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All of us here at Caldwell Academy are embarking on an exciting journey down the road of Christian classical education. While this is a fairly recent trend in the Triad, what we do here is a centuries-old approach to education that has proven over time to be the finest way to teach young souls how to appreciate beauty, seek truth, and become both virtuous and wise. To separate truth from falsehood, to discern right from wrong, to ponder true beauty, and to be undeceived and see clearly are all ultimately the point of education.
Caldwell’s approach accomplishes these things by focusing on the tools of learning, on the study of the intricacies of language and communication, and on reading and engaging with the works of the greatest minds and writers in the Western world. Classical education focuses heavily on ideas, a practice central to our design as rational thinking creatures who are image-bearers of God. Our students are taught objective truth, how to apply reason in the search for truth, and how to know truth. They are encouraged to learn from those who have gone before and who have wrestled with life’s ultimate questions. This process of reading and contemplating great ideas and ultimate questions is often referred to as joining the Great Conversation. Our goal is not only that we achieve academic rigor so that our students might grow intellectually, but also that their souls be nourished. Souls grow when we read and discuss great books and contemplate great ideas while seeking the mind of Christ.
Christian classical education at Caldwell cultivates the virtue of each student in mind, body, and heart while nurturing a love for wisdom, all under the Lordship of Christ. Our faculty members possess a full and rich knowledge of the content they teach. They are also humble and transparent, all walking in the Spirit (though with a limp) and earnestly following Jesus Christ and loving their students as His image-bearers. Our approach to education is less about a product such as test scores, college acceptance, or career achievement, and more about the process of stretching the mind, enlarging the heart, and nourishing the soul to walk in truth, beauty, and goodness. Our process does nevertheless produce an outcome.
The outcome is young men and women who are lifelong learners, who are creative problem solvers, who can think outside the box, who can develop a rational argument, and who can communicate eloquently and winsomely – across the disciplines of mathematics and science, history and literature, theology and the fine arts. We prepare our students to flourish, which is less about grades and more about the life of the mind and the ability to engage the culture, to deeply understand the world around them, to delight in the joys of God’s creation throughout eternity, and to faithfully follow Jesus Christ while engaged in the learning process for life. Our goal is for all of our students to ultimately develop more fully in becoming who they were meant to be. That is an education worth having. We are so thankful that you are partnering with us in this quest.
On a cloudless, sunny day in September, 47 Seniors gathered outside Caldwell’s gymnasium, reminiscing and expressing disbelief over how quickly we had all grown up. This trip down memory lane was sparked by the K-Pals ceremony about to take place.
K-Pals is a program at Caldwell that allows each Senior to become friends with a Kindergartener. This year-long program includes organized classroom visits, picnics, holiday celebrations, and more. The tradition was started several years ago with the Class of 2016 and has become a favorite among Seniors because of its timely reminder of their own childhood and the importance of laughter during an otherwise stressful school year.
“Head on in, everyone!” Mrs. Wierda’s call for us to head inside put an end to our reminiscing, and at once, we moved into the gym to meet our K-Pal for the year. Each Senior headed to the microphone with the name of the K-Pal written on a slip of paper.
As I reached the microphone, I glanced at the paper in my hand to double-check the name before speaking: “Hi, I’m Calvin York. My favorite book when I was little was Corduroy and my K-Pal is David Krumroy.” I scanned the crowd, and my new favorite person stood and walked up to me. David was noticeably nervous, but all smiles. We settled down next to the rest of our classmates, and David laid his head of messy, dirty-blonde hair on my shoulder. My heart immediately melted.
We were officially pals – instant friends, and we soon learned we had much in common. Even my classmates commented on how we were “basically the same person.” We quickly became a dynamic duo and I became fascinated with David’s childlike wonder and excitement about literally everything – anything from dinosaur books to the crafts he liked.
