This year as a school we have explored the theme, "This is My Story." What follows is a message I recently shared at a local church based on this theme.
When I think of the story of Sonrise I think of four different words.
I think of vision – Commitment - sacrifice and the word faith.
Our school was founded by the late Pastor David Gingrich who after attending a Christian conference returned with a vision for Christian Education in Prince Edward County. He was able to share his vision and invite others on the journey toward starting a Christian School. In September of 1986 the school opened at First Baptist Church here in Picton with 6 students in the first class. The vision for the potential of a Christ-filled education grew and within a couple of years the school had over 60 students and had outgrown being housed in the church. The initial vision of starting a school then grew to a vision of the school having its own building. Shortly after the current building on 58 Johnson Street was open.
This vision for Christian Education continues today. A vision to have a school where children are taught from a biblical worldview. A vision to have a school where teachers are committed Christians, who teach and lead with Godly wisdom and nurturing.
But the vision goes deeper and the vision is greater yet. It is a vision where Christian teachers are not only modeling Christ’s story but are inviting their students to be part of the story. It is a vision where we are helping students to understand who they are in Christ, and that they are image bearers and that God has come to do a restorative and beautiful work in their lives. It is a vision where students are not just taught about the stars but are encouraged to look at the stars through the awesomeness of God and the magnificence of his Creation and to look at the world around us and to see that all and everything is under his rule. It is a vision where students are encouraged to not just learn facts, but to grapple with facts and then to think about what is our Christian response, what is our response that is God honouring and leads to the building of His Kingdom work
Author James K. A. Smith in his book, You Are What You Love, sums up the vision of Christian education with the following quote.
“A Christian education can never be merely a mastery of a field of knowledge or technical skills; learning is embedded in a wider vision of who I am called to be and what God is calling the world to be.”
The effort it took to build a school leads me to my next two words as part of our school story - commitment and sacrifice. I believe these two words go hand in hand. The school was built by the commitment and sacrifice of many people. People who donated their time, people who donated supplies and people who donated their money. The words commitment and sacrifice however go beyond just the initial efforts in building our current facility.
For over 30 years teachers have made a commitment and sacrifice to teach in a Christian school. Lower salaries, less prep time and no pension are all part of sacrifices made. Every family that makes a decision to enroll their child/ren in our school are also making a commitment and sacrifice. There is a sacrifice of time and a sacrifice of finances.
So why? Why for over 30 years have so many people been willing to make a sacrifice for this school? The answer leads us to the fourth word of our story.
It is because of our faith. Teachers choose to teach at Sonrise because they not only have a passion for teaching, a passion for children, they have a passion for their faith and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Parents send their children to Sonrise because they desire to see their children in a God honouring school environment. They desire to have the faith and values taught at home to be also taught at school.
Yes, our school is about academics, but it is nothing without our faith.
I like to walk around the school and take pictures. Often not of students but of their work. The other day I stopped and took a look at the pictures I have taken over the past month. And through those pictures I see elements of our faith, and the fingerprints of God. I see growth in the spiritual maturity of our students. Through these pictures I see our school story and I see the difference of a Christ filled education.
This year as part of our spiritual focus, “This is My Story” our students on a weekly basis in our chapel time have heard other people’s stories. They have heard the story of missionaries like Charles Mully who was obedient to the calling of God on his life and gave up his wealth and riches to support the orphans and children in need in his region in Africa. Eric Liddell – who honoured God by saying he would not race the 100 metres on a Sunday at the 1924 Olympics in Paris and went on to run and win the 200 metres – entirely on the strength of God, and Gladys Aylward who persevered and did not give up through many obstacles in her life in her pursuit to evangelize the Chinese people. Our students have heard the stories of their teachers and they have heard the stories of pastors and other Christian leaders in our community. With each story the students are encouraged to make connections . How is God at work in the lives of his people? What are the connections we can make in each of these stories? Where have they seen God at work?
A couple of weeks ago, we had someone from our community share her story in chapel. Her childhood was challenging and not always easy. Her story and her testimony was a beautiful God moment in our school as one of our students finally did not feel alone in his life situation. For the first time he realized he was not alone, and that others have experienced his same losses, his challenges, his loneliness. The chapel speaker that week stayed and met with that student and is keeping in contact with him.
That is our school’s story – this is why we do what we do that is why so many people make sacrifices to see vision of Christian education fulfilled every day.
