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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Perspective is Everything

Welcome back to OCA!  I hope you had a great summer.  We’re ready to have your children back on campus and walking our hallways.  This year I thought it would be wise to start the year expressing my sincere hopes and dreams for OCA.

Since taking the position of president of OCA the concept of perspective has interested me more and more.  Often, the reality we live in comes from the perspective we have.  Knowing this has helped me learn many useful lessons.  

My father-in-law and brother-in-law recently helped me build a deck in my backyard.  On the far right side of the deck we built a large section in the shape of an octagon, and for everything to line up correctly we needed everything to be perfectly symmetrical.  From where I was standing everything was perfectly symmetrical as you can see.

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To my surprise, my father-in-law began to disagree with me.  He was saying that we were way off and needed to make some adjustments.  After we talked about it for a little bit he asked me to come look at it from his perspective.  

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What do you know… he was right!  My perspective changed everything.  You have the perspective of OCA as a parent, teacher, grandparent, guardian, alumni, or friend of the school.  I have a different perspective as the school’s leader.

I think this blog provides me a great opportunity to share my perspective on OCA and allow me to be vulnerable with you.

Here is my perspective… I want OCA to be committed to loving students and loving God.

Loving students means:
  • We will strive to be student-centered in our classrooms.
  • We will strive to focus on student achievement.
  • We will provide a safe environment for our students.
  • We will discipline our students because we love them.

Loving God means:
  • We will teach every subject filtered through a biblical worldview.
  • We will provide faith-formative experiences.
  • We will hold students to an expectation of honoring God in everything they do.
  • We will honor God with our best in everything we do.  

As the President of OCA I want to have the best academic experience possible for your child.  I want to offer the best fine-arts department, the best athletic department, and in everything else we do I want us to be our best. I do not want to be the best for prideful reasons, however, I want to be the best because God calls us to be our best.

I know as a school we are not perfect but our heart is in the right place.  As we go into a new school year I ask that you keep OCA in your prayers!

Please pray for our:

Students:
That God will protect their hearts and minds.

Faculty and Staff:
That they continue to allow God to work through them and they call upon him daily.

Parents and Guardians:
That they will raise their children up in Godly ways and that they continue to work closely with the school.  That they will live out the callings of Deuteronomy 6.

Lastly, I ask for prayers on my behalf.  That I will continue to lead OCA in a Christ-centered way and that I prayerfully make decisions that impact so many people for His kingdom.

Again, welcome back to the school year.  We’re excited to live life with you and your children this year.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Don't Get Comfortable

The title for this blog post is stolen from a good friend of mine, Ken Parker. Ken is a co-founder and CEO of NextThought a company focused on connecting learners everywhere, building engaging communities, and creating collaborative content. Ken recently gave the commencement address at Oklahoma Christian University's 2016 Graduation and he titled his address, ‘Don’t Get Comfortable’. You can also check out his TED talk here.


Ken focused on three points with the OC Graduates:


  • Comfort is almost always bad.
  • To reach your furthest potential you must be uncomfortable.
  • Get started! It is never too late.


Comfortability
We tend to look at this word very positively in our culture. In fact, until recently I am not sure a negative thought ever crossed my mind when I heard this word. Comfortable. When I hear it I think of my bed, my recliner, chicken fried steak, ice cream, you get the point.


When it comes to growing, however, being comfortable doesn’t get me there. In fact, the only thing that grows when you're comfortable is your waistline… Comfortable, does not help me become more mature, more knowledgeable, more healthy, or more Christ-like. You get the point.


This leads me to OCA’s graduation evening on Friday, May 20th. I am sitting on stage about to hand our 2016 seniors their diplomas (a great group I may add).  I have Ken Parker's commencement address in the back of my mind and one of our valedictorians, William Lin, gets to the podium to give his speech and I am awed at his wisdom. With his permission, here is the transcript of that speech.


Do you remember those times when you got a little tired and then took a break? When you fell asleep comfortably and on time?


Or do you remember when you continued work long after you were exhausted? When you stayed up all night studying?


Most of my memories don’t come from doing what I wanted to do. Even my fondest memories don’t come from my wants. The things I cherish the most now are the things I disliked back then. I never wanted to participate in all of Mrs. Campbell’s academic events. I never wanted to join an orchestra. I never wanted to get a job teaching children how to swim. But now I look back and see that those are the best parts of life. I never even wanted to give a valedictorian speech… well actually I still don’t. So, obviously, there have been some instances where I haven’t grown to love something that I hate, but that’s all part of the experience. You do what you hate to find out what you love.


