A Pamphlet for Prospective Students
“The finest short apologia for Classical Christian Education—aimed at students, not parents—that I have read…”
Grant Horner, The Master’s University
Every year, admissions offices at classical Christian schools sort through applications to find missionally-aligned families. Every year, they wish that applicant families had a better understanding of whether classical Christian education is actually what they want.
In the last twenty years, interest has steadily risen in classical Christian education. The recent Fox Nation documentary series The MisEducation of America has significantly raised the profile of classical education among conservatives who want safe schools where their children will not be taught evolution, critical race theory, and sexual deviancy. However, the fact that a religious and politically conservative family wants these things doesn’t necessarily mean that they want classical education, even though it may initially seem to be the educational answer to their problem. A classical Christian education also requires certain beliefs about tradition, virtue, discipline, worldliness, piety, and good taste. Such beliefs are increasingly rare, even among self-professed conservatives, and the fact that a family is conservative doesn't mean that they will be satisfied with classical education as the years go by.
By the time that a student is entering the upper grades, he or she has the capacity to understand the goals of a classical Christian school and to buy in—or not. But, many applicants don't know what really makes a classical Christian school different than the other options. “So Your Parents are Thinking of Sending You to a Classical Christian School” is a short pamphlet written to introduce classical Christian education directly to prospective students in eighth grade and above. It describes classical Christian education in a practical, common sense, boots-on-the-ground manner and is not didactic or theoretical. There is nothing in the pamphlet about the trivium, the liberal arts, or stages of learning. Instead, the pamphlet describes what sort of conversations occur in literature and history classes and what sort of assumptions teachers have about truth and beauty. It offers a plain account of why classical students wear uniforms and read old books. The tone is neither lofty nor condescending, the content is neither esoteric nor juvenile. Rather, the pamphlet covers a narrow range of important subjects divided into short sections and is written in an honest, conversational manner that will draw teenagers in and help them decide if this is a school that they want to attend.
“So Your Parents…” is written to be a resource for administrators and admissions offices as they seek to help students and families identify whether or not a classical Christian school is aligned with their goals and beliefs about the world. It is available as a PDF in two easy-to-print formats that can be included with school admissions materials and discussed during applicant interviews. It is also short, taking approximately 30 minutes to read.
For more information, keep scrolling or click the links at the side.
"So Your Parents are Thinking of Sending You to a Classical Christian School" is available as an easy-to-print PDF available in two formats: an 8.5 x 11 full-page document (10 pages) and a 5.5 x 8.5 folded booklet (24 folded pages). Both versions of the PDF will be sent to your email address within 48 hours of making a purchase. Each license that you purchase grants you the right to print and distribute one copy of the pamphlet as either the full-page document or the booklet.
Licensed copies can be purchased at the following rates:
20 licensed copies: $25
50 licensed copies: $45
100 licensed copies: $80
200 licensed copies: $150
Licenses are granted on the honor system. We recommend printing all of your licensed copies at the same time for distribution and purchasing more licenses when your printed materials run out. For more information about printing the PDF, please see the FAQs.
To make a purchase, please use the PayPal link below. The PDFs will be sent within 48 hours to the email address that you provide during the checkout process.
Read what a few prominent figures in classical Christian schools have said about “So Your Parents are Thinking of Sending You to a Classical Christian School”:
“Joshua Gibbs has done for prospective students what he has done so well for the rest of us. Rather than placing classical education on the bottom shelf where we, and our students, can ignore it, he puts it high on display and asks students to reach up and grab it. This pamphlet draws focus to a few key elements of CCE— Christianity, uniforms, and a taste for greatness— that will bring students to the table with the right expectations. I plan to have my high-school son read this!”
David Goodwin, President of the Association of Classical Christian Schools
“Joshua Gibbs has laid out the finest short apologia for Classical Christian Education—aimed at students, not parents—that I have read. Some potential students need to be persuaded to come to one of our schools. Some others need to clarify to themselves why they do not belong in one of our schools. The distinction is important for all parties—and Gibbs makes it with panache and vigor.”
Grant Horner, Professor of Renaissance and Reformation Studies at The Master’s University
“This pamphlet gets to the heart of what makes classical Christian schools distinct. For those of us looking to enroll Upper School students who will embrace what we’re up to, it will prove a valuable tool, whether it’s read by newly applying students or by current students moving into high school.”
Robyn Burlew, Upper School Principal at Veritas School in Richmond, VA
Will this pamphlet work for my school?
The pamphlet is written with wide usage in mind, and the educational institution is always referred to as “this school." Because I have attempted to speak on behalf of any school that might care to use the pamphlet, the description of classical Christian education is painted with a wide brush and contains no reference to athletics, drama programs, or other offerings that vary from institution to institution. Whether a school favors the work of the ACCS, SCL, CiRCE, Veritas Press, or Classical Academic Press, the description of classical Christian education in the pamphlet will strike readers as apt, helpful, and provocative.