It’s great to be a child, but it’s even better to be around a child. I’ve learned to see things from a refreshed perspective, acknowledging what’s most important in life. Seeing David’s fascination with the world gave me a desire to learn more, which increased my interest in classes and in the people around me. The program may have been designed with the intention of Seniors becoming role models for our Kindergartners, but it appears that this relationship results in an equal amount of inspiration from both parties.
It’s an amazing feeling to know I am making a lasting impact on David’s life, and being a mentor to him is surprisingly as easy as spending some time together. David’s father, Ryan Krumroy, noticed this too, commenting, “It was great to see young men show gentle wisdom, have real interest, and share Christ’s love with their younger classmates.”
On April 20, Seniors and Kindergartners had their last K-Pals gathering. We had a cookout and spent an hour (or as David says, “A whole 60 minutes!”) with our Kindergarten friends. Goodbyes are always hard, but especially for the ones old enough to be familiar with the passing of time and the changing of seasons. These innocent Kindergartners are still beginning to understand time, so the reality that this was our last gathering hadn’t quite sunk in.
However much we dreaded it, our year as pals came to an end. I’m sure David’s young mind wondered why I took a million pictures. I imagine one day he’ll understand. But until then, I can only hope that this program will remain a tradition at Caldwell for many years to come. What a great thought to imagine David taking memories of our time together into his own Senior K-Pal experience
Written By Janet Speckman, Grammar School Principal
August is still five months away, but you may be feeling some anxiety if your little one is heading to Kindergarten in the fall.
Maybe you’re wondering: Will my child be prepared for Kindergarten? How will he/she react to a full day away from home? Is my child developmentally ready to interact with other children on a daily basis?
Children are ready to begin Kindergarten when they can cope with the complexities of the school environment and learn at the same time. Intelligence is only one part of school success. While some children may seem advanced in a particular area – for example, in language skills or the ability to read – this alone is not an indicator of overall readiness. Social, emotional, physical, and intellectual readiness are all necessary in order for a child to succeed and be happy in school. When children are not fully ready for the demands of school, stress often gets in the way of the ability to learn and be successful.
Both in my early years as a trained educator and later as a mom navigating my daughter through her early years, I unfortunately let the academic piece take priority over the developmental piece of the equation. How did that happen? At the time, I was unaware of the important role that developmental stages play in setting a child up for a successful start to school. Only after researching and reading about the developmental ages and stages of a child did I realize that no one, including parents and teachers, can force development. Children who are not developmentally ready to receive instruction are frequently using all of their energy to achieve academic success and are left with little energy to help them grow socially or emotionally. Their developmental stages get out of balance.
The following are some key areas of development and activities that demonstrate a child’s potential readiness for Kindergarten.
Gross Motor Skills (physical skills that strengthen core muscles of the trunk, arms, and legs):
Fine Motor Skills:
Attention and Following Directions:
At Caldwell Academy, we believe that God has designed young children to fully embrace the gifts of curiosity, wonder, and delight once they have reached a particular level of development. Children who enter Kindergarten with strong developmental skills in place are set for success, allowing the wonder of learning to take hold.
As I make my way through the second semester of my Senior year at Caldwell Academy, I feel as though the year has been passing in a blur of excitement and at the same time moving at a snail’s pace. Fall semester was taxing and stressful, and when one is in the middle of all these responsibilities, it’s often difficult to see the good that’s mixed in. However, looking back on last semester and looking toward my final weeks here at Caldwell, I am able to appreciate the wonderful experiences I’ve been afforded during my Senior year and throughout my time at Caldwell.
There are so many highlights during Senior year, and obviously, the Senior trip to Italy is one that every Caldwell student looks forward to. However, what I’ve enjoyed most about my Senior year is the sense of community my class has established – all thanks to small class sizes and the years of intentional relationship-building among my teachers and peers.
We take Humanities classes all through our Dialectic and Rhetoric years (the traditional middle and high school years), but this year’s classes have been especially memorable. Humanities studies at Caldwell integrate literature, history, Bible, and the rhetoric tools of public speaking and debate. This integration helps us focus our studies on the same time period in each class. The unique blend of all of these classes gives the student a more comprehensive look into the context, people, and places that we are studying.
