Wisdom and Eloquence: Worldview and Formation

By Christina Walker

In this series of blog posts that explore the book Wisdom and Eloquence by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans, we have discussed why Christian classical education is an effective model to educate and equip students to be culture shapers, especially after graduating from Geneva. In a previous post, we discussed how Geneva uses reliable and time-tested methods of teaching that build a foundation for wisdom and help lead to eloquent graduates.

Worldview and Formation

The word worldview is, like many words, sometimes misunderstood. As we discuss chapter three of the book, worldview means more than “holding ‘biblical’ positions” on issues that we face in our lives and culture. Quoting Littlejohn and Evans, worldview is “that inner honing device that colors everything we think, feel, and do . . . [it] is central to our sense of being and is a function of our culture and upbringing” (p. 44).

For better or worse, a child’s worldview is mostly shaped and developed by the way his or her parents live their lives, what we would call enculturation. Enculturation happens because parents, teachers, coaches, club leaders, youth group leaders, and many others influence children day to day. Purposeful and active enculturation is formation, and teachers as well as many other individuals join parents in this critical endeavor. This purposeful and active effort on the part of teachers is the “work of spiritual, cultural, and intellectual formation” (p.44). Paideia (or formal instruction) and nouthesia (modeling godly wisdom when opportunities arise) are both crucial elements as teachers at Geneva strive to help students understand that our beliefs about God, his Word, and the Christian life matter for everything we do, think, and say. These beliefs become “that inner honing device.”

There is no part of creation that lies outside of God’s control and sovereign possession. Sometimes, we don’t appreciate this truth. But the reality of God’s sovereignty is comforting.

God is the one

who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever (Psalm 146:6).

who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it (Isaiah 42:5).

And because these things are true, we can be confident:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39).

When we all—parents, teachers, staff, and students—acknowledge and internalize these truths, Christ-centered formation begins to happen.

Knowing that each student is made in the image of God also helps teachers to see and value each student as one of his children, which leads to rich opportunities for discipleship as well as teaching. What a gift and responsibility to draw out and help refine the creative nature of each student and to know that each one is “worthy of respect and is deserving of the challenge to manifest his God-given talents to the Creator’s glory,” as Littlejohn and Evans beautifully put it (p. 45).

As believers, we want to take the things that we believe, especially the fundamental, foundational things, and use and apply those beliefs as we (try to!) live consistent and faithful lives aided by the Holy Spirit. A biblical worldview can be very helpful, but we must constantly bring our worldview humbly before Christ and strive to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We do well to remember that “the line between good and evil more often runs through things, ideas, and people (including ourselves) instead of running between them” (p. 50). We must remain humble, knowing and acknowledging that even our best efforts are affected by the Fall and the brokenness of the world and our own selves. Reading and praying, discussing and being in community help us to be receptive and open as the Holy Spirit works in us and through us.

Along with day-to-day enculturation and formation, Geneva also offers formal classes for upper school students to fine tune, discuss, and develop a cohesive and thoughtful worldview. Eleventh graders take Worldview Analysis, which gives students an opportunity to discern how various worldviews show up in their lives through media and how other worldviews and faiths compare and contrast with Christianity. In twelfth grade, students “revisit biblical themes and explore how Christianity need not take a back seat in the marketplace of ideas.” These classes help students realize that all ideas “have consequences for how we live our lives and how we understand human flourishing; students are also able to articulate a statement of faith.”

Wisdom and Eloquence: Integration and Inspiration

By Christina Walker

It’s been a minute since we visited Wisdom and Eloquence, but now we’re going to start the series back up.

From its beginning, The Geneva School has implemented the classical model of education, which focuses on the mastery of the liberal arts during the course of a student’s K4–12th grade Geneva career. During the medieval period, the liberal arts consisted of seven disciplines—grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music—which were taught and learned as interconnected rather than isolated or separate disciplines. For the better part of the last 2,500 years, great thinkers have understood that the different arts are interrelated and that a keen grasp of this concept will help students as they study and learn (i.e., it makes learning easier).

