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.
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 offer this sermon on one of my favorite teacher flicks, Mr. Pip. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. Happy New Year! Yesterday was a special day in the liturgical calendar for it marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, the new year of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. It also happens to coincide with the beginning of the school year. No doubt by now all the students gathered here have had their first day of school in an academic year that will last until sometime next year in the late spring or early summer. So it is a good time for us to gather our strength, take stock of our supplies, and above all be thankful for the opportunities afforded us with a fresh start.
This morning’s Gospel of the vineyard parable features an interesting array of characters to study. The vineyard owner is Christ who provides every supply necessary for a successful operation before he travels to a far off country. He even performs some of the tasks the workers should have done themselves: he plants a vineyard, sets a hedge around it, digs a winepress in it and builds a tower to protect it, but the vine-dressers rather than thank him for it squander both their time and resources. Not only do they not do what they’re supposed to do, but they actively plot to take over control from the owner and murder his son! In short, they wish to benefit from the fruit of the vineyard without the work of cultivating it. Yet the owner comes back and the Gospel asks, “What do you think he will do to those workers?” Continue reading →
For my yearly Back-to-School post, I would like to reflect on our family’s love for out loud reading. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!
It is not enough to love good books. It is not even enough to promote literacy among our youth. For what good is literacy if our exercise of reading is confined to the private, self-contained world of silent reading. Reading, especially to children, should be an event, an out-loud occasion for bonding around a shared narrative. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
“I mean, like, with culturally relevant teaching…[?]…” her high-pitched voice droned, lilting upwards at the end of the phrase as if everything said was more of a question than a statement. Was she really that unsure of what she was saying or was it a habit learned from an academy which no longer believed truth to be something definitive? I was sitting through yet another required teacher training seminar wondering if I was the only one in the room more interested in the message than in these interminable lectures on teaching methods. Yet this particular post-modern drill sergeant took the message/method dichotomy a step further than I had ever heard it taken. She delivered a conclusion to her talk that can only make sense to a brain thoroughly washed in ideology and completely abandoned by common sense: “It doesn’t matter what we teach our students…[?] as long as we teach them with the right method.” Continue reading →
For our annual back-to-school post, I would like to highlight a new homeschool program we have joined that has brought back great memories for me of learning things by heart when I was a young man. Congratulations to all students on the commencement of a new academic year, and kali dynami or good strength to all in your studies!
Finish this verse: “Watch that wobble, see that wiggle…”
“Cool and fruity, jello brand gellatin…”
If you could complete this little ditty or many others like it without even thinking about it, you have become an unconscious evangelist for a marketing campaign. And if we are so good at unconscious proselytizing for products, could we not consciously put to memory songs and words which ennoble our souls and not just fatten our bodies? 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 →