At Harvest Community School, we are working hard to prepare our students for college and for life. College preparation is not limited exclusively to academics because other indicators lead to success. We all know highly educated, intelligent people who have shipwrecked their lives because they lacked character and spiritual maturity. This is why we read living books filled with rich stories and engaging characters. While our students are studying important historical events and scientific concepts that they need academically, they are also learning from the life experiences of characters in their books, whether real or fictional. Writing, discussing, and researching about what they are learning is college preparation.
Another major benefit of reading living books instead of textbooks is its effect on character. The lives of people illustrate that good, or bad, decisions lead to good, or bad, consequences. Thus, our students are thinking, writing, discussing, and even praying about these character lessons. Our focus on faith develops character as well. Our students are reading The Living Book--The Bible, learning hymns, reading stories of faith, and experiencing firsthand the awe and wonder of God in nature. This is college preparation--the college preparation I wish I had had.
As we were walking the trail at Santee National Wildlife Refuge last Friday, I began to consider how I prepared for college. I was ready academically, and I knew right from wrong, but I lacked spiritual maturity. What little faith I had was not strong enough to stand against the forces encountered in class. During my first semester at the College of Charleston, a professor of religion walked into the class and said, “If you were brought up in the church, this class is going to break your heart.” He then began to assault the inerrancy of the Bible--an assault delivered by someone with intellectual authority. A college professor standing before me--looking every bit the part of an intellectual in his round spectacles and tweed coat with patches on the elbows--pointed out all the inconsistencies in the Gospels. He then assigned Bibles readings to highlight them even more. I am ashamed to say that, at the end of the semester, I sold that Bible back to the college bookstore because this professor had convinced me that it was merely a book holding nothing of value for me. I want Harvest Community School to prepare children for this.
I want our students on the Dean’s List. I want our students making good decisions in hard situations. I want our students to be able to stand in front of a professor like the one I had and say, “You will not break my heart.” I want them to come to college with a dog-eared, well-worn, well-read, inerrant and infallible Bible, and not have to buy one from the college bookstore. I want them to be able to defend their faith. This is college preparation I wish I had had.
It may seem strange that all of this came to mind while I was hiking in the woods. However, Paul writes and God says in Romans 1:19-20, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” God is radically present in nature! So it comes as no surprise that he would create in nature a powerful defense against the alleged inconsistencies in the Gospels. The Gospels are eyewitness accounts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit--shared the good news of Jesus Christ. While they do not all tell the same exact facts, they do all tell the same story. We can trust their memories because Jesus says in John 14:25-26, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you.”
I just love how God provided a beautiful illustration of this for us on the trail last week. We broke up into small groups and staggered our hiking times so that there would be a good deal of space between the groups. I had a delightful time with my group. We saw a sapling covered with tent caterpillars, found a large inchworm, “fished” for a chicken choker (tiger beetle larvae), caught frogs and snails, and were awed by some impressive spider webs. As we ran into each other along the trail, each group would excitedly tell us about the things they had seen. One group had seen a snake
skeleton. In another group, a girl had taken some beautiful pictures of flowers she had found in a field. Other groups were excited by some of the insects they had seen and others enjoyed pulling water hyacinth out the water, tearing it open and being awed by “God’s styrofoam.”
It occurred to me then that it was not necessary for us to have all seen and experienced the same thing to make our observations true and reliable. The fact that my group didn’t see the snake skeleton didn’t mean their story was false. In fact, over lunch, as we each told about our unique experiences during the walk, a clearer, more vivid picture of the trail came into focus. The same is true for the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not all have to describe the same things to make the story true. It is valid that they each had their own observations. In fact, as the Holy Spirit brought varied events and circumstances into the Gospel writers' minds, He was offering a clearer and more vivid picture for us.
What a blessed people we are! We have a God who wants us to know him. We have a God who has provided for us His perfect Word, so that that the story of His love can come into a clear and vivid focus for His children. God wants to prepare us for far more than college. The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:13-16, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’"
Click here for a first hand account of how a Charlotte Mason education prepared one young man for college.