If you have read about classical education, you have probably heard the words trivium and quadrivium. Historically speaking, the trivium is made up of the three language arts (the subjects of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric), and the quadrivium is made up of the mathematical arts (the subjects of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music). There is great beauty in the meaning of the words trivium and quadrivium—the three-way crossroad and the four-way crossroad. Hugo of St. Victor, a twelfth-century ecclesiastical scholar, wrote about the seven liberal arts, calling them “‘the best tools, the fittest entrance through which the way to philosophic truth is opened to our intellect. Hence the names trivium and quadrivium, because here the robust mind progresses as if upon roads or paths to the secrets of wisdom.’” (from Didascalicum, quoted in Wisdom and Eloquence, p. 31)

Although minor changes have occurred over time, the fundamental paradigm has remained the same: building on foundational knowledge in all of the disciplines, working towards mastery of language and mathematical arts. Through this mastery, and, even more importantly, viewing these studies through a Christian lens as they grow in knowledge in their biblical studies, students grow in wisdom and hone their communication skills so that they are able to be heavenly minded and do great earthly good.

Applying the ideas in chapter two of Wisdom and Eloquence to a Christian classical education leads to these goals:

  • Creating independent, lifelong learners by teaching students how to think, not just what to think
  • Integrating the disciplines
  • Teaching the liberal arts and sciences to children of all ages with age-appropriate curricula
  • Inspiring students to explore, discover, and continue to learn beyond the classroom

Geneva strives to reach these goals in the following ways:

  • Teachers develop fluent readers who are able to read with automaticity, which lays the groundwork for deeper comprehension and understanding; readers also develop a strong sense of right and wrong.
  • Students in every grade learn how subjects and disciplines are interrelated: math and music are intricately and intrinsically intertwined; literature can be better understood by studying the historical context in which it was written, and the two are inherently connected; the same can be said of history and scientific discovery.
  • All subjects are taught to each student, using age-appropriate methods and language, from K4 through senior year.
  • Students experience what they are learning inside and outside of the classroom through special feast days, culminating events, and field trips that bring classroom lessons to life in hands-on ways.

Here are just some of the special days and field trips that students experience during their years at The Geneva School:

  • Seafood tasting in K4
  • Kindergarten store
  • Florida Native Festival in first grade
  • Velveteen Rabbit sewing day in second grade
  • Greek Olympics in third grade
  • Viking Day in fourth grade
  • George Washington’s birthday ball in fifth grade
  • Hobbit Day in sixth grade
  • The North Florida trip in seventh grade
  • The Everglades trip in ninth grade
  • Math and science classes that have students outside testing and proving theories
  • Reading Macbeth aloud in English class and going to see a Shakespeare play annually at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater
  • Senior thesis presentations

Wisdom and Eloquence: Our “Hope-Filled” Goal

By Christina Walker

Society is constantly changing; in the midst of that constant change, we are confident that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, ESV). Rooted in his constancy, Christian educators are able to respond to the ever-changing needs around them and in their students’ lives so that they will also be able to impact society and the world for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom. St. Augustine and C. S. Lewis spoke of this kind of focus in terms of being heavenly minded in order to do great earthly good.

Reflecting this focus, Christian education has two “hope-filled” goals:

  • helping students grow in their faith, knowledge, and relationships
  • preparing them to promote this same kind of growth in their lives after graduation

In Wisdom and Eloquence, Robert Littlejohn and Charles Evans remind us that we (in the Christian tradition) receive wisdom in order to impart it, and the wisdom we pass on to the next generation is dependable—from an authority that we can trust because this authority is transcendent (p. 18). They refer us to St. Augustine of Hippo and his instructions for acquiring wisdom and becoming eloquent.

Augustine, writing in times very similar to ours (especially as Americans), offers reliable guidance for us because the methods he advocates have been tested and proven effective over many hundreds of years and, more importantly, because his driving belief is that “the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright” (Proverbs 2:6–7). In his book On Christian Doctrine, he argues (as Littlejohn and Evans also maintain) that any learning, knowledge, or wisdom is for the sake of edifying (or loving) others and will lead to the benefit of neighbor, society, culture, and the world.

In Augustine’s writings, he asserts that the foundation for gaining wisdom is reading the Bible thoroughly and knowing what it says. Students at Geneva begin reading Bible stories in K4, and as students get older, teachers introduce them to larger portions of Scripture and go deeper into the themes that we discover in the Bible. Students memorize Bible verses and passages throughout each year from K4 through 6th grade.

