Wilson Hill Academy | Online Classical Christian Education
Wilson Hill Academy believes that gifted, enthusiastic teachers who can bring their subjects alive are the key to successfully delivering a classical Christian education, whether online or in a classroom. At WHA you will find teachers who truly love their subjects and who have thought deeply about the way God is revealed in and through the various academic disciplines.
Did you know our Houses recently completed a cake baking contest? Yes, you read that correctly—a CAKE BAKING competition. How cool is that?
Each house has a mascot (O’Connor: peacock; Lewis: mouse—Reepicheep; Austin: wolf; Augustine: horse), colors (O’Connor: purple & teal; Lewis: red & yellow; Austen: purple & yellow; Augustine: teal & red), logos and shields. Why not bake cakes and decorate them with the house motifs?
First, each house held a contest to create entirely edible cakes (or cupcakes) that featured either their logo or mascot in their house colors. Cakes could not be purchased nor were screen-printed toppers permitted. Next, students submitted photos of their cakes to their house leaders, who judged the cakes based on artistic beauty, quality of workmanship and sophistication. After choosing the cake that best captured the spirit of their house, each leader submitted photos of the winning cake to Mr. Etter, who presented them to a panel of teacher judges.
Though amazed and delighted with all of these clever confections, every judge awarded first place to Lewis House. Hearty congratulations to all participants on your remarkable execution!
Over spring break, our family planted a number of young blueberry bushes. Little did I know, we had our work cut out for us. For each plant, we had to dig a hole three-feet in diameter and one-foot deep, and mix peat moss and other amendments into the existing soil. The result is a large base of healthy soil for the young plant.
Now, the thing to see is that this base is much larger than the plant (in its current size) needs. But the point is that the plant will need it in time, as the roots spread out and reach down. And here we have something that reminds me of the Senior Thesis experience.
Our Senior Thesis students dig big holes, make big planting beds — and that takes work. They take on fascinating topics with wide ranging significance. How ought we to think about and prepare for artificial intelligence? What is the correct understanding of worship? Was the American Revolution driven by something more than self-interest? How should Christians understand and respond to the modern feminist movement? How does the Christian view of grief differ from a pagan/secular one? How should Christians think about the use of cloning in relation to “de-extinction”? Our students have pursued these and other topics with eagerness.
They have written their papers. They have planted their ideas in the rich soil of the biblical worldview. This is a beginning attempt, a first planting. But there is the hope of a future plant, a flourishing and fruitful plant whose roots have spread and deepened.
We are now into April, which means that Senior Thesis Defenses are right around the corner. They will occur during Weeks 32-34 (May 6th-22nd). Look for a complete Defense Schedule very soon! All WHA students are invited. We hope to see you there!
What’s in the water? WHA students had a blast discovering answers to this question throughout Lowcountry Live 2019. They began their inquiry studies at Grice Marine Lab where biologists taught the students how to collect plankton samples from Charleston Harbor. Everyone examined multiple varieties of live plankton under the microscope while biologists answered the students’ questions about the incredibly busy organisms they were viewing. The following day, students explored a salt marsh with Jim Koenig, biologist, teacher, and homeschool dad. Jim led students through a stunning hammock island forest as he discussed the interrelationships of the flora and fauna of the area. When students reached the dock, they collected live tunicates, shrimp, and algae from the marsh and shared their exciting finds with each other. The waters of Charleston Harbor and the beautiful marshes and islands of South Carolina teem with coastal treasures.
On Friday evening, students experienced the waters of Charleston aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-10) of Patriots Point for a fun-filled two-night adventure! Students and their families enjoyed a taste of Navy life as they lived, laughed, ate, and slept where heroes once did the same. WHA families bonded and learned together about the history of the USS Yorktown. Students were fascinated to learn of “The Fighting Lady’s” role in the recovery of the Apollo 8 space capsule and its crew members, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders on Dec. 27, 1968. Students were enthralled by all they discovered as they investigated every corner of this amazing aircraft carrier together! On Sunday it was tough for students to part from one another after their rewarding time together, making Lowcountry memories. Students expressed their goodbyes with numerous hugs and much laughter as they discussed when they might see each other in person again. For those planning to attend LINK 2019, the countdown has begun! What will we find in those glorious mountains? Come and see!
