Saturday, October 20, 2018

The "Why" of School Choice


Giving school tours to interested families is often a highlight for me. I appreciate that it helps me to see our school in a new way through their eyes. Talking with them makes me think about why we have a Christian School in East London.

It’s not because our academic program is superior to all others. We work hard to ensure we provide students with a diverse and robust student program at LCES delivered by qualified staff who use the best wisdom of our age, but we are aware that other schools also are capable of this.

It’s not because class sizes are smaller. We do enjoy small classes which produce excellent opportunities for learning with 20 students on average per room, however, numbers alone do not accurately forecast the success of a child in school.

It’s not because sin has parked itself on the street. Although we do enjoy an above average degree of harmony and unanimity here at LCES, we do face problems, conflict, and the results of poor choices.  We frame our response to them around the idea of forgiveness, restoration, and growth.

It’s not because it is easy. The long road of the oldest child starting JK or SK through to the youngest completing grade eight or beyond is full of challenges of all sorts– financial, social, and faith and more. For both students and parents, its a journey. And yet, in the words of a grandparent who shared their take with me, “there is no money I have spent in my lifetime with greater joy and satisfaction – both then as we participated and now as it bears fruit”

It’s because it is a package deal. Life at LCES is flurry of living and learning in grace. Having students at LCES makes them aware of the reality of a world affected by sin, but redeemed by the incredible love of God. It is the intertwining of faith and fact, wisdom and learning, knowing and doing. It is the daily presence of a teaching staff entirely committed and vocationally called to the craft of Christian teaching. They love each child and see them as God created them – talents, weaknesses, abilities, and passions included. It’s the preparation for our students to be salt and light – in their circles today, but also in their wider communities of tomorrow. It’s a vibrant community of believers, committed to a common goal and to each other. It’s a daily pattern of faithfulness that has implications into eternity. 

SJ

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An Unusual Thanksgiving: Trials and Faithfulness


If you do social media, and if your feed was anything like mine, the last week has been a steady stream of warm fuzzy Thanksgiving type posts. Family gatherings, food, pumpkin spice lattees, happy people smiling, and fall colours. A few even went so far as to name lists of what they were thankful for – all positive blessings like safety, food, health, relationships, and employment. These are all good things indeed worth praising and thanking our gracious Lord for.

One post stood out in particular because it was such a contrast from the others. A friend expressed his thanks for trials. I know this friend’s life story enough to fill in the blanks of what trials are being spoken of.  They are big picture trials of the vocation, health, and relationship kind.

Taking a lead from the story of Job in the Old Testament, this friend explained that true, deep, and abiding faith holds by the Lord’s faithfulness not only when the barns are full, friends are a plenty, and prime health is enjoyed. This deep, life sustaining faith holds fast even the lowest depths through which life can present. Job cried out “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15) This is the faith that is mostly highly valued since it keeps us in step with our Saviour and the hope of heaven.

Whether life is thick with prosperity or thin with adversity, we want our students (and our school!) to grow in faithfulness. I appreciated the reminder that both are formative and have the ability to draw us toward Christ in all we do and say. What a delight that we can frame our student’s learning with this truth in our Christian school.

SJ

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cultivating A Faithful Presence At Our Christian School

This phrase was a part of my life for three days of listening and reflection last week. Two hundred leaders from across Canada and twenty guests from Australia, Africa, and Central America gathered together for a biennial conference hosted by Christian Schools Canada in Ottawa.

The “how to” of being a faithful presence as a Christian School community, both for those within it and those relative strangers to it, is worth considering.  It starts with recognizing who we serve and the context they are in.We are living in what many authors are starting to call a Post-Christian era – an age of disillusionment, fear, and relativism.  Canadians seem to bounce between apathy and indifference all the way to other extremes of hatred and hostility toward ideas different than their own.  The middle ground seems to be fast disappearing.

Here are three statements that I captured that gave me pause to think about our school’s context and role:

We can engage the world with hope, or amplify disillusionment and despair already present.

God works through and on behalf of the most vulnerable.

Grief is the place for newness to be born. Hope has its first beginning in grief.

It has been a joy this morning to return to London Christian Elementary after being away. I appreciate the warmth I heard in teachers showing appreciation for their student’s good choices, the student pride shown in new understanding and beautiful work shared with me, patient service to others in need, a moment of vulnerability handled well by an older student, and an act of selfless giving that will benefit our students this year.

May our school continue be a place that cultivates hope, conquers fear, and treasures respect and love for neighbour.

SJ

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Humbleness Training At Our Christian School


Our school theme this year is challenging us to walk humbly (Micah 6:8). How do you enable a young child to understand what this could possibly mean?

A story comes to mind. My nephew, then less than two years old and youngest of three, was keen to follow the pattern of his older siblings in reciting a prayer spoken before a family meal. The prayer is:

“God is good, God is great
 Let us thank Him for our food.
By his hands, we are fed,
Thank-you Lord, for daily bread. Amen”

Unable to say or understand the words spoken by his siblings, his exuberant version went as follows:

God is great, God is great!
God is great, God is great!
God is great, God is great!
God is great, God is great! Amen!

That two year old is going to get married soon and has big dreams of working for God’s kingdom. It is obvious the seeds of faith have taken hold. Praise God for this!

So, how do you instruct children to walk humbly, seek justice, and show mercy? It starts with recognizing just how much we need the Lord, for daily bread and for salvation, and how enormous God’s blessings are – even in the small things. It strikes me that cultivating faithfulness begins with young children connecting with structures that gently, but deliberately, guide them to recognize that God made them, God loves them, and God knows them “by name.” (Isa. 43:1) What a rich blessing that those patterns of faithfulness in even the smallest of things can start at home and continue here at LCES. Praise God for Christian education; may it bear fruit in the lives of our children!

