So You Want To–the first two installments–by Brian Daigle

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Brian Daigle is a big man who writes small books.  There is a method to his madness.  I am proof of the pudding, for I have read his small books.  But the main appeal is that he is writing these books to target people who are looking for a plan of action.  Brian, by the way, writes from a plethora of experiences.  He has started and leads a Christian school in south Louisiana.  He has spoken across the land to educators and interested parents.  Also, he has read deeply and widely in all the areas associated with classical education.

The classical Christian school movement is still relatively new.  Relatively because it really started picking up steam in the 1990s.  A number of now older men and women found themselves questioning education, Christian school alternatives, and the needs of our children.  Names started popping up all over the place; that is, names like Dorothy Sayers, C. S. Lewis, John Milton, and others who were known for their writings in literature and other areas were also people who addressed education.  There was a question that arose regarding not what these people wrote or said, but how were they educated?  Hence, an obscure essay by a woman mainly liked for being a murder mystery novelist suddenly became a cornerstone for a movement.  I am referring, of course, to Dorothy Sayers and her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.”

Many of us dove into classical Christian education little prepared, little aware, and less equipped for the task that needed.  But as G. K. Chesterton, another favorite in CCE circles, said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”  So, we began doing something worth doing and often doing it badly.  But, hop in the pool and flail your arms long enough and you just might learn to swim.  Then, find a swimming coach and watch amazing things happen.

Twenty plus years after the reawakening, the 95 Theses posted to the door of modern education, and we are still a small movement.  But people keep having babies and going to church.  Some, not enough, see that what is taught in church and in the Bible and what is taught on the other days of the week ought to mesh together.  If one is to trump or undergird the other, it should be the church and Bible, rather than the school and culture.

Here is where So You Want to Start a School is needed.  I strongly advise you not to run before you walk, or to start a school before you know what it is that you are starting.  And the “you” I am using better be the plural, as in “Y’all” (meaning “You all).  A bad Christian school, started because of public school violence or Common Core Curriculum or evolution in textbooks, might be worse than the disease.  This book is 65 pages long.  That is just the right length for you to read 3 times before talking to other concerned people.

You will make mistakes in starting a Christian school.  (Some involve hiring practices; some involve admissions; some involve thinking this can be done without paying teachers; some involve doctrinal confusion; and the list never ends.) So, at least make sure that you have worked through the issues in this book and can head off or minimize the lurking disasters.

On the other hand, there are Christian schools that have been around for a while.  Sometimes, I hear of a Christian school that is “just like our schools use to be.”  Well, if “Happy Days” (the television show) is your model, go for it.  Public school with a chapel, public school with a Bible class, public school where evolution is not taught, and the like may be enough for you.  (And I think we should have a serious talk, if so.)  And above all, if you are motivated by having your kids kept in an environment where only “our kind of people” are present, referring to race, let me make this clear:  You are in sin.  But I digress.

Some Christian schools or people associated with them have seen some of the features in the classical Christian school movement and find it attractive.  First of all, don’t add the word “Classical” to your school or curriculum.  I can call myself General Ben House, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have never spent a day in the military (and have not shot a rifle in years).  Second, don’t think that your school can do what it does, but just add a classical track onto its curriculum.  If it is Latin you want to teach, or logic, or if you want to add a few more classics to the reading list, do so.

Transforming a traditional Christian school into a classical Christian school is more than a few minor adjustments.  Read the book.  Brian got carried away and wrote 79 pages this time.  Plan on it taking a year or so for you/y’all to get acclimated to what you are even talking about.  There is a cost involved.  Compare it, if you will, to transitioning from being a single guy to a married man with four children.  (That process took me 11 years.)

Thanks Brian Daigle for taking up the standard and leading the next generation of classical teachers, boards, and schools.  How about a book called So You Want to be a Classical Teacher?  next?  Or, So You Are Finding Classical Education Difficult?  Short books, with Calvin’s preferred “lucid brevity”:  That is your calling, along with the 94 other things you are doing, for now.


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