Creating Memories That Last: Holiday Traditions

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By Nick Clifton, Director of Student Development

Rhythms and traditions in life are important, especially for children. Traditions allow children to hold on to something expected and knowable, and this becomes even more vital as those children step into the tumultuous and ever-changing days of adolescence. To have family rhythms and traditions that they can rely on is tantamount to creating a “safe space,” within our home for our children. This is one of the greatest qualities of the Christmas season – it comes with so many opportunities to create family traditions and shared experiences that we as families can cling onto and cherish for years to come. Plus, the great thing about traditions is that it is never too late to start one! So here are a few ideas of some family Christmas traditions that you can consider bringing to your home this year:

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A Tripartite Standard for School Success, Part 2 of 3

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By John DePoe, Academic Dean for the Schools of Logic and Rhetoric

In a previous post, I introduced the notion of measuring a school’s success by looking at the transformation of the students’ lives through three questions inspired by C. S. Lewis:

  1. What are our students learning about how the relate to others?
  2. What are our students learning about themselves?
  3. What are our students learning about the ultimate purposes of life?

Let’s dive into the first two questions in this post, but let me first state a caveat. My answer will heavily reflect the current curriculum of the Schools of Logic and Rhetoric since this is an aspect of students’ learning with which I am very familiar. Although, I don’t want to give the impression that these questions cannot be answered by looking at other aspects of the school.

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The Long Game: Embracing a Slow Walk of Faith

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By Amanda Jackson

“I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future.”

-Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmstead was the landscape architect most famously known for his design of Central Park in New York City and for the grounds and gardens of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. What struck me so profoundly the last time I was at the Biltmore was the knowledge that the breathtaking beauty that I and my family were beholding was not what he ever witnessed in his lifetime. He had a vision for the long-term growth and development of the landscape. Growth that would take many years to come to fruition. You can walk on the grounds of that most impressive estate today and think it must be nice to have wealth of that scale to create such a place to live in and enjoy. The fact of the matter, however, is that neither Olmstead the landscape architect, nor Vanderbilt, the owner, ever saw it as we are able to today. That realization struck my modern-day instant gratification mindset as unfair. Further reflection has caused me to see it as incredibly beautiful and very healthy. When I parallel this to my spiritual walk I am able to settle into an appreciation for what our lives on this earth are capable of.

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Goals with God

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By Jacky Howard, KPA dad

In the business world, now is the time of year that we start the process of evaluating the year and planning for next year. We spend time planning new goals and making a game plan to implement those goals. Goals are important. Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  As my kids get older, I want them to develop positive habits in goal setting and plan implementation for success. God has plans for each of us to succeed, according to Jeremiah 29:11, so let’s get His help in the whole process. Read More

Dyslexia: Understanding the Struggling Reader

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By Heather Jenkins, KPA Mom and Dyslexia Teacher

The other day one of my daughters sent me this picture from campus with this text: “I’ve become a meme.”

Poor thing, she was trying to make light of the situation, but she was really feeling the pressure of looming deadlines and an upcoming Social Work exam. If only we could learn the material in textbooks (or instruction manuals!) through osmosis. I know I’m stating the obvious, but learning how to read is essential to our children’s education.  Read More

Just Keep Swimming: When You Need a Nudge to Persevere

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By Amanda Graves, KPA mom and JH Volleyball Coach

In the movie “Finding Nemo,” Dory is a forgetful but selfless fish that has set out on a daunting mission to help Marlin, a random clownfish who had lost his son. Like any good movie, the journey is full of unknown adventures, doubt in one’s ability to complete the task or survive, and perseverance. At one point in the story, when faced with adversity, Marlin begins to give up, but Dory comes along and begins to recite over and over, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming.” This melody has often been my mantra in life, and like Dory, one I share with others in tough times of endurance.

Our family jumped into the deep end of KPA in second grade. We didn’t get the opportunity to become accustomed to the waters or build up our endurance through years of homeschooling before hand. Instead, we floundered our way through Shurley English and doggy-paddled with our heads barely above water all year.

My child loved KPA school days! He loved his teachers and his new friends. He would share about everything they were learning in class and was excited to go each day. Home days, however, were excruciatingly tough. There was lots of arguing…lots! We had frequent moments when I lost my patience and said things I later had to apologize for.  There were more weeks than not when we were still doing school on Sunday night in pajamas, and there were definitely times I questioned if this was something we could make work in the long run. Even if my 2nd grader and I could survive, would we ever actually thrive in this arrangement? Could my house survive yet another flood of the toilet from the toddler flushing who knows what while I taught math? Would I ever get a moment to catch up on laundry? Would we ever learn to swim effectively and keep from drowning?

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A Tripartite Standard for School Success (Part 1 of 3)

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By Dr. John DePoe, Dean of Upper School Academics

It’s not uncommon for someone to come up to me and ask, “How are things going at school today?” Most of the time I answer, “Things are great,” or when I’m in a droll mood, “We didn’t lose a single student today.” But the question is truly an invitation to reflect on foundational questions about the nature of a successful school. After all, in order for me to give an assessment of how the school is doing today requires me to have a standard by which I can say that the school is doing well or not. Ultimately, the state of our school, I believe, is measured by the transformative learning experiences that are taking place in the lives of our students. I should note that in conversations with other educators it is apparent that this is not a standard shared by all schools as they are quick to affirm that things are going well because the school’s finances are secure, the school’s enrollment is up, there is a new academic program, or the quality of their faculty is distinguished in some peculiar way. Of course, I agree that, all things considered, these are often things I want to say of KPA too, but they are not standards that show that the school is running well. At KPA, we choose to assess the quality of the school by the students.

