What if school – and life – could be different?

What if school – and life – could be different?

What if school – and life – could be different?

Describing ordinary is easy; describing remarkable sometimes leaves us speechless.

Speechless is good if it’s the grand canyon or an extraordinary dessert.  But words are essential when you want to tell others about something important – and hopeful.

This is where we find ourselves in offering a non-traditional education.  Very little of our time with students is spent in what we’ve come to recognize as “school.”

The effect is powerful – real maturity, true growth, good fruit, and healthy relationships.  We want to tell other people – but how do we begin to describe it?

This blog post offers these words – three key ideas distinguish our offerings in education:

  1. “I’m for you; I’m here to help.”

This idea comes from the top-down and surrounds everyone at the table.  Helping is too often “cheating,” or requires a label in a traditional classroom.

In reality, needing help is man’s part in our Gospel-possible relationship with God; we want students to naturally ask for help.  Humility is the door to real learning.

What does this look like?

  • We read books together – students and teachers.
  • We discuss ideas together – not just answer formulated questions for an assignment.
  • We admit when we don’t understand without fear of shame, ridicule, labeling, or condemnation.  We relax in a protected place – and we really learn.
  • We work together on compositions and math – students take as much of the load alone as they desire; we continually encourage them in their maturity.

2.  “Follow Me.”  “Taste and see.”

Days are spent in rich and real and rigorous; the curriculum is more difficult in many subjects than can be wrestled with alone.  Because our curriculum is real – it’s nutritious food for the mind and the spirit.  Without real and without rigor, students develop an appetite for cheap thrills and a dull comfort level with risk-free living.

Our aim is a life that is deeply satisfying and beautifully adventurous.  This life requires trust, so this life invites and makes room for God.  We desire to graduate students well-equipped to passionately use a compass, rather than casually follow a generic roadmap.

What does this look like?

  • Real “living books” – with beautiful, mature language and inspirational ideas.
  • Real and mature work – no busywork.  Students daily write considerations, questions, transcriptions, and narrations; they regularly write compositions.  Students watercolor reproductions in Nature Study and create reproductions of museum quality art in Picture Study.  Students engage in the creation process in various studies of handwork, gardening, and the work of the home.
  • Students write compositions comparing and contrasting heroes and celebrities, the role of self-governance on the grand experiment that is America, and the effects of Post-Modernism on our daily false traditions.  Work is for the purpose of guiding young persons to pursue truth and the road less traveled.
  • Students and adults enjoy regular breaks for play and extended time for lunch; real conversations grow healthy relationships

3.  “It’s ok that everything’s not ok.”

100% is not a daily standard.  There is no prize for compliance and no fear that might encourage rebellion.  Everyone has a seat at the table.

Learning to be present, to engage in conversation, to find your identity in relationships with safe people, to find your voice, and to learn to love is our daily aim.  Learning to love equips students to be safe people, too – and to be a part of helping another trust his or her true identity, and to find their voice.

This is messy work. It’s got to be ok to make mistakes, to get lost, and to struggle – without learning the habits of hiding, pretending, justifying, blaming, or drowning in shame.  “Performance-obsessed cultures can never promote healing.  Rather, they create more wounding.”  (trueface.org)

What does this look like?

  • Student opportunities to participate – and to struggle – are safe.  Students volunteer to read difficult texts aloud – knowing they’ll get the help they need and they won’t be ridiculed for making mistakes.  This risking in safety results in mature and fluent readers – even when reading a challenging book.
  • Students write mature compositions – taking the time, and asking for the help they need.
  • Students admit their struggles; finding mature support protects them from lies such as “I’m stupid.” or “I’ll never learn this stuff.” or “I hate math.”
  • Struggle is real; students are not protected from consequences or challenge.  20161116_121939Safe adults listen to frustration without fixing. When real emotions are out on the table – students have an opportunity to trust grace and climb out of despair instead of sinking deeper into anxiety or depression.

Grace-based education provides daily glimpses of messy, beautiful maturity.  Currently these opportunities are available in a homeschool partnership contract with my consulting services.

Our dream – and business plan – is to offer this kind of education one day very soon for all students at John 15 Academy.

For more information – contact us.   Other blog posts may be helpful, too.  These three may be good places to start:




  • andrewvjackson

    I love the title of this blog post.

    • Janet Hall-Newberry

      Yes! Especially because it’s true…it can be different! I appreciate your encouragement Andrew.