I had the opportunity to interview Fiona Hubbard, a 2016 graduate of School of the Ozarks, about the impact classical Christian education had on her life.
SM: What was the most impactful book, project, or paper that you experienced at school and why was that?
FH: Perhaps the most impactful project that I completed while in high school was during junior year, when my Christian Worldview professor instructed my class to create churches among ourselves. So we embarked on that journey, from start to finish, from discussing what a church ought to be to splitting into denominations to writing a constitution and bylaws to putting on a legitimate service. The impact there was twofold: first, we were confronted with myriad presuppositions in which we had to ask ourselves, ‘is this simply tradition or is this rooted in Scripture?’. My chosen church group delved into liturgy as ample means to experience the glory of God, while other groups were more contemporary; this reminded us of the truth that secondary and tertiary doctrine should never divide the body of Christ, for, after all, we all make up that body. The alternate vitality of this project was creativity. As creatures made in the image of God, we are meant to create, and in creating, we can know Him even better and glorify Him even more. The aspect of creativity, the use of an art form to express and explore what we were learning was extremely valuable. That artfulness saturated every step of creating our mock churches.
I completed numerous other projects with that same creative intent; in Literature class sophomore year, we all meticulously chose songs that matched the contents and mood of each chapter in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. At the end of the unit, we designed ‘album covers,’ communicating the 60s classic novel and its eternal themes in a unique, creative way, as opposed to the basic 5-paragraph essay.
I will also always value the timeline of church history I put together that year. In the same creative vain, each person in my class got the chance to expose our originality in designing our own personal timelines of the history of the Church we had just covered in class.
Sometimes being required to be creative for a project or paper was exactly what I needed to truly know and appreciate what I was learning and get to experience it more fully as an offshoot of our Lord’s creation.
SM: When did you recognize that a classical Christian education was different than what other students were receiving? Moreover, what was it that you recognized as being different?
FH: The primary difference is blatant: I was required to take a Christian Worldview course each semester, while my friends at most other schools were not. While this is the most obvious difference, it truly is the most important. I learned to love the Lord with my mind, which was something I had never quite understood up until that point.
I am ill-equipped to address some other minor differences that may exist, as I did not experience every other type of schooling. There are exceptional students in every education system, but I do not hesitate to say that I think my four years of classical Christian education served me best and, more importantly, best enabled me to serve others.
SM: Do you feel your school has prepared you for the next step? If so how?
FH: My school most definitely prepared me for the next step – in my case, university. I was equipped with a well-rounded wealth of knowledge and a solid grasp on how to learn most efficiently. Even more so, however, I was equipped with the truth that Christ is preeminent in all things; I graduated with apt understanding that I am simply a vassal for His kingdom and, while I don’t deserve even that honor, His grace prevails and I strive each day to do good for Him.
SM: Would you recommend a classical Christian education to others?
FH: I would recommend a classical Christian education. Perhaps it is not ideal for each person, but largely I believe that it is superbly valuable.
Something I especially treasure is the beauty that exists in the fact that most of my colleagues were believers. That meant that no matter how rigorous school got, no matter how painful it was to lose volleyball district championships, my colleagues and teachers were rooted in the same truth I was. We were all going through the same things and we were rooted in the same truth that Christ is Lord. And when one of us forgot that truth, others reminded them. We were there to lift each other up when one was weak. To have the chance to be nurtured in that community for four extremely formative years was unspeakably beneficial.
SM: What advice would you give a new student and or parents to a classical Christian education?
FH: Be gracious. Each day we are given far more grace than we could ever begin to deserve and we simply must extend that to others.
Students, be gracious with yourself. Never cease to strive for excellence in all you do (yes, even cleaning the lunchroom), but also don’t beat yourself up over fickle matters. Be gracious with your teachers, who will inevitably enrage you at some point or another. Be gracious with your siblings, even if they come into your room and distract you from your homework. Be gracious with your classmates, who will eventually start to get on your nerves.
Parents, be gracious with your children. Be gracious with your angst-ridden teenagers. Encourage them to strive for excellence in all they do. Strive for excellence in all you do. Be gracious with their teachers. Be gracious with fellow parents. Don’t compete. Seek to be an example of Christ-likeness for your children.
SM: Greatest accomplishment during your high school years?
FH: Perhaps this is not quite an accomplishment, but graduation with the embodiment of four extremely difficult, precious, formative years of my life. Graduation symbolized the fulfillment of countless hours of study, but also, just as importantly, countless hours of building relationships. Our God Almighty is relational and intimate. Four years of building deep community with just a handful of His people is what I am most proud of over the course of high school. For it is in relationship that we experience God in one of the most explicit ways that we can in a fallen world – after talking, laughing, crying, eating, being bored, studying, winning, losing, traveling, etc. with and alongside some of the dearest friends, we know the character of Jesus just a bit more than we did before. Graduation was such a beautiful, bittersweet, culminating moment of a group of people having experienced a whole lot of joy and a whole lot of hardship side by side and entering a new phase of life, having been transformed. And that is what I’m most proud of.
SM: What is the most valuable lesson you learned in a failure that you encountered?
FH: Through a variety of academic and recreational failures, I gradually learned that it’s not necessary to be number one. We were not created to be famous and elevated in society. We are meant to be humble. In the end, winning is great, but mostly winning doesn’t matter. And not in a moody, meta, Ecclesiastes way; our purpose is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” as the Westminster Confession reminds us. But too often we confuse God with ourselves in that statement.
Ultimately, the most valuable lesson I learned in all the failure that I’ve encountered in this life is expressed in the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, which asks, “What is your only comfort in life and death?”
The answer? “That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
We are not our own. So we must simply pray that our failures bring Him glory.
SM: Has this type of education shaped the things that you love? And if so, how?
FH: I love well-expressed truth. It is so satisfying. When Christian ideas, morals, truths, etc. are expressed by a variety of mediums, whether they are music, painting, dancing, writing, etc., I experience what I firmly believe to be the purest form of delight. I think that the arts are made for that purpose. For in experiencing them, we experience an entirely new facet of our revealed Lord.
You can also read Fiona’s essay, “Mudbloods and Other Evils: Harry Potter and Chesterton in the Eugenics and Ethics Conversation,“ in an earlier Portrait of a Graduate piece for The Classical Thistle.