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Raising Responders vs. Reactors: How to Navigate Emotions

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By Amanda Jackson, KPA Mom

What could be more common to the human experience than our daily interactions with our emotions and the emotions of those around us? Not one of us will escape this life without navigating them in some form or fashion. Thankfully, we can choose to do so with intentionality and care and thereby walk in a peace that passes understanding. As we entered the pre-teen/teen years in our home, this subject was constantly on my mind. To be honest, it wasn’t until I started looking at the emotions of my children that I really started learning about my own and about the necessity to engage them purposefully.

The fact is, emotions can serve us well. We need them! God gave us our emotions to benefit us in this human experience. What will happen if we are not intentional, however, is that we will unwittingly become a slave to them. We will find ourselves riding the roller coaster of reacting all day long with an inevitable mess left behind when we go to bed. What we must learn, and what we must teach our children, is how to let our emotions serve US instead of us serving them.

What even are emotions? How can we categorize the most common emotions that the average person feels on a day to day basis? The list I liked best summed them up as such: love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear. There are sub-categories that I believe are also worth mentioning based on the frequency with which we tend to experience them. Those would be envy (sub of anger), shame and disappointment (sub of sadness), and anxiety (sub of fear). While certainly not an exhaustive list, I believe these are a fair summation of what we most commonly experience. It’s helpful to define these different emotions for ourselves and notice how we experience them and what tends to trigger them in us and then to teach our children to do the same. I believe it to be crucial to understand them properly and from there know how to engage them. Emotions ARE necessary. They can provide us with warning in a dangerous situation. They can be indicators to us of areas we need to address in our lives and of relationships that need attention. They are NOT, however, always reliable, justifiable, or, to put it bluntly, trustworthy. It’s worth repeating (especially to our kids): OUR EMOTIONS ARE NOT ALWAYS TRUSTWORTHY. How many times have we seen this played out? I for one experience this almost daily. And even when they are not necessarily untrue or even un-justified, they can be unhelpful in the moment we experience them. We have to hold our emotions with care. We have to learn to discern when to listen to them, and when to lay them at the foot of the cross.

So, how on earth do we apply this knowledge? What do you tell your teenage daughter caught in the throes of envy or fear or shame? You tell her to become a responder and not a reactor. We have the choice, all day every day, to either react to the emotions as we experience them or respond to them. These are two very different approaches with vastly different outcomes depending on the scenario. A reactor is one who applies no filter, gives no pause, and rushes headfirst into however they are feeling in the moment. In anger this looks like lashing out verbally at the person who ignited you. In sadness this can look like sitting in your misery, eating a whole tub of ice cream. You catch my drift? Being a slave to our feelings is a miserable way to live. Even euphoric feelings of happiness, when reacted to, can lead to hasty decisions and inevitable regret later on. A responder, on the other hand, is one who patiently evaluates what they are feeling. They take the extra beat to run their emotions through a bit of a filter to see how reliable they are or are not in that moment. Is my anger justified? Is my fear truly warning me of harm? Is my anxiety just my imagination running amuck? Responding takes practice but I have found it to be a truly beautiful and sanctifying exercise in weeding out what is enslaving me from what is serving me.

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Be Your Best, Plus One

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By Jacky Howard, KPA dad

We all want our kids to be their best.  Do their best, act their best, talk their best, look their best, and so the story goes. You get the picture.

I am never disappointed when my kids do their best. That’s what we all expect, right? ‘Just do your best and I will love you no matter what!’ Our society is crawling with overly assertive parents, and I certainly don’t want to be in that assembly. But there is a payoff and excitement when the “best” effort is taken up a notch. I want my kids to be their best, plus one. Let me explain.

It’s the same concept as giving 110%. As a younger lad in college, I had a lively debate with a friend who emphatically argued there is no way one can give a 110%. True. However, I think you can turn it up one more click and push your limits.

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Discipleship in the Digital Age: Helping our Family and Kids Navigate Screen Time

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By Nick Clifton, KPA Director of Student Development

It was during the early morning hours of March 20, 2014 that I realized my life had changed forever. On that morning, my first child, my daughter, entered into this world and stole my heart. On that morning, I realized that I was now undertaking the most difficult, terrifying, and rewarding journey I would ever take – the journey of receiving a child as a precious gift from God with Him expecting that we love and disciple this beautiful soul in a way that would allow heaven to come that much closer to earth through her. What a blessing!

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that our culture and society has placed an incredible obstacle in front of us as families that quite often places itself right in the middle of the that road of discipleship that we are traveling on. This obstacle, as you might have guessed from the title, is the screen. Where a fireplace and hearth was once the gathering place of fellowship, family, and discussion for the family unit has now been replaced by the TV, laptop, iPad, smartphone, or really any other item that can place media and entertainment at our fingertips.

To add a little perspective, the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that:

  • Kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs.
  • Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen almost 3 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.
  • Counting all media outlets, 8 – 18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day.

Many parents will tell you there is something about a screen that acts almost as a digital pacifier for children – turn on a screen and they turn into zombies. I will never forget the day I witnessed this very event in my own house. I came home from work to my wife playing with blocks with our oldest daughter in the living room, and turned on the TV to watch the news. The second the screen came on, my daughter was completely torn away from her mother’s play and turned to the bright colors and interesting sounds coming out of our TV. I watched as her eyes glazed over and the mesmerizing hold of the screen took control. It was then I understood the temptation that faces so many of us as parents to place our children in front of a screen – it can give us some much needed quiet time! Unfortunately, the payment for this digital babysitter is far too steep and, frankly, just not worth it in the end. Read More