Is this pamphlet really necessary?
At this time, there is a lack of printed materials that speak specifically to prospective high school students applying to classical Christian schools. “So Your Parents…” was written to bring prospective students directly into the conversation. Students are often more reliable (and honest) than their parents when it comes to describing “what our family is like”—for example, parents are more likely to cover over the fact that the family never prays together, while their teenage children will come right out and say it.
“So Your Parents” was created to be a tool to help admissions offices find missionally-aligned families by bringing the student more directly into the process. After a prospective student reads this pamphlet, a five-minute conversation between the admissions office and the prospective student about the contents of the pamphlet will be highly revelatory.
How exactly should I use the pamphlet?
I recommend keeping copies of the pamphlet near the informational folders that are given out to prospective parents. Because the pamphlet is written for students who are thirteen or fourteen (and up), I would recommend asking prospective parents how old their children are before giving the pamphlet out. However, after reading the pamphlet, you may find it the sort of document that would be valuable for all prospective parents to read, as well.
The pamphlet will take around half an hour to read and concludes with three questions for students:
If you are enrolled as a student here, what are you most afraid of missing out on? What pleasant things do other schools offer which this one doesn’t?
What interesting or good things does this school offer which other schools do not?
Are the beliefs of your family basically compatible with what I have written in this pamphlet, or did I say a lot of things that you disagreed with, or which offended you?
I recommend re-asking these questions to prospective students during the admissions interview process. I also suggest asking if the various claims made in the pamphlet seem consistent with what they hear at church, or if the church they attend has a radically different approach to tradition, good taste, self-expression, and church attendance.
Can I read the pamphlet before I buy it?
You can listen to the author read the entire pamphlet before purchasing it. The Classical Learning Test has partnered with Gibbs Classical and is currently hosting a full audio version of “So Your Parents” (read by Joshua Gibbs). To listen to a full audio recording of the pamphlet, download this episode of CLT’s Anchored podcast.
Where can I buy the pamphlet?
“So Your Parents…” is only available as a PDF through Gibbs Classical. Buyers decide how many copies of the pamphlet they would like to license, pay for their copies through the website, and receive the pamphlet as a PDF via email.
What happens after I purchase the pamphlet?
After you purchase the desired number of licenses for “So Your Parents are Thinking of Sending You to a Classical Christian School,” two separate PDFs will arrive in your inbox within 48 hours. The content of both PDFs is the same, but two printing options - one as 8.5x11 pages and one as a booklet - are available. Please print the format you like best. Purchases are made on the honor system, and I trust that everyone who purchases the pamphlet will only use the number of copies that you have purchased. However, I recommend printing off at least one test copy to check your paper and settings, which does not count toward the total that you have purchased (assume that the person who is “keeping count” of how many copies you make is not some nit-picky bureaucrat).
After you know which format of the pamphlet you want to use and have worked out a test copy that is to your satisfaction, please print all the licensed copies of the pamphlet that you have purchased. When you run out, please purchase additional licensed copies.
How do I print the pamphlet?
The pamphlet is available as a PDF that can be printed on 8.5 x 11 paper on any school copier. There are two versions: one that is meant to be printed as a full-page document (10 pages total) and one that is meant to be printed, folded, and stapled into a 5.5 x 8.5 inch booklet (24 folded pages). You can print the booklet on a copier, but you may also wish to have it printed professionally and to add a cardstock cover with school branding.
Can I add my school's branding to the pamphlet so that it looks like "us"?
The PDF can only be printed as-is. However, schools are welcome to print a custom cover for the booklet or a cover sheet for the 8.5 x 11 printout that has your school's logo and branding.
“So Your Parents are Thinking of Sending You to a Classical Christian School” is approximately 7400 words long. After an introduction, the pamphlet is divided into four main sections. Portions of each section are reprinted below.
Excerpt from How To Read This Pamphlet
Right now, there’s a good chance that you’re not all that excited to read this pamphlet. It’s certainly not the sort of thing you would choose to read. Your parents may have asked you to read it, or the school where you’re applying may even be requiring you to read it. You have already sized up the length of this pamphlet, determined it’s going to take about half an hour to read, and are considering skimming or even skipping the boring parts.
I’m not going to tell you that this pamphlet is actually exciting. It’s not. If you read it all the way to the end, you may find it interesting, strange, stupid, or profound, but it won’t be exciting. In this pamphlet, I am going to talk about why old books matter more than new books. I’m going to talk about beauty, truth, emotions, religion, history, and duty. There are no characters in this pamphlet. There is no plot. It’s just a description of how things are and how things should be.
