Classical Conversations is continuing to grow, and I am thrilled about the way God is blessing. In particular, I am excited to see the quality young men and young women who are graduating from CC. Not only are they advanced academically, but more importantly, they are proving to be people of character, maturity, and responsibility. In an age in which most Christian families are seeing their teenagers leave home and forsake the faith of their upbringing, it is wonderfully encouraging to see young people who are well-established in their faith, able to live out and defend the truth with confidence and love. It is also exciting to see young people heading towards college truly equipped to reason clearly, calculate accurately, and communicate persuasively.
Unfortunately, every year we also see families who drop out of CC for one reason or another. Sometimes this is unavoidable – God’s providence brings circumstances into our lives that make CC impossible for our children. Other times, however, it is because a family was unready to step up to the challenge. In my experience (now over a decade with CC), when it comes to the Challenge program in particular, I have found that it is most often the parents, not the students, who were unwilling to meet the challenge.
So, is your family prepared to move forward with CC? Or is your family a future CC dropout? Here are the tell-tale warning signs of future CC dropouts:
1. The family that makes excuses for the children. In my experience, I can count on one hand the number of students I’ve met who were incapable of rising to standards of the Challenge program. However, I would need more than two hands to count the number of parents who refused to give their children the push they needed. All of our students are sinners, and at times they will test the limits to see how little they can do and still get by. When parents respond by insisting that the student must strive for excellence, work hard, seize these years of education for all they are worth, good results often come. The decisions our children make today determine the kind of character they will have in the future. A good work ethic begins now. Parents who refuse to make excuses for their children, but discipline laziness and constantly cast the vision of striving for excellence are themselves rising to meet the challenge of being faithful, godly parents.
On the other hand, when parents refuse to push their children, allowing them to get by with half-hearted or incomplete work, they are setting their children up for disaster not only in CC, but in life. It breaks my heart every time I hear a family say that the Challenge program was too hard for their children. Typically I want to respond, “Rubbish!” Though there are special circumstances, most often it was the parents who failed by allowing their children to get by with a less-than-God-honoring effort. Too often this began at the beginning of the school year, developed into a poor habit for that student, and then the parents felt the relationship-cost with their child to be too great to try and fix the work-ethic in the second semester. Dear parents, sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your child is to be the bad guy and to require of your children what they don’t want to give. They will thank you later!
In CC, if a student does their very best but still fails to reach the goal, we want that student to go to sleep at night with a clean conscience and a joyful heart – they gave it their best! But those parents who make excuses for their children rather than coaching them to do their best – watch out! You’re likely a future CC dropout.
2. The family that cannot commit to an education vision and feels the need to “re-evaluate” after every school year. Certainly every family should do some measure of re-evaluation after every school year. We want to always make sure that we are doing all we can to shepherd the hearts and minds of our children well. But what we see far too often is the family that cannot find a plan and stick to it for more than a year at a time. This becomes a problem for the CC family, since CC is a multi-year, all-encompassing education plan. The program has been carefully crafted so that each level prepares the students for the next level to come. I tell parents all the time that if they are not planning on doing CC in high school, they really should find another program.
Challenge 1-4 is the heart of CC – it is in these years that the great conversations take place. It is in Challenge 1-4 that we learn, evaluate and discuss the great philosophers and literary minds of history. It is in these programs that the students begin to engage various worldviews and ideas, assessing them, wrestling with them, learning to discern truth from error, goodness from wickedness, beauty from trash. It is in Challenge 1-4 that some of the most important, formative, even life-changing conversations take place. Everything that comes before, from Foundations to Challenge B, is intended to equip the student to be ready to gain the most from these conversations. So, look again over the scope and sequence of CC. Are you committed to this plan? Is this the education vision that you believe is best and wisest for your family? If you are not fully committed, but feel you might go another direction next year, or the year after that, then you are certainly in danger of becoming a CC dropout.
3. The family that begins to pursue education primarily for college credits rather than to know God and make Him known. Every family needs to be warned about this one! Something subtle begins to happen once our students enter high school. Often, the most committed CC family begins to have a shift in their thinking about education. For years they may have professed that education is about knowing God and making Him known. They have worked for years to set the table so that the student can feast in Challenge 1-4. But then, the allure of free college-credit begins to get in the way.
We should be clear: comparing the Challenge Program to Early College or Dual Enrollment programs is like comparing apples and oranges. They are radically different. CC is doxological – we believe in pursuing education so that through it our children come to know and love God more. We believe education is about worship. Early college and dual enrollment programs are certainly not doxological – they are functional. God and His glory are not in the picture. Nor is the character development of the student. Nor is deep, meaningful conversations about the greatest and highest of ideas. These programs are about getting credits – which is important! But at what cost? What are they missing out on that they could have had in the Challenge experience? What worldviews will they now be inundated with without having had the experience of preparing themselves, sharpening their discernment skills? What social agendas are they now going to be prey to without having matured to the level to combat them knowledgeably, clearly, with boldness and love? Are these programs truly going to help your child know God more deeply and be better equipped to live for His glory in this world?
If your family has begun to pursue education primarily for college credits rather than to know God and make Him known, you are in danger of becoming a CC dropout.
If your family sets the bar high and values striving for excellence, and
If your family is committed to the long-term vision and plan of the CC scope and sequence, and
If your family is committed to education for God’s glory above all else…
…then watch out world! Your family is likely to produce CC graduates equipped to live boldly and faithfully for Christ. What a wonderfully satisfying and rewarding day that graduation day will be! What reason you will have to thank God as you lavish your student with praise for the hard work they’ve done and the young man or woman they’ve become. May God make it so, and may He bless your efforts and sacrifices for your children!