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Redemptive Education: Borrowed Fragrance, Reflected Light

From my balcony on the third floor, I can see each evening’s panoramic drama in pink, gray, scarlet and mauve. The sun sets, and my wide western view showcases clouds: cumulus, cirrus, stratus, heaps of dark nimbus. I quietly sit at my bistro table and watch it all unfold. It offers a peaceful conclusion to a day of highways, flights, documents, meetings (or perhaps, of subbing in a K/1 class.)

I cannot see the sunrise from this vantage. I have no access whatsoever to an eastward view that could frame each new day with golden beams. But: I have the building across from my own! It faces the east, and if there is a glorious dawn, I see it reflected in each opposing window. I borrow the sunrise! It gleams from the glass of each pane. The inhabitants of that building have no idea that light from their windows illuminates my home.

When I was in India, the young teachers there wore jasmine in their hair. Among the odors of spice, of sewage, of smoke, the fragrance of that jasmine wafted in the wake of a passing duo or trio of ladies. That borrowed fragrance emanating from the small white flowers refreshed me without fail.

Redemptive Education gives a reflected light, a borrowed fragrance – the light of Christ, the fragrant aroma of Christ. In our quest to align with God’s design for teaching and learning, we maintain fidelity to an ever-unfolding approach that is Biblical, Relational, Integral and Experiential. God’s Word and His world reflect His truth, discovered in sources born both of common grace and of revelation.

For this reason, we embrace the simplicity of 19th century British reformer Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on nature, the arts, and narration. We embrace the pursuit of the good, the true, the beautiful by means of classic works of literature, and the power of memorization. We emulate both Waldorf and Montessori in our valuation of lovely toys and tools that enrich the imagination and enliven the initiative and work ethic in children. We affirm Howard Gardner’s observation that individuals demonstrate myriad types of “intelligence,” and that the typical schoolroom emphasis only on the “intellectual” or “academic” ignores a panoply of gifts and skills God has given His image-bearers. Like the lesser-known Reggio Emilia model, Redemptive Educators are more interested in observing and celebrating growth in learners than in assigning percentage grades from tests.

Our REACH member schools (Redemptive Education Association of Christian Schools)—whether in urban settings such as the Freedom School of St. Louis, suburban settings such as Trace Academy in Orlando, or in small-town USA such as Holden Christian Academy outside of Boston—strive to shape curriculum, pedagogy, and campus culture to promote love for the outdoors, love for God’s truth and grace, love for their neighbors near and far.  Redemptive Educators at Hope Academy in Greensboro and Covenant Christian School in St. Louis care about the whole child, the whole teacher, the whole family. 

Redemptive Education is part of the Christian Deeper Learning movement, described as “People of God’s Story doing real work that forms self and shapes the world.” It is an education for our time: not a factory model from a century ago, not an agent of the agendas of contemporary culture. It is a reflected light, a borrowed fragrance – and has as its deepest desire, to bring “a scent of water” to a parched land:

There is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, with tender shoots that do not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground, though its stump dies in the dry soil, yet at the scent of water, it will flourish! It will send forth sprigs as a new plant! (Job 14:7-9) 

This is our vision. Scent of Water is the name of our K-8 outdoor education program, serving homeschooling families with a robust three-day-per-week learning community. Boots & Roots, for the youngest scholars; Terebinth Field Studies, for middle schoolers; and Canopy, for high school students – these programs have the same goal as Scent of Water: to invite the people of God’s Story into direct experience with His Word and His world, equipping them to do real work that forms their minds, their hearts, their wills, their muscles (!), even as they participate in God’s ongoing grace and His mandate to help shape the world.


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