HSCA Christian Academy: Cultivating a Human Being Fully Alive
A Speech at the HSCA Christian Academy Open House 2023
By: Randy Hay | HSCA Parent
The great second century saint Irenaeus of Lyons commented that the glory of God is a living man. A man fully alive. As a parent this is always your biggest concern: to see your children living not only a well-educated life, but fully alive, grounded in Christ, able to survive the storms of 21st century life.
I’m not usually big on public speaking, but when Headmaster Waltz asked me to share a word about what Hagia Sophia Christian Academy has done for my kids…well, this was a no-brainer. This is what classical education is about in general, and this school in particular: Not simply a strong academic education, but also education in being a living human being in Christ.
You can almost see it happening before your eyes during morning prayers. The kids line up in order, wearing their uniforms, venerate the icons in order, read prayers at an appropriate level, and get a blessing in order. They’re not just singing hymns and hearing homilies; they’re participating, and it’s a beautiful sight. This is a big reason, I think, that our oldest daughter feels comfortable reading prayers publically in our parish: she’d been doing it every day in school.
One of my fondest memories from morning prayers goes way back, to when Autumn was little. She wasn’t old enough for kindergarten, but she liked to stand with the kids from school—so she’d go and line up with them. One morning she was standing next to an older girl, and that girl reached down and picked her up and held her as the service went on. What a beautiful sight! And now our own children, following the incredibly fast passage of years, can be found helping out mothers and holding their little ones in our church.
The well-ordered Christian environment of this school seems to promote secure relationships and real concern for one another. The reverse hierarchy of Christianity, in which everybody has a part to play, and those above look out for those below them, is really a thing, and it really does work. Here it’s built into the structure by the students who are grouped into “houses” with all ages, and with the older children given more and more responsibility. It’s not just the teachers at one level and the students at the other level.
Of course we all know that Christian love and the reverse hierarchy aren’t always easy; that conflict resolution is an important skill. In case you aren’t aware, a large part of this takes place here in the Gaga Ball pit. All ages get together to play the game, from kindergarten to high school. I personally don’t know how gaga ball is played, or even what a “gaga ball pit” actually is (and I probably don’t want to know.) But one thing I do know is that it is a great place for children to learn conflict resolution. I regularly hear about these conflicts and how the students work them out among themselves using their hierarchy, without having the adults solve everything. We’ve seen our girls flourish in this system, learning to deal with peer conflict in a Christian way.
Art is another thing I should mention: it has its own place in becoming a fully living human person. Creating beauty from the world God has given us. It’s a routine part of education here, and we’ve seen that our two girls naturally finding artistic projects to do at home. And who knows how many iconographers will come from this school?
As for academics, what can I say? They’re fantastic here. The students learn things – important things – that aren’t taught in the public schools, like Latin and logic; the classes are small, and the pace of learning is intense. I went to a good public school growing up, way back in the day; but our girls’ classes have always been ahead of that curve academically. Seraphima, who’s a high school junior now, will be prepared to go wherever she wants as far as higher education.
Of course our children make their own decisions about life, morality and Christ as they grow older; but HSCA does everything possible to show them how to live the way, the truth and the life.