  • K4, K, 1st: daily Bible lessons and devotions
  • 2nd: study of Genesis and Exodus (creation through the Exodus from Egypt)
  • 3rd: historical and poetical books of the Old Testament (from Joshua’s leadership before entering the Promised Land to the judges of Israel to the reign of David and then Solomon)
  • 4th: study of the prophets and the fall of Israel and Judah
  • 5th: study of the Gospels and the life of Christ
  • 6th: study of The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles
  • 7th: Old Testament survey
  • 8th: New Testament survey
  • 9th–12th: study of Christian thinkers, worldview, and the Bible in order to learn how to think according to the truths, traditions, and telos of the Christian faith, culminating in the class Bible in Perspective senior year

It is not only very important to everyone at Geneva that students study the Bible from K4 through senior year: it is a distinctive feature of the school.

After a thorough study of Scripture, Augustine encourages pursuing knowledge about “everything else”—studying broadly and learning about subjects that are “investigated and discovered”—building on the foundation of biblical studies. I love how Littlejohn and Evans claim that “the transcendent aim of such pursuits is to discover and to acknowledge the glory of God’s creative genius” and increase “ability to understand, function in, and positively affect the world around us” (p.19).

Never fear: Augustine does not leave us with a huge task and no direction.

As Littlejohn and Evans explain in Wisdom and Eloquence, classical education is an exceptional method for passing wisdom from one generation to another while developing eloquence because students receive “practical culture-shaping skills” through the core curriculum, and these skills equip them to learn about anything they might like to study in their present or future (p. 22). The integrated core curriculum is another distinctive feature of The Geneva School.

As we go through the book, we’ll discuss these characteristics of the Christian classical education that Geneva provides.

Certain commitments and beliefs go along with the pursuit and implementation of the liberal arts tradition:

  • Being a human being means being a person of faith (what one has faith in varies wildly these days).
  • To understand oneself, one must (seek to) understand the divinely ordered universe.
  • People are fallen creatures, but redemption is possible.
  • Truth, goodness, and beauty can be investigated and known because they are characteristics of God; pursuing these is not only valuable but achievable (even though we know our pursuit will not be perfect) (pp.25–26).

These things may seem like no-brainers to many in our community, but in today’s cultural climate, these are not things that we can take for granted. Teaching our children in this tradition cultivates in the next generation wisdom and eloquence so they can, indeed, be heavenly minded and do great earthly good. In future posts, we will explore and discuss what it means to “do great earthly good” and the many different ways Christians can embody this.

A Thousand Words

By Christina Walker

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it would take volumes to impart the stories, the adventures, and the virtues illustrated throughout the lower school building: beautiful murals adorn each classroom, illustrating themes from their studies or scenes from classic literature and transporting students and teachers alike to other worlds. Such lovely additions are more than mere decoration. These paintings enrich the lives of our young scholars, surrounding them with images that remind them of what is good, true, and beautiful in the world and in their lives.

God the creator made us in his image with the desire and capacity to create, and the talented artists who have used their gifts to enhance The Geneva School with such beautiful paintings reflect his goodness, ingenuity, and creativity. Art transforms—drawing us in and inspiring our own imaginations, fanning the flames of the longing that we all feel for that “true country” as C. S. Lewis calls it. These murals encourage everyone who encounters them to seek out Narnia in their everyday lives, looking for “a most extraordinary excursion into magical lands and enchanted happenings.” What a legacy to leave for future generations at Geneva.

We are grateful to TGS alumnae Maddie Noll (‘16), Anna Classe (‘17), Charlie Classe (‘18), Raquel Smith (‘19), Lilly Wilhite (‘19), Abigail Clark (‘20), Macy Noll (‘21), and Anna Mages (‘22), Catherine Payne (TGS receptionist and after school art teacher last year), and long-time Geneva art teacher Shelly Bradon for their magnificent work that opens up our eyes, minds, and hearts to beauty and hope.

The header image is a mural of a cave on a science room wall.