Now class, good job on making it this far, but from here, we still only have as much chance as anyone else. We’re not prestigious. We’re not the number one seed. We ARE different, but then again, everyone else is told the same thing. Don’t kid yourself by seeking only what you love and thinking you’ll be happy. There will always be disappointments, so instead of avoiding them,  indulge in them, because it’s the difficulties and unexpected that’s memorable. What truly defines you.


So I’d like to thank those who forced me to do what I hated, who kept my life imperfect. You know who you are and I don’t want to read off a list of people, so… yeah.


So, just let me leave you with one piece of advice: Don’t just do what you love. You’ll find the experience to be much better.


I couldn’t articulate that message better myself! As usual in this blog, let’s talk about some practical ideas in the comfortability arena.


First, check out these interesting facts.


  • In the year 1800 young people of both sexes would be considered adults as soon as puberty made an outwardly appearance.
  • Boys could join the Army as an officer cadet at 15 years old.
  • The school leaving age moved to 14 years old in the 19th century
  • In 1900, 1 out of 10 American young people between 14-17 years old attended high school.
  • So around 1900 a cascade of labor and school reform laws were passed in an attempt to protect kids from the harsh conditions in factories.


What has this caused?
  • Teens who once established a role of contributor and key producer to society came to an end and suddenly their role was almost exclusively CONSUMER
  • Entire industries have taken off: music, movies, fashion, technology…
  • Most young Americans are pushing back adulthood until their late twenties or early thirties.
  • The “teen” years are viewed as some sort of VACATION and expectations for teenagers have lowered over time.


Here are two healthy ways to make you children uncomfortable.


  1. Make your child get a job over the summer!
Some children have “job like experiences” in the summer like competitive sports, fine arts, or programs like 4H. If these programs, however, are not teaching hard work, responsibility, and perseverance than maybe you need to be looking for something else. If your children do not have anything this summer teaching these traits, be looking for programs that offer this. Or if they are old enough, help them find a job. I know several of our OCA high school boys have started lawn mowing companies!
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2. Ask them to apologize face-to-face with someone when they make a mistake.
Has your child ever done something to hurt someone else’s feelings? Sometimes this happens intentionally but many times we can hurt feelings unintentionally. Regardless, make them apologize not only to the other child but have them apologize to that child’s parents!  That is uncomfortable but something your child will never forget!

The summer is a fantastic time for adventure and the expanding of life experiences. Don’t let the summer slip by without making sure your kids learn these very important lessons. Learning how to do the hard things early in life will only benefit them more later in life.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Preparing For the Storm: Lessons From the Wilderness

WARNING: if Chris Gee (OCA parent) asks you to go backpacking in the wilderness.... just say NO!

“It will be fun” he said.To the contrary, my friend.


We hiked 22 miles in 30 hours with 15 of the hours full of rain, hail, flooded rivers, lightning, thunder, tornado watches, and no cell phone service except for on the top of one of the ridgelines.  When we got to the ridgeline and checked the weather, this is what we found.

We were surrounded by six tornado watches!

I spent weeks getting prepared for our trek.  I bought the right stuff, borrowed some tools, and even lost almost 30 pounds to get ready for this voyage through the Ouachita National Forest.  I did not, however, prepare for the weather that we faced unexpectedly. We knew that weather would be moving into this area, but it came faster than anticipated.

We treked 12 miles away from our car to a river crossing, but could not cross the river because it was up 10 feet due to the flooding.  This meant we had to turn back and go 12 miles backwards just to get back to where we began.  On the trip back we ran into another flooded river, but we had to cross it to get home.  So I became the guinea pig and forged across the river with a rope so we could use it to guide everyone across.

As I was hiking out trying to get back to our cars and to civilization, I had several thoughts running through my mind, but one that I think is worth mentioning here.

Since my time as President of OCA I have seen students, teachers, families, and friends go through some tough “wilderness” experiences themselves.  Unfortunately for some, to even categorize it as a “wilderness” experience is trivial compared to the reality some have faced. Often life seems unfair and unpredictable.  

At this very moment, I assume some of our families are going through the wilderness now.

