Our current culture is buzzing with information all about habits- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits, The Miracle Morning, and Desiring the Kingdom are just a few. Browse any self-help book section (Christian or secular) and you will find an enormous amount of information on habit building and habit maintaining. Habits matter!
Habits are both conscious and subconscious. Take a moment and think of some conscious and subconscious habits you do on a daily basis. Subconsciously, what do you do the moment you walk in your front door? Where do you put your keys? Your shoes? When you wake up in the morning, what do you automatically move towards or start doing? Consciously, do you have dinner with your family most nights? Do you read aloud? Do you take time to go for a walk as a family or do another activity together?
"If I consider my life honestly, I see that it is governed by a certain very small number of patterns and events which I take part in overt and over again... when I see how very few of them there are, I begin to understand what huge effect these few patterns have on my life, on my capacity to live. If these few patterns are good for me, I can live well. If they are bad for me, I can't." (Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building)
Scientific studies continue to confirm that neural pathways are created, strengthened, or lost depending on our daily habits. The more we do something (or don't do something) the more automatic it becomes, the easier it becomes, the quicker and faster we are able to travel down certain pathways.
We accept this forming and building when it comes to physical activities such as training for a sport, learning complicated music, playing an instrument, competing in a triathlon. We fully accept that this takes time, effort, and consistent training. We don't begin the first cross country practice with the hardest, most difficult workout. We build up our stamina, we remain consistent, and we don't give up if we don't see results by leaps and bounds after week one. Just as the tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare states, "slow and steady wins the race."
So while we are accepting of this in the physical realm, we often neglect it in the mental realm. We expect that training these other parts of ourselves (growing spiritually, emotionally, academically and as a person) should come easily, or at best, with one hard attempt.
Parenting, academics, family life, spiritual life, and more... it all has a very long arch. It's so easy as parents and teachers to get caught up in the here and now. We see all the good things, the best things, and we panic to try and include them. We set ourselves up for failure because we find ALL the things we want to do and be, the things we want our families to do and be, the things we want our students to learn and apply. We get all trapped and often end up doing nothing when we try to make everything the best.
Stormy Goodwin suggest these four principles for parents:
1. When considering how to structure your days, keep this in mind: habits built now can affect what your child loves for a lifetime. Work things like reading stories, family worship and prayer, dinner together, and listening to good music into your daily life. Make your own list depending on what is important to you. If you don't have time, then cut other activities. You are sending a clear message to your kids through both what you plan and what you allow.
2. When considering standards of behavior, remove the tendency to be purely practical. What you allow your kids to wear to a funeral matters. How you train them to greet people matters. And what you do for Sabbath rest matters.
3. When encountering habitual sinful thought in yourself and your children, address them intentionally. First, find replacement thoughts centered on truth, gratitude, and faith to insert immediately. Then, intentionally do so, and reminder your kids to do the same. Over time, wrong habits will become fulfilling thoughts. This can be life-changing.
4. And finally, get into the habit of continually repeating the true, good, and beautiful.
At the Academy, we are ordering habits and nurturing affections. We structure our campus days for students to always be exposed to the best pieces of art, music, and stories, and we hold a high caliber of expectations. We being our days centering ourselves on Jesus through our Scripture memory, catechism, and worship. We teach our students that people matter more than anything- we teach them to properly greet others, to include others, to stand up for each other, and to show up for those around them. We are continually repeating the true, the good, and the beautiful.
At The Classical Academy we aim to produce much more than superior academics and a nurturing school environment. By the grace of God, we seek to cultivate students who love truth, goodness, and beauty, and recognize Jesus Christ as the source. We seek to lead students to embody wisdom and virtue, and possess a lifelong passion for learning. We seek to nurture students to become thought leaders who shape the culture with the truth of the Gospel, who evaluate all human knowledge and experience in light of Scripture, and who use their education to further God's kingdom.
We are learning in this journey of education that these things do not just happen. They must be cultivated, nurture, visited again and again, and in this case at the start of the school year intentionally placed on their shoulders.
We live in a day where our children don't have many rites of passage, at least not many positive ones. Historically, cultures all over the world initiate their young people into maturity, placing them directly and purposefully into a rite of passage at a designated point in time. Our society has little, if any of this "call to action" of our children. Unless intentionally done by parents, our children don't get to experience many "Rites of Passage" that signify a deliberate change in their journey, a call to greater responsibility and elevated purpose. Here at the Academy we would argue that young people are desperate for these charges given to them by those who love and shepherd them.