Pursuing Wisdom and Exercising Eloquence

By Christina Walker

When we think about the reasons we send our children to a Christian classical school like The Geneva School, we often think of how good it will be for our children: how the school environment, the curriculum and programming, faculty and staff, and other students will affect them. These things are important and certainly worthy of our consideration; we want our children to thrive and flourish. And students do thrive in a supportive, loving environment under the instruction and guidance of adults who care for their pupils as well as for the material they teach, and it does matter what kind of friends and peers our children have. Along with these meaningful aspects, a significant and key facet of the educational experience at The Geneva School—one we’d like to focus on and explore this year with our families—is the effect or impact that our students will have on the world and culture once they leave these walls: during their years here, Geneva students pursue wisdom and exercise eloquence so that they are able to be difference-makers in the world for the building up of Christ’s kingdom.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2, ESV). Transformation takes place when we study Scripture and the world in which we live. These means of transformation (renewal) provide the wisdom and the tools to transform (renew) culture. In the book Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning, Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans demonstrate how a Christian classical education is not only an exceptional educational enterprise but also a highly effective way to equip and prepare young people for future roles that bring God’s goodness, truth, and beauty to peers, colleagues, and society.

During this school year, we are going to be sharing insights from Wisdom and Eloquence—informing and edifying our community, growing in our understanding of Christian classical education, and expanding on the mission of the school: to inspire students to love beauty, think deeply, and pursue Christ’s calling.

See You on the Other Side

By Christina Walker

Mr. Ryden, who is not only Geneva’s head of school but also a brilliant summer fun expert, wrote in The Courier recently and encouraged our community—older and younger members alike—to have a “joyful and relaxing summer break … filled with exercise, fresh air, play, reading, and sleep.” He reminisced about his younger days during the summer, which were full of sports with friends, board games, swimming, and reading.

Considering our devices consume so much of our time, setting them aside for more old-school entertainment can seem challenging. We as parents may fear, as Mr. Ryden said, hearing, “I’m bored!” from our children. However, he also correctly concluded that “on the other side of boredom is a whole world of creativity, exercise, and fun.” From making pillow forts to playing board games, hiking and kayaking to reading and hanging out with neighbors or friends, there are myriad activities that both parents and their children (no matter the ages) can enjoy this summer.

I have seen it myself; when kids are together without their screens, they come up with amazing ideas and their imaginations take over. From playing games as characters (that everyone guesses after the game is over) to writing stories, this summer has already been full of nonscreen fun for my own children.

Make time for getting outside, playing games, cuddling up with a good book, or baking something fun together over these remaining summer weeks. The memories you make will be worth it! And if you happen to hear someone say, “I’m bored,” wait it out and see what happens; encourage your children (even older ones) to seek out what is on the other side of that feeling of boredom. Who knows what paths they will discover and enjoy!

Summer fun for little or big kids:

  • Card games
  • Board games
  • Imagination games
  • Coloring books and other activity books (some coloring books are intricate and complex)
  • Mad libs
  • Puzzles
  • Cooking or baking with mom, dad, or siblings
  • Playing in the rain
  • Going to the park
  • Taking a walk
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding
  • Swimming with friends
  • Reading
  • Writing a story or poetry

Magic in Our Hands

By Christina Walker, Advancement Office

Do you ever think back on your favorite book from your childhood (or books … it may be impossible to narrow it down to just one)? Magic Elizabeth by Norma Kassirer took me into another world from the first words on the first page, a magical, mysterious journey that I remember to this day. For many years, my book was lost: it had disappeared at my parents’ house sometime between when I was a young girl and when I got married and moved out. I tried finding it online and discovered much to my dismay that I could get a copy for $200 or $500 (depending on if I wanted hardback or paperback)! One day, over a decade later during one of my visits back home, my mom brought down a box she had uncovered in their attic for me to look through. As I sorted through the contents, laughing hysterically at some of the papers and notebooks that had transformed this old cardboard box into a treasure chest, I came upon a book. I screamed with joy and amazement and tears sprang to my eyes as I realized that my Magic Elizabeth was not gone forever after all!

Even though pages turn yellow and covers fall to pieces, the power of good stories does not fade with time.

I was able to share this magical story with my youngest daughter, along with many other books that I had loved as a child or that I had discovered as a parent who read to my children. Reading with Michaela (‘19), Christian (‘21), and Eliana (‘26) is now one of my treasured memories (every now and then, Eliana and I will read something together still). The time spent opening up our imaginations and making our way into and through someone else’s world was (and still is) a multifaceted gift.

