“Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” — Proverbs 20:11 (ESV)
One’s character is the essence of who we are. The dictionary defines character as: “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual: one’s personality, nature, temperament, qualities, traits, essence, identity.”
What does it look like to shepherd hearts and minds unto the Lord at Lorien Wood? How do we seek to train up our children in the way they should go? With a biblical worldview as our foundation, we want our students to understand that they are known and loved by the God who made them. They are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do things he has prepared for them to do” (Ephesians 3:20). We seek to cultivate a redemptive lens for our students: to see one another, and to see themselves the way God does — with loving kindness, while recognizing that we are all in need of the redemptive work of our Savior. We believe that they, like we, are on a life-long journey of character formation, to become more and more like Christ in thought and in deed.
How does Lorien Wood’s integral model nurture the soil of the heart where the seeds of character formation are sown? Every morning during opening our students quiet their bodies and engage in worship, in prayer, read scripture, and practice reflection. This is a daily and intentional tilling of the soil and sowing of seeds. The children make connections and applications as they are invited to consider how they, too, can embody the biblical virtues they have just reflected upon. As shepherds of our children, we are called to faithfully till the soil, and to water the plants, while recognizing that it is the work of the Spirit to “make things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
We know that character is often reflected in the choices we make and the things that we do. However, we know that too often we fail to do what we ought to have done, and do what we ought not to have done. Our children know this, too. They know they should have responded to the bell the first time, yet finishing their football tale from recess seemed so compelling in the moment.
For our younger students, WOW clips serve as a tangible affirmation of right choices and a visible reflection of redemption. Our Form One students are reminded each day of “their jobs” as little OWLS: learning to be Obedient, Wise, and Loving. Our Form One and Form Two learners become increasingly aware of the power of their choices and are held accountable for them—for good or for naught, especially if they must change their color. They experience the redemption of a “green start” each morning, and a clean slate each week.
As a community of parents and teachers, we seek to model the fruits of the Spirit to our students, and encourage our children to do the same. We express our joy, as lunch and recess parents, when we see a student’s loving concern for their friend who took a tumble from the monkey bars. We praise them for their kind words and gently call them back to God’s standard when they use words that were less than kind. We delight in watching students play with the younger siblings of their schoolmates with intention and care.
As our students continue to grow and mature at Lorien Wood, our Journey students embark upon their “Do Hard Things” project, an integral part of their 7th and 8th grade year. We challenge them to persevere in this two-year effort, which fosters a growth mindset, and requires much resilience, initiative, and tenacity (or G.R.I.T). Form Four students are encouraged to participate in conferences alongside their teachers and parents to reflect upon their heart attitudes and the habits they are establishing. We celebrate with them as they model servant leadership to the younger students in planning and hosting Field Day. We affirm our older students as they delight in reading to younger students during Buddy Book time. These are all examples of the myriad of ways we shepherd hearts and minds toward Christ in character formation at Lorien Wood.
Cultivating character at Lorien Wood is a joyful journey, which requires patience, prayer and persistence. How we delight in seeing its good fruit!
When the founders of Lorien Wood thought about parental involvement and first crafted our distinctive, they believed that the most important thing about PI is that it is a visible investment by parents which ascribes value to the education experience. Sadly, many schools today do not want parents involved in the life of the school. We hear stories of parents pitted against faculty, of administrators failing to support their teachers, of angst, frustration, and a lack of harmony within the learning community. At Lorien Wood, we believe that parents are primarily, that is first and foremost, responsible for the education of their children. A key component in partnering with Lorien Wood to educate our children is our parental involvement.
First, PI is a visible investment. Our long-form definition states that we, parents, model lifelong learning by reading and exploring God’s world alongside our children. Modeling alongside means that we are present, visible, and active participants in the learning process. We are not only engaged physically — chaperoning field trips, working in the office, doing drop off and pick up duty, shepherding lunch and recess—but intellectually, relationally, and spiritually, as well.
Our intellectual participation, for some of us, includes assisting in the classroom by helping with Seminar, supporting math and reading assessments, or preparing a special presentation of a personal interest or experience. For others, it is serving on a committee, such as admissions, curriculum development, or the Board of Trustees. For all of us, it includes interacting with fellow parents and faculty at Town Meetings, parent desserts, and conferences, and engaging with our children at home by reciting vocabulary words, practicing math facts, fostering dinner-time discussions, and reading to our children at night. Perhaps, like me, you have even found yourself digging into the books your child is reading in class for your own personal enrichment, filling in the gaps of your own education while allowing you to engage more deeply with your child.
Our visible involvement is relational as we interact with students, made in the image of our Creator, and as we help them work through challenges with their peers, teaching them how to forgive and be forgiven. They watch as we care for one another with words of encouragement. They witness us covering for another parent who cannot make their PI duty. They see us encounter and resolve our own relational challenges that happen naturally through the course of serving within a community.
Our visible engagement is spiritual as we pray with our children for their teachers and friends, for the Head of School and the Board of Trustees, and for the families in the community. It is spiritual as we attend Openings, and School Blessings, and Lessons & Carols. It is spiritual as we help our children see how all that they are learning is under the dominion of the sovereign Lord; that all truth is God’s truth.
Second, PI is an investment. It is costly in terms of time, talents, and emotional energy. We are required to make real sacrifices — to say “no” to otherwise good activities — in order to be present and part of the school community. We invest days, weeks, and months assimilating into the community, so that we can know and be known, and so that we can find places to give of our gifts, talents, and interests. Investing in the lives of others takes real emotional energy.
It communicates to our children, and to our teachers, that we value education, we value their learning, we value them as creatures made by God.
Finally, our involvement as parents ascribes value to the education experience of our children. It communicates that we, parents, recognize that we are still on a journey of learning ourselves, being shaped, molded, and sanctified. It communicates to our children, and to our teachers, that we value education, we value their learning, we value them as creatures made by God. It shows a mutual respect for one another, and a humble reliance on others; educating is a task that we cannot accomplish alone, but take on within the community of learners. Graduates and parents of graduates often relate that Lorien Wood students are confident, well-spoken, and able to engage with adults — teachers, other parents — in a way that their peers are not. This is a product of years of engagement, encouragement, admonishment, and even correction, not just by their own parents, but by other adults as well.
What’s most important about parental involvement at Lorien Wood? Your visible investment has real value, which is otherwise lost if you are not present, modeling lifelong learning. Its value extends past your own child’s benefit to benefit the children, the parents, and the teachers of the whole Lorien Wood community. Yes, it’s harder, more time consuming, and can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Sometimes it requires more of you than you are able to give. However, as most things go in God’s economy, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). In giving of ourselves, we are, each of us, an integral part of this learning community, of each student’s education, even of our own ongoing education; and we are richly blessed.