From Kinder to College - The Newtons’ CDA Perspective

Kim Newton, CDA mom
It is easy to get lost in the minutiae of reading, writing, and arithmetic, head down and focused on projects, assignments, speeches, and debates, with the end goal of achieving the coveted Coram Deo Academy diploma. However, a CDA diploma is not the end, but rather a springboard to the future, and for most students the next step is college. Inside this issue of For This Day, we hear from one Coram Deo family that has first-hand experience of our unique learning environment from kindergarten through 12th grade, and how that learning prepared their kids for the challenges of college.
Matthew and Kim Newton began their adventure at CDA in 2004 when their eldest entered kindergarten. Today John, big brother to three younger siblings, is a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Catherine is a freshman at Baylor University, while Luke (10th grade) and Hannah (8th grade) are still at CDA. Kim has walked alongside her children as they’ve grown in body, mind, and spirit, and she watched two kids leave the nest, equipped to handle what the world has to offer.

How did you choose CDA? We chose CDA when we saw a couple of families at church, including Mrs. Costigan (a longtime CDA 1st grade teacher), who had their children at CDA and spoke so highly of the academics and the collaborative experience. After attending an open house, we were hooked. Honestly, we were hoping that our very active 5-year-old would be able to sit still for two days a week instead of five!

How did your home school days look, logic vs. rhetoric school? As far as rhetoric school, the home days certainly look different from grammar and logic schools. Generally, I feel that my job is to supervise the end-product of the day, especially during the “crunch day”. I try to streamline their success in the day – preparing breakfast, snacks, and lunch - and we still do not schedule any appointments or extras on our crunch day. Our family has found that we are most successful when tangible homework and most test preparation is completed prior to departing for extracurricular activities. So, we plan to be up and working as early as needed to ensure the majority of work is complete before they depart for extracurriculars. We tend to check grades together weekly (or bi-weekly) on CDA Connect so that we can ensure the goals the kids have set as students are being met. When needed, I have encouraged my children to reach out to their teachers to set up a before school meeting to clarify a difficult lesson, and CDA teachers have been responsive and engaged in wanting to help them understand – they are wonderful partners in education. Every child is different, and if each student sets their own goals, you can help support them as they work to accomplish their goals and their personal ownership. As Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

What habits did John and Catherine develop at CDA that they are still using in college? While at CDA, both John and Catherine learned to manage their time and anticipate their workload. I would say that they both entered college with excellent time management skills. CDA also helps students to see the “Big Picture”. As a freshman, some of John’s professors were surprised at his understanding of the “concepts” in history. The essays on his logic and rhetoric level history exams, which brought together an understanding of why things happened, was second nature to him. He saw some of his college peers, who had been successful at their high schools by memorizing facts, struggle to meet the requirements of college level classes. Rhetoric school also prepared them by reinforcing good habits, like annotating literature and having the discipline to complete their math homework… which has translated into success in college. They know HOW to be prepared for and engaged during class.

Were there any classes or assignments that were especially helpful in preparing for college? The discussions and essays that Mrs. Powell and the English department assign regarding overarching themes in literature, moral traits of characters within multiple works, and then tying them back to Biblical truth, really helps CDA students relate to the beauty in literature. Mrs. Powell’s positive encouragement to both strong and weaker writers inspires them to grow in their writing capabilities. Growing from the basic outline of a grammar school Shurley English essay, I believe CDA creates writers who can clearly communicate their thoughts.

CDA also develops good public speakers, which starts with grammar school festival speeches, continues with Ms. Colvin’s logic school speech assignments, and cumulates with Dr. Heitschmidt’s senior author presentation. During this final presentation, each senior researches, prepares, and teaches for the entire class period, introducing an author, their life, and their works. This exercise makes a college 15-minute group presentation seem very manageable! I also believe the CDA junior year emphasis in English/Rhetoric on social justice (Christian Wisdom Capstone) was helpful for framing a student’s concern for a specific issue, how it relates to God’s perspective, as well as learning that individually they (the student) can make a difference. Some college assignments seem “easy” to Catherine because she learned how to prepare an annotated bibliography during Dual Credit Senior English. While these examples are the “knowns” that they have already experienced, the rigor of CDA curriculum has also given them confidence, that when something is new or unknown, they can dig-in and figure out how to solve a new problem.

The spiritual environment at college can be quite different than what kids experience at CDA.  How has that been a challenge for your kids, and how did CDA prepare them for that environment? Wow! John’s experience has shown him that there are a lot of lost people in the world and that he, as a believer in Jesus Christ, should maintain his beliefs while loving the people that God has placed around him. There were a couple of memorable phone calls his first semester as he truly processed the magnitude of the lost. We maintained communication as he dealt with how he would approach the choices being made around him. Colossians 4:5-6 tells us “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Jon Jordan’s Theology class senior year, where he was made to anticipate some of the moral challenges that he would see at college, was helpful to John during this time.

What have you learned after helping John and Catherine successfully navigate CDA? Have you changed anything in your daily routine to better prepare Luke and Hannah? With two kids in college, I know that I cannot do the work for them. It is better to “fail” at CDA than to do it at college to the tune of thousands of dollars for one class! My focus has changed from John, where I was focused on the number grade on his report card, to the understanding of the material itself. I feel that some of the classes and their impact on their real life in college are significant in different ways, like 9th grade Logic (where they identify fallacies in arguments), and Theology in 10th and 12th grades (which helps them define their belief systems and understand the theology of God’s Word). These classes, and the subsequent home discussions, help students as they put words to the justification for their faith, defining and communicating arguments for Truth.

What advice would you give parents, grammar through rhetoric, with regards to preparing your kids for the next step in education? You can do it! With Grammar school the days can be long, especially if you have multiple children, but CDA is worth persevering through!! The time you have with your children flies by, and CDA helps you have more of it. I am thankful for the sibling friendships that my children have due to the time they had together. My advice would be to pray for your students and for their friends, to encourage your children to try a new team sport (outside of their comfort zone) and to make new friends, and to encourage them to do their best. In rhetoric school, allowing them to set their own goals for what they want to accomplish in their classwork, and asking what you can do to support them in the process, is the key to developing an independent learner. For Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

What does SPEAK LIFE mean to you? “Since the children were young, we have talked about the acronym shared by a family friend at church about speech. From Proverbs 12, we aspire to THINK before we speak. THINK is an acronym for True, Helpful, Important, Necessary, and Kind. So, we are to ask ourselves “is it true?”, “is it helpful?”, “is it important?”, “is it necessary?”, “is it kind?” While imperfect in application, most of what we say would speak life to our families, friends, siblings, etc. if we would ask ourselves each of these questions before we speak. We rely on Proverbs 12:18, Our family also likes 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”” - Kim Newton, CDA mom
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