My oldest, Michaela, wrote her senior thesis for Geneva about the importance of reading for Christians. The title of her paper, “Make America Read Again: The Christian Need for Literature in a Consumer Society,” reflects her astute observation (and honest self-reflection) about the world we live in, especially as Americans. She notes that reading well helps us “combat this society’s cultural attacks on our ability to know and glorify God.” From shaping minds to developing thought processes, from recognizing the ways that human beings reflect the image of God to becoming more virtuous, reading—and especially reading well—helps us to know ourselves and our Creator better and to bring glory to him as we learn from and embody virtues we encounter in the stories we read.

Remember those magical moments, exciting journeys, painful circumstances, and winding roads found within the pages you have turned. Sit with your little ones, and sit with your older children too! Enter into a wardrobe that leads to “the middle of a wood at night-time with … snowflakes falling through the air,” or warily welcome Mrs. Whatsit into your kitchen in the middle of the night during a hurricane. Watch happily from a log as “seven Trumpeters all in a line, five of them just out of the egg,” glide toward you and then “Beep” joyfully for you, except for a quiet one who does something no one would expect a baby swan to do. Or watch your mama, a teacher in your school—”one of the largest black schools in the county”—as she deliberately trims paper in order to cover the chart inside of the school book you are going to receive, “somebody’s old throwaways,” … knowing “She understood.”

Read to understand. Read to grow. And read because there are, as Michaela reminds us in her thesis, “books out there that you will enjoy.”

Books referenced or quoted:

Magic Elizabeth by Norma Kassirer
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Victory and Justice, Awareness and Action

On Thursday, March 3, 2022, two Geneva seniors—Anna Mages and Laura McKnight—were invited to speak on behalf of Geneva’s Biblical Justice Club at the Victory Cup Initiative, which is an annual event that provides ten nonprofit organizations in Central Florida with the opportunity to represent and promote the unique ways they are changing lives in our area, making a difference for individuals and communities who are underserved or in need of support. At the end of the nonprofits’ presentations, a top award is given to one of the organizations based on a vote from the attendees; however, each nonprofit leaves with an award regardless of their standing after the vote. Along with a financial benefit, each nonprofit has the opportunity to engage with community leaders and bring awareness to a diverse array of organizations.

Through a new partnership called the Victory Cup Youth Initiative, Anna and Laura were able to hear from the leaders of ten nonprofits about the work they are doing, and they also had the chance to share with this room full of local businessmen and businesswomen about the mission and goals of the Biblical Justice Club at Geneva. This reciprocal participation, sharing and learning about what is going on in our community and what is going on at The Geneva School, set up an important foundation for future partnerships and achievements. This experience expanded on the girls’ involvement with community service, broadening the scope from SALT day and fulfilling obligations for graduation to the everyday lives of folks who make it their daily work to meet the extraordinary needs of their (and our) neighbors.

After this special experience, the Biblical Justice Club was able to bring even more light to these nonprofits that operate in Central Florida. At an upper school assembly on March 30 as part of the Victory Cup Youth Initiative, ten of the members of the club represented the same nonprofits from the Victory Cup Initiative for the chance to reward an extra $2,500 from a private donor to the organization receiving the most votes from students, faculty, and staff. Each club member did a wonderful job speaking for his or her nonprofit, and when the votes were tallied, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida received the prize.

This exposure to the important work of these organizations and the extensive and varied needs in Central Florida and beyond will hopefully be a stepping stone that leads to awareness and action for Geneva students. We desire for these young people to know that God loves and cares for their neighbors and that there are many ways to get involved to help make others’ lives better. A partnership with the Victory Cup Youth Initiative ensures ongoing growth and enrichment in this area for TGS students.

Mandy Turnbull, Geneva English teacher and faculty sponsor of the Biblical Justice Club, shared some thoughts at the beginning of the assembly about justice and why we are drawn to it. We long for good to triumph over evil—we love superhero movies because the good guys defeat the villains, and we know that the good should win. But she went on to point out that biblical justice goes beyond this desire to see good triumph: it exhorts us to participate in justice, “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Mic. 6:8). We are called to enter into what God is doing in the world and in people’s lives as he redeems and restores until one day when all will be made new (Rev. 21). This is one of the greatest expressions of good triumphing over evil, when we are engaging, empowering, and encouraging those in our community (or even around the world) for the sake of God’s kingdom and his glory.