SJ

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Rainforest Vines and Our Connected Christian School


While teaching grade seven geography on God’s gifts of the rainforest, I recall learning with my students about a liana vines. They grow quickly and connect from tree to tree throughout the various canopy layers. When wind, rain, or storms come along they actually provide stability by becoming elastic like connections from one tree to the next. Animals and insects use them as highways to travel on, moving from tree to tree with ease. Life flourishes, in part, as result of the way these vines connect all things together.

Our Christian school is blessed to have many “liana vines” that keep us from being a tree on its own. While LCES is an independent school and operates as it owns independent organization, here are a few of the biggest “vines” that support us.

Edvance: Brand new this school year and formerly known as three different organizations (Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, Christian School Principals Association, and Christian Teachers Association), this newly minted organization represents a strong desire to see Christian Education continue to mature and flourish in Ontario. They help us with tracking student growth, organizing teacher professional development, and financial management. They also assist us with policy creation, being aware of provincial requirements for us, and will be advocating on our behalf at the provincial level with various government officials. (www.edvance.ca)

Edifide: This organization now has a more trimmed mandate of offering HR services to educators in terms of contract and salary details. (www.edifide.info)

Christian School Foundation: This organization is a more recent one in Ontario and was formed out of a desire to better manage small foundations that many Christian Schools had. Today more than 50 schools are connected to them as they help with organizing estate giving, structure bursaries, offering scholarships that promotes new enrollment, sponsoring professional development, and giving in ways that are more efficient to the donor and significant for the school. (www.christianschoolfoundation.ca)

Christian Schools International – Supports us with employee pension and benefits.

Christian Schools Canada – Connects all three regions of Canada together for mutual betterment around ideas like curriculum development, leadership, public advocacy, and more.  (www.christianschoolscanada.com)

Why Christian Schools? A great resource to have a conversation with someone brand new to idea of Christian Education. (www.whychristianschools.ca)

We’re thankful for these strong vines!

SJ

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Parenting and Responsibility In Our Christian School


I took a picture of this sign on a family camping trip this past summer. There is a touch of humour in the large ominous font, since it would seem that the message is implied and shouldn’t need to be stated. Of course they are our responsibility! We meet the weight of that responsibility every day. Their appetite causes them to eat us out of house and home, they go through clothing faster than we can find the next size, their choices bring us joy and frustration – sometimes immediately following each other. We have hundreds of pictures of moments when smiles of contentment make it seem all is well, but we also know clouds of deep worry, doubt, or even fear are part of being a parent. Parenting is anything but simple, easy, and guaranteed.

As a father, four times I have had the immense joy of receiving in my arms God’s gift of a fresh newborn wrapped up in a hospital blanket staring out at a wide new world. What precious moments those were! Deep longing had met deep love at the sight of a person so new and so beautiful. With toes and fingers all counted, life seemed wonderfully simple and absolute clarity was felt about what really mattered, and where to invest in their future. Lofty goals and dreams were easy to make, genuine as they were wrapped up in the moment. I always felt “…and God wants me to be in charge of all of this?”

Fast forward to the complexities of a school-aged child and what it takes to nurture, guide, inspire, admonish, instruct, and discipline. No preset path or child-specific owner’s manual was provided! The immensity of the task of parenting is daunting when we meet the unique nature of each individual child and the ever changing world they live in, even more so when we consider their future in it.

Parenting is no easy street, holy work that it is as we watch newborns becomes adults in twenty years. I’m grateful for Christian Education as one of the voices in our children’s lives, rounding out the efforts of a Christian home and Christian church. I continue to be delighted at seeing the impact that three can make together. May the Lord guide our efforts and lead our children through us, and sometimes in spite of us. 

SJ

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The House That God Built


Welcome to our “house”! At the front doors of our school in black granite you’ll find the words “God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4) What a joy to have that as our sure foundation for each school year! We hope you will find our house a place of growth, joy, discovery, and warmth this year.  

Our “house” has been a flurry of activity this summer. Painting, playground updates, HVAC repairs, and the delivery of new school furniture took place. Truckloads of gravel, mulch, and topsoil have added function to our yard. Teachers have created inviting places of learning and community. It was a joy to watch today as many of the classrooms continued that process of making a house a home as students were staking their claim with visual displays and classroom covenants.

A spirit of thanksgiving and praise has certainly been felt through the community with the launch of a new year and the return of familiar faces, as well as the abundance of new people to meet. 17 new local and international families will join us this year, with more still possible. Five new staff members are joining us this year, Ms. Bethel in the front office, Ms. Funes in JK, Ms. Versteeg in grade five, Mr. Kraal in grade seven, and Ms. Stalhbaum in French. Our welcome mat is going to get a workout!

New things bring change. While change can bring uncertainty, we certainly know we can count on God’s provision for all we need in our house.  We aim to be found faithful with how our household functions, even as we adapt and renew it yearly. May all who dwell here be richly blessed.

If you are one of the many new parents reading this Weekly News, welcome!  This weekly publication goes out electronically and is a great spot to read up on the happenings of our school. I encourage you to read and pray your way through it each week. Feel free to contact me at the school if you are in need of answers or details that you have not been able to find elsewhere. It’s going to be a fantastic year of “Seeking Justice, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly” Micah 6:8.  

SJ