of “Netflix and Chill” for us, it is “Shakespeare and Talk,” and frankly, as much as we are LOVING our studies, sometimes chilling seems more appealing. Yet the blessings we have seen, the harvest already apparent, have confirmed this choice over and over again.
Lastly, we happily committed to this challenge because of the true strength of Classical Conversations. The community. Serving our community has knit our hearts together as we watch our savior weave a tapestry of Grace right before our eyes.
This picture here was our first year. We had NO idea what we were doing. The baby was born two weeks later, and the year was a total blur. Honestly, the next few years were a blur. But we took baby steps to get to this place, and let me tell you the view is Divine. The Lord has stretched us in the most beautiful ways, and we are grateful for this opportunity to know Him and make Him known!