Here are the organizations and the students who represented them at the assembly:

Aeras Foundation | Charles White ’23
AMI Kids | Catherine Wilhite ’23
Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida | Addie Bowman ’23
Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida | Anna Mages ’22
Eight Cents in a Jar | Charley Turnbull ’23
Harbor House of Central Florida | Laura McKnight ’22
One Purse | Ella Hunter ’22
Ronald McDonald House Charities Central Florida | Mattie Shepherd ’25
Steinway Society of Central Florida | Sarah Barnhart ’22
The Mustard Seed of Central Florida | Olivia Kyle ’23

Life Lessons Learned from My Backyard Chickens

Geneva mom, Carolyn Haber, shared at the New Moms Coffee on August 27, 2021.

My ultimate joy would be sitting with you in my backyard, in the shade of my magnolia tree, to get to know each of you a little better. If we were at my house, you might be a little surprised by “my girls,” my feathered friends, my chickens. They are all named (at least, most of them are): you would see Wilma Jean (she’s the most friendly) and Fern (named by the art teacher, Mrs. Fraser); then there is Lurleen, Thelma, Libbie, Matilda, Eleanor, and the list goes on. This morning, I want to share with you five things I learned from my chickens.

Stick close to the rooster.

Our rooster is named Ralph, after Dan’s father. Ralph’s primary role is flock security, which includes flock advisor and flock counselor. His eyes and neck dart, as he is constantly on guard; he gathers the hens close and physically protects them from predators. He also is one that will alert and alarm his ladies when he finds good eats; the hens come running. Just as I notice my hens stick close to the rooster, I will say for you and me: Cling to Jesus. He will guide you and protect you. He loves you unconditionally, he is always available to you, he knows your thoughts and hears your prayers. The Bible says that he knit you together in your mother’s womb and he knows the number of hairs on your head. He equips you for every good work. Stick close to JESUS!

A mother hen’s love for her chicks is inspiring.

This morning, I watched my mama hen with six less-than-two-week-old baby chicks. The day she became broody, which means the day she decided to be a mom, she started sitting on eggs. Mama hens sit on eggs for twenty-one days: her clutch of eggs can be a mix of her eggs and some of her hen friends’. (Some chicken mamas have even died because they were so committed to sitting on eggs—they didn’t get up to eat). Once the babies hatch, the mother hen is a fierce mama, constantly clicking and clacking to communicate with their chicks. She is teaching them what to eat, calling them when they are wandering away, fussing with the other hen friends that get too close to her babies. I love to find the baby chicks resting underneath mama or on top of her back.

Look around—this room is filled with mamas! Each woman in this room is here because you are a mama, you have a child or children at The Geneva School. I know you are equally committed to your chicks. You are not new to motherhood yet you are new to this school; welcome to Geneva! We are glad you are here! Mamas, you are in great company. And what you don’t see is a greater company of moms that have gone before us and the moms that you have yet to meet.

Last year, I felt new all over again, as I had a little one in K4. I loved meeting a bunch of new moms; we were all starting with our little ones, their first time in real school, a full day. I am a believer that relationships need repetition and experiences. For me last year, while sitting on the sidelines with other new parents at the Friday night soccer games, volunteering together the day of SALT, seeing one another at birthday parties or school events, relationships were kindled. Get involved. You have a place at Geneva. We are glad you are here. As a mother, you love your kids fiercely so sometimes it seems like work to get connected; yet make friends, get to know other mothers and families, and link arms, and let’s do this together. Which leads me to my next point.

Chickens recognize the value of community.

Innately, chickens understand the importance of sticking together. Where one goes they all go. Separating from the flock can lead to danger or death. At times, one will find a worm in one part of the yard, and at a moment’s notice, they will all be scratching the same spot for good grubs. Periodically, I will introduce new hens to the flock; it takes a little time for each of them to make new chicken friends and figure out their role in the flock. Sound familiar as you are making new friends, figuring out a new school schedule (possibly with drop-offs at different campuses) and uniforms that might not have arrived on time and what after-school activity will work for each child? Thankfully, the teachers and staff know and are there to help in a time of transition.