Wilson Hill Academy Latin students earned 99 medals in the 2018-19 National Classical Etymology Exam, an online test sponsored by the National Junior Classical League. WHA secondary Latin students have participated in this annual exam since 2014, but this year yields a record-setting result, with 51% of participating students earning medals.
“One of the reasons we study Latin is so that we can have a deep understanding of words,” Latin teacher Joanna Hensley explains. “Etymology is a fascinating topic for people who love words, and I am thrilled to see our students growing in their appreciation for etymology. I couldn’t be prouder of our students and our Latin teachers for this high achievement!”
Students will receive their medals at the Awards Ceremony at LINK. Visit NCEE to learn more, and be sure to read Ryan Handermann’s post on the subject, Etymological Spelunking.
Have you ever been there? And, I don’t mean perhaps being a little overwhelmed with too much holiday preparation. I mean when the idea of celebrating anything is more than you can handle.
For me it was 1987.
For most of my life, I had looked forward to Christmas with the usual excitement and anticipation. Raised by parents who taught me from the Bible, I always thought I had the right view of Christmas, and in general loved the Holiday season. But 1987 was different.
As I flipped the calendar over to December, the reality of Christmas hit me suddenly and hard. The idea of celebrating anything, especially Christmas, made me physically sick. How can a person celebrate when their world is upside down, when they have forgotten what anything feels like, let alone happiness?
Earlier that fall, I had lost my husband to a car accident, followed closely by the birth of our first child. To say that I had been surviving for the previous two months is an understatement. Moment to moment I really wondered whether I would survive. Numbness and despair were the only two feelings I had, and I certainly didn’t have any reason for joy. My journal from that time explains it this way:
“My skin is gone. Even the air hurts. I’m raw and exposed. I don’t want to kill myself, but I don’t want to be alive. I’m afraid this will kill me.
And I’m afraid it won’t.”
I poured myself into my work as a nurse and into keeping my new son alive. A son, named after his father, who was both the new source of my reason for living, and also the greatest reminder of my loss. I made it through October, then November; then I must have made it through the first Thanksgiving. I don’t remember it.
What I do remember is the renewed desperation I felt as I realized Christmas was only 25 days away. I began a new set of appeals and prayers. Prayers with the central focus of “Please God, I’m not ready to celebrate Christmas. Please don’t let it come.”
I was sure I wouldn’t survive it.
I asked God for a new Christmas miracle: Could he just delete December 25th this year?
If that weren’t possible, would he consider putting me in a coma until the new year, and then perhaps I could try again? “Dear God, however you do it, please don’t let Christmas come.”
It seems almost comical, and even embarrassing to put in print some of the variations on the theme I prayed day after day, but there are some who understand how sincere even my most irrational-sounding appeals were. I simply couldn’t bear the thought of celebrating without the one whose loss I still felt so deeply, and the grief I was not ready to set aside yet.
My heart turns to several Wilson Hill families that have recently experienced sudden and devastating loss. I remember those days, that first year of trying to breathe and stand up again. Perhaps like me, they cannot conceive the idea of celebrating again, and certainly not at Christmas. They wonder how to survive the days ahead. It’s for them and others for whom the thought of Christmas brings a sense of dread that I share what happened, how the Lord answered my prayer.
As the days passed and Christmas day came closer, my desperation increased, as did my prayers, until just shortly before the dreaded day.
I wish I had written that day in my journal, but even 30 years later, I still remember the day God answered my prayer. On my knees, I began pleading what had become the routine, “Please God… just not this year. Please don’t let Christmas come.”
And then I heard it. I heard the still small voice of His Spirit speaking gently to my heart, asking me a question. “Leah, what if I gave you what you wanted?
What if I hadn’t come?”
I stopped praying and held my breath. Had I imagined it? Then I heard more.
“Don’t you know it was for you, for this Christmas, that I came? This is the Christmas, this is the year you needed me to come.”
I don’t know how long I sat, quietly breathing. I knew the Lord had spoken to me. Slowly, as the realization of those words sunk in, something began to happen in the middle of my body. Like the Grinch’s heart, I think mine grew three sizes that day.
And I understood. I understood Christmas. I understood Christmas.
I began to laugh and cry and sing and cry more, and eventually stopped, with my heart quieted in a way it hadn’t been for a long time. I realized my understanding of Christmas until then had been so lacking. Not wrong necessarily, but incomplete.