The outcome is a truly unique experience consisting of dynamic class discussions, conspiracy theories, and a close-knit community within a classroom of students having varying cultural experiences and viewpoints.
From year to year, our Humanities classes help us develop our ability to listen well and speak persuasively, and our Senior year is when all that training culminates, resulting in some of the very best class discussions – varying from whether Hemingway’s portrayal of Catherine Barkley was sexist (A Farewell to Arms) to whether Teddy Roosevelt honored William McKinley’s legacy after McKinley’s assassination.
This style of learning allows us to go beyond the textbook in class: from Russia, Belgium, and France to the history of Oakland. My classmates and I are often shocked at the hidden figures we’ve discovered: for example, Claudette Colvin was actually the first black person to refuse to give up her seat on a bus, not Rosa Parks. We go beyond a standard education and learn about civil rights leaders that most people have never heard of like Alice Paul (my personal favorite), Lucy Burns, Inez Milholland, along with more familiar ones like Malcolm X, and W.E.B. DuBois.
Though Caldwell’s community is the part I enjoy most about my Senior year, I will also never forget the many Senior traditions that Caldwell has to offer. Italy was breathtaking, and nothing could beat eating authentic Italian pizza on a sunny day, with the whole city of Florence waiting to be explored. A close second would be seeing – right there in front of us, with our own two eyes – all the landmarks we’ve learned about since middle school. I’ll never forget looking up and seeing David, or seeing The School of Athens in the Vatican. I also remember when I first saw the Colosseum. Nothing had prepared me for how vast and intricate it was, despite being in ruins. We devoured so much food on this trip that the class came to a consensus that none of us could even look at Italian food for at least a month. But now, we all miss the authentic spaghetti, pizza, and especially the gelato. We returned home with suitcases full of souvenirs and memories.
One final Senior tradition, Senior Thesis, is the capstone of our work at Caldwell Academy. Senior Thesis consists of a 15- to 20-page paper in which we ultimately defend the topic of our choice to a panel of judges who are experts in a field relating to our topic. Although this is not necessarily a favorite tradition amongst Seniors, it is one of impact.
Senior Thesis is where every writing, speaking, and debate skill is applied and tested. Great pride, expectation, and accomplishment surround this project.
Caldwell really has prepared me for the future. I’ve been here since 7th Grade, and it has assisted in shaping me into the young man I am today. A large part of my moral values, character, and dedication to my studies is due to my time at Caldwell. If there’s one thing every Caldwell student hears, it’s the stories from past alumni sharing how easy their academic life in college is because of the challenging work they were exposed to at Caldwell. It’s no secret that Caldwell students contribute a unique and often impressive dynamic to a college classroom – one that is noticed by professors. At Caldwell, we are encouraged to delve deeply into all that we are learning so that its implications affect our lives, not simply so we can achieve a particular grade for a test. This creates lasting implications: for academia, for our spiritual walk with the Lord, for vocation, and for life. And for this, I’m eternally grateful.
Written By Joy Walters
Before coming to work at Caldwell, I was a church youth leader. In this capacity, I met many Caldwell students and often heard them talk about their experiences. During the fall, I helped them look for bugs and in the spring, I attended thesis presentations. I could tell that my Caldwell friends were experiencing a different kind of schooling than the students I taught in Guilford County, but I couldn’t determine the reason. Was it the opportunities afforded by a private school education? Was it the smaller, more nurturing environment? Did it have something to do with this “classical” thing I saw on the school’s website?
When I came to work at Caldwell in 2012, I was already a veteran teacher. Having served for 15 years in public schools in New Jersey and in northeast Guilford County, I knew my way around a classroom. My transition to Caldwell was a smooth one: my first group of fourth-grade students and their families restored my love for teaching, my coworkers were kind and supportive, and the curriculum was interesting.