We started off the 2020-2021 school year with our Blazer Ceremony on the first day of school, launching our oldest students into leadership at The Classical Academy. Students were inducted in front of their 150 student body, 21 staff members, parents and family members. They were given their Academy blazers- a sign of leadership, as well a liturgy and a charge for the years ahead as leaders of the school.
Some may say leadership is earned, not automatically given, and in many ways, it is. But like with our academics, we place challenging material in front of our students that forces them to grow, change, think critically, and then impact the world around them. Why would we do anything different with how we teach them character and leadership? When you place students into leadership as a rite of passage, you tell them, "You are worthy. You are capable, and you will be held to a higher standard." And guess what, they most often rise to the occasion.
The Head of School read a Liturgy for Students and gave each student leader an individual charge while their parents put the blazer on them.
As you wear your blazer we pray you will behold maturity and compassionate leadership, and be a shining example of the love of learning and the pursuit of excellence.
Be mindful not only of your studies, a joyful attitude, and a love of learning, but be also mindful of the needs of your peers, the student body, and even your teachers.
Respond with mercy to the failings of others.
Be a bearer of love and light and reconciliation;
Have patience to listen to others, and in humility learn from them.
Show compassion by considering their needs as your own.
Wear grace well in this place, remembering that you arrive here each day as an emissary of God’s Kingdom.
May the Kingdom of God be between you and every person here at The Classical Academy.
It has been 4 weeks of school so far and we are watching our student leaders rise to the occasion. We saw one of our high school gentlemen stand in front of the school community at dismissal, take appropriate control of the noise level, and express to the younger students the expectation of the dismissal process, and watched as over 100 younger students followed his leadership. We watch our student leaders stand and address adults and visitors who come into the classroom and watch the younger school community follow suit. We watch our student leaders open doors, look for ways to serve, and joyfully engage their teachers and peers. This is what it's about. You teach the younger generation how to approach life and the joy of learning by modeling and expecting.
It is a very different approach to tell your older students they must earn the spot of leader than it is to tell them, "You are the leader." When we place our students here as a Rite of Passage, we can more easily guide, nurture, and instruct what it is a leader does. It leaves their dignity intact as they learn to lead and as we teach them, rather than stripping their dignity by saying, "You can't have this position until you are good enough." More often than not, the students rise to the occasion in ways that surprise and encourage us.
A Liturgy for Students
(adapted from Every Moment Holy)
May you learn to love learning,
For the world is yours,
And all things in it speak
---each in their way--- of our Savior:
of His mind,
His unfolding purpose.
All knowledge is God’s knowledge.
All wisdom is God’s wisdom.
Therefore, as you apply yourselves to learning,
Be mindful that all created things
Are God’s creative expression, that all stories
Are held within His greater story,
And that all disciplines of order and design
Are a chasing after His thoughts--
So that greater mastery of these subjects
Will yield ever greater knowledge of the
Symmetry and wonder of His ways.
Along this journey, you have been blessed with teachers who are passionate
About the subjects they teach,
And with mentors who take joy
In awakening in you a fierce love for those
Parts of God’s creation and His story that they have already learned to love well.
If you apply yourself to those subjects
That you might at first find tedious,
Your efforts will be rewarded with new insights,
Fresh inspiration, small epiphanies,
And with the firm conviction that God
Is at work in your heart in all circumstances,
Not only broadening your knowledge,
But also shaping your heart by patience,
Endurance, and discipline
That you might mature to more fitly and humbly
Serve the purposes of God’s great kingdom.
As these students enter into leadership at The Classical Academy, we pray for a deepening knowledge of truth and finer discernment of the ideas they encounter in their studies.
Jesus, guard their minds always against error, and guard also their hearts against
The temptation to compare their own performance to the work of their peers,
And so to fall into either of the twin traps of shame or pride.
Grant them instead, that they might happily steward
What scholarly gifts you have apportioned them,
And that they might do so as means of preparing
Themselves for service to you and to others,
Grant them strength to live their identity drawn from your love and forgiveness, and not from their grades
Or accolades here.
Grant them discernment and wisdom,
Knowledge and understanding.
Lead them to truth and bless the labors of this new season.
Shape them for your service, Lord Jesus.
May they wear grace well in this place,
remembering that they arrive here each day as an emissary of your Kingdom.