Let’s go back to that theme … This is my story
When most people hear the phrase, “This is my Story” they automatically starting singing the hymn written by Fanny Crosby “Blessed Assurance.”
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Perfect submission, all is at rest
This is my story, this is my song
I am not sure how much you know about Fanny Crosby. She is known to have written more than 8,000 hymns, some of which are among the most popular throughout all Christian denominations including two of my personal favourites All the Way my Saviour Leads Me, and To God be the Glory.
Writing that number of hymns is amazing on its own – the fact that she was blind makes this feat that much greater. And when you know her story that much greater still.
When Fanny was just 6 weeks old she became ill. Her family doctor was away and another traveling doctor came and prescribed a treatment, the family wanted to wait but this doctor insisted that treatment was necessary right away. Well that treatment resulted in Fanny becoming blind for the rest of her life. Some articles that I have read even state that the man wasn’t even a doctor but was just impersonating a doctor.
I think that most of us would have been angry, even potentially bitter if this would have happened to us. But Fanny had a totally different outlook. She once said, “ If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."
It is even recorded that once, one well- meaning preacher said to her, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you,"
Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?" "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior."
In spite of her blindness she praised her Saviour all the day long, and was able to write the words, “For I know whatever befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”
Would you have such hope and optimism in spite of having such a disability?
You may not have a physical disability but are there other challenges in your life that you are using as excuses that are holding you back from fully experiencing the fullness of God’s presence in your life? Are there personal weaknesses, or just pain and hurts from this world that are keeping you from fully accepting Christ as your Saviour, and receiving his love?
What is your story? How do the pages of your story read?
And maybe for most of you, or perhaps all of you, you can say that you have accepted Christ, that you are living the Christian faith and that God truly is the author and perfector of your faith.
Then the question I want to ask you today is who have you shared your story with recently? Who have you shared how God became real in your life? Who have you shared your personal struggles and how you experienced God’s presence in your hurt and pain? Who have you shared your testimony of what God has done and is doing in your life?
Your story – may be a story that can bring hope to someone who is questioning, struggling, or feeling discouraged.
Your story – may be the story that brings someone else to Christ.
I know for myself, I remember clearly the night when I was 14 years old in the basement of an old musty United Church when I first I said yes to God. I accepted Christ that night after watching the 1970 movie The Cross and the Switchblade – the story of David Wilkerson and his street ministry to drug addicts and gang members. I remember thinking that I wanted to know the God, that that man put so much faith and trust in that he was willing to take such risks.
Romans 8:28 says, “”That we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Your story . . . have you invited Christ to be a part of it? Have you allowed him to work for the good? Have you allowed your story to be used to reveal God’s glory to others?
Living by Faith
As principal it is always rewarding to see your students' beautiful work. I am pleased to share with you a devotional written by grade 7 student Emily Harvey. She wrote this devotional as a school assignment on how faith grows. This devotional was already featured in in the May 24th edition of the County Weekly News.
Consider this… Your life may be full of plans. Maybe some of them are planned out by parents, teachers, family, or friends. But what happens when something surprising or unpredicted happens? When you must face the unknown? Maybe then your future seems like a big question mark.
Let’s say on Saturday you planned a picnic with your friends. You were going to do all kinds of fun activities. When Saturday came, it rained, a lot. You may have waited to see if it would stop. Instead it ended up turning into a thunderstorm. You probably didn’t expect this, you checked the weather earlier in the week and it didn’t say it was going to rain. None of you saw it coming. It may be a small deal, but it’s still disappointing, right?
Living with everyday figured out would be a piece of cake but having no clue what is going to happen next, will leave you with faith. The future may be unknown, but God sure isn’t. So, don’t let an uncertain tomorrow, delete what your faith is in God, and what you know about him. God is powerful and in control. Don’t let anyone take that away.
You may not know what’s coming next in your journey, but you can be sure of God. Evidence of spiritual life living in you, is having a heart okay with uncertainties. Where there are uncertainties there will be faith, where there is faith you will surely find God.
Without a few mysterious surprises scattered here and there, your faith would be weak and useless. There would be no need of it and nowhere to test it. So, don’t freak out when your future is foggy, because the unknown will help make your faith become stronger when you look to God.
Without faith you would constantly be worried about tomorrow. You would also be using your time and energy to make all the unknowns, known.
