It has been said that if you don’t love people, you can’t lead them. Preparing for what’s ahead always has precursors. When we set people up for success, it can cross a lot of boundaries. We can teach them healthy habits, we can model honorable character traits, we can show them valuable investments, and we can build up their esteem for themselves and others.
The book of Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Whether we are preparing them for college or next week’s soccer match, we engrain a message that says success happens when we are well equipped. At Petra Academy, one of the essentials that we prepare our students for is living in community. We model it at all stages of learning and engage our more experienced students to lead by example in fostering community.
Community is Built
Community is one of the most popular topics in our culture today. It is something that most people appreciate, though many never learn to cultivate it outside of the confines shared interest, life stage, or location. Teaching children how to build community is a basis for how they will learn to interact with the world around them.
Studies have shown that students who are taught aspects of relational engagement, through community, learn greater respect for authority, foster an ability to discuss differing perspectives toward a goal, and build a higher capacity for empathy toward their fellow humans. Classical schools tend to create communities of engaged students, fulfilled teachers, and parents who are highly involved in the cultivation of these things.
As parents, many times, we look at the influence of community more than the building blocks of it. This may come across as instructing our kids to hang out with other children we approve of, or the ones we know. But understanding the underlying elements of the community we cultivate will prepare them to grow into a person who values good things in their community: Good words, good friends, good habits, and good passions.
This is our goal at Petra Academy. We strive to foster community in and out of the classroom. We know that there are precursors to action, learning before understanding, and preparation before success. We look to develop engaged discussion while respecting the pursuit of truth and history, that affords a higher authority than opinion. We seek to cooperate, focusing on the broader impact we can make when we work together. We believe that if our school’s environment is motivating, supportive, and nurturing, we will cultivate the empathy needed to develop students who value those things as well.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in his book Life Together, “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” There is an interesting element to the modern engagement of community in the public sphere, where utopian ideals of “what it could be if…” fill the discussion space. But the abstract of community doesn’t teach children what it is or how to accomplish it as much as the intentional engagement of it does. As Bonhoeffer suggests, community is executed in a practical dynamic that engages those around them and extends care and affinity to them.
One of the ways we model this in our school is in the cooperative and engaged involvement of parents, teachers, and administrators in the education of each child. Classical schools understand their authority as delegated authority from the parents, so parental involvement and input is sought and treasured. The result is a community of teachers, students, and parents who care a lot about each other.
We use class size along with time and attention to cultivate connection. We use parent involvement through volunteerism, events, and teacher interaction to develop presence. We have administrators who know our children by name, by personality, and by their progress as students, modeling engaged accountability and respect for authority. At Petra, we don’t just dream of community; we intentionally engage it.
As a result, we find that our alumni end up with a concrete understanding of how to pursue healthy community as they grow, as they mature, and as they build their own families and friendships. As children, they see empathy and engagement modeled, and as adults, they carry those values into their approach to building community. They understand the importance of authority, accountability, and camaraderie. These are the building blocks of community that we encourage.
Life together is something we are immersed in at many stages of our lives, but knowing how to do it well sets us up for success, whatever we endeavor to do with our lives. We would love the opportunity to talk more about how you can be a part of our community. To schedule a tour, please visit us here. If you would like to find out more information, click here.
Petra Academy: Strong Minds, Soft Hearts, Rich Souls. Serving Bozeman since 1995.
Good parents want their children to grow up to be good people. They hold their hope for value in something that carries lasting fulfillment and makes an impact on their lives for the better. Challenging children to excel in their schooling, their hobbies, their sports activities, or their friendships are often the grounds where parents do this work.
In recent years, setting your kids up for success often has an opportunistic focus, centers on a career, imputes a social standing, or speaks to a particular level of happiness in their lives. Striving to build a construct of goodness in their lives can seem like an abstract goal, in light of other achievements. So how do some parents succeed at educating the whole person, as they raise their children?
At Petra, we see the potential that exists in each child. We know that a community of like-hearted people can work alongside the efforts of parents to cultivate these values of goodness in students. We partner with parents to see their children develop as a whole person, thinking, feeling, and building a life-outlook that helps them lead satisfying and purposeful lives. We achieve this community by pursuing a classical method of education, developing three pillars of learning, that become a platform for success for their future.
The Classical Difference
The classical method takes its name, “classical,” because its model of instruction dates back to the cultures of Greece and Rome. Throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Modern Era, the classical approach to education was normative. This method is developed through elementary and secondary schooling, focusing on these components of different disciplines of study:
- Foundational Facts – the language, grammar, and descriptions of things
- Relationship of the Parts – the logic, perception, and reasoning involved
- Expression – the articulation, speech, and rhetoric of the knowledge
These are ways of helping a student approach learning from a holistic method, developing thought disciplines as well as amassing knowledge. Before relatively recent times, these approaches have been reserved for university. But, the classical method has shown how successful this model, in a responsible and community-focused environment, can be with elementary and secondary students.
The results show that children who grow up using the classical method are not only well-prepared for college, but they grow up with a healthy perspective of the world around them and a sense of purpose and significance. They often see a more connected vision of the world and the extraordinary things within it. A majority of students come to realize their potentials academically, interpersonally, and intrapersonally.
Petra Academy is that kind of community. We strive to meet these kinds of goals with our students, our faculty, and the partnerships we forge with parents along the way. We look to grow value as well as knowledge so that the children in our care learn how to lead impactful, satisfying, and purposeful lives.
Petra is that type of unique education, steeped in values, balancing the needs of the whole student, partnering with parents, and bringing a classical approach to thoughtfully and communally engaging the next generation of local leaders and influencers in our world. We look to grow value as well as knowledge; we are that kind of community. Contact us today or schedule a tour to find out more.
Petra Academy: Strong Minds, Soft Hearts, Rich Souls. Serving Bozeman since 1995.
Why do our students need a secondary education at Petra Academy? When, where, and how does the investment of my Petra tuition bill pay off? How do I find a good bottle of wine for under $20? On Thursday, January 30th at 7:30 pm we’ll be discussing these and other questions at Black Bull’s brand new Bar 72 restaurant. A trained sommelier will be on hand to teach us the basics of wine selection and food pairing as we discuss the long-term benefits of Christian Classical Education at this interactive Vision event.
Our sommelier’s experience and insight will make your next dinner party a well-planned event or enhance a simple dinner at home. Our presentation and discussion will demonstrate the unique value of Christian Classical Education for developing the character of our children.
The cost for this event will be $15 per person and we ask that you RSVP by e-mailing email@example.com by Monday, January 27th.
Preview of Our Topic
Just last month, a study commissioned by the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) was released illustrating life outcomes from alumni of six different educational options. The study was conducted by the University of Notre Dame Sociology Department and Cardus, a Canadian think tank known for their thorough survey of educational outcomes. While there are caveats and cautions that will be available for discussion on the night of this event, the study definitively showed that Classical Christian Education has enormous positive effects on the life outcomes of its graduates.
Join us on January 30th to continue the conversation about how Petra can help affect :
- Character (this will be our primary focus on Jan 30th)
- Social Influence
- Spiritual Life
- Financial Behavior
- Independent Thinking
- College and Career Prep
Detailed charts and underlying data from the study will be available at the event, but here are brief summaries of three of those data points.
Return on Investment for Influence
Data from the Notre Dame/Cardus study suggests that the influence index was the strongest for ACCS graduates. Quoting directly from the study:
“This influence measure is made up of several factors. It measures the connection they have to influential people. A series of questions were asked about knowing CEO’s, politicians, local community leaders, etc. Another measure was volunteering. While ACCS alumni reported more volunteerism in general, they were much more likely to volunteer and lead outside of their church.
Much of the strength was in the unique attitudes and beliefs of ACCS alumni. ACCS alumni believe in public debate and that they have an obligation to address problems in our culture. They also seek jobs that will allow them to influence their communities and culture…”
Return on Investment for Spiritual Life
In the Christian Commitment and the Christian Lifestyle Indices, ACCS graduates scored nearly double their nearest educational alternative group (Evangelical Schools and Homeschool). The Christian Commitment Index reflects a person’s practices in their church and their involvement in church community. Things like church attendance, Bible studies, and volunteering combine with attitudes like their obligations to observe religious practices. The Christian Lifestyle Index indicates that ACCS grads talk about God in their home more, eat together more and pray together more than the other alternatives. 40% more of ACCS alumni accept the authority of the church and believe in an obligation to tithe. ACCS alumni have a lower divorce rate, a lower cohabitation rate and volunteer at a greater rate (with less emphasis on youth programs and more emphasis on programs for the poor/elderly).
Return on Investment for Independent Thinking
As we work together as a community to form strong minds, soft hearts and rich souls, nowhere is this more apparent than in the Independent Thinking Index. Using questions surrounding independent views, reading (both religious and non-religious books), science, willingness to disagree, willingness to accept differences but challenge, ACCS graduates again scored double their nearest alternative. The data shows that relationships do not influence the moral compass of ACCS alumni as they do with other groups. Here’s another quote from the study:
“When it comes to science, ACCS alumni are able to take the good from science without being swayed by scientific arguments which may undercut scripture. Classical education integrates Christ into every area of study, rather than separating religious study.”
Interestingly, other data in this survey show that ACCS alumni took more advanced science in high school and are also most likely to feel an obligation to care for the environment.
Our hope is that this preview generates some curiosity and some questions that we can discuss in a fantastic atmosphere as a community. We hope that it will help you think about the years to come for your students in a different light and that, as a result, you recognize the massive value provided in return for your investment.
We believe this world needs Petra Academy graduates living, working and raising their families here in our cherished Gallatin Valley, across our United States or around our world.
Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” is arguably one of the most important works of Western literature. According to a poll by the BBC, it is regarded as the most influential story of all time (as a Christian school, we can think of one better, but that’s another blog post).
The story of Odysseus’s journey home to Ithaca after the Greeks won the war against Troy, “The Odyssey” is a journey fraught with peril as Odysseus encounters the fearsome Cyclops, the six-headed monster Scylla, and is almost trapped for eternity by the sea nymph Calypso. Meanwhile, back home in Ithaca, Odysseus’ long suffering wife Penelope and son Telemachus attempt to fend off the advances of unruly suitors who are attempting to steal the throne.
Like Shakespeare’s plays, “The Odyssey” has been studied, analyzed, and adapted dozens of times because there is so much to unpack in the story. Two of the most notable adaptations are the 1922 modernist novel, Ulysses, by James Joyce and the Coen brothers’ 2000 film “O Brother Where Art Thou”.
“The Odyssey” is not just a cornerstone of Western literature; it is also an important part of our school’s 3rd and 7th grade reading curricula. Our third graders read The Children’s Homer, a version true to the original but geared toward younger readers, while our seventh grade students read the original and discuss parallels between Odysseus and Christ and the theme of a hero overcoming temptation and obstacles.
We want our students to learn about virtue from reading stories such as this in class, but more importantly, we want them to learn to embody those virtues. Often, however, students don’t always know what virtue looks like. This is where our drama program comes in.
As an extension of our classrooms, our drama program provides students an avenue to practice embodying a character, as they are challenged time and time again to figure out what the character is thinking and why they say or do what the script tells them to say or do. In doing this, students are given an opportunity to see what fidelity, loyalty, and honor look like, as they are all important character traits in the story.
When choosing our plays, I try to find stories that help cultivate a deeper love and appreciation not only for the stage, but also for the education our students are receiving and (hopefully) modeling what virtue looks like. Bringing a beloved story to life is always a daunting task – especially a story that is the literal definition of “epic”! To emphasize this story, we’ve chosen to use minimalist theatre techniques and movement to bring to life the locations and monsters Odysseus faces along his way.
For those who know and love the story of “The Odyssey,” this will be an opportunity to see the story in a whole new light. For those who are unfamiliar (or only half-remember) the story from high school, this will be a play you won’t soon forget.
Tickets for our three shows – Friday, November 8, at 7 p.m., Saturday, November 9, at 2 and 7 p.m. – are on sale now. Prepare to be swept away by “The Odyssey”!
In the Scripture, Jesus calls for confessions of our shortcomings, and in his own aptly named book, St. Augustine summarizes multiple iterations of familiar ones for us by way of his own life and writing.
I’m thankful that God’s grace and mercy are waiting for us when we confess, and because of this assurance, I have a particular confession I need to make. It is this:
After four years of living in Bozeman, I have never been through Yellowstone National Park.
I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t blame you. How could I? As someone who teaches “truth, goodness, and beauty” and leads your kids in singing hymns like “This Is My Father’s World,” how is it possible to live with myself?
The question is valid, and the honest answer is that it’s been difficult. I’ve rationalized (“I’m too busy”); I’ve made excuses (“There are too many people”); I’ve lived in fear (“I don’t want to end up on the news having died one of any number of unnatural deaths in Yellowstone”). I’m not trying to justify myself here, but I suppose that I am, and I’m sorry for that. Forgive me.
As part of a classical Christian school in Montana, you deserve a Headmaster who can speak firsthand of the glories of geysers and the mysteries of mudpots, of this strange and surreal place that God has carved out of His creation.
So, with Fall Break upon us later this week, I’m going through Yellowstone on Saturday. I’m shelving my self-important sense that someone might need me and letting go of my introvert inhibitions that paralyze my park intentions. Instead, I’m going to enjoy as much of God’s handiwork as I can with my family, as well as take plenty of pictures (but only from a safe and reasonable distance from wildlife and other natural phenomena).
These are my Fall Break plans, and I want you to know about them so you can hold me accountable. My wife and daughters (God bless them) are cautiously hopeful and looking forward to helping me take this big step. I confess I’m nervous, but it will be alright.
Who knows? Perhaps my step of faith might inspire you and your family to take one of your own?
Enjoy Fall Break.
As we begin our fourth week of our 24th school year, here’s an excerpt from a letter sent recently to long-time (17 years) Humanities teacher Gregg Valeriano.
The student who wrote the letter did not finish at Petra, but she didn’t leave until after her freshman year, during which she had Mr. Valeriano for Humanities 9. She wrote:
Dear Mr. V.,
I’m sure you aren’t expecting my letter, but it’s been waiting to be written ever since I left Petra Academy. I’m in college now, so I feel it’s a good time. I was in your class my freshman year. Ironically, my next three years of high school only felt like regression. I kept thinking back to your classes – how much I missed and felt like I needed them.
The time I spent in them opened my eyes in ways I cannot thank you enough for. I, a young woman, was confused with myself and the world. I was ignorant but felt like I knew everything. I held myself up as a logical person, and I never thought hard about anything. When I sat in that classroom, I felt like I was who God had made me to be. I was so inspired from your ideas and perspectives. I felt like the way you put things was simply brilliant…
There are things you taught me that I still know now: Clean Slate Theory; Nihilism; Psychological Egoistic Hedonism…[but] there are two that stuck with me the most: relativism and objectivism. I sound like I might be insane, but those two things are what make me who I am today. I am on a constant hunt to find the truth about everything. I’m always dividing things I see into truth or lie…
…Life is harsh on people like us, I think. It seems as if ignorance and discomfort are viciously protected in the high school setting and most communities. The people who try to open their eyes to new perspectives are dangerous. I hope to change it if I ever get a sliver of a chance; you have taught me that it is worth it.
I still regret not opening up to you back then. I think we could have had great conversations. However, I believe God is someone who can fill that void. Thank you for teaching me the way that you taught me, and [for] being the way that you are. It has changed me forever (in ways I find very hard to explain). I hope you and your family are healthy and I wish you the best in life.
This former student’s letter illustrates much of what goes on in our classical Christian classrooms. We’re grateful for teachers like Mr. V. teaching our students, as well as for your support of our school. Please pray for our students – present, past, and future – that God will use Petra to spur them on in “finding the truth about everything.”
Gregg Valeriano, Humanities Chair
Originally from Memphis, TN, Mr. Valeriano earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Literature from Northeastern Bible College, a Master of Arts in Theology from Wheaton College Graduate School, and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.
After a two-year stint teaching at L’Abri Fellowship in Huémoz, Switzerland, “Mr. V.” (as he is affectionately known) moved to Montana and eventually began teaching humanities and logic at Petra in 2003. He and his wife, Anya, have two daughters and a son, and his favorite literary/historical figures are Abdiel from Paradise Lost and Edmund Burke.
Now in our 24th year, Petra Academy is Montana’s oldest and Bozeman’s only five-day-a-week classical Christian school.
With 180 Pre-K through 12th grade students and 30 full- and part-time faculty and staff – all engaging on a scenic 20-acre campus on the ever-growing west side of town, Petra is uniquely positioned to help parents in the Gallatin Valley teach and reinforce to their students truth, beauty, and goodness.
One thing I tell our faculty and staff during Orientation is that our goal by the end of the time is to be 80% on the same page of what we need to know for the year.
I’m not trying to give us permission to slack; the reality is just that there’s only so much we can do without school beginning and students and parents being on campus with us.
Sometimes 80% has to be good enough.
This is especially true at the beginning of 2019-20 – our 24th school year – as there are plenty of new challenges facing us right off the bat:
– As you’ll discover (if you somehow haven’t already), Cottonwood Road is a mess thanks to the road-widening taking place, and none of us really knows how the construction will impact drop-off and pick-up. Will families be excessively late? Frustrated? Angry? Ask me on Friday and I’m sure I’ll know more.
– In addition to any immediate impact the construction might have, we’re unsure as to the long-term implications as well since learning that the city’s current plans do not include a left-turn lane into Petra from Cottonwood. We’ve met with city planners and suggested an alternative that would make a left-turn lane possible, as well as begun and encouraged Petra families to join us in a letter-writing campaign to the City Commissioners (I’m also attending their next meeting on Monday, September 9), but no one knows yet what access is going to look like yet.
– We have a new Portal system we’ve been working on since May, and while its launch to currently-enrolled families has largely been a success, there are still bugs we’re tracking down. As you might imagine, the jury’s still out as to how our school community will utilize this new technology, but we’re hopeful. (Friends and alumni of Petra who do not have students enrolled, we hope you’ll join up, as we plan to eventually run all communication through it.)
– This past spring, our Board of Directors decided it was time to start charging admission for junior varsity and varsity athletic events (we’ve done this for tournaments all the way down to 5th grade in the past, but weekly for regular season games will be new). We’re going to need a little more help on this (not to mention some adjustment to our plan with regard to the sports field venue), so we’ll see what happens on Friday, when we host Billings Christian on both our sports field and in our gym. (Note: we will have season passes available; details coming this week.)
– If you’ve followed along in the Board packets of the past few months, you may know that we have a few new policies and practices in place as well: to better facilitate student connection and relational courtesy, we’re asking students to stay off all electronics in the academic wings from 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m. unless expressly approved by a teacher; we’re also grouping Secondary locker assignments by house rather than by grade to continue helping our students to think of themselves and others as Petra community members rather than just as *fill-in-the-blank* graders.
– Schedules. Every student and faculty member has one, and while we think we have them all coordinated via the Portal and transition bells, as well as across all the classrooms and public space, the only way to know for sure is (you guessed it), to run through the day and week and take notes.