  • Financial hardships
  • Medical diagnosis
  • Struggling with priorities
  • Losing a loved one
  • Marital issues
  • This list could go on and on...

So, on that mountain I pondered, what tools do kids need to make it through life’s wilderness experiences?  What should we (school and families) be doing/teaching our students to prepare them for the ‘wilderness moments’ of life?

Here are five practical thoughts:

1. Teach them that God is with them in the wilderness. (Biblical example: Mark 4--Jesus was in the boat during the storm.)  On my trip God was present.  I didn’t expect him to part the waters of the flooded river for me to cross, but I did depend on him to help me make good decisions when we reached difficult intersections.  Our kids need to learn from us that God is our first life-line when the storms are raging.

2. Allow them to learn to deal with "low level" adversity moments when they’re young and don’t pretend that life is fair.  Few things prepare young people for adult life more than working through adversity.  Learning how to solve a problem, especially when it’s difficult, is an invaluable skill.  So train your kids now in adverse moments.  Walk them through problem-solving steps and help them learn how to do that themselves.

3. Surround your children with a village of people that love your kids and your family and lean on them during wilderness moments.  A church family is a wonderful thing to have!  I had never been on this trail before, and my outdoor experience was somewhat limited compared to others.  So I depended on the people around me to help me make good decisions.  Our kids need to know who they can depend on, and they need to feel safe going to those people for support.

4. Don’t let pride or anything else keep you from using a professional to guide you through the wilderness.  This one is very important.  Our kids need to know that professional help is available when they want it or need it.  We need to provide professional guides to our kids when the rivers in their lives are flooding.

5. Find ways to create “grit” in your children.  Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly (2007) explain, “The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course” (p. 1088). Are your kids gritty?  When the weather is blowing and there are miles to go, do they understand that hard work is the key?  

This adventure is one that I’ll never forget.  It was exciting, scary, and exhausting.  But looking back, I’m proud of the hard work it took and all of the preparation I did to get ready.  But it’s especially important to remember that we can’t prepare for all of life’s storms.  They will appear out of nowhere.  We need to be teaching our kids these lessons during the calm times so they are ready when the rivers seem impassable.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Three Ways to Continue Character Building at Home


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the summer is nearly upon us.  There are only a few weeks until graduation.  Once school is out for the summer many of the normal operations of the campus will stop.  The constant buzz and energy of students in the halls will dissipate, and the cheerful voices of our teachers will be noticeably absent.  But not all of the good things have to stop for the summer.
We’ve placed a lot of effort this school year on the idea of character building.  It goes into the planning for nearly everything we do.  But character building is something that needs to be thought about over the summer, too.  Parents, here are a few very simple things you can do to help your child develop even further while they are home over the summer.
1. Family Service
Our kids take their cues from us.  They learn what acceptable living looks like by watching us.  And while they may not see the many hours of work that you are putting into serving your own family, it’s important for them to see you serving others.
One great way to work along-side your kids in service is to survey your neighborhood and find a person or family who needs help with something.  Maybe it’s adopting a widow who needs her lawn mowed. Fathers, that’s a great service for you to do with your child.  Find a way to get outside of your normal comfort zone and show someone love, and make sure your kids are along for the ride.  Choosing to do service that has no measurable payback is humbling, and it’s the very heart of Christianity.
2. Talk About the Hard Stuff
Americans have worked long and hard to push discomfort into extinction.  The sad part about that is, our kids often suffer from our choices to not talk about the hard stuff.  Either we don’t want to make them uncomfortable or we don’t want the awkwardness, but either way our kids suffer when we don’t address the tough stuff.
Make a point of talking about the hard stuff this summer.  Address the issues that have been lingering.  Is your child struggling with honesty?  Make this the summer of clarity on how dishonesty hurts him/her, you as a parent, and God as their heavenly father.  Do you have a child who is reaching puberty?  Just talk about it.  Is your high schooler dabbling in areas that they shouldn’t be?  Don’t let it go on.  Make this the summer of talk.  Good comes from shining light in the darkness.
Stepping up to the plate and doing the hard things will set a fantastic example for your children.  They will see your example and know that you love them, but they will also see that discomfort isn’t a bad thing.
3. Create ceremonies
There’s nothing wrong with making a big deal out of otherwise normal events.  Find a way to create ceremonies for your kids this summer, and make a big deal out of it!
The whole idea is to let your kids know that their development is important to you.  There are a lot of different ways to celebrate your child, but we’re focusing on character development, so here are two examples.
Milestone Celebrations
You may identify key ages at 5 (when the start Kindergarten), 10 (around puberty), 16 (when they get driver’s license), 18 (graduate high school) as appropriate times to have ceremonies that remind your child about the importance of their new responsibilities as well as the excitement that is to come.  Include other people in these events who are influential in your child’s development, and ask them to take part in the ceremony by sharing blessings or advice.  This creates an opportunity for you as the parent to open up the line of communication and to pour truth into their hearts.
Character Celebrations
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to celebrate your children when they make great decisions that exhibit character.  Did your kiddo choose to tell the truth even when it was very hard to do?  Did your child choose to give his/her last piece of candy to someone else?  Did your high schooler make the decision to not go with his/her friends to a place they shouldn’t? Show them how important that is.  Celebrate character growth at every turn. Whether it’s ice cream on the way home, or a nighttime bonfire event with friends, our kids should know how important good character is.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I'm Not the King. Life is Bigger Than Me.