God wouldn’t bring you to it if he wasn’t going to help you through it. So, accept the unknown! Because you can look to the one who is certain, powerful, and loving. Life will be an exciting adventure if you accept what will happen and put your trust and faith in God!
Kindergarten Hopes and Dreams
When I walk into our Kindergarten room recently I enter in with a new outlook. I no longer am just wearing my principal hat I am now walking in with my parent hat as well. My daughter will be entering Junior Kindergarten in the fall and like all parents I am starting to envision what my hopes and dreams are for my little one in her first years of schooling.
My hopes and dreams would be for my little one to thrive and flourish. I desire for her to thrive and flourish spiritually, academically, socially, and physically. I want her to play, learn, create, discover, sing, interact, dance, listen, laugh and giggle. I want her to jump into my arms at the end of the day ready to share everything that happened during her day.
I know as an experienced educator that thriving and flourishing can only happen in a place where a child knows the routines and feels secure and safe. When I am visiting our kindergarten class I do see a group of students who are confident and comfortable in their space. Through their morning meeting time each child is warmly greeted with eye contact, a smile and by name not only by their teacher but by every child in the room. What a welcome!
After a time of greeting the children are daily reminded of what kindness looks like and how to care for their friends and classmates. They are encouraged and pray together to have servant hearts and to not just care for themselves but to care for others and their classroom as well. They are learning how to live in community the way God has called us to live in community with each other. It is reassuring to know that the life lessons that I have already taught my little one in her preschool years are reinforced in school and valued as important.
It is a beautiful thing to hear the hallways echoing with the sound of our littlest ones singing, “God is so Good” in the morning. Yes, I want my little one to be part of that choir. I also hear the voices of our kindergarten students as they are learning Psalm 139 together. What an incredible passage of scripture to place in the hearts and minds of ones so young. I want my daughter to know she is fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator God who loves her and delights in her.
Yes, it is school and I want my little one to thrive academically as well. I watch (sometimes in awe) as our kindergarten students move from learning the names and sounds of letters to reading one vowel words by the end of junior kindergarten and two vowel words by the end of senior kindergarten. They explore phonics and early literacy development through instruction, games, activities, play and even sometimes a little book work. I see them exploring numbers together in multiple of ways. I challenge you to find as many ways to represent a number as these little mathematicians can.
At the top of the revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning is creativity. This classroom is full of creativity! The artwork is big, bold, beautiful and plentiful! Stickers, paint, bingo dabbers, feathers, pom-poms, glitter and more are readily available. These little 4 and 5 year olds are encouraged to explore with pictures and with words, they already have their first journal. Let the creativity soar!
I have the privilege of already knowing the #sonrisedifference before registering my daughter for her Junior Kindergarten year. If you have a little one at home starting Kindergarten in September I invite you to experience it for yourself by joining us for our Kindergarten Open House on Wednesday, April 25th from 9:15 to 11:45 am. Bring your little one and spend the morning with us participating in lessons, crafts, snacks, games, and play time (of course!), a full kindergarten morning.
Come and experience the difference a Christ-centred education can make for your family.
This article I originally wrote in February 2014 during the last winter Olympics. The message reminds the same.
I would never spend an afternoon watching snowboarding, luge, or the biathlon but somehow every four years it becomes an obsession and I can’t get enough. I have been wondering what it is about the Olympics that draws me and so many others in. I think beyond the races and the competition it is the story. It seems with every event and athlete there is a story to be told. And we love the stories. You don’t need to watch Olympic coverage for very long on television to know that television producers know that the story is important too. We are watching, waiting, and anticipating that inspiring moment.
When it comes to the Olympics there are many inspiring moments and stories through the years. On my list of many is Derek Redmond from the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Derek Redmond, a British athlete, was a medal hopeful competing in the 400 metres. He already had faced disappointment during the 1988 Olympics after suffering an injury to his Achilles. Therefore in 1992 he was determined to finish, and do his best during those Olympic Games. He successfully finished his first round race with the fastest time, ran his quarter final race and was competing in the semi-finals when 250 metres from the finish his hamstring snapped. In intense pain he still managed to get up and hobbled along determined to finish the race. His determination amidst his extreme pain is inspiring on its own, but what happened next is what truly makes the moment memorable. His father makes his way through the stands and onto the track. He fends off security not letting anything get in the way from him getting to his son. He puts his arm around his son’s waist; they embrace, and together finish the race.