When I got up, I knew that not only could I celebrate Christmas that year, but I knew that no matter the circumstances, I’d always be able to celebrate the birth of my Savior and Lord, who came to share with me in my suffering, and to help me when I most needed Him.
1987 was still a hard Christmas. But I count it the best one. The one when I didn’t get what I prayed for. The one in which Jesus came for me.
My prayer for my friends who have suffered loss is to be comforted in the knowledge that nothing could stop Christmas from coming. May your heart be quieted by the new understanding that this Christmas is for you.
Etymology is weird. Like diving into a cave, it goes deeper than your flashlight can reach, and as you uncover the twists and turns of the darkness, you never know what monstrous creatures are lurking in the shadows.
Take the word “weird.” If you look it up in a dictionary, it will tell you it means something like “uncanny,” or “odd.” This word (yes it seems like a stretch) is actually related to the words “introvert,” “worth,” and “universe.” And all of these words are related to the Latin verb “verto” meaning “to rotate” (more stretching). And somehow (but not in the way you think), this is all connected to “The Weird Sisters” (the three witches in Macbeth, not your sisters!). At this point, it is beginning to sound like one of those movies where the main character starts to see random events happen, he starts making connections, and then (like a flash of lighting) he realizes he has uncovered a plot to destroy the world. And yes, that is pretty much etymology for you. So enjoy the ride.
“Weird” actually has another, older meaning, “destiny.” This is where the Weird Sisters come in. They are like the three, one-eyed hags of Greek and Roman mythology, who collectively knit the lives of humans, and when their time is up, they snip the cord of life. But what does destiny have to do with rotating? Is it because of the circular motion of knitting? Could be. But probably because “verto” can also mean “to change” or “to change course,” even “to cause something to move.” The Weird Sisters cause the events that happen in the world. They are weird because they, as it were, make the world go round, not because of their haggard clothes and warty noses.
This is also why the archaic English word “worth” means “become.” Don’t think, “He is worth his weight in gold” (that word is not related here), instead think, “Thou worth a proud man,” (or “you became a proud man”). A man changes from one thing into another. And “introvert” is simply someone who is “turned inwards” (as opposed to “extravert,” “turned outwards”). But what about “universe”? This is from the Latin “uni” meaning “one,” and “versus” which is harder to nail down, but comes from “verto,” too. It basically means turned toward a particular direction. So, “universe” means when everything is directed towards one thing, and thus comes to mean, the whole of the world.
But why does “weird” mean “odd” then? This is probably related to the idea of “fate” or “what happens.” When you see an alligator on a school bus or a llama wearing pajamas, you say, “That’s weird!” It is odd, out of the ordinary, not the usual way of doing things – something must have happened to make this strange sight happen (And now we are all imagining how that llama even fit into those PJs!).
Caveat Discipulus: watch what you relate. You might be thinking “weird” sounds like “word,” “word” sounds like “world,” the world rotates; therefore, “world” is related to “verto,” and so also “universe.” This seems to make sense (And this is where I tell my students, “But actually…”). But actually, “world” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “were” meaning “man,” which is related to the Latin “vir” (incidentally, werewolf = manwolf). And the Anglo-Saxon word “ald” is related to our word “old,” which meant “age.” So “world” means “the age of man,” unrelated to “universe.” And as far as the etymology of “word” goes, that is also weird, but we can delve into that cavern another time.
One of C.S. Lewis’ many insights in Mere Christianity is that when we pray, “Our Father,” we are in a very real sense only pretending. We are pretending to be a true and faithful son of God, pretending to be like Jesus. As Lewis puts it,
[Y]ou are dressing up as Christ…Because, of course, the moment you realize what the words mean, you realize that you are not a son of God. You are not being like The Son of God, whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father; you are a bundle of self-centered fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death. So that, in a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek.
But here’s the thing: We must remember that this pretending has actually been commanded of us by Christ himself. God wants us to make this pretense, and He wants us to do it every day. Reflecting upon this, I believe I have stumbled across a very powerful principle, not only of how we grow in the Christian life, but also of teaching.
Two clarifications first. Lewis points out that there are in fact two kinds of pretending, one that is good and another that is bad. The bad kind of pretending is when the pretense tries to replace the real thing. It is the kind of pretending when we act as if we are something that we are not, and that’s just the end of it. The good kind of pretending is not like that at all. The good kind is when “the pretense leads up to the real thing.” So in our pretending to be like Christ when we are in fact not like Him, God is desiring that we should more and more become like Him in reality, slowly over time.
