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By Sarah Ashley Hendricks 


Why study a modern foreign language? I believe it’s important to know our “whys,” so I always ask my students this question on Day 1 of French class. The top answers usually revolve around helping us communicate when traveling or helping with jobs (missions, interpreting, hospitality, etc.). And while these are undeniable perks of learning a language, I think most of us would agree that the benefits of language education go deeper. A few of the less superficial merits of language-learning that I want to look at today are: a Broadened Perspective, Humility, & Empathy. In an elementary language program like ours at Anthem, where fluency is not the end goal, these virtues make up the foundation on which I hope to build my French classes.


A Broadened Perspective.


God has surrounded us with a huge, diverse world that we limited beings have only just scratched the surface of. A beautiful part of teaching at Anthem is getting to broaden our students’ view of this world while continually pointing back to its Creator. I view language-learning as a bridge, connecting our students to people, cultures, and concepts that were completely unknown to them before. Learning French, specifically, allows our students to build connections with over 235 million French speakers across more than 30 countries on 5 continents. This “language bridge” allows formerly irrelevant information suddenly to have meaning because there is now a context for people, places, and things that our kids encounter.


Why study a language like French?

I love it when kids come into my class bursting with excitement to tell me: 


  • “I saw the word ‘Bonjour’ on my strawberry container!” 

  • Or “I noticed the instructions to my board game were written in English and French!” 

  • Or “There’s a boy who speaks another language on my flag football team and he might be from a French-speaking country in Africa!” 

  • Or “We learned how to spell ‘ballet’ today, and Ms. Watson said it’s a French word!”

Without the language bridge there would be no reason for my students to observe these things. Language-learning is very much opening their eyes to the broad world around them. 


Humility.


Another question I pose to my older students is, “What does it take to be a language learner?” Time, hard work, practice, and persistence all get mentioned— and, of course, these are necessary elements. But I believe that underlying all these, a modern language learner must take on a spirit of humility. This becomes harder as we get older-- there is a noticeable difference even between my kindergarteners and 5th graders-- because we have to be willing to regress, to sound a little silly, to be misunderstood, to make a lot of mistakes; basically, to sound like a 2-year-old! 


When I left to study abroad in college, I felt pretty decent about my French. I had done well in my classes, and I had even met with a French exchange student a few times before my departure to practice conversational French. Well, not surprisingly, that self-perception flew out the window after being in France for about 24 hours. And even after being there for four months, living with a French family, I still never reached the point of feeling like I could express my full personality. I love humor, but I realized that it required a level of nuance in the language that I didn’t have. So it just wasn’t part of my personality in France. It was humbling.



Visiting a grocery store in France

One of my favorite stories to tell my students in regards to humility is when I was trying to bake a cake in France. I had copied down the recipe, in French, and was at the store shopping for ingredients with a girl in my study abroad program. One of our ingredients read: “Une cuillère à soupe de lait.” -- literally “a spoon of soup of milk.” We puzzled over this for a minute before deciding “soupe de lait'' must be some sort of condensed or evaporated milk. We turned the store upside down searching the milk section, then the baking section, looking everywhere for the mysterious ingredient. We finally gave up and timidly approached an employee, asking in French where to find it. When she looked at us quizzically, we showed her our recipe. She smiled and pointed out that our recipe called for a “soup spoon,” or Tablespoon, of milk. Regular old milk. We were quite embarrassed, but being college girls, quickly shifted to laughter. 


Ideally that’s where the humility of language-learning takes us: to a right-sized view of ourselves. One in which we can laugh at our mistakes and move on. We try to practice that in class: if someone accidentally says “I am bread” instead of “I like bread,” we share a laugh and keep moving forward, knowing we are all going to make mistakes like that as we learn.


Empathy. 


The story about my cake ingredient mishap is one of so many “foot-in-mouth” situations in my French-learning voyage. And all of those experiences-- of the embarrassment and awkwardness and sheer difficulty of language learning-- leave me with a gift. The gift of understanding and relating to the millions of people around the globe, and right around us in Fayetteville, who are in the same struggle. People who are out of their comfort zone, maybe traveling, or studying, or seeking refuge & work. People who locals might consider a nuisance. But people whom God calls us to love. 


Benefits Studying abroad in France

Last year, my husband met a French-speaking man from Cameroon. He moved to the U.S. hoping to find better work and a better life, even though it meant leaving his home and family-- including a pregnant wife-- behind. After three years of hard work he had become proficient in English, found a decent job, and his wife and daughter were able to join him in Fayetteville. Our family had the opportunity to host all three of them for lunch on Christmas Day. Not only did we share a meal with them, but we also got to speak in French with the wife and daughter, who still didn’t know any English, and hadn’t been able to speak to anyone outside their family since being in the U.S.


It’s opportunities like this that motivate me more than anything else to keep up the difficult journey that is language-learning. These moments don’t happen every day, but they happen more often than you might think. I very much hope that by sharing the French language and stories like these with my students-- our children-- I can nurture these same values of broadened perspective, humility, and empathy in them.

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We will soon be entering Holy Week and I wanted to take a moment to share with you the significance of a cherished tradition we observe at our school, and hopefully give you a better understanding of the Maundy Maundy Thursday Feast at Anthem.


Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, is a day deeply rooted in Christian tradition. It commemorates the events of the Last Supper, where Jesus shared a final meal with his disciples before his crucifixion. This poignant moment holds profound significance for believers around the world as it symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice and love demonstrated by our Savior.


The Last Supper, Maundy Thursday, Easter Feast
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

At Anthem Classical Academy, we honor this sacred occasion by coming together as a school community to partake in a special feast. This gathering serves as a time of reflection, fellowship, and remembrance. It provides us with an opportunity to pause and contemplate the profound love and sacrifice demonstrated by Jesus Christ, whose example of humility and service we strive to emulate in our daily lives.


Beyond the symbolic elements of the feast, the Maundy Thