Combating Privileged Elitism at TCS

Stack of One Hundred Dollar Bills Neil Anderson, Head of School

Last year at Closing Assembly, I felt a deep conviction to steadily and publicly acknowledge that any success we’ve had at TCS comes from God. I firmly believe this school is not a man-made endeavor. Any good that exists in us personally or institutionally comes from our Heavenly Father. The task at hand for all of us is this–in all our ways acknowledge Him.

I have been contemplating our school culture and asking if there are areas which might be hindrances to some of our ultimate goals and I have found my prayer life steadily drawn towards the issue of our wealth.

There are two things that I think we need to get on the table from the outset. I’m hoping for a high level of agreement on these: 1) We are rich; 2) As rich people, our children are spoiled. The spirit of this talk is not one of judgement, but rather humble self-reflection. Listen first to the words of Paul:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.–1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV)

For me, there is no room for debate—I think we are among “rich in the present age.” I don’t think I need to read you the statistics, as most of you have heard them. The American culture in general, and all the more the specific culture at TCS, is one of wealth and abundance. Since we are wealthy, I think most of you will agree with me that being spoiled is somewhat inescapable. We are inherently spoiled because of the culture in which we live. What do we do with this?

In regards to our wealth, I am concerned about stagnation and spoil. I’m concerned about the natural way that things ought to flow—in and out. The very nature of the word spoil has to do with goods unused. When we have an abundance that does not get used, that which is left over spoils. When our children are invested into and there is no outlet for that investment, they spoil. In our lives, where is the potential for spoil and stagnation? Where do life-giving streams become cesspools and sweet aromes become putrid smells? Input without outflow is grounds for spoiling.

The two issues of being rich and spoiled are significant hurdles in at least two of our four goals in the portrait of a TCS graduate. Our administrative team spent some time over the summer reflecting on our end goals. We summarize them this way:

By the grace of God, our graduates will…

  • be able to identify truth, goodness, and beauty and recognize Christ as the source
  • be able to skillfully apply the tools of learning (grammar, logic, rhetoric) to everyday life
  • be wise and virtuous
  • use their education selflessly to further Christ’s Kingdom.

Regarding the last two points, wealth is the major assailant. Wealth is the enemy of virtue in the Scriptures because wealth urges our attention and affection toward the kingdom of the world. So as we ponder this portrait of a TCS graduate, we must consider the effects of wealth and abundance. The biblical charge from Paul in 1 Timothy 6 is this: “Rich people, take heed. Since you are rich, you are admonished to:

  • Know and preach the uncertainty of riches (v. 17a).
  • Constantly point to God as the supplier and enjoy your wealth (v. 17b).
  • Work towards a kingdom “savings.” Store up good works (v. 18a).
  • Give from your abundance of wealth. Avoid stagnant pools (v. 18b).
  • Take hold of what is truly life (v. 19).”

The message that needs to emanate from us is that our abundance of food, clothes, toys, and material possessions is fleeting. Preach the uncertainty of your wealth. Tell your kids not to presume the same abundance will be available tomorrow. All of history is a testimony to this. We are to enjoy what we have, but do so in a way that is cognizant of the fact that God is the supplier. Our focus should be on increasing our wealth in the ways of heaven. Being rich in good works is being rich in heavenly ways (verse 18).  Let’s not neglect our eternal savings account.

There is a monetary cost for a TCS education. Our wealth affords the opportunity to get rich in the first two stages of the trivium—knowledge and understanding. Our wealth provides an opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding at TCS, but it does not buy wisdom. The rhetoric stage, where the outflow begins to surge, is a bit of a litmus. What are we doing with the outflow? Is there even an outflow? There is so much flowing into our children—do they have healthy habits of outflow which began in their grammar school years and continue throughout upper school?

Since we live in abundance, we need to take extra care to make sure there is an outlet for worship, giving, self-sacrifice, and self-denial for our children. We will be working to foster this on a corporate level and we encourage you to be working on it in your homes, to help them find outlets of worship. They can be investing and serving their siblings (older siblings even teaching younger ones some). They can use the arts to find creative ways to bless others. Don’t just teach them how to write a letter, teach them how to write a letter and fill it with content meant to bring joy and hope into someone else’s life. Basically, begin to work with your students on how they can be generous with their education.

I want  to loop this back to the talk at the beginning of the year about the hope of heaven. See verse 19: “Thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Paul is not saying to flee wealth. He is saying, “Figure out how to be rich in this present age.” Our children need to know material need. They need to know dependence. They need to know they don’t always get what they ask for. The point is not to be insecure or worried about our wealth, nor is it to hesitate in providing abundantly for our children. But we do need to stay awake to the biblical warnings that material wealth is often destructive. We need to equip our children to be ready to cling to Jesus, no matter the circumstances.

Eternity has already begun—do we really believe that life in him is real and everlasting? Are we harnessing what is truly life? My hope is that we, who are materially wealthy, will be rich in heart and rich in the ways of heaven. Take hold NOW of that which is truly life, this eternal, priceless life thread initiated in you by the Holy Spirit.

A Life of Education

By Jasmine B., Logic School teacher

I stood in front of a father and his two uniformed children at the grocery store the other day, eavesdropping. 

“Nine times two is?”


“Twelve times three is?”

“Twenty four?”

“Say what now?”

The kids laughed, but Dad looked pretty serious. “Thirty-six,” his son said, and Dad immediately cracked a smile. “No more B’s on our math tests.”

This dad understood that his responsibility to help his son learn math couldn’t be completely abdicated to whatever school they were enrolled in. He was taking an active part in getting those math facts into his kid’s head. And it didn’t just take place at his desk at school or at the kitchen table at home, but in the grocery store checkout.  

And that poor kid’s eye roll resonated deeply with the childhood “me.” 

Education as Part of Life 

As a homeschool graduate, the scene looked familiar. 

Growing up, we did school all year round, taking breaks whenever family vacations or burnout presented themselves. We didn’t have a set time to finish school each day, sometimes finishing at noon, sometimes taking long breaks during the day and finishing after dinner. And, speaking of dinner, our conversations could range anywhere from why mathematics is important for believers to conquer (there are very few math lovers at my house) to why George Orwell is just a much better dystopian author than Aldous Huxley (my brother and I could never agree). 

For us, education wasn’t just something that happened at school time. All of life was full of opportunities for discovery and illustration. We weren’t antisocial eggheads by any stretch of the imagination, but our thirst for learning was stoked by realizing that learning wasn’t just something that we did from eight to three every day—it was the active worship of our Lord. 

Education as an Act of Worship

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” –Deuteronomy 6:4-9

As the Israelites stand on the verge of walking into the Promised Land, Moses speaks the commandment given him directly from the Lord: love him with all of your heart, teach his ways diligently to your children, and never let up. 

Now, true, this passage says nothing about drilling math facts while you’re buying produce. But throughout the ages the Lord has made himself apparent in a redemptive plan that has been ever-unfolding, a plan that has been revealed to us through the years, a plan that we interpret through his Word. 

And as the plan has unfurled, great mind after great mind has interacted with thought after thought. The act of educating ourselves about these thoughts not only enables us to gain deeper insight into truth, but to articulate that truth with a confidence all our own. And the greatest thinkers have always known: this discovery does not take place in a box. 

Education as a Lifestyle

The concept of education as a lifestyle may be hard to impress upon a middle schooler rolling his eyes in the grocery store checkout. And the concept of education as a lifestyle isn’t always rooted in the gospel. 

But when it is, something beautiful happens:

Education becomes less about not getting a B on the math test and more about viewing math as a vessel for God’s glory. It becomes less about winning an argument and more about relating to others in a meaningful, challenging way that points them to truth, goodness, and beauty. It becomes a passion, a fire lit by educators who want more for their students than empty, heartless repetition eight hours a day. 

This is my goal in the classroom because this was my parents’ goal at home. And abroad. And in the car. And during soccer practice. And in the grocery checkout. 

I hope I never stop learning, never stop growing in a curiosity that is rooted in a desire to know more about the world the Lord has given us, and to become more adept at communicating those truths to others. I hope that for my students, and I hope that for their parents. 

I might have balked, mouth wide open, during those summer days of homeschooling if you told me that I’d end up spending my days in a classroom. But the older I got, the more that balking gave way to the fact that being involved in education as an adult was just inevitable for me, because education is such an inextricable part of my life and my walk. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Annual Pep Talk

By Neil Anderson, Head of School 

It is time for our beginning of year pep talk. I know you need it, so don’t resist. I refuse to begin until you take a deep breath, smile, and say out loud “I am not crazy for doing this.” Well, in fact, you are a bit crazy, but that’s what makes it good.

Now, a few reminders:

1. Be painfully patient. You must give things at least through the first quarter to feel like you have completely found a rhythm. It’s fine to talk through your struggles early with faculty and friends, just don’t gauge your ability to “do this” by what you are experiencing now. Be patient and wait. Your homeschool days will get significantly easier. I have spoken with several veteran families and the struggle is the same for them as they encounter the new territory that comes with students entering higher grades and getting reorganized for a new school year. Be painfully patient.

2. Be joyfully frustrated. Don’t get mad at me, I know this is easier said than done. We talked a lot last year about being an educational community marked by joy. This will not be accomplished if we let our frustrations rob our joy. I do believe there is a way to struggle and to chip away at problems without it being strenuous and joyless. In Pauline fashion, we will “consider it pure joy” when our homeschool days are absolutely killing us. We consider it joy because we are Christians which means that all of life is to be marked by hope and joy, even when life stinks. This is the glorious paradox of the Christian faith, that we can struggle with hope, laugh while we throw our hands in the air, and smile in the midst of sadness. We must refuse to forget that the kingdom of God is at hand. A mind set on the kingdom of this world will be absorbed in futility, but the mind set on the kingdom of God will find life and peace in all things.

It is very dangerous to say something funny while arguing with my wife, but sometimes it is just what is needed. It cuts the tension. It pulls us out of this tight box we have squeezed ourselves into and reminds us that minor things have become major things and it should not be so. So when you work out frustrations, please, wait to do so until you have sought perspective from the Lord. Wait for joy to be restored, and then lets figure some things out together.

3. Be an imperfect perfectionist. I do some homeschool days myself so I understand, you just want to get it right and sometimes you don’t feel like you can. Sometimes you need a little bit more information, sometimes there is a typo in the lesson plans, sometimes you forget where to find what you need, etc. So you get stuck or you have that unsatisfied feeling that you are there, ready to do things perfectly with your students, but you are unsure if you are doing it the way the teacher wants. This absorbs time and makes your schooling feel less than fluid, which in turn can make you feel like your student is not getting what he/she needs. What I mean by an imperfect perfectionist is that you should certainly strive to get it right, but also be willing to fall short without obsessing. This means that while you work at the most fluid and seamless homeschool day possible, be at peace with the days that are not so. Be at peace with not having it quite right yet. This is a basic principle for life. We want it right and want it right now.

I couldn’t sleep at night because our carpool line, with the increase in students, was taking too long and it was chaotic despite our time investment planning. We’re shaving more minutes off the line each day now and it is not chaotic anymore. The obsessing was futile. For homeschooling, this issue is connected to the unavoidable tensions between true learning and grades. Grades are necessary for objective measurement, but they are also a huge distraction in education because so often we obsess over getting it right at the expense of using our instincts to focus on true learning. Sometimes it’s more important to let go of your focus on doing exactly what is supposed to be done, take control, and focus on learning the objectives in front of you based on common sense, as you would if you were homeschooling on your own.

4. On long school days and heavy workload. We have a steady stream of feedback regarding workload and length of homeschool days. This feedback generally spans both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, though it is weighted at the beginning of the year towards “this is so much work.” We do not pretend to believe that we have the workload just perfect, but we are confident that the current load is good. We have told you the target times your students should be working at home, but there are just too many variables to expect the time limit to be normalized for everyone. The main encouragement I want to give you is not to despise long school days. Especially in upper school, the homework concept is grafted in to what we do so it is not unusual to be working in the evening at times. Embrace long days. Your attitude will make all the difference. I realize it can feel like your student might be burning out at times which we do want to be cautious about. But the endurance gained by students on the longer days will be most valuable for them in the future.

The Lord is doing a good work among us and as with any endeavor with humans beings, there will be strain. Let’s strain with joy, be gracious with each other, and model the lives we are calling our students to live. If this isn’t fun, we’re doing something wrong! We are praying that Jesus Christ will reign in your homes, bringing life, joy, and good fruit.

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for reward
Save that of knowing I am doing your will.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

From the Desk of Mrs. Anderson…

by Marian Anderson, Pre-Grammar Academic Director

At the end of every school year, I start a mental yearly review and summer planning list. I know all the different aspects of this model of schooling and what it takes to get my four kids out the door, ready and in proper uniform, on the first day of school. I know what it takes for me to feel ready for that first home day. I know that it will require many hours spent ordering, shopping, checking lists, and organizing. So come mid-May, I start my mental list of what to do better than the previous year. Order early. Wait for this or that particular sale. Label books as they come in. Yes, rolling backpacks are expensive… and so on.

Our family moved this summer, so things have been a little off kilter. I ordered uniforms in May, patted myself on the back, and resumed all other school related preparations in late July. But no matter what, if I am super organized or barely scraping by, I have this one moment every summer. When the books arrive, and most of the supplies are purchased, and I look at the piles and piles of books and teacher manuals–I always feel completely overwhelmed. I laugh at my mental checklist and begin to consider unschooling.

This year, thankfully, that predictable moment came right before teacher training. Immediately after I battled those thoughts, (I cannot do this, let’s hire a tutor, whose idea was this to begin with, let’s move to Africa) I had the privilege of spending the week in training with our faculty and staff. We spent the week discussing why we are a Christ-centered, Classical, and Collaborative-style school. Why? What does it mean to be these things? I sat and listened to their hearts, to their passions, and the reasons why they are a part of Trinity. And that is what I want to tell you about today, not from a teacher/administrator perspective, but from a mom’s perspective.

One of the points that we came back to over and over throughout the week is that what makes our school Christ-centered is Christians–people who love Jesus and His purposes on the earth. As a mom, I want my children to know math and science and history, but most of all I want them to love Jesus. I want the people in their lives who are influencing them and discipling them to truly love our Savior. And I want their education to be fueled by the desire to know our Creator. I am thankful that the Lord has assembled a faculty at TCS that loves HIm, seeks Him, and desires to make Him known.

This alone flooded my heart with peace. Books will come late and pages will be missing. Water bottles will be lost and expensive rolling backpacks broken. But as the new year begins, I hope that this will serve as a reminder that those things are not the center of our children’s education. TCS strives to make Christ the center in all things, from pencils to philosophy. The administration and board have prayed about and sought counsel on everything, from curriculum to scheduling. Those things are important and vital to the life of our school. But as a mom, I am so thankful that my kids will spend Mondays and Wednesdays with teachers who love Jesus, and love them.

Acquiring Good Taste–Practical Steps

pretty tea cup

by Dr. Lindsey Scholl, Logic School Coordinator

In the last blog post, we discussed the importance of acquiring a taste for the true, the good, and the beautiful for ourselves and not just for our children.  This is important not just because we want to be good models for our children, but because we ourselves are individual children of God; having a healthy intellectual life should therefore be our joyful pursuit, whether we have children or not.

All of this sounds nice in theory, but how do we practice it?  As Yogi Berra has said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”  There are many ways to approach a godly life of intellect.  For this post,  I offer what I consider to be three foundational practices that will aid us in practice and not just in theory.

The first step to acquiring a taste for what is true, good, beautiful, and possibly daunting is attitude.  We must prayerfully adjust our attitudes from “I can’t do it and I don’t want to do it” to “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”   None of us should attempt to read intimidating books, tackle foreign languages, or learn trigonometry in our own power.  We are believers in Christ.  We have emptied ourselves of our own power and we have been filled by Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden!

Sometimes I think that a believer who tries to do something in her own power is in a worse state than a non-believer who attempts the same.  We have already signed over our rights to Christ.  Therefore, whatever small strength we may have had is gone, subsumed into the magnificent, unstoppable power of God.   Bible verses pile all over each other to prove this point, but here is one: 1 Cor. 6:19 states that you are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God with your body (and your mind).

Your attitude and my attitude should be the attitude of Christ Jesus, and Jesus had the unruffled confidence, the steady assurance, the joyful yet impressive work ethic of a conqueror.  As Romans 8:37 says, “we have become more than conquerors through Christ.”

A real-life inspiration for what we can accomplish through God’s help is Cheryl Lowe.  If you are a TCS parent you may recognize that name, since it’s written across the bottom of your Latin books and many other pieces of curriculum.  Cheryl Lowe was a public school teacher who became a homeschool mom, who became dissatisfied with the Latin options for kids.  So she wrote her own curriculum.  Then she founded a publishing press.  Then she founded a school.  Cheryl Lowe has the attitude of a conqueror.

The first step to a healthy intellectual life, then, is to modify your attitude into one of dependence on God, yet utter confidence that he will strengthen you for every good work.  Academically, this good work may be simply pronouncing an unfamiliar term, it may be reading an ancient classic in translation, or it may be it may be learning calculus.  God’s strength is enough for all of the above, and plenty more.

The second step is awareness of the situation in which God has placed you.  When you have young ones running around the home, it is highly unlikely that you’re going to tackle a 900-page book with success.  We have to be realistic.  To start a major intellectual project when you have twenty minutes a week to carry it out might lead to frustration.

You have the option of carrying that “with Christ I can do this” attitude into what your child is learning and learn along with them.  Recite things with them.  Get stronger academically with them.  If while going through the process you can say you have learned a large portion of what your child has learned, then you’ve just received something more valuable than a college education.  If you have a student in the upper grades, read their literature books along with them.  If you have a student in the lower grades, and they’re researching, for example, the state of Ohio, find adult parallels to what they’re learning.  That way, you will become an expert on Ohio–a rare find in Texas–and also be able to supplement your child’s learning.

Your intellectual growth does not have to be a different project than your child’s.  The chances are great that you will not have time to study the constellations if your student is studying the parts of a plant.  It is okay, even desirable, to merge your subject of study with what your student is studying.

The third step of practicality is to learn with your inclinations, but stretch your inclinations.  Not all of us are Lord of the Ring fans, and not all of us are math wizards.  Learn in the areas that interest you, but be willing to stretch that circle bit by bit into other areas.  Is it possible for you to develop a taste for Ernest Hemingway when all you have read is C.S. Lewis?  Yes.  Is it possible for you to take interest in the working of a cell when what you really want to be doing is eating humus and exercising?  Of course.  I may never be a mathematician, but how wonderful it would be if I could learn enough math to apply it to the subjects that are close to my heart?

I mentioned earlier that drinking tea is a respite for me now, whereas at one point in my life it was a chore.  The same applies to learning.  One of these days, you might find that a Jane Austen novel or gazing at the stars and knowing their patterns is a desirable experience that refreshes you.  You’ll be drawn toward those experiences, you’ll thirst for them, because you’ve made it a priority to acquire a taste for them.

Note: A great resource to start you on your lifelong journey of education is The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, by Susan Wise Bauer. This books offers suggestions on how to read various literary genres.

Why Latin? The Short Tale of Two Historians

by Dr. Lindsey Scholl, TCS Logic School Coordinator

There have been many, many articles published recently on why the study of Latin will help your children’s thinking, improve their SAT scores, provide them with an expansive vocabulary, and generally help them to understand—or even improve—Western Civilization as we know it.

It’s all true. Latin is invaluable as a learning tool; it not only expands our own minds, but it opens doors to almost every discipline in which your child may be interested, from music to chemistry, from engineering to theology.

Today, however, I will only recommend those articles and not try to rewrite them. Today I want to share a personal story about the learning of Latin—or rather, the lack thereof.

My PhD is in Roman history, and in order to be a historian of any salt, I had to know Latin. Yet I did not take my first Latin class until I began my Master’s program, not because I didn’t want to take it earlier, but because Latin was not offered in either my high school or my undergraduate program. As a result, though my PhD concerns the culture that produced Latin, I often felt behind in the language. Many other graduate students felt the same; they loved history, but were frustratingly barred from a full understanding by a lack of background in Latin. Some struggled to complete their degree because of this.

My husband, on the other hand, began studying Latin in third grade. He is also a historian, although in Medieval History, where Latin is critical. While he didn’t particularly enjoy Latin class as a child, he’s grateful for it now. During the course of our degrees, I would have to resort to a dictionary, while he, with paradigms lodged firmly in his head, picked out the accusative and the nominative with blinding speed, and had the sentence halfway translated before I was out of the starting gate.

As Cheryl Lowe says in the introduction to First Form Latin, “Students enjoy what they have thoroughly learned. They do not enjoy what they have half learned and half understood.” I will further add that a subject half learned can drive the learner crazy, as she has learned just enough to realize her own lack.

For better or for worse, Latin is the linguistic key to our culture and to a large portion of our church. From the publication of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate in the early 400s to the spoken language translations beginning in the 1300s, Latin was the language of Christianity. Anyone who founded a university knew Latin. Anyone who wrote on Christian subjects wrote in Latin. As late as the 1800s, an industrialist named J.P. Migne compiled a massive collection of almost all western Christian writing, called the Patrologia Latina. Migne saw no reason to translate those writings. Nor did he see any reason to write the introductions to those treasures of our past in English. It’s all in Latin.

Your children may not grow up to be historians. They may never want to read the Patrologia Latina or contemplate an inscription on a stained glass window. But then again, they might. You want them to be able to do so with confidence; you don’t want them to have to wait for a graduate program to learn what they could have learned in grammar school. Trust me–in graduate school, they don’t provide helpful and fun recitations.

If you haven’t enrolled your student in Latin for the 2012-2013, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. At TCS, we are trying to open doors to our students by using traditional educational methods and subjects. We want our students to enjoy the tools of learning that were not available to many of us. And we want our students to excel at anything God calls them to be (and I think I’ve already seen some future historians walking the halls).


by Neil Anderson, Head of School

I love a good meal. A nice table, solid chairs filled with people I love, ample time, and… oh yes, good food. Food is what defines a meal, but hardly what makes a good one. It is important that our children grow up healthy and strong, eating the meat and vegetables that put hair on the boys’ chests and help our young ladies become princesses. The “meal” is formative beyond nutrient consumption though. In the Christian home, the meal becomes a critical opportunity for discipleship, education, family nurture, and even training in manners.

Meals are a regular part of the Biblical narrative, from the Israelite traditon of feasts to Jesus’ method of quality time with his disciples to the promise of what is to come in the new creation. In these contexts, eating is a means of relational investment, celebration, quality time, and education.

I have two goals in writing about meals. One: If you have not yet begun to regularly use a meal as context for family nurture, I am hoping you will reconsider. Two: If family meals are already a regular part of your home routine, I want to tempt you towards milking more out of them–no pun intended.

I believe a couple of lists would be appropriate here to avoid an all-too-lengthy post:

Reasons for regular family meals

  • Families need time to ALL be together on a regular basis. It seems tragic to me if this time is only on weekends, at bedtime, or on vacations.
  • I don’t know about you, but much of what I remember from my childhood, by way of family time, happened at the dinner table.
  • Dinner might be one of the rare moments in the day when you have all your children still for an extended period of time at once.
  • It’s a valuable Christian tradition that is worth keeping intact. If we do it, it is likely that our children will too when they are parents.
  • Sharing meals teaches our children that we value family in a practical way.
  • It’s a good accountability measure to get mom or dad home from work at a healthy hour.
  • It’s an excellent context for family worship, nurture, education. See next list.

