Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Leaving To Learn: The Classroom Of God’s World

Can you imagine a scavenger hunt in a grocery store?  Our grade four/five class and seven students both travelled to unique learning experiences recently allowing them to learn more about food systems, farming, nutrition, food preparation, and much more. Later this week many of our older students will be taking in a unique trip to learn more about how energy is used (and conserved) as part of homes being built in London. 

LCES is blessed with the means to take learning on the road quite frequently. Why do we do this?

God formed sky, land, and sea;
stars above, moon and sun,
making a world of color, beauty, and variety—
a fitting home for plants and animals, and us—
a place to work and play,
worship and wonder,
love and laugh. 
Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony

The length, educational focus, and structure of the trips is always different, but one thing remains the same. These memorable experiences are highlights of learning. I can think of several good reasons to venture out:
  • These experiences help our students to see God’s world as a place of beauty and offer experiences to develop wonder and praise for an amazing world of people and places. 
  • Taking the classroom on the road creates invaluable “touchstone” moments for our students to connect previous learning or prepare working examples for future learning as they see God’s world as a connected, purposeful, and intricate place prepared for his children. 
  • Students see their teacher, classmates, and even parents in a different way as they respond to different topics and ways of learning. They understand each other’s interests, passions, and talents more fully.
  • Students can see the world in its brokenness, and yet see hope in the ways to redeem it. 
Taking the classroom on road is part of the bold assertion that indeed, Our World Belongs to God! 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mistakes As Learning At Our Christian School

I was with a relative who was paying for items at a checkout. Ten steps past the cashier’s till, it was realized that too much change had been given. Honesty and integrity won out over the anticipated delay in resolving the situation. When the other customers had finished, the error was presented.

“No, it was right. We don’t make mistakes here.”

Removed from the story, the statement seems a little ridiculous and plenty arrogant. Mistakes are part of our life, but what we do with them shapes their helpful or detrimental outcome. You could argue that wisdom comes from embracing one’s mistakes, and realizing that they are window to discovery and learning.

Golden learning moments are left unharvested when we pass by mistakes and carry on as if there is nothing to be gleaned from deliberately retracing the pathway. Somehow we’ve created a tendency in students to want to bury mistakes out of sight and try to quickly forget them.  That’s a sad reality. Certainly we want them feel the exhilaration of success, but the greatest potential for them to learn may well be to re-visit the places where they did not find success the first time. I’ve heard before of a helpful analogy that showed it this way: an airline pilot who first perfects the art of a good landing in a flight simulator environment hundreds of times, then moves to real-life situations under the watch full eye of an experienced pilot, all the while learning from mistakes made. Only when those items are in good shape does s/he attempt a landing solo.

God gave a tremendous blessings when he created the safe sandbox of childhood. There, under the watchful eye of loving adults, children can have free range to make mistakes within boundaries. The art comes in the balance of leaving room for children to fail, while preventing long term unchangeable consequences that will hurt them. I’m thankful for Christian Education at LCES that helps to navigate that balancing act.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bugs and Crying Rocks at Our Christian School

“Mr. Janssen, I caught a bug. I think he is excited about spring!”

Visiting students where they learn and play is a significant pleasure.

Last week a proud kindergarten student exploring during outdoor centre time shared with me his prized outdoor find. A bug, creatively captured on the inside of a playground pylon. I smiled at both his delight in finding a “sign of spring” as he called it, and the idea of the insect having an emotional response of excitement to the changing of seasons.

The delight of spring warmth and sun is the change it causes in the the seemingly dead world of early spring greys and browns revealed by receding snow and ice. The velvet of green will be starting this week with hints in the form of tree buds and tender shoots emerging from last year’s dead debris. Creation around us is warming up for a spectacular renewal. It happens like clockwork every year, but if our eyes are open to it we can see it through the eyes of a child.

It reminds me of the response of Jesus to the Pharisees when they wanted him to urge the jubilant crowd praising God to tone down their joyful exuberance. “I tell you … if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” was his response. (Luke 19:40) There is no stopping God’s world responding to him.
I wonder if our students’ hands-on play with the leaves, dirt, plants,  - and even happy bugs - of God’s creation allows them to more easily make the connection to the idea of creation crying out in joyful response to their creator.  I’m thankful for the fertile soil of a Christian school where student can grow in wisdom, love, and delight in the mighty acts of God on display all around us.

Happy Spring! I’ll be listening for the cry of creation and the chance to join in.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Solutions Before Problems: Anticipating Our Future at Our Christian School

By calendar definition, spring is here, although it seems like winter won’t give up its grip on us as snow and ice still swirl through the air. Confused robins are singing while we scape our ice covered cars. It seems like we’re living in two seasons at once.

The same is true at LCES. On a daily basis we continue to operate LCES as a school where our children live, learn, love, and are loved by the Lord. Simultaneously, April is a month when the next school year comes into clearer focus as details are sorted. We praise God for many new families indicating that they wish to join us in September in the opportunity of Christian education. Classroom configurations, board member turnover, staffing, and more specific details are main areas of focus right now. A budget that balances educational integrity, financial responsibility, and long-term viability of our school was a significant effort of the board last week. It’s my delight to share with you that even amidst the challenges we see, we are blessed to see God’s hand of abundant provision. 
As a faith based institution, there is deep gratitude at the realization that solutions were already being orchestrated before we were aware there was a matter to be solved. Thanks be to God for his care for us!

