by Emilie Gorman

The end of the school year in Northwest Arkansas can be both exciting and also overwhelming as your family is most likely starting a new routine, or lack of routine, with the extra free time that summer brings. At the start of every summer my husband and I take time to set expectations and plan a few intentional moments for our family, and even though it takes some effort, I'm always so grateful when we do it. We've noticed that a little bit of intentional planning makes everyone more happy, confident, and joy-filled during the summer months.

In order to provide your family with guidance into our process, we have created a Summer Kickoff Kit to give you specific ideas on how to start strong and have a joy-filled summer with your own family. We are including a list of top 10 family summer activities for Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas, a classical reading booklist, and FREE printable pdfs such as a Summer Bucket List, a Summer Daily Habit Chart, and a Summer Reading Tracker.

Here are a few tips for achieving success with our Summer Kickoff Kit:

  • Be intentional about setting aside time to talk through realistic expectations with the whole family.

  • Create a simple structure and routine for your kids by printing out the Summer Habit Chart to track small daily habits that can be completed regardless of what else is going on for the day. Print out 1 for each of your kids, then let them choose a small reward at the end of the week for accomplishing the daily habits.

  • Get your family excited about your summer plans (big or small) by printing and filling out the Summer Bucket List. Post it on the fridge so they know what to look forward to, and check off the activities you complete so at the end of the summer you can remember how much fun was had together. If you need ideas for Summer activities in Fayetteville or Northwest Arkansas, check out our Top 10 List of summer activities in NWA.

  • Try to limit screen time and encourage your kids to get outside and play every day. If they can't play outside, make sure you have a few backup activities ready to go for rainy or extra hot days.

  • Encourage your family to read for 20 min each day with our age appropriate Summer Classical Reading List. If your kids are still little, set aside time in the morning or before bed and choose a story to read aloud. Make it fun by printing out the blank reading tracker and record all of the books your family reads over the summer.

  • Remember IT'S SUMMER-- be intentional about making time to create memories as a family, but have fun and don't stress over it.

We hope your family finds this FREE Summer Kickoff Guide to be a helpful tool in creating a joy-filled summer!


The Anthem Family

Click here to download the FREE Summer Kickoff pdf for fun ideas and blank printables for your family to use this summer.

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by Bond Pittman

Kindergarten student at Anthem Classical Academy, a classical christian school in Northwest Arkansas
Kindergarteners at Anthem learn about God’s unconditional love and what it means to be made in the image of God. Photo: Maura Dawn Photography

Recently I read my kindergarteners the lovely children’s story You Are Special by Max Lucado. It is a tale of wooden people called Wemmicks who spend their days sticking stars and dots on one another--stars for beautiful faces, physical feats, and intellectual exhibitions, dots for clumsiness, chipped paint, and other shameful qualities. The unimpressive Wemmick Punchinello jumps, spins, and climbs in striving for a star, but his failures result in even more dots. Often he receives dots just for having so many already.

Travis is a boy in my class who is in his second year of kindergarten, wears thick glasses to aid a serious vision condition, struggles with fine motor skills and retaining information, and often gets in trouble for impulsive and disruptive behavior. It’s rare for him to sit quietly in one place for more than seconds at a time. But the morning we read about Punchinello was different. He wiggled, rolled on the floor, and made noises during the first few pages, but as soon as Punchinello was introduced, he became still and quiet. He listened as Punchinello met Lucia, a Wemmick without a single star or dot sticking to her wooden frame, who tells Punchinello she is unmarked because she visits Eli the woodcarver every day. Travis looked attentively upon the picture of Punchinello walking up the hill to the woodcarver’s home. He stayed silent as Punchinello almost changed his mind and ran away, but Eli called out to him by name, drawing Punchinello into his presence to learn two truths that begin to transform him: Punchinello is special and loved because he is created by and belongs to Eli, and the dots and stars only stick if they matter to the Wemmicks who receive them. “The more you trust my love,” Eli says, “the less you care about the stickers.”