Second, this slow change over time appears to us to come by our own effort, but (again, as Lewis shows) in reality God is doing the work. He is not just doing the work of changing us to be more like His Son, but He also is pretending. He is pretending that we are not the selfish, greedy, grumbling, rebellious creatures we truly are. He is pretending that we are like His Son, that we think and desire and act as His Son does, and He does this, Lewis says, “in order to make the pretense into a reality.”
All that is context. The key point to see is that in His pretending, God thinks of us a certain way, speaks to us a certain way, acts toward us a certain way. And it is right here that we have a picture of true, transformative teaching. Teaching that matters. Teaching that changes lives. We must remember that teaching is not about information, but transformation. We are not aiming merely to pass along information, but to change lives with a view to the Kingdom.
We are to see, as a first step, that we must begin interacting with our students as if they are the thoughtful, mature, Christ-like young men and women we want them to be someday. Of course, we need not treat them like adult Christians in every sense, but you get the idea. What we cannot do is treat them exactly as they deserve. Consequences for bad behavior notwithstanding, we must hold firmly that additional consciousness of pretending that shapes the tone of everything we say and do toward our students. By our words, tone, and demeanor, we are fitting out for our students and children a garment that may now be all the wrong size, but (by God’s grace) they will fit into comfortably someday.
Two disclaimers to conclude. First, as teachers we must not forget that we are pretending (it is purposeful pretending, if you like). Our students are still broken sinners. We are not engaging in a kind of de facto humanism. Rather, we are setting the bar. Implicit in our interactions with our students should be the expectation that they are to rise up, to grow more and more into full citizenship in the Kingdom. They should hear it in our voice, see it in our demeanor, sense it in our intentions.
Second, we must not let on that we are pretending, even for a moment. This “dressing up” is a very real thing, a very important matter. It is not some elaborate joke or game. It is not a cute ploy. Young men and women do not want to be cute or coy. They want to be taken seriously. They should be taken seriously.
Think five years out, maybe even ten. Where would you like your student to be? How ought they to think, speak, behave, and relate? Capture in your mind something of that person, and begin interacting with your student as if he or she were already that person. In short, begin pretending.
This week we mark the 242nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. From every waterslide, let freedom ring! In addition to water sports, we will be celebrating fireworks, hot dogs, ice cream, BBQ, patriotic politicians and red-white-and-blue. And in the midst of all of this celebration, it is easy to forget to remember what it is all about.
The children of Israel could certainly identify! God repeatedly reminded them to remember what He had done for them (Dt. 5:15, 7:18, 8:2, 9:7, 15:15, 24:18 among many others). Deuteronomy 8:18-19 is particularly relevant to us as American Christians: “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, … And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”
And yet, the book of Judges is full of the refrain, “And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of their enemies on every side.”
One way to describe the mission of Wilson Hill Academy might be that we are committed to helping students learn how to remember. We do that with our series of classes, “A Closer Look at US History,” in which we look carefully at the trajectory of ideas that led up to that famous declaration, and at the events that followed. Students learn to understand concepts like “freedom” and “independence” and “democracy” (and even “responsibility”) in deeper ways – ways that often conflict with the prevailing spirit of our age. This “remembering” makes all of the celebration more authentic.
But this focus on “remembering” is not limited to history class. As we study science, we remember that God has made all things, and that the whole world proclaims the glory of God (even in its fallen state). As we study art or literature, we remember that the stories we read and the beauty depicted are reflections (sometimes distorted) of God’s creativity. As we study mathematics, we remember that the transcendent truths of mathematics point to the transcendent God, who embodies truth, beauty and goodness. As we enter into The Great Conversation, we are continually reminded to consider arguments in light of Biblical revelation.
In doing all of this, we hope and pray that WHA students will learn to remember … not only the passing things of this world that are worth celebrating (like the 4th of July!), but also the eternal things that bring real and lasting freedom. We pray that they would remember all that God has done for them as they take up their individual callings, whatever they happen to be. And we pray that they (and we) will one day hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” having lived a life of remembering.
So as we celebrate this week, let us do so with joy and gladness, but let us also avoid making idols out of the BBQ or the fireworks or the patriotism. Let us genuinely thank God as we enjoy the blessings of freedom that come from Him … both in this life and the life to come.