These are just a few of the areas I can think of, which, for better or worse, being on 80% of the same page on our first day is going to have to be enough. This is especially true for staff and families new to Petra (though let’s not assume that we who have been here for a while couldn’t benefit from giving and receiving some additional grace as well).
In thinking about starting the school year, a verse I’ve occasionally prayed for all of us is Ephesians 5:21: “Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
As we come together tomorrow, I hope this verse will describe our relationships – that we believe the best in one another, that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one another, and that we talk to and not about one another – not because we have to (though we do) if we have hope of this experiment working, but because this is what Jesus calls and empowers us to do.
Let’s be 100% for that!
(Note: If you have any good stories from our first day this year, please share them with me. And, of course, if there’s something you think I can do to make things better, let me know as well.)
I just finished one of the saddest books I’ve read in a while. The title is Educated, a memoir by a woman now in her early thirties named Tara Westover detailing her life growing up in eastern Idaho with little to no attention given to her (and her six siblings’) education.
Math, science, history, English grammar? She was taught nothing beyond basic money-counting and how to read. She had never heard of the Holocaust nor the Civil Rights movement. She was not aware of modern philosophers like Kant, Descartes, or Hume (let alone the ancients like Plato or Aristotle) and their influence on the world.
Saddest of all, her parents’ survivalist Mormon faith painted a portrait of God more consistent with her father’s temper than the loving-kindness (or “hesed” in Hebrew) that is the defining characteristic of the Christian God.
While there is some redemption to her story (got into Brigham Young University, earned a PhD from Cambridge, speaking at MSU’s convocation later this month), it is a lot to stomach, particularly as a father and as an educator. Tara’s story is not the way it’s supposed to be.
As we are just weeks away from another school year at Petra Academy, Educated reminds me of the importance of taking nothing for granted with our students. While I do not know any parents as against formal education as Tara’s were, let me encourage all of us to check ourselves and any subtle attitudes we might bring into a new school year. Some examples:
– I’ll be the first to confess I wish tuition was not something families had to deal with, but I’m glad for the teachers it enables to be in our classrooms.
– I wish we didn’t have to ask for Campus Work Day helpers or volunteers to drive for field trips and activities, but I’m glad for the facility and events we have that require them.
– Sure, it’d be nice to not worry about security every day, but I’m glad for the trust and confidence parents place in us that we won’t compromise safety for convenience.
Those are just a few “hassles” I find myself thinking of for which I’m also somehow thankful. Every parent has his or her own list, and you’re always welcome to send me your own versions as you come upon them across the year, but maybe offer a positive with a negative?
This school year, let’s work hard together to take nothing for granted at Petra. May our students see in and learn from us a genuine appreciation for each other and for the One making their education possible. All is gift (including even Cottonwood Road, the closure of which is a royal mess, but at least it’s keeping the big trailer trucks from making the west lane potholes worse)!
As we bid adieu to June and welcome July and the 243rd anniversary of American Independence, an anecdote comes to mind.
Perhaps you’ve heard of what Ben Franklin, upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, was asked as to what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Franklin’s pithy response captures plenty in its brevity, for while the formation of a democratic republic required the consent of the people then, it requires (present tense) the continued participation of its citizenry to keep it together now.
Last summer, I read the first volume of Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 collection of observations from the Frenchman’s visit to America. In it, he wrote:
“In my opinion, all the reasons which tend to maintain a democratic republic in the United States fall into three categories. The first is the peculiar and accidental position in which Providence has placed the Americans; the second comes from their laws; the third derives from their usages and customs.” (p. 323)
Indeed, as a nation, our republic has been granted much by God, not the least of which was the vision of those classically-educated Founders who rightly saw the need for good laws to govern it. It is from this foundation that we should seek independence in our usages and customs – not from what we don’t want to do, but for all our Creator does want us to do.
This freedom – this true independence – is a goal of classical Christian education, not only for our students, but also for our republic. May God so help us keep it, here and now.
Happy Independence Day!