The footage of this race has been used in advertising campaigns by the International Olympic Committee, Visa and Nike. It is a story of courage. It is a story of perseverance and determination. It is a story that mirrors what true love between a father and his son can be.
As a Christian, when I watch this video footage I see it as a beautiful illustration for each one of us. The Bible parallels our life on earth to an athlete running the race. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Perseverance, as I would describe it to my students is the ability to keep going in spite of difficulty. Derek Redmond modelled perseverance in his determination to finish the race. We need to live our lives with the same perseverance. When we go through life we are going to have our moments of struggle and pain. We may feel it is hopeless and that we cannot possibly go on. We may struggle on our feet trying to continue on, and it may seem that it is just too much. It is then that we need to remember that we are not running the race alone. God is there running beside us. The Bible promises us that God will never leave us nor forsake us. Just as Derek’s father overcame all obstacles to be with his son, and support him to the finish, God is right beside us ready to see us to the finish as well.
This is My Story –
Late last spring when the teachers selected this as the theme for this school year – we had no idea of the full potential and depth of this theme. Our original ideas was to have speakers during our chapels come who would be willing to share their story of how God was first revealed to them or how they have seen God at work in their lives. People young and old connect to a story – and we wanted our students to be able to connect to a story.
Then, as teachers we started seeing how this theme can become alive in our classrooms. Health class, reading class, drama class, Bible class all had opportunities to expand upon this theme. Just one example is the grade 6 – 8 class who are working on writing a biography of a resident of a local nursing home. After a series of interviews they are using the answers and conversations shared to write the resident’s story. In the process of planning and preparing for a project of that scope you realize the immense responsibility it is to be the storyteller of another person's story.
But as we go through this school year we don’t just want students to hear other people’s stories. We want them to be able to understand their own story, and to develop an understanding and have an appreciation for the stories of others in their classroom.
One of the goals and now initiatives we have had for our school this year is to bring what is known as Responsive classroom practices into our classes. Our school day now opens and closes with classroom meetings, a place for each child to be welcomed, to share and ultimately to be valued. As Jesus finds value in each child, we are striving to help students find value in each other as well.
Last week when the staff were away at professional development the theme that resonated with me throughout the three days in different seminars I attended was the importance of being known – and the difference between being known and noticed.
In our school I believe our students are not just noticed but known. We know their strengths and weaknesses. We know their interests and after school activities. We know what will make them smile and what will make them sad.
Not only are the students known to the teachers, but the teachers are known by the students. What a wonderful privilege we have in a Christian school to as teachers share our life story with our students. We can share moments in our lives, where God has been at work, we can share with our students when God has been present in our time of need or in our weaknesses. We can share where we see God at work, or our favourite and most meaningful Bible verses – and what God means to us.
Back to our theme - This is My Story – Now what is the story of Sonrise’s 31 years.
I think of the following words.
Faith – Sacrifice – Commitment – Loyalty - Passion
And when I think of the story of Sonrise – I see the faces of Sonrise.
I see the volunteers who out of their commitment to the school and their passion for God who have donated hundreds, thousands of hours to this ministry. Through the years volunteers who have been board members, committee members, volunteers who have taken care of lawn maintenance, snow removal, and overall school maintenance, classroom volunteers, parent drivers, hot lunch helpers, volunteers in our office, volunteers producing newsletters, working on technology, or spending hundreds of hours working at the school clothing sale, craft sales, E-waste days, or catering events. The list goes on and on.
I see the faces of many people who have been generous donators and have been willing to donate to the school financially. People, like many of you who freely and joyfully give.
I see the parents over the years who have made sacrifices to allow their child(ren) to have a Christian education. Parents, who have committed and invested far more than just their tuition dollars into the school.
The faces of Sonrise – I also see the staff – both teaching and support staff. Many who have sacrificed prep time, greater pay, and pension opportunities to be able to teach in a Christ-centred environment. I see these individuals who have a passion for teaching, a passion for learning and a passion for the Lord, come to work each day to serve Him. Many teachers have walked the halls of our school through the years, but they all have been invested in the work of Christian education.
Finally, I see the faces of all of the children who have attended the school, either for one day or for 10 years. Everyone's commitment comes out of a desire to see children learn in a positive Christ centred, God honouring learning environment.
These are the faces - the story of Sonrise – This is our story – but more importantly this has been God’s story. I have seen God at work in the lives of students, families and teachers. I have seen spiritual growth not just in students but in teachers and board members. I have seen God provide over and over and over again. I have many times called upon God in time of need in the school and seen Him work through and in the lives of his people.