Three years ago, I received a breast cancer diagnosis on August 1, 2018. The next day, I met with a breast surgeon and she said, “I have you on my calendar for surgery for August 14”—exactly two weeks from that day. She saw the surprise on my face. She remarked, “Do you have a conflict on that date?” I mentioned that my boy would start kindergarten on that day, and she said, “You look like you have people who can help you.” The day Richard Daniel started kindergarten, I had a double mastectomy. And Mrs. Geer, his Geneva kindergarten teacher, texted me that day, “Your boy is doing great, we are praying for you!” Dan and I, somewhat new to the Geneva community, were surrounded by new friends, teachers, and Geneva faculty that helped us. One Geneva mama put a mini fridge on my front porch for meals to be dropped off, another sent her housekeeper to clean my house, another mom arranged pickups for my children every afternoon, countless meals were enjoyed, another mom took my son to soccer (I think I only went to one game that season). Dan and I were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the Geneva family. In the last three years, I survived fifty-two weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, countless infections, five more major surgeries, more infections, and we could not have survived and thrived without the Geneva family as they cheered for us and embraced us. The hard days solidify our love and commitment to the school and the community. And you are now part of the Geneva community.

Next, and I almost hate to mention it, yet it’s true.

Predators are everywhere!

Yesterday, as we were rushing out the back door trying to get to school on time, Ralph, the rooster, and a few hens were squawking. John Doster, my youngest, noticed on the neighbors’ roof, watching the chickens, a beautiful hawk. He was eying my flock and he was hungry for breakfast, doing what he knows best, hunting his prey. I would prefer to see him with a fish in his talons, which he caught out of the nearby lake. John 10:10, a familiar passage out of the Bible, reminds us that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Watch out: the enemy wants to distract us, cause dissension in relationships, destroy … but the second part of the verse reminds us that Jesus came into the world to give us abundant life. Not just mediocre, okay life but abundant. Beware, the enemy is flying over; alert and alarm your people, be on guard, look up, rebuke, run, and hide.

Even as I close this talk, it’s likely there are one or two hens singing.

Sing a thankful song, all morning long.

Every morning, before noon or so, I can hear my hens—some of them sing better than others. Hens squawk and squeal; it’s not exactly melodious, yet they celebrate their accomplishment of laying an egg or they sing for their hen mate who laid an egg in the basket before them or they sing when someone is in their laying basket and they want to sound alarm that they are ready to lay their daily egg. I guess they are trying to make a joyful noise. How easy it is for me to be distracted by the squawks and the squeals rather than appreciate the hard work of my hen to lay an egg and celebrate with her. Sometimes I have to choose to be thankful in all circumstances. Sometimes it is not easy or natural to see the good in the hard.

During the dark days of my chemo and surgery recovery, I was given a journal and challenged by a friend to write down five things I was thankful for each day. Such a journal is a gift I now pass along to newly diagnosed cancer patients, as I know it was a little exercise that helped me when my days were long. I also found great joy in friends’ visits when I didn’t have the energy to go out, yet loved for new friends to come in to see me. One friend of a friend called to say she had just tried a new recipe for banana bread with a mascarpone cheese spread; something so little was something that was a great encouragement to me, and I was thankful for that encouragement. Celebrating in gratitude makes life more fun. At Geneva, we have a number of opportunities to come alongside one another and our children to celebrate their work, their soccer goals, their theatre performances, and their accomplishments.

Ladies, there are five things I want you to remember from my time this morning:
  1. Stick close to JESUS! He loves unconditionally and cares about all the details of your life.
  2. You have a unique role as a mother: Be a Mother Hen and take it as a compliment!!
  3. Welcome to the Geneva family—you are now part of a fabulous community! Get involved.
  4. Watch out, be on guard against the enemy.
  5. Sing a thankful song. Choose to be thankful in the sometimes-hard journey called life.

Mamas, welcome! You are now part of the Geneva family.

In closing, you are invited to my backyard. It’s always shady under my magnolia tree and the Adirondack chairs are perfect for a friend (or two) and me! My girls will be thrilled to meet you in hopes you will feed them treats. And I will likely send you home with some of their fresh eggs to eat.

