I remember it like it was yesterday. After nearly ten years away, God moved us back home, and we were all adjusting. We had gotten used to life in North Carolina, but we had big hopes and dreams for McMinn County, so we were eager to get to work.
Perhaps no one had a harder time adjusting than my oldest son. He had, after all, just started kindergarten, and he loved school. But, now he hated it. His friends were gone; his classes were boring; and he wanted to go back to the only home he ever knew.
For the better part of the year, I cried as I took him to school. I could not stand to see him so miserable, but I felt as if I had no choice. So, I would drive on.
We had a routine. I would park and walk him in. After all, I wanted to get a feel for the culture of the place I was dropping off my son for the next seven hours of his life. Evidently, this practice offended the principal, who was, by the way, one of the meanest women I have met either before or since.
She fussed at me for parking too close, so I had to move my car to the football field. She chided me for taking too long to get in the building. Each day was something new, so I learned to tune her out and treat her like background noise (you know the kind of noise produced by Charlie Brown’s teacher).
On this particular day, I was fed up with it. I was ready to give her a piece of my mind I could not afford to lose, but for some reason, she was not there to yell at me. So, we strolled on to class.
I dropped him off and watched as he sat in his seat. He was all alone, and soon he dropped his head down on the table in defeat. And as he did, my heart died within me.
I quickly made the long trek to my car (remember, I had to park at the football field), and I sat there feeling helpless. It was one of the worst moments of my life, because I had never felt so helpless. Questions assaulted my mind like a well-timed air assault.
Was this really all there is? Did I really have to be locked in a system where I was not welcome? Should I accept having no input on my child’s education? Must I be treated as if I do not belong? And, did he have to hate school? Did we have to dread the drive every day?
As is so often the case, pain gave way to determination. So, I made a promise right then and there. If I ever had a chance to spare someone the feeling of helpless I experienced that day, I would. If I could ever be part of giving parents a choice, I would. If I could help parents take responsibility for their child’s education and give them the tools they need to succeed, I would consider it a joy.
And today, by God’s grace, I believe I am. CLA is a ministry founded on some basic principles. For example, one core principle is that the education of a child is the responsibility of that child’s parents. They must give an account. They must take responsibility. Hence, we are built on a partnership modelnot a state-directed dictator model.
A second core principle is kids must love learning if they are to be lifelong learners. They are more than nameless parts in a giant test score machine. They are human beings with hearts, souls, and minds. Schools should be powerhouses of innovation and creativity. They should be places where hearts and minds are shaped, where ideas and loves are formed and unturned.
How, when, and where we educate our children is a major life decision. Parents should have a vital voice in the process. Hence, they need partners who share their vision and values.
Yet, we are finding an increasing number of people who feel powerless and helpless. Consequently, we exist to change this. We aim to empower parents to take control of their child’s education and join them in fulfilling one of the most important callings they will ever have, the shaping of an immortal soul for the glory of God.
– Dr. Shane Arnold, Head of School