Of the making of books there is no end and much study wearies the body.
Another calm before the fall storm. My brilliant wife suggests squeezing at least one last trip to the beach in before the crazy fall schedule prohibits us. We go with the three youngest children and our baboushka (“little grandma” in Russian) to Old Silver Beach on Cape Cod, one of the few west facing beaches just over 1.5 hours from Boston. It’s like our back-to-school beach, as it works well to drive here on a mid-afternoon and stay until sundown. A last minute surplus from our local food pantry leaves us well supplied with road food and a picnic supper.
When I was a boy, my heroes were Christian missionaries who journeyed to primitive tribes in remote places on the globe, learned the language and culture of the locals, created an alphabet for that tribe, then translated the Scriptures into that newly discovered language. I thought perhaps someday God might call me to such a work, so I studied classical languages as a basis for all untranslated tongues. Though I never became a missionary of this type, the work of translating and communicating the Gospel to an unreached people continues to interest me.
I had my first full week of teaching this past week. After over six months of pandemic restrictions of various degrees, it was invigorating to see several classrooms full of eager faces, albeit masked and socially distant faces. Our family continues the same hybrid model of classroom and at-home education which now, strangely enough, has become almost the norm under COVID-19. As classical Christian educators, we continue with an ancient method of learning that has been baptized and re-contextualized in the light of divine revelation. It is the relationship between these two terms, classical and Christian, which I propose as my topic for this year’s back to school post.
For my yearly Back-to-School post, I would like to brag about our tradition of local libraries in America. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!
Just moved to Syracuse, NY with the family, and one of our first official acts was finding the local library and obtaining a card for borrowing. My children who are of age all proudly sport their own card in their private wallet. I am determined they have this long before they ever have cards for spending money.
It is amazing to me that in all the national discussion about reforming education, no one ever seems to include the local libraries. All this talk about testing and standards, but no one includes the place where literacy is the most treasured and guarded gift. Continue reading →
“I’m a Christian, so I don’t go to parties,” said a person to me recently. There was a time in my life I would have accepted such a judgment about parties without qualification. The theology behind the idea of canceling Christmas is partly to blame for this tepid approach to life. Indeed the Lord does give his peace to us not as the world gives with the implication that all worldly parties without Him will always fall short of the mark. But where does this trepidation towards partying in general and towards specific Christian feasts/parties mean for the life in Christ? How do we answer Scrooge’s argument to his jubilant nephew in our musical adaptation of Dicken’s classic Carol:
“The 25th of December from what I remember is no special day, just a date.”Continue reading →
For my yearly Back-to-School post, I would like to republish an article I wrote when I was just a young teacher. It is the first day today for my alma mater, St. Herman of Alaska Christian School, for whom I wrote this article almost 20 years ago. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!
Sunflowers, Autumn 1997
The Weapon of Discernment
by Aaron Friar
Instructor, Grades 3-8
Many parents have felt the wonder of the moment when their child was old enough to utter his first word. Perhaps, equal to excitement is the moment when he begins to read. He sounds out everything in his path All goes well until he decides to exercise his phonics skills on a supermarket tabloid. Words “scandal” and the easier monosyllable “sex” send his impressionable mind reeling as he asks parents a barrage of troubling questions.
In our age of free access to information, it is more important than ever to learn discernment of words. It is not enough for us to set our children free to roam aimlessly in the abyss of choices provided by almost every media imaginable; we must also give them the tools which will enable them to make wise choices. They do not just need to know how to read but what to read. And our greater task as Christian parents and teachers is to enable our children to discern the words they read and hear by the measuring stick of Christ. The world around them is more than what meets the eye or impresses the mind, and we must give them the mastery of words which is necessary to see a bigger and more truthful picture. Continue reading →
It’s rare that we cry through a film. Hollywood cheesiness has about as much effect on us as a doorbell on a deaf person. But when my wife and I saw this recent French film about a blind and deaf girl in the late nineteenth century, we could not help but weep for joy, sorrow, and deep, abiding Hope in the world to come. Continue reading →
Had our first day of school today in our newly created Home School dedicated to the Royal New-Martyred Family of Russia. It was glorious to be teaching in a classroom again, especially to my own dear children. It has been quite a long time since I have had such a pleasure, as I am by trade and calling a teacher and only secondarily a tour guide. I took a break from that calling several years ago so that I could have the energy to start a new family and to finish a seminary education. But now I am fully ready to get back into the fray, and this is so far a wonderful reintroduction for me, like the one described by another home schooler today.
The title of my post comes from a dearly loved college magazine I used to subscribe to as a young man called Campus Life. It was the caption of a memorable September issue which featured on the cover one of the most poignant scenes I have ever beheld. A single little boy in a yellow rain jacket, holding a tiny lunch pail boards a yellow school bus in a gentle, early morning autumn rain. Continue reading →
I once taught a history course in my former school entitled Traveling the World with the Apostles, in which we learned about the various and diverse cultures of the world through the perspective of the first Christian apostle to those cultures. While a lot has changed at the school since I taught there almost a decade ago, there is still a strong sense in the curriculum of the universality of the Christian faith and how Christ calls the whole world to new life in Him. In this season of the resurrection, the Church celebrates this universality by chanting the paschal (Easter) hymn in as many different languages as our local choirs can muster. Here is just a sample of that diversity: Continue reading →
When I first came to Boston several decades ago, I was a newly minted college grad sent on a mission to enlighten the world with my presumed wisdom. In fact, one of the ways I hoped to make my living teaching others with something I thought I knew well was through tap dancing. Growing up in a podunk town in the Midwest, I nevertheless somehow managed to receive instruction in the modern art and rose to a level I felt was proficient enough to make me a teacher. Do not presume to be teachers, my brethren, for the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. Continue reading →