Carolyn Haber’s adventures began when she studied in China after graduating from The University of Alabama. While living in China, she was captivated by the people, challenged by the food, and changed by the culture. Carolyn worked on the university campus with college women until she moved to Orlando, to travel the world alongside the late Vonette Bright, cofounder of Campus Crusade for Christ. Twelve years ago, she met and married Dan; they have two sons, Richard Daniel and John Doster, both students at The Geneva School. Her work outside the home with The JESUS Film Project allows her to continue to be involved in helping people around the world see and hear JESUS in their heart language.

Athletic Disciplines—Work, Diet, and Motivation

By TGS track and field team members Ella Raesly (’24), Charles White (’23), and Josh McKay (’22)

Tony Ross and Gary Evans used our Geneva track and field facilities to train a number of elite Olympic athletes. Three of our varsity track and field team had the chance to interview a couple of them this summer. 

Samantha Dirks

This past summer, we had the incredible privilege of meeting a couple of professional track athletes and interviewing them. The first athlete we met was Jessica Beard. Jessica specializes in the 400-meter dash (one lap) and had a phenomenal track career at Texas A&M University, winning two NCAA titles, a pair of relay golds, and the Bowerman Award (top collegiate track athlete). We also interviewed Samantha Dirks, who represented Belize, where her mom is from, at the Olympics in the 400-meter dash. When we first met these two athletes, we already had a basic assumption that they had been training for track since youth, or at least the beginning of middle school; however, when we asked the two of them when they began, Jessica told us that she did not start until her freshman year of high school, and Samantha did not begin running until twelfth grade! Both played basketball when they were younger, and Jessica only began track because she was told that it would help her with basketball. So what does it take to become a successful athlete, even after starting late? Surprisingly, both athletes hit the same three categories.

The first part of a successful track career is work: if you don’t grind day in and day out, you can kiss your dreams goodbye. Both athletes started late, but by putting in the time and effort, they’ve risen to the top. The work is not always fun, though: after a workout, Jessica will sometimes say, “Coach, you are crazy,” but she doesn’t argue because she’s seen the results of difficult training. Jessica told us, “I think we make it look easy, ‘cause all people see is the end result, you know? They see you when you’re out there at a conference, or when you’re at a meet, but they don’t see all the hard work that you do behind the scenes, and whether it’s injuries that you’re battling and you have to overcome, or whatever the case may be, people only see the end result.”

Jessica Beard

The second important discipline for a professional athlete is diet. Samantha Dirks is a pescatarian (no, that is not a denomination), which means that she does not eat meat but does eat fish. While most of us probably love bacon too much to give up meat, Samantha understands that discipline, no matter how harsh, is necessary to hit her goals. “In terms of my diet as a whole,” Samantha told us, “I’m very conscious of what I put in my body, so I eat out as little as possible, and if I do, it’s something that I know will be fuel for my body. So that’s my number one thing: focus on fueling your body and fueling for whatever sport you’re going through.”

The last part of becoming successful is motivation. When it comes to motivating themselves, neither Jessica nor Samantha lacks enthusiasm. For Jessica, it is important to continue to have fun, whether or not a race or a practice goes well; she mentioned multiple times that she is very competitive, but she knows that she can’t let that get in the way of enjoying a sport that she loves. Samantha finds her drive in her underdog story, having started track much later than most anyone she races. Both were also motivated by their friends, family, role models, and even country. Jessica Beard and Samantha Dirks prove that you don’t have to be an immediate prodigy to excel in your field. Just stick with it, and who knows? Maybe you will represent the United States in a future Olympics.

The Geneva School
The Geneva School
June 24, 2024
  • Summer Camps (Week 4)

    Date: June 24, 2024 - June 28, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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June 25, 2024
  • Summer Camps (Week 4)

    Date: June 24, 2024 - June 28, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

June 26, 2024
  • Summer Camps (Week 4)

    Date: June 24, 2024 - June 28, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

June 24, 2024
  • Summer Camps (Week 4)

    Date: June 24, 2024 - June 28, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

June 25, 2024
  • Summer Camps (Week 4)

    Date: June 24, 2024 - June 28, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

June 26, 2024
  • Summer Camps (Week 4)

    Date: June 24, 2024 - June 28, 2024
    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
    See more details

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