Letters From Two of the Guinea Pigs
When I was almost ten, my parents told me they were going to help start a new school, and I thought they were crazy. (Looking back, they probably were, but now I know they were crazy in an admirable way.) I told them my concerns, but quickly grew alright with the idea when I found out that my friends would be there, too. So, in September of 2012, I stood in my friend’s basement, clad in a fresh blue plaid skirt, looking around during the first ever Matin’s prayer. You’ll have to forgive me for that; my curiosity had gotten the better of my fifth-grade self-control. Altogether we numbered twelve students— swelling to a massive fourteen the next week— and their parents— a.k.a., our teachers.
This morning, if I had opened my eyes and looked around during the Matin’s prayer— which I didn’t— I would have seen a student body almost fifteen times the size of that first day, the amazing teachers we’ve gained along the way, and a lot of parents who join us for Matins as well. Abbie Sarr, Isaiah vanderBeken, and Addy Hall are now in ninth grade, a far cry from the Kindergarten class in 2012. The Secondary have swelled from three students to almost fifty, been sorted into Houses, and competed in six Rhetoric Tournaments. Eight years ago the Gnomes of Dist. 93 first announced their discontent.
This year I turn twenty, which means that I’ve been involved with the school for half my life, and all ten years have been full of blessings I’m incredibly thankful for. Soccer on a gravel driveway, thousands of pages assigned and read, sporks handed out, issues debated, songs sung, feasts planned, and many other things piled into my classmates' and my trucks, giving us an idea of how to manage a difficult load. There were times in Math, Latin, or Science that I had a hard time seeing how I was being helped, and my backpack— none of us had fancy roller backpacks in the early days— was often a heavy weight on my shoulders. Various arguments, ideas, and analogies floated around and confused each us during Omnibus and Rhetoric papers, regularly filling my brain with a confused fog. Being an ECS student, and particularly a Secondary student, is hard.
Recently I’ve been using the analytical and worldview muscles Omnibus helped develop while reading books and articles on pregnancy and infant-care, which I’m finding trickier to analyze than Plato and Aristotle. While the heavy homework load could often be relieved by getting ahead on due dates, and each year has a three month break, “life” homework is cyclical and doesn’t end during the summer. Turns out, being an adult is hard, too! Even though I’m only about two years into the graduated life, I’m getting more thankful for ECS and the education they gave me, not less. I know it’s difficult, but I hope the parents and students get to really taste what it is that ECS offers if you faithfully engage.
Within the next ten years, my husband and I are hoping to enroll our son in kindergarten. In the next twenty, fifty, hundred years, what will the school look like? If students are stretched and pushed and shaped in the right directions, hopefully each generation will build on the shoulders of the last one, going further up and in, as far as we are able in a fallen world. So, when you’ve got five assignments due the next day, your parents need help, and time simply isn’t on your side, remember that what’s happening is bigger than that night’s schedule issues. It’s bigger than a failed test or a late paper, and it’s very good.
Thanks, Dad and Mom, for being crazy.
- Maggie Rothenberger (once Maggie Higgins)
In my years as a student, I remember that one of the most stressful days of the year was the Rhetoric Tournament. I would come to school with papers in hand, dramatic interps crammed into my head, and the nervous shivers. Many of you secondary students have faced the Rhetoric Tournament in the last month; you know the terrors of presenting yourself for others to judge. The possibility of failure often causes us to not even try.
I have always been afraid of failing, and often I will subconsciously just not do things because I am afraid of being unable to do them. One thing that school has taught me more than anything, is to check my fears, and put them at the feet of the King of Kings. I remember in 2nd grade purposely slowly doing time fact sheets so that I would not get better. My whole plan was not trying, and therefore not failing. This has continued on into the rest of my life in many ways, whether it was art, cooking, math, or other school work.
But in this endeavor of not trying, what was I really afraid of? I can come up with plenty of things, though, when it’s all boiled down I fear Man. When the fear of Man is boiled down, all that is left is pride, and pride happens to be sin. The fear of Man is each of us taking responsibility for something that God has not given us jurisdiction over. Psalm 118:8 says it pretty clearly: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” When we fear Man we are taking over His role as guide, comforter, provider, and so on. In truth, we know that God will guide our steps, we know that he does all his holy will. We know that he will comfort us in affliction, he will not allow us to be crushed, but he cares for us. As Jesus asks, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27). We are to cast our cares upon Christ for he from all our terrors will set us free.
School is full of plenty of room for anxiousness. These terrors do not end when you receive your diploma, instead they multiply, and they become heavier. The answer is not to run from everything that is scary, nor is the answer to use only your willpower. If you run from everything, everything will eventually catch up with you. Another option is to face problems head-on expecting that your human ability will be strong enough. But indeed you will discover yourself inadequate. It turns out that the answer is to turn to Christ, to cast your cares on Him, and let your only boast be in His name. Read your Bible, preach the Gospel to yourself, and pray continuously.
Once you have accomplished step one, here are the following actions that I use for myself to snap out of whatever freakout I am having at that moment.
I remember the Proverbs 31 woman and how she laughs at the days to come, rising before the sun, her hands working tirelessly and her laugh ringing through her house. And then realizing that my own dour attitude does not look as dignified or as lovely. Whether I have As or Fs I want my laughter to mirror how blessed I am.
Being honest with myself. Did I use my time wisely? Whose fault is it really that I am in this predicament? I have a tendency to point fingers at other people for my problems. So, when I turn my finger back around to myself I often find that I am the source! If that is the case, then get to work now! Answering questions honestly keeps you from deceiving yourself. Questions like, Did I do my best? Should I go to bed instead of crying? Being honest has benefits in every area, in answering questions like, Did I say that in love? Or am I just upset? Am I giving this boy too much attention? Or can I get away with “we’re just friends”?
Facing up to the challenge. When there is a pile of homework, a difficult relationship, or something even bigger, you have got to turn and face it. I like to imagine myself staring unflinchingly at whatever it is, and then getting to work. Since running from difficulty bears no fruit, you might as well get down to it. Good things come with struggle, and you are not made of floppy cheese.
You can follow your own steps, or only one step, but remember that you are right where God wants you to be. In the grand scheme of the universe each of us as individuals is not that important. But God has put you right here right now, and he has laid your duties before you. Your job is to trust His guiding hand, and His plan for your life. There is one possible life, and no ‘what ifs’. This should then make you extra content, extra happy. The imagined role as guide, protector, and comforter is returned to its place with your Heavenly Father. Now, with a laugh in our eyes, and a song on our lips, we are to get our hands dirty and lean into the wind.
‘I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day” (Isaiah 51:12).
- Miss Abigail vanderBeken