Sonrise – this is our story. But, the story is not finished yet; there are many more empty pages yet to be written and many more pages to be filled as we look forward to what God has planned for the school.
One of my favourite magazines to read is Christian Early Education published through the Association of Christian Schools International. I love how it is designed -colourful and fun, but more importantly I love the articles and the value and importance they give to children. In September 2008 they published an edition about the relevance of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission to early education programs. Article after article they stressed their belief that children and young people need to be given high priority in receiving the message of the gospel. In their article, “It Takes a Team to Mold Disciples: Notes from a Playbook” authors Stephen Reel and Sara Jo Dillard write:
Interestingly, much of the focus on evangelism and discipleship in modern-day Christianity is toward reaching teenagers and young adults. Certainly there is a vast need in those age groups; however, the biblical foundations in teens are often weak or even absent, and the world’s influence already has a deep hold on their lives.
Christian schools have the awesome opportunity to disciple children and develop roots of faith at an early age. As a culture we know how early children respond to marketing and advertising – we need to reach them at the same age with the good news of the Gospel! After all it was Jesus who said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children” (Luke 18:16 NLT).
Sonrise partners with churches and families to provide children with a Christ-centred education on a daily basis and from an early age. I would like to encourage you to extend an invitation to any young families with kindergarten age children in your church, family and friends circles to attend our annual Kindergarten Open House. It is a great way to see our school, meet our teachers, and discover education with a difference. Our Kindergarten Day takes place on Wednesday, April 6th from 9:00 – 11:30. Food, crafts, learning and fun – the more the merrier!
Patience is a word that is often heard in my house these days. “Patience,” I hear my husband say to my 20 month old daughter as she impatiently waits for her snack to be prepared or as she tries to climb into the bath water before we can get her clothes off, “patience,” through a diaper change that in her world seems like an eternity and, “patience” waiting until Mommy or Daddy is home and ready to play with her again. Now, we recognize that toddlers have no sense of time and even less understanding of the concept of waiting. Asking her for patience is like trying to keep a colony of ants out of the honey jar. This can be an exasperating process and one that this is potentially futile in nature, but that doesn’t stop us from giving up.
Patience is a virtue that you often hear people praying for in their own lives. I am left to wonder if this is getting worse in our current fast paced lives. We are definitely a generation of individuals who do not like to wait. Recently, I was in a fast food restaurant that had installed kiosks to speed up the order process so that now you can submit your order without the apparent slowdown that comes from interacting with a human person behind a counter. This to me is ironically sad, that we can no longer wait the extra few minutes to interact with another human being. Our self-absorbed, consumer society has obliterated our need for waiting at all. We now have instant access to news, entertainment, and even public opinion without even having to stop while we stuff that now super-fast food burger down our throats. It is no wonder that in our so called advanced society we no longer seem to have any empathy for others or any understanding of the concept of making time for others, waiting for others or stopping long enough to really care about anyone other than ourselves.
When I think about this concept of patience, I am also reminded of what it must be like for God who has to constantly wait for us to find time for Him in our lives. We need to learn to lean more on God for strength and to be patient with God and his timing in our life. I think so often we pray and then become discouraged if we do not see an instant answer that gives us exactly what we want. The following quote is one I have come to appreciate, “Patience is trusting God to keep his promises in his perfect timing.” I am not sure on the origin of this quote, but for me it is an easy reminder of how my faith needs to be.
After becoming a first time mom after 20 years of marriage I think I know a little bit about patience in waiting upon God. I am confident that what carried my husband and I through those years of waiting was our faith and trust in God. There were days of sadness, days of doubt, yet overall those days were few as we moved forward trusting in God’s perfect plan and timing. Through those years of waiting I can now see God’s work in my heart and life. I am reminded of the verse in James which reads, “Consider it pure joy my brethren whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish it work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.”
My husband and I are now blessed every day and reminded on a daily basis of our God’s faithfulness. We may never understand God’s timing and why our wait was so long, but we are in awe and incredibly amazed how God blessed our patience with immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.
This September will be the start of my 21st year in Christian education. I have to admit that before I starting teaching in a Christian school I did not have a very positive perception of Christian education. All I knew is that when I was in high school the “Christian school kids” went on the same bus as I did. Then they had to transfer to another bus for a further 20 minute drive to school. It did not make sense to me that children would have to travel such a far distance to school, and then on top of that to a school in which their parents would have to pay extra for. Even though I was a Christian I had no understanding of the mission, vision or purpose of a Christian education.