Let me be honest with you, though: the sorts of things I am going to talk about in this pamphlet are the same sorts of things students at this school talk about every day in their literature classes, civics classes, theology classes, and so forth. In other words, this pamphlet is a bit like this school, which means that if you’re going to make it as a student at this school, you have to be able to make it through this pamphlet. If you hate this pamphlet and find it so boring that you can’t finish it without skimming and skipping, this school isn’t for you.
This pamphlet contains descriptions of classical Christian education, which is the kind of education this school offers, but it also contains a few arguments about why this school does the things it does. Some parts of this pamphlet will be easy to understand, but some parts will require you to pay very close attention and read slowly. If you do not have the sort of attention span that can handle the length and depth of the arguments in this little pamphlet, this school is probably not for you. I hope you’re not offended, but the fact of the matter is that many teenagers have so completely ruined their attention spans on video games and social media, they find it difficult to pay attention to anything for more than a few minutes, especially things that aren’t exciting. There are many schools out there which have noted just how short the average teenager’s attention span is and responded by changing their curriculum and their teaching methods to accommodate shorter attention spans. This school hasn’t done that. This school doesn’t change with the times. That’s part of what it means that this is a classical school.
Excerpt from The “Christian” Part of Classical Christian Education
There are many different kinds of Christians. There are Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and hundreds of other denominations. Most classical Christian schools are open to people of just about any denomination. For the moment, though, I would like to speak about just two kinds of Christians: Christians who go to church every Sunday and Christians who don’t.
When I refer to Christians who go to church every Sunday, I mean every Sunday. They might very occasionally miss church because of illness, but that’s pretty much the only reason they think legitimate for not being in church on Sunday morning. Week after week, month after month, year after year, they can be found in a church on Sunday morning. Let’s call these sorts of people Every-Sunday Christians.
When I say there are also Christians who don’t go to church every Sunday, I mean they go to church every so often. They might go once or twice a month, but they might also let six or seven weeks go by without making it to church. Let’s call these sorts of people Every-So-Often Christians.
Regardless of what sort of church you go to, this school takes an approach to Christianity which is really only going to make sense to Every-Sunday Christians. Every-So-Often Christians will find themselves frustrated and confused by the sort of claims the teachers at this school make about Christianity. My intention in this pamphlet is not to argue that you should be an Every-Sunday Christian. I’m simply saying that at this school, Christianity is practiced and preached as an Every-Sunday sort of thing.
Let me explain.
Every-Sunday Christians don’t go to church every Sunday because they feel like it. They wake up on Sunday morning tired, wanting to go back to bed. And when they get up on Sunday morning, they have plenty of little projects around the house they would like to start on, and they have hobbies they’d like to fuss with, and unfinished work that needs to be ready by Monday. They do not feel like going to church, but they go anyway because they believe it is their duty.
Because they believe going to church is a duty, they do not have to decide on Saturday night or Sunday morning whether they are going to church or not. They already know they’re going. They have made a decision (years ago) to always go to church on Sunday.
Every-So-Often Christians do not regard church attendance as a duty or an obligation, which is to say church attendance is not a priority. Instead, going to church is a thing they do when they feel like it, and they do not often feel like going to church. For this reason, Every-So-Often Christian families are less likely than Every-Sunday Christian families to pray together in the evening or read the Bible together on a daily basis. All of this makes Every-So-Often Christians much less inclined to talk about God on a regular basis, or to discuss the commands and precepts of God when thinking through important matters. If a certain person only attends church when he feels like it, he does not want his religion to inconvenience him, which means that when the teachings of Scripture become difficult to follow (because they are unpopular or thought “outdated”), the Every-So-Often Christian is more likely than the Every-Sunday Christian to simply do what is easy and popular.
Excerpt from Uniforms
I’m not saying that a private school uniform is the most beautiful sort of clothing imaginable, or that a student magically becomes good just by wearing it. However, I am saying that uniforms help train students to care about beauty and goodness. How? A uniform asks a student to care about something other than himself and his own comfort. Over the years, I have heard students make many different kinds of arguments against uniforms, but almost all of them come down to “what I would like,” not what other people would like.
Christian high school students often borrow their values and priorities from popular culture, and popular culture places a high value on “expressing yourself,” “finding yourself,” and “being yourself.” A uniform doesn’t stop a student from expressing himself, it simply narrows the aspects of himself that he expresses. Every student is a unique individual, of course, but every student is also a student, and wearing a uniform reminds students of this fact.
