Above: Veritas School, Richmond, VA
Goals for the First 100 Days of School
Within the first three months of school, there’s a good chance you’ll be called on to bring treats, monitor recess, help in the pickup line, or man concessions at the big game.
But just what kind of support can parents provide that makes the biggest difference? After serving thousands of parents and students in my career as a headmaster, and visiting dozens of classical Christian schools, here are my observations.
Those students whose families provided the right kind of support were almost always at the top of the class in character, responsibility, and often academics. So, I challenge parents to support their student at school in these five simple ways:
1. Find a good church where the whole family worships together and attend every week.
Deep teaching, sincere Christ-focused worship (as opposed to simply entertaining), and participation in Sunday school, catechism, or other family-oriented Bible training helps greatly. It’s best if the whole family worships during the service together. (Of course, nursery aged children may be an exception.) Over time, even though you may not think so, the rhythm of regular, weekly church attendance tells your children “Christ is important to us, just like He is at your school.”
Remember, Christ’s bride is the church, not the school. If your church has membership, JOIN! If you don’t think your church is deepening you spiritually, look around and find one that does.
Everything you do affects how your kids view the world. Church hopping says “church is just a Sunday theater experience, not a community.” You may not notice the difference in the short term. But over 10 years, I saw this make all the difference in the success of our graduates. Your tuition dollars will be amplified by this simple contribution.
2. Eat dinner together every night.
Establish small, simple traditions: for example, a bell to ring everyone to the table and a job rotation setting the table. Setting the table with all of the utensils may seem unnecessary on pizza night, but the habit forms a love of family in its own small way. Find a liturgy (a regular habit) in your prayer for the meal. For example, in our house I always say the prayer, but the kids each get a turn to thank God for at least one thing. It’s easy to let busyness disrupt normalcy in our homes. The correlation between intentional stability in the practices at home and steady kids is clear. If your schedule is too hectic with all the sports, music lessons, etc.—simplify.
3. Model a love of great things.
Parents who enroll their students in a classical school but shrug and say, “That stuff is too complicated for me; I’m a regular Joe,” send a mixed message. Be honest. If you don’t love Shakespeare, Dickens, or Milton, tell your kids you are working toward loving it. And show that you are.
Some tips: Have a family reading time where everyone sits in the family room and reads their book. (Any book, it doesn’t have to be a classic.) Simple. If someone wants to comment now and again, great. But silently reading together models a love of the right things. If Dad only reads the news on his iPad, his kids will absorb that value.
On the musical side, with an Amazon Echo and Prime, stations that play great top-100 classical, jazz, blues, and other genres are one voice command away. Ease makes it happen. Other technologies are probably equally good at this. Long-term exposure to great music over 10 years will change who your kids become because it will cultivate what they love. One family I know cultivated this love in their two sons. The oldest son, now at West Point, still admits, “Bach is my music.”
I’ve seen some single parent situations produce some of our best graduates. But, I have to be honest: Sound marriages generally correlate with sound children. When students go through tough times in 7th–10th grade, mom and dad, united and steady, provide the keel and anchor for the storms. Dad: Be the spiritual leader. Drive the family to get ready for church, lead the prayers, read scripture at the table. Get together with other dads for book clubs, or Bible studies. And, love your wife. God honors generationally, so your love for Him will be reflected in your kids. Mom: Establish a household that reflects the order, goodness, gentleness, and beauty of God.
5. Love the way Christ loves.
Remember, our Father encourages and chastens those whom He loves. Parents should, too. Demanding parents, balanced with grace, turn out the best kids. It’s hard these days. Every model we have says, “Turn them loose and encourage them.” “Chasten them” is not popular. The best families I encounter demand much of their kids, and they love them greatly.
I saw close relationships between fathers, sons, daughters, and mothers that were intimate and very loving. But, if that was matched with parents who let their kids make important decisions—too important for their age—then the students never reached their potential.
For example, if parents want to consider other educational options, that is within God’s calling. But students should not be contributing to that decision. The most successful graduates we’ve had would say, “My parents never really gave me a choice.” They would go on to say, “The classical Christian education I received fundamentally changed who I am.” (See our Alumni Profile on page 24.) Of course, each of these has probably been in a sermon you’ve heard. But my background is in the business world, often analyzing the correlations that make a product or service successful. Amplify your investment in classical Christian education. After 11 years of working with families and graduating many students, I believe these five principles are among the most important for nurturing students who love and
worship the Lord.