My naïve and somewhat negative impression of Christian schools was compounded when a close friend of mine switched to a Christian high school in grade 10. Her marks and average went up 10 to 15% and I assumed that it meant that the school had poor academic standards. I never took into equation the possibility that smaller class sizes, committed and caring teachers, a positive Christian environment, a Christ-centred curriculum and time spent in prayer could have possibly contributed to her growth not only academically but I am sure spiritually as well.
I remember clearly my brother asking me when I was in teacher’s college if I wanted to teach in a Christian school or in the public system. I remember telling him very confidently that I felt my place was in the public system of education. Well, just a year later God had a different plan. When I graduated from teacher’s college ironically God provided me a job teaching grade 6 at a Christian school in Brantford, Ontario. Looking back, I accepted that teaching position without a true understanding of Christian education.
My principal at the time shared with me what changed her heart towards Christian schooling. She explained how she had spent one summer tutoring a high school girl in mathematics. Unfortunately, at the end of that summer, the girl took her own life, she had committed suicide. The principal came to the realization that she had put so much time and effort into helping this girl, simply learn her math, and had taken no time or energy building a relationship or even more importantly had taken no time to prepare her for eternity.
This was a turning point for my principal, and after this event she dedicated herself to the development of Christian education which she continues to do today in a leadership role. This story was also an eye opener for myself as well.
As an educator I want to fill my students with knowledge, but what good is that knowledge, if the students do not know that there is a Heavenly Father who created them and loves them, that He has a son who died on the cross for them, and that there is a gift of eternal life waiting for them.
Recently I have been reading the book Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson. In it he discusses the fact that a common question that parent receives is, “How are your children doing?” I am sure many of you as parents have been asked and answered that question many times over. Oh, there doing fine, thanks for asking, School is going well, close to straight A’s, or busy, busy, busy, they are involved in so many activities. If your children are older perhaps you have answered in a similar fashion to the answers the author suggests in the book, and I quote,
“ Johnny’s doing very well now. His career as a research physicist has really taken off. He is the youngest person in his company to have been appointed to the board. And Evelyn is doing very well too, she’s into computer programming and is already the head of her section.”
You see it is not often a parent answers the question, how are your children doing - in the context of their child’s spiritual journey. In the book Carson wonders if this lack of a spiritual response is a reflection of respecting privacy or as he phrases it a “warped perspective on priorities.” As parents and as a society are we most invested in our children’s academic and athletic successes and their social standing over their spiritual life or commitment to Christ? Are we most joyous over their success in work and material prosperity over their relationship with God?
As we celebrate and value these successes in our children, we need to be cautious not to do so at the risk of undervaluing the essentialness of their faith. If these are our values? We need to ask ourselves how will these values play out in our children’s lives years from now and into eternity. We need to truly think about what we are valuing and investing in today and prayerfully self-assess ourselves and our priorities. Are we truly seeking the Kingdom of God above all else?
Some may say or have the fear that Christian Schools spend too much time on Bible based activity, and not enough time on other academic subjects. But one is not at the expense of another. The goal of a Christian education is the development of a Christian perspective, or a Christian worldview, it is teaching all of our subjects but doing so from the perspective of God’s story. Then it is about inviting your students to be part of the story.
Author James K. A. Smith challenges I believe all of us with the following quote.
What if education ... is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires? What if we began by appreciating how education not only gets into our head but also (and more fundamentally) grabs us by the gut? What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions - our visions of 'the good life' - and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? ... What if education wasn't first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?”
I think that this quote is especially timely in today’s culture. We currently live in a time where information is available at our fingertips instantly through the internet, therefore there we are in a transition phase in education, and at a place where we are no longer just providing students with information but really challenging them with how to discern this information and with what to do with it, how to process it, and to think about how it impacts them and their lives and the lives of those around them.
I believe this connects back to the last line of Sonrise’s mission statement, which reads equipping students with the knowledge, skills and integrity of heart needed to make a difference in the world for the kingdom of God. Therefore, we do provide an education that focusses on the mind, but we also provide an education that focuses on the hands and most importantly the heart as well.
As a Christian educator, I love the following quote used by Teaching for Transformation schools, “Every unit is a divine opportunity to invite your students into a deeper relationship with God.”