Ideas for regular family meal content

  • Nothing formal, just be together, laugh, touch base, look each other in the face, regularly realize God’s goodness to your family.
  • Disciple
    • Read through books of the Bible together.
    • Read from a family devotional.
    • Sing hymns before or after… maybe practice morning assembly material?
    • Let a different family member be the prayer focus each meal.
    • Use the meal as a context to learn about and pray for people who rarely have full meals… we eat all of our vegetables because we are grateful, not necessarily because we like them!
    • Ask probing age-appropriate heart questions (grammar school in mind here)
      • How do you know God was part of your day? What made you happy today? Did you have any struggles today? Did anything make you mad? Sad? What did you do about it? How were you obedient? How were you disobedient? Is there anything you need to make right? Did you honor your father/mother? Did mom or dad do anything we need to ask forgiveness for? Did you love your siblings well? What are you proud of? Are you giving all the credit to Jesus? Etc.
    • Ask thought-provoking questions about God and His world
      • Why do you think God made things this way or that way? Why do you think God does this or that to us? Did you know that Bible says x,y,z -amazing thing? What do you think Jesus thinks about this or that?
    • Share your life with your children. Answer their questions about what goes on during your day. Tell them when your days are hard or stressful. Tell them what mistakes you made that day and what you did about it. Tell them what you love about being a mom/dad. Tell them stories of what you were like when you were a kid.
  • Educate
    • Ask what your child learned in school that day. You will find that you will have to be specific here, especially with most boys, which may require you to know ahead of time what they learned. In most cases Mom does most of the home teaching, so if Dad leads this time, this is a great opportunity to show your children that Dad values their education and is seeking to be a part. It is also a form of continued education since you are basically having your children informally narrate what they have learned. This is often more effective than formal narration.
      • I understand you are reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at lunch. What is happening in the story? What did you learn about Napoleon today? Was he a good man? What did he do? Are fractions easy or hard? You need to eat at least one third of your broccoli.
    • Work through a great piece of literature during dessert. There are several great anthologies of short classic children stories that are good for this. Or read the Narnia series along with us. Rereading sections at home would be great for students as they are sometimes distracted during lunch.
    • Do some informal education through a fun facts or trivia book.
    • This may sound weird, but we often make our kids answer questions in order to get their dessert. We have fun with it, silly and serious questions, usually a mix from all different places in their curricula (Recite Romans 12:9-14. What is an adverb? How do you say “father” in Latin? Who is your favorite dad?). They still get dessert if they get it wrong.
    • Teach your children manners. If you don’t have meals together, it is hard for children to have any regular context for learning manners. Different families have varying amounts of expected formality at the home dinner table. Even if your expectations might be lower at home, children will need to know how to put more formal manners into play when it is expected. We have some day-to-day expectations (sitting properly, chewing with mouth closed, saying “please pass,” asking to be excused, etc). But we also have mock formal dinners every once in a while for fun. We break out the “fine china,” make sure everyone is properly clothed, and pretend like we are at a fancy restaurant. Our children get to learn some finer manners in this context. And Dad gets to remember his.

I am sure many of you have great ideas from your experience- please share! We do not have dinner together every night. I wish that were the case. But we do as much as possible. Saturday breakfast and Sunday lunch with extended family have been significant in our family as well.  We do different things from the list above in different seasons of life as the Lord leads.

At our recent “TCS Dads and Donuts” gathering, I was at a table discussing application questions from Bill Streger’s encouraging message.  One of the TCS fathers at the table happened to have an older and younger set of children. The older ones had already left home. His comments renewed my passion for the dinner table. He said he would pay any amount of money to have one more meal with one of his older ones as a child again. I know we will all feel the same. Let’s treasure these times and glorify God at our meals.

Neil Anderson / Head of School