Several years ago, Andrew Kern, president of The Circe Institute, a leading provider of resources, training, and information for classical Christian homeschoolers and school teachers, asked me what percentage of families at my former school “got” what we were trying to do. Before I even began to process the question, Andrew took the pressure off: “Let me just say that if it’s more than 20%, I’d be surprised.”
This was not because Andrew knew anything in particular about the families at that classical Christian school; he just knew families at lots of classical Christian schools. Because many parents (like myself) didn’t grow up with the same opportunities we seek to offer our kids at Petra, they often felt less than adequate in explaining their school decision to others, sometimes even lacking the categories for rightly evaluating it themselves.
This is not meant as a knock against parents, but it is meant as a call to equip ourselves to learn and love more the counter-cultural education in which we are participating with our students.
The struggle for like-mindedness between parent and school can be real. Authors Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans write in their book, Wisdom & Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning, that,
The best test of like-mindedness is a parent’s or an older student’s ability to talk about the ways in which the education that your school offers will shape the applicant. If the things that a dad says he hopes your school can do for his child reflect the school’s mission, then you have a like-minded family. If a family’s expectations for the outcome of their children’s education are different from or merely tangential to the school’s mission, look more closely. Doctrinal agreement may be a useful starting point, but it is no guarantee that any family will allow your teachers to influence their students in the ways that the school has said are most important.
As a transdenominational (as opposed to non-denominational) Christian school, Petra Academy enrolls families from 36 different churches across the Gallatin Valley and the theological spectrum, including (by way of our open enrollment policy) families who do not claim particular Christian faith, but are open to it being part of their child’s education.
Whether intentional or open concerning our spiritual faith claims, all parents who have enrolled students at Petra have made an educational claim of faith in our classical content and pedagogy. Thus, for our partnership to be successful, a review and renewal of our mission, methods, and motives is requisite for the long haul; otherwise (and unfortunately), doctrine too often becomes the excuse (mis)used to part ways down the road.
This review and renewal of our mission is the main emphasis of or our annual upcoming Parent Orientation. Whether your family is new or returning, could I ask you to make this evening a priority as you begin/continue your family’s journey with us this year? Sure, you’ll hear from me and members of our staff, but you’ll also meet and hear from other parents about why they’re at Petra and want to walk this path together, which is just as important!
(Note: Upper School and older Grammar students are welcome to attend Parent Orientation, but should do so as participants. Alternative arrangements for younger children should be made so parents may focus without distraction. Thank you for making this sacrifice.)