“Brandon! You’re not the KING of this house!”

This is one of the wonderful choruses that my mother sang out often during my youth.  I remember it very clearly, and my mother had to remind me often.  I wasn’t in control in our house.

As a parent, do you sometimes feel the need to remind your children that they are not in control?  Maybe it’s a bold statement like my mom’s, or maybe you find yourself constantly trying to help your kids see that there is a bigger picture.

As an adult, “you’re not king of this house” rings true everyday.  I have to remind myself daily that life should not be about me.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, author Tim Elmore explains that the lives of our children are full of speed, convenience, entertainment, nurturing and entitlement.  I explained that these things are not inherently bad, but if this is reality for kids, it can cause problems that often lead to very difficult consequences.  The key is knowing the right opportunities to teach all of life’s messages.

Childhood Messages Adolescent Messages
1.  You are loved. 1.  Life is difficult.
2.  You are unique. 2.  You are not in control.
3.  You have gifts. 3.  You are not that important.
4.  You are safe. 4.  You are going to die.
5.  You are valuable. 5.  Your life is not about you.

As adults we need to have a realistic view of life, and as parents we need to equip our children with a realistic view.  We need to clearly express these childhood messages as a foundation for our children, but there comes a point when they need to start hearing the adolescent messages.

At OCA, how can we assist you in helping our students realize that life is bigger than us?  That we are called to a larger purpose?  One positive way we believe we can do this is through a new program we will be initiating next year.  Oklahoma Christian Academy will be partnering with Hope Christian Academy.

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Hope Christian Academy is a private Christian school in Ghana, West Africa.  It offers life-changing opportunities to children that live in the adjacent orphanage, Village of Hope, as well as the surrounding villages.  Only 10% of the people of Ghana (and West Africa in general) are able to attend school after second grade, due to the cycle of poverty.  In addition, over 30,000 children in Ghana are homeless.  Whether they are sold into slavery by desperate parents, lose parents to disease, or have been abandoned, these children long for an education.  The children who have the incredible blessing of attending Hope Christian Academy are aware that this opportunity calls them to make a difference.

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Our Sister School Program allows our OCA students to make a difference.  This exclusive Sister School Program will partner students and teachers at Oklahoma Christian Academy with students and teachers at Hope Christian Academy to foster mutual sharing, understanding, and tolerance.


pic3.jpgHow will our students develop these 21st Century Kingdom skills of generosity, justice, and tolerance?

Our first through eighth grade students will be exposed to learning experiences that compare and contrast the geography, history, and cultural practices of Oklahoma students with those of their friends in Ghana, allowing them to develop tolerance of differing perspectives.  In addition, OCA students will be paired with HCA students as pen pals, fostering and deepening friendships.  They will participate in service projects that make a concrete, positive difference in the lives of their friends at HCA.


The Sister School Program applies Biblical principles to students’ lives, inspiring and broadening their life vision, worldview, compassion, and service by giving them an opportunity to play an active role in God’s redemptive plan for the world.  It will allow our students to live out what God has asked of them,


“And what does the Lord require of you?  

To act with justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”

Micah 6:8


We have committed ourselves to this project for many reasons.  In addition to the educational and emotional formation it will provide, this program allows us to complete a major part of our mission at OCA, to equip our students to “exercise Christian leadership in our world.”