First year, first day, first class. We started it all off by gathering as families in a sanctuary. There’s nothing more symbolically appropriate than embarking on a new journey by first marking that first step with worship. The Doxology came first, a benediction for students & teachers came at the close, and some contemplation of good, true, beautiful things came in the middle.
As a type of convocation speech, this is what I shared for the families as a morning devotion on our inaugural co op day:
The first thing to orient our minds today is just a brief meditation or defense of Classical, Christian, catechistic education. And this is because that is what we are meeting at Paideia Studies to pursue.
In brief, Classical refers to the old paths of scholars who have gone before us—as opposed to the newer socialist method of education that has been promoted by government education over the last hundred and fifty years. Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” One of the main pillars of Classical education is its aim to equip the students to learn for themselves. So our aim here at co op is not to give you all the answers, or to teach you things to regurgitate onto tests. We aim to give you a love of learning and an atmosphere in which to have socratic, godly dialogue. By the end of even just this one school year, we long for you to have increased in knowledge, but also in understanding and wisdom. This education is not about mere information, but about the Christian life and the lordship of Christ over all things. Psalm 103:19 says “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.”
The term of Christian flows naturally from that, doesn’t it? And even our youngest students can probably tell us what it means. What does it mean to be a Christian? To belong to Christ, to bear His name, to believe in Jesus. So the education we pursue here together is a Christian education in that we acknowledge that everything about us belongs to Christ and ought to carry His banner. Romans 8 tells us that “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit… You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you… if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness… All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God… The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs.” Hopefully, you will find that everything we study here together will be approached and discussed in light of the Gospel, the Creator, and the Font of wisdom which is God. Again: we long for you to increase in knowledge, but also in understanding and wisdom. Why? Because this education is not about mere information, but about the Christian life and the lordship of Christ over all things because the Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.
The third term I would like to present to you is catechistic. Is anybody familiar with the word catechism? What does a catechism do? What is a catechism for? A catechism teaches by two means: question/answer and repetition. It is for the embracing of truth, the memorization of truth, and the embodiment of truth. But then the question arises: if we learn by repetition of questions and answers, is that overemphasizing mere parroted knowledge? I will answer that by reading you what Moses was commanded to tell the people of God. Deuteronomy 6:5-9, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” A few chapters later, Deuteronomy 11 lists off that same catechistic pattern. So that sounds pretty repetitive! There are certain things that God deeply wants etched permanently on the hearts of His children. And we desire to pursue this in imitation of God our Father.
Our ultimate prayer as Christian families gathering to pursue education together ought to echo the prayer of Christ in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
And ultimately the way we will seek to cultivate this in ourselves, our families, and our co op goes back to Proverbs 1. “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”
Lord God, your Spirit of wisdom fills the earth and teaches us your ways.
Look upon these students. Let them enjoy their learning and take delight in new discoveries. Help them to persevere in their studies and give them the desire to learn all things well.
Look upon these teachers. Let them strive to share their knowledge with gentle patience and endeavor always to bring the truth to eager minds.
Grant that students and teachers alike may follow Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life, for ever and ever. Amen.