I just had one nagging question, how could I become a “classical” teacher?
My first Caldwell staff meetings provided no such to-do list. Instead, I remember there being a discussion of the biblical ideal for manhood.
Since I didn’t know how to be classical, I watched my coworkers closely that first year. I prepared my fourth-graders to recite speeches, songs, and verses for monthly recitations. Apart from that, I didn’t feel like I was doing anything different from what I’d been doing for the past 15 years. I kept my head down and hoped no one would notice how unskilled I was at teaching classically.
Late in that first year, the students had an opportunity to slough for gems. In the middle of an ordinary Monday, they went outside, filled wire trays with dirt and went to town. When we came back inside, my daily schedule said it was time for history, but I could tell my students’ minds would not be on the Jamestown settlers when they had Ziploc bags full of treasure in their bookbags. I decided to go rogue and let the students spend some time checking out their rocks. While they marveled, I ran across the hall to Mrs. Harbor and dragged her over, “Look! I’m being classical!”
It’s a story that Mrs. Harbor and I laugh over every time we remember it. I share it now because it illustrates a subtle change that was happening in my approach to teaching. For the first part of my career, my goal was to get students ready for the next grade and to get them to demonstrate their readiness on standardized tests. To that end, I hung posters, I adhered to a strict schedule, and I valued content above all else.
I still desire that my students be prepared for what awaits them in the next grade, but these days, I am more concerned with who my students are and who they are becoming. I will know I’ve succeeded, not when a student attains a particular test score, but when that student leaves our nest and is able to discern what is good, true, and beautiful. In changing the goal of my teaching, I had to change how I think about teaching. It took a long time, but this is how I figured out how to be classical.
It’s still hard for me to explain the differences between my “old” way of teaching and my “new” way of teaching. The best explanation I’ve come up with is this: classical is not something I do. It’s how I think.
As a classical educator, I start with the goal to help my students love learning. I teach algebra, a subject most people don’t love, so my work is cut out for me. How do I help students find joy in middle school math? I think it begins with my attitude. If I get excited about the material (and I do), the students are more receptive to it. When I plan an activity or an assignment, I think about how students will be supported along the way because it’s hard to love something if you don’t feel safe with it. Still, this is not all that different from how I’ve always taught.
The biggest difference is the freedom that I have at Caldwell, a difference I believe comes from thinking classically. The goal of a classical education is to instill a love of learning, so it makes sense that the teachers should love what they teach. Furthermore, a classical teacher is a model for the students, so it’s good for my students to see me as a whole person with interests and abilities beyond the classroom. If we spend a few minutes talking about football or Disney World, those little conversations have value and I don’t stress (as much) about keeping to my schedule.
Because we are learning for the sake of learning, not in order to pass a test, we have joy in what we do at Caldwell. In this environment, it’s safe to go off-script, to tell stories, and to look at rocks.
Written by Tony Storch, Rhetoric Humanities
I came to the Lord after living outside His grace and mercy for thirty long – and at times wearisome – years. Evangelical studies suggest that the usual age for coming to faith in Christ is between 4 and 14. Although I am obviously an exception, with my more uncommon experience comes the perspective of seeing life from both sides: outside of Christ and in Christ. As I continue this journey, my desire is to personally yield and be more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), which I trust also applies to my colleagues.I/we often need to be reminded of the age-old conflict: being comfortably worldly or being Christ-like. We are called to remember that “the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:16 NLT).
In opposition to the world, we as God’s people are encouraged to draw near to Him, knowing He will draw near to us and that he desires us to live satisfying and abundant lives in Him. At the same time, we must feel the urgency of having a limited time with our children and diligently seek to access His limitless grace to help us properly steward them.
As Frederick Douglass succinctly put it, “It is easier to build children than to repair broken men.”
Let’s purpose, then, to build them well.