That is what I love about Christian education. Every day really is a divine opportunity to invite students into a deeper relationship with God, and I think that is pretty amazing!.
Have you ever noticed the phenomena that when you learn a new word all of sudden that word seems to appear everywhere. This happens to me all the time. It always amazes me and gets me thinking about how much in this life I am missing because of my limited vocabulary. Recently, it is not a word, but a phrase that seems to be everywhere for me. It started in April when I was attending a ladies’ retreat and I heard the question, “Is God enough in your life?” Since that day I have heard that phrase or similar ones to that effect several times over. I was reading a book, which asked the same question, then I was reading an article where the author was sharing that she had just recently spoke at a conference by that title, and even the other morning I was listening to music when those words were repeated over and over again in the chorus. Is this a coincidence, phenomena or perhaps a break in the space-time continuum? Well, when I stop and seriously think about it, I realize that the more likely conclusion is that this is God’s still small voice speaking to my heart’s priorities.
With the question, “Is God enough in your life?” in the forefront of my mind I would love to say that my answer to that question would be a resounding, “Yes!” After all, I have been going to church weekly all my life, I made a personal decision to live for Jesus when I was fourteen, I have been in Christian ministry and now leadership for the past 20 years, of course my answer is, “Yes.” Yet, humbly and vulnerably I have to question myself again, is it really, yes? There are many things in my life that fully engage me and make me truly happy and perhaps even define me. I am left to ask myself, would I be completely satisfied in Jesus at this moment if I didn’t have some of those things?
Christian artist Kari Jobe has a song entitled Always Enough on her album Majestic released in 2014. When I read the words of this song, I see them not as a proclamation of my own faith (yet) but as an ongoing desire and prayer.
I will find my life in You
You're always enough
Let the fullness of Your love
Be all I need
All I need
Consume me, come like a fire, oh God
Reign in me
For You alone will satisfy
There is no other
If I have You, I have everything
But without You, I have nothing
Maybe you’re searching in your own life, trying to find satisfaction for your soul. I would like to challenge you to stop holding on to the things of this world, and to be willing to let go and let God in. If you are up for the challenge then I encourage you to begin praying like I have been praying lately, “Lord, may you always be enough in my life, may the fullness of your love, be all I need.”
I recently read a blog post by a young mom (Missy Dollahon) entitled, "I Donít Want My Children to be Happy.Ē Well, of course the title is bound to get anyoneís attention. I found myself reading anxiously to discover why this blog posting mom did not want her children to be happy. Was she having a bad day dealing with screaming, obstinate and disobedient children? Was she suffering from a lack of sleep and in desperate need of coffee before she sat down at her keyboard? Were her children hounding her for things she couldnít possibly afford and she had finally had enough?
A quick read through her blog and it is soon apparent that she is not a sadistic or crazed mom and that she has a point, a logical one, and one that we can all learn from. This busy mom of five kids from the Austin Texas area describes happiness this way. "Happiness is fleeting. That means it doesn't last. It's a quick feeling that comes from a funny movie or a heart shaped lollipop or a really good birthday present. It's great. I love to be happy. But happiness is a reaction that is based on our surroundings. And our surroundings are so very rarely under our control. Even, when - especially when - we think they are.Ē In contrast to happiness the most important thing that she lists she wants for her children is contentment.
Whereas happiness comes from our environment and surroundings our moment to moment interactions - contentment on the other hand comes from within. Happiness is fleeting and can come and go at a momentís notice but true contentment stays with you. Contentment is learning to live being thankful for what you do have instead of dwelling on what you donít have.
In the commercialized and market saturated society that we currently live in children and adults are bombarded with messages for the newest and greatest toys, electronics, and clothing. All marketed by flawless, always happy and smiling faces that continually send out a message of instant gratification and perhaps even ultimate happiness. These constant messages make the road to contentment extremely difficult. That is why we need to be deliberate in our own lives and within our families to develop a genuine heart for contentment. The more we are truly thankful and think about the things that we have the less likely we are to be discontented with what we donít have.