As a parent, what’s your part in the above? Three things come to mind:
  • If you are not already, please consider adding your own voice to this above process by becoming a member of LCES for only $60 per year. (Contact April 24 is the LCES Spring Membership meeting at which you can hear more about the school – this year, and the year that is upcoming. A budget will be presented for approval. If you already a member, I encourage you to make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit down with membership package to soak in the details of what makes our school a place “where faith meets life.”
  • Please pray for discernment on the part of our school’s leadership at all levels as they seek to be found faithful in their respective positions of responsibility.
  • Spread the word in the circles you travel in. Use the most recent Connector, a school newsletter, our school’s facebook page, a project your children completed, or something else as a conversation piece to simply share your thoughts on how LCES affects your family. Feel free to pass on my name and contact information or ask me to call someone you think needs to hear from our school.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

What’s in a question?: Giving Answers in Our Christian School

I recently heard a psychologist say that pre-school aged children ask about 100 questions of their parents each day. Perhaps, like me, some of you might be thinking that number sounds low based on fist-hand experience with hours spent in close proximity to a curious young mind. I love to hear our student’s questions. 

Here are few of my recent favorites while moving around our children:
How did Noah catch the cheetah to get it on the boat?
What did feel like on your last day of being a child?
Who decided how big a metre would be?
What if we run out of air? Maybe people can learn to breathe underwater? That would be cool!
How many trees are there in London?
How did people make the first tools, if they didn’t have any tools?

While we might be inclined to become exasperated with the seemingly endless onslaught of questions, it is key to recognize that these questions represent young image-bearing children of the Lord attempting to figure out all things – from abstract ideas like love, grace, and beauty, -- to physical things like making a leaf whistle between their palms and painting things with water to see what they look like wet.

This time of abundant discovery is a crucial time for questions to be answered in a way that causes them to grow in the life of faith. “Is there a distinctly Christian way of asking and answering questions?” asked a colleague of mine years ago. I would propose there is. Here’s my short list.
  • Questions and their answers should provide opportunity to see the connectedness of God’s world. It is complex in its design, and yet often simple in its beauty.
  • The story of a perfect world, sin, and its restoration back to what it was meant to be should be  frequent touch stones since questions intersect faith and observations so naturally.
  • The time given to them should include the ability to stop, reflect, and marvel at who God is and how he designed the world as our home.
  • Answering questions should always leave room for our students to push the edges of known understanding. Fulfilling the commandment to “subdue creation” (Gen 1:28) remains their calling and their contributions may be different than their parents. New ways and means are possible to use the world around us in God-honoring ways that he intended.
Praise God for the opportunity to have our children’s questions answered in the context of a Christian school!  


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Future Me: Easter and Identity at Our Christian School

From a child’s perspective, it might seem that Easter is something we remember about the past more than the future. Children hear the well-known narratives of Palm Sunday, Judas’ betrayal, Pilot’s decision, the dark hour of Calvary, and the glorious morning of the empty tomb. A child listens to the dramatic story of Jesus and the cross, but on Tuesday morning - it’s time to go back to school and the NHL playoffs are around the corner. What does it all mean, and how are things different?

I heard a great quote on the radio this weekend while travelling to a family gathering. When we refer to someone whose health has been affected by sickness or disease, we often say that s/he “is only a shadow of their former self.” They no longer represent the fullness of character, the spark of life, the vigor of determination or perhaps even the zest for life that they once were known for. The wise voice on the radio offered this gem to mull over:  “In the death and resurrection of our Lord, we come to realize that we – in our present state, even squeaky clean as we might be on Easter Sunday worshipping in the joy of an empty tomb, are only a shadow of our future self.” We are given the gift of opportunity to become more alive, rather than less, as we grow in faith. At our Christian school we want our children to desire that future “new” self, the coming kingdom, and be motivated in heart and mind toward service in God’s kingdom here on earth.

Children have incredible ability to be a source of delight to us as parents. Their joy, love, curiosity, and genuine moments of faith in responding to their creator are often humbling. We also see that balanced with the ability to disappoint us with their moments of indiscretion, indifference, poor choices, and selfishness. No one, child or adult, wants to be forever defined solely by those weak moments. This is the perspective that Easter affords us: our identity is not in what we can manage to accomplish (or fail to) - our children are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” (Colossians 3:12). We are freely and entirely loved before we are anything else. Praise God for new life in Christ!                 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Black and White of Easter At Our Christian School

Grade 4/5 Easter Art
As a small child my father used to share Bible stories from a children’s Bible. I can still picture that Bible which held a prominent position at mealtimes and bed-time rituals for many years. Since I was too young to be able to understand the stories as they were written, by father allowed me to pick the story that I would like to hear based on the dramatic black and white sketches that were found throughout the two-volume set. With words and details suitable for my very young understanding, I heard my own version of the mighty acts of God that matched the drawings I paged through on my own before I could read.

I recall asking several times for the story that matched a full two-page spread of a dramatic scene of the anguish of the dark day at Golgotha that we mark during this Holy Week. In gentle ways, my father told me that story was so big and so immense that I was not old enough to understand it completely; what I needed to know was that God loved me immensely and that I would learn as I got older just how much more he loved me specifically.

How do you bring the harsh reality of Good Friday and the abundant joy of Easter Sunday to a young learner? We do so by making the journey back year after year to sustain and grow our faith. We tell the stories and sing of the love of Christ-crucified. We speak of why the sacrifice was necessary and what salvation achieved for us. Classroom teachers throughout LCES will be busy with that task this week in ways that are well-suited to the stage of faith formation their students are at. No matter if we are seven or seventy-seven, we circle back to the cross to reconnect anew to the “old, old story of Jesus and His love.”

We pray that the joy of Easter and the gift of true life before our resurrected Savior will be a blessing in your household. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!                                                                       SJ