Travis listened attentively to the end of the story, but throughout the rest of the day he had incidents of pushing and kicking other children, angrily throwing his school materials across the room, and running away when I called his name. After this last episode, I was at the frayed end of my rope, and I took him to visit the principal. We walked in silence, me fuming and fretting over how to get through to him. Suddenly he stopped, and with his eyes on the ground, whispered, “Miss Pittman?” “Yes, Travis?” I said. “Am I Punchinello?”

For a moment, shocked by the question and this vulnerability he’d never shown, I said nothing. Then I got down on my knees, eye level with him, and took his hands.

“We are all Punchinello,” I said. “Do you remember what Eli the woodcarver told Punchinello? He told him he is loved and special just because he made him, and he doesn’t make mistakes when he makes his people. Do you know who made you, Travis?”

“God. I don’t know why but he made me a bad kid. And I think he hates me because he’s mad at me.”

Because I teach at a Christian school like Anthem, I had the gift of having a conversation with Travis that many teachers are not free to have. We talked about God’s unconditional love and what it means to be made in the image of God. We talked about that bad feeling we get when we do something wrong, and how it’s meant to guide us to repentance and forgiveness rather than make us hide in shame.

In a growing secularized world, where we are all too often like Wemmicks concerned with the trivial and transient, classical Christian schools like Anthem choose to turn their attention to that which is permanent and transcendent. Anthem Classical Academy is a place that will boldly proclaim the truth of God’s unconditional love, the manifestation of that love found in the person of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness He gives to those who seek it, and the meaningful adventure He offers to those who will trust and follow Him.

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by Dr. Jessica Drexel

“It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?" "But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan. "Are -are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund. "I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis

You’ve probably never compared Narnia to your local private school in Northwest Arkansas, and I’m fairly certain that the Anthem board members don’t have any talking animals, enchanted trees, healing potions, or magical corridors between worlds prepared for their school launch this fall. However, there are some helpful parallels between the Pevensie adventures in Narnia and a student’s purpose at a Christian school like Anthem.

In Lewis’ classic, the child Lucy Pevensie worries that Aslan—a Christ-figure in lion form—is confined to the enchanted realm of Narnia. She fears that though he is powerful in Narnia, he would be irrelevant once she returns home or grows up, since all the ordinary children who visit Narnia eventually return to their normal lives as they grow older. For them, Narnia is a space of coming-of-age, where each child confronts his or her greatest fears and weaknesses and comes out on the other side stronger and more mature. As they learn virtue and grow closer to Aslan, they also inch closer to their departure from their beloved Narnia. Therefore, Lucy’s sadness is that she and her siblings can never grow into and are never meant to inhabit Narnia permanently; her time there is short and purpose-filled, and she stays only long enough to learn and serve others. But Aslan’s response assures Lucy that Narnia has prepared her to know him more fully in her own world. Narnia is not an escape or a shelter from reality, but a training ground for the rest of her life in the real world.

Like Lucy’s visits to Narnia, the key to classical education is that it is purpose driven: a Christian school like Anthem acknowledges the purpose of the whole person, which is to live faithfully and fully in the world God created. As the Good Soil Report indicates, classically educated students are more likely to live purposefully and virtuously, to consider many different worldviews, and to form friendships with people with different beliefs than their own. And while this isn’t the main goal of a classical education, these students also are more likely to succeed in their work and careers post high school. At Anthem, students will not be taught that God is limited to the institution, but that he exists and is present in every area of life within and beyond the school.

Just as there is a purpose with each visit to Narnia, there is a purpose to a student’s education journey at Anthem. Students do not come to Anthem to escape the world, but rather to live in it fully and faithfully. Like the Pevensies, Anthem students are ordinary Royals, called to know God’s love, to see enchantment in the world, to exercise discernment, and to pursue a life of servant leadership.

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