Ann Voscamp, a busy homeschooling mother of six and the author of the New York Times bestselling book One Thousand Gifts also recognizes the value of contentment and gratitude for her children. She writes, "When we give thanks, we gain joy. All of us. Because what will the math really matter if they are bitter? If the house is immaculate ó but my attitude a mess? If they can count ó but they donít know how to count all things as joy? If we get the lists done, but have lost happiness in Him? How can any grammar skill outweigh the fact they donít know the language of grace and thanks?Ē
The apostle Paul in the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verses 16 Ė 18 wrote, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Godís will for you in Christ JesusĒ So whatís your thought about true happiness? Perhaps the time has come for realizing that those flawless, always happy and smiling faces in todayís media will never really be able to sell you lasting satisfaction. Perhaps itís time to accept the truth that lasting contentment lies in the heart and comes from a mindset of thankfulness and not from a shiny new box or an exhausted credit card.
iPads Above and Beyond: Meeting the Needs of all Students Part 3 of 3
Every child is uniquely different and each student has unique learning needs and a unique style of learning. The use of the iPad in the classroom provides the teacher an advantage in helping to meet the learning needs of all students in his/her classroom.
Without any added expense utilizing the accessibility options in the settings options of the device will help teachers meet the needs of students with special needs. The great advantage to this is that the child with vision or hearing impairments for example no longer needs to be centred out with special devices and tools to meet their needs. Read aloud options and voice recognition apps assist students with learning disabilities to still be able to learn and complete their tasks independently.
The iPads also allow students multiple ways to be creative and to share their work and knowledge with others. No longer is a project completed in a booklet form or on a backboard only for a teacher audience. Students are no longer limited to written words to express their ideas. There are now choices and creative options. For example after reading a book students can post a book review for family and classmates to read using an app like Kidblog, create a commercial or trailer using iMovie, they can use Prezi or Keynote to make a presentation to share, word clouds and mind maps can easily being used as a character study, or to examine themes. In our media rich and social media culture providing these students with these creative options is another avenue of equipping them with potential skills they will eventually need in the workforce.
Finally, the iPads really do allow for ease of differentiated instruction. Students can be using the same app for reading or math but be working at their own pace without anyone else knowing except for the teacher the level of learning they are at. If students need help with a particular concept they can spend more time working on it and can easily access online videos and tutorial that may help explain it in a new or different way that clicks for them. I used to have a fear that if I moved an advanced student up and give them more advanced work that I would run out of work pages or lessons for them. This fear is now long gone with multiple of options available. Competition and instant feedback are found on many apps both of which are significant factors in helping students to stay on task and motivated.
The use of iPads in the classroom helps all students to learn, grow, and explore based on their own strengths, interests, and abilities. Students no longer have to fit in a one size fits all mold to be successful in school and that I believe is one of the greatest advantages of the use of technology advancements such as iPads in our schools and classrooms.
Benefits Above and Beyond the Students: Part 2 of 3
As administrator I have to worry about budgets, schedules, management and logistics. I also recognize my responsibility to be a good steward of the resources and equipment that our school has been blessed with. From that perspective the implementation of the iPads has definitely been a win/win situation.
From a time management perspective and making effective use of precious classroom time the iPads have the definite advantage. Prior to their use students were lined up, walked down the hallway to the computer lab at the opposite end of the school and would sit down waiting for their machines to boot up. This old way of doing things easily lost 5- 10 minutes of time in a typical 40 minute period. Students were forced to use the same machine every time to ensure they had access to their previously saved file. The computers were not always reliable (often buggy) and students would sometimes have to go a different machine meaning that they would be starting a previously started assignment from scratch. Those students who required extra time to complete a project would have to use the computer lab at lunch under teacher supervision to complete their assignment.
With the iPads the devices can stay in the back of the classroom so they are readily available. Students simply have to open the cover and they are ready to go. This easily allows for students to be working at different activities and different paces all at the same time. This efficiency and flexibility is a definite advantage for differentiated instruction and a multi-grade classroom.
Financially, when compared to the costs of having desk top machines the iPads are an affordable option. Not only are the devices more cost effective to purchase there is also ongoing savings in hydro expenses, and the expense of the multiple software licences that needed to be purchased in the past. They are many apps that are free to use and even the ones that come at a cost are reasonable compared to licensing and purchasing of software previously required. This is especially a cost saving since as a private school we did not have access to Ontario wide public education site and licenses for programs. Through the use of iBooks no longer is it necessary to order a class set of novels or textbooks. Recently looking at new text books options there was the choice between the $35 hardcover or the $10 e-book edition, the cost savings continues.
The efficiency, flexibility and cost effectiveness of the iPads definitely make them viable option for administrators making the decision for the best technology options for their school.