When you’re at a classical school, it is more important for you to act like a student than it is for you to act “like yourself.” This school is not a place where you go to express yourself, it is a place where you go to learn wisdom. Neither is this school a stage where you go to “be yourself” and win the approval and praise of others. That’s what social media is for, and a classical Christian school is not a platform set up for students to perform upon. Instead, a school is a place where you go to listen, to mature, to absorb wisdom and knowledge, and to be formed for virtue and good works. Wearing a uniform confirms your shared purpose with other students. You’re a unique individual, true, but that’s not why you go to a classical Christian school. At a classical Christian school, you will be treated like a teenager, like a Christian, like a boy or a girl, and like a student, all of which are identities you have in common with others. Consequently, at this school you are more likely to be told to “act like a Christian,” “act like a gentleman,” or “act like a lady,” than you are to be told to “just be yourself.” You attend a classical Christian school to learn what it means to be a Christian, a lady, or a gentleman. These are not terms we are free to define however we want, and at the age of sixteen or seventeen, no one really cares what being a Christian means to you. They care that you learn what “being a Christian” means to the wise men and women whom history has vindicated. In speaking of Christ, St. John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), and a classical Christian school is interested in helping you do this. Wearing a uniform is a small but significant way in which you can decrease, learn to be silent, and make room in your heart for the wisdom of Christ and His friends.
Excerpt from Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Grades
The writer Walker Percy once said, “You can get all A’s and flunk life.” This truth sits close to the hearts of classical Christian teachers. For instance, a certain student might perform well on tests, get into a great college, and enter a lucrative career, and yet be wildly unhappy and treat his family poorly. In other words, plenty of high school students graduate with great GPAs but go on to be lousy fathers and terrible husbands, in which case all their study and diligence in school was really for nothing. A high GPA won’t keep anyone from being miserable or making others miserable.
Now, teachers at a classical Christian school do care about students “doing well” in the worldly sense of the term. If you want to get married and have kids, you want something good and God-ordained, and in order to have such a life, you need a job, a home, a car, and so forth. Simply put, you need money, and there is no point denying the fact that good grades turn into scholarships, scholarships turn into good colleges, good colleges turn into good jobs, and good jobs turn into good money. At the same time, I have been in plenty of arguments with parents who tried to convince me that their child’s entire future was going to fall apart because of a low grade I gave on an essay.
The thing is, getting a C in a high school class isn’t going to keep anybody from going to college. It may keep an ambitious student from going to the prestigious college of his dreams, but a classical Christian school doesn’t exist to help ambitious students get into the highest realms of earthly success. There are some private schools that exist for that very reason, but not this one. While I care about my students landing jobs in the future, I am far more concerned that they don’t “flunk life,” as Walker Percy put it.
You don’t have to spend much time in a classical Christian school before you hear someone mention “truth, goodness, and beauty.” This is because classical Christian teachers believe that pursuing truth, goodness, and beauty is how you keep from flunking life. Obviously, classical Christian educators are not alone in their interest in truth, goodness, and beauty. Everybody talks about these concepts; however, classical Christian teachers mean something very particular when they use these words.
Many people these days say that truth is entirely relative, or that everybody has “their own truth.” Similarly, modern people often say beauty is relative and that everyone is entitled to take pleasure from whatever art or music they like. In conversations about music, you have probably heard people say things like, “You like rock music, I like country, my dad likes jazz, but we don’t need to sort out which music is good or bad because it’s all a matter of opinion. Everybody likes different things. Beauty is in the eye of beholder.” While modern people are less squishy about goodness than beauty, they also tend to believe that what is right or wrong can change over time, and that behaviors which were thought evil in the past can—because of scientific discoveries or cultural change—suddenly be revealed as good and acceptable.
I should point out that the sort of people who believe that truth, goodness, and beauty are relative tend to bristle at the expression “flunk life.” Why? Because one person’s idea of flunking life might be another person’s vision of perfect contentment and happiness. What gives one person the right to force his vision of “acing life” on someone else?
However, classical Christian schools do not hold that truth, goodness, and beauty are relative. Instead, classical Christians believe that God Himself is truth, and that God Himself is goodness, and that God Himself is beauty. We believe that wherever we see truth, goodness, and beauty, God is revealing Himself to us. The greatest, fullest, and final revelation of God is Jesus Christ, and yet God reveals Himself in many other ways, as well.
Because a classical Christian school does not believe that truth, goodness, and beauty are relative, neither do they believe that “flunking life” is relative and that everyone is free to pursue whatever path in life they like. The fact that a grown man enjoys living in his parents’ basement and playing video games for three hours every day doesn’t mean his life is good. If he quits going to church because he has decided God is “too big to fit into one religion,” he isn’t “discovering his truth,” he is abandoning God. If a woman deserts her family to have an affair with her boss, she isn’t “figuring out who she is and what she needs,” she is flunking life. If she spends several hours every day posting photos and videos of herself on social media, she is not “being true to herself,” she’s just shallow and vain.