Years ago, when I was trying to figure out the best educational venue for our children, the Lord led me to Caldwell Academy, where I can unequivocally say there is a distinguishable difference, both in philosophy of education and how that philosophy is put into practice. Here we routinely pray before classes, acknowledging the Lordship of Christ and inviting Him into our midst. Here class sizes are small, allowing teachers to know their students, and to relate to them as their loving older brothers and sisters in Christ; while modeling (and seeing modeled among peers) the biblical life of a Christian. Here we seek to link learning to biblical truth and dedicate our academic, athletic, and fine arts pursuits to the glory of God. Here we admit we don’t have all the answers, but encourage our wide-ranging community to trust our perfect God; while respecting the family and the local churches and leaving controversial theological questions to them.
Here, as our mission statement says, we seek to assist parents from a biblical perspective in the instruction of their children by providing a classical and Christian education. We do what Psalm 145:4 declares, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” In doing so, we seek to co-labor with parents, helping mold the heads and hearts of young people to love the things God loves. It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of this important, ongoing Kingdom work for the past 20-years!
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119: 9-11.
For our annual August preplanning work week, I always select a scriptural passage that will serve as our theme for the school year. Thisl year our passage is Psalm 119: 9-19 and 169-176, with the theme of “Nurturing People of the Word in an Image-Based Culture.” Our students – your children – are the first generation in human history to turn from being a word-based people to becoming image-based. The implications, both intellectual and theological, are many. As a Christ-centered classical school, we desire and pray that our students, all created in the image of God, the God of the Word, will develop hearts and minds that cherish words and, principally, God’s Word. As we treasure up the Word of God in our hearts, the overflow of our own words should reflect what is in our hearts.
As a part of these aspirations to be people of the word, what we say, what we write, and what we read is vitally and often even eternally important. Reading is key to classical education’s goal of developing a pattern of lifelong learning in our students. We want our students to become avid, lifelong readers, not of just anything, but rather of great literature and books having redemptive value. I will return to these themes throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. For now, I will highlight a few recent reads that I recommend highly to all Caldwell parents.
From my personal summer list come two books that I strongly encourage every parent at Caldwell to read: How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success (Julie Lythcott-Haines) and The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (Ben Sasse). Run – don’t walk – to your nearest bookstore or Amazon.com, get these two books, and read them this fall. They are easy accessible and powerfully important for parents and to educators in our role of helping to shape your children, the next generation.
Last spring, our faculty’s professional reading was James K .A. Smith’s You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Smith argues that who and what we love fundamentally shape our worship; sadly, our hearts can be taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we are made. Smith challenges readers with a contentious question: Do we love what we think we love? This is a powerful little book that I enthusiastically endorse.
This summer our faculty read Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Dreher’s book has been in the press, both mainstream and Christian, quite a bit over the past six months since its release, creating much conversation and debate within the Christian community. While we may not agree with all of Dreher’s assertions, it is quite provocative with regard to the issues Christians are currently facing.
Finally, one of the books I am presently reading (and that the rest of the faculty and staff will read together this fall) is Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. Though I am just three chapters in, I can already endorse this book to our entire community. It fits in wonderfully with our theme for the school year and is so very appropriate for us first as Christians and secondarily as those who appreciate a very biblical and classical view of words. Again, it’s a book that’s easily accessible while also a powerful read for us all.
Of course I read another Winston Churchill biography over the summer. And I read several other good books, including a rather mundane spy novel, and was daily immersed in the most important book there is, God’s Word. Let’s all of us at Caldwell model for our students an enthusiasm for reading – including and especially the reading of Scripture, along with reading that can edify us, stretch us, and help us to become a community that pursues truth, wisdom, and virtue. Please let me know what you are reading and what you recommend.
Head of School
A Poet in Your Pocket: Why Parents (and Students) Need to Read
“Once upon a time in the dead of winter in the Dakota territory,” writes historian David McCullough, “Theodore Roosevelt took off in a makeshift boat downstream on the Little Missouri River in chase of thieves who had stolen his prized rowboat.” McCullough goes on to relate that Roosevelt, after several days, caught up and “got the draw on them with his trusty Winchester, at which point they surrendered.” It’s a great story that gets even better as Roosevelt proceeds to load the thieves into a wagon and the party sets off across the Badlands in pursuit of justice for them. But here, McCullough notes, is the thing he finds most intriguing: young Roosevelt ─ walking 40 snowy miles behind the wagon ─ “rifle at the ready … managed to read Anna Karenina.”
Like McCullough, my mind goes right to this story when I hear people say they don’t have time to read. It’s a jarring contrast to statistics citing that the majority of American male college graduates read ─ at most ─ just one book between college graduation and death, while more than 60 percent of all Americans have never read a single book in their adult life. Alvin Kernan, in The Death of Literature, observes that reading books is no longer regarded as the primary way to gain knowledge in our society. But is a lack of time really to blame?
After all, the average American watches TV about four hours per day, along with spending untold hours each week on social media. The American people are not known as a people who value ideas ─ curious about the world and eager to learn ─ but instead as focused on entertainment-driven, mind-numbing temporary images that are readily available on whatever screen might be handy at the moment. It is not a stretch to say that we live in a culture that values entertainment over knowledge and goodness, politically correct distortions over truth, and filth over righteousness. Those of us in the Christian community often think we are immune to such, but subtle changes have occurred over the past couple of generations and eroded our values, gradually removing us from biblical principles in subtle (or glaring) ways that we seem too busy to notice.
For the sake of entertainment and self-esteem, we have become satisfied with mediocrity and self-centeredness, yet still demand the rewards that hard work, sacrifice, and the search for truth provide. Students and parents often complain about homework loads, yet many of these same students can often recall with vivid detail hours of TV shows they’ve watched during the week, and I hear of the hours spent texting, Snapchatting, and Instagramming friends. We seem paralyzed without these kinds of external stimulation and find life without entertainment unbearable. Entertainment, writes A.W. Tozer in his 1955 work The Root of the Righteous, is not evil in and of itself; the problem arises from “all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live,” noting, “The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin.” Whereas, as Tozer notes, the Church once took a stand against worldly entertainment as “a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing vice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability,” it seems she has more recently given up that fight against the unwieldy god of Entertainment, even joining forces with it in an attempt to manufacture a form of holier entertainment that is nevertheless dangerous in its unintended consequence of “crowding out the serious things of God.”
American libraries are in crisis as the god of Entertainment, electronically omnipresent, robs books of their purpose and value. It murders academic skills and eats away at positive character traits, even compromising family relationships; consider how many families have a TV in every room, which makes it easier for us to avoid interacting with each other. In fact, our obsession as a technology-dependent society pushes us away from all relationships, including our most important one, the one with our Heavenly Father. Let us model for our children and our students by relying on God to “turn [our] eyes from looking at worthless things” to give us life in His ways (Psalm 199:37).
To carry a book with us wherever we go is an old practice that we would do well to adopt. David McCullough reminds us that President John Adams urged his son John Quincy to carry a volume of poetry: “You will never be alone,” he said, “with a poet in your pocket.”
Head of School
At Caldwell Academy, we believe that students rise to expectations. The sinful flesh drifts to the quick and easy; as Alexis de Tocqueville observed in America even in the 1830s, “[W]hat is generally sought in the production of mind is easy pleasure and information without labor” (Democracy in America, Volume II). But as you and I would agree, scarcely anything of great value is achieved without hard work, which means resisting instant gratification ─ a skill that requires discipline to master. The young, who are not always in a position to know what is in their best interest, wrestle against such far-reaching goals and discipline.
By Sam Cox
The classical education tradition has survived dramatic changes in human notions of wisdom and knowledge. The twentieth century saw theology, once considered Queen of the Sciences ─ the discipline that unified all other forms of knowledge by establishing their foundation and meaning ─ dethroned by modernist thinkers enamored of technology and the physical and social sciences.