By Kristina Cowan

Wow, that was fun!” my sixth-grader says as he darts from the doorway and bounds to my car. “What was fun?” I ask. I assume he’s referring to an exchange with his friends. “The school day, Mom. It was great. A lot of fun.” Middle school is many things. When I consider my journey through it, fun ranks low on the list of descriptors. But my son and his third-grade sister are in a school far different from those I knew in my K-12 years. Since kindergarten, they’ve been classical Christian students.

An Unwavering Commitment to Virtue and Character

Like a brilliant gem, the multi-faceted nature of a classical Christian education (CCE) snags the eye. You can’t look away. Once you’ve watched your children experience it for any length of time, your heart and mind are hooked. Among its hallmarks, a dedication to virtue stands out.

The leading definition for virtue is “moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.” Our teachers strive to live out virtues like courage, honesty, and kindness.

Mustering courage is challenging. In 2021, that’s truer than ever. My son is learning to have courage when he shares his beliefs, and to back them up with logical arguments. He’s also learning that, sooner or later, someone will disagree with him. Making room for these differences, and equipping kids with the courage to share them, distinguishes this form of education from other schools. They’re discovering what free speech really is, and how fundamental it is to pursuing the truth.

Winston Churchill wrote, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.” Strand Magazine, July 1931.

By upholding courage—and thereby free speech—our kids’ remarkable teachers pave the way for honesty, particularly intellectual honesty. Honesty breeds joy and kindness. When a child has the freedom to be honest in the classroom, it fills the learning process with joy. Joy-filled children, like adults, are more likely to be kind, and to recognize kindness. My son remarks regularly about how kind his teachers are. He, in turn, extends kindness to his classmates, and even to his sister.

When teachers work with us to train up our children in the ways we all want them to go, we know that once they’re adults, they won’t turn from these ways.

In the next issue: Part 2, History and Dying to Self.


Kristina Cowan’s third-grade daughter and sixth-grade son have been in CCE since kindergarten. They currently attend Naperville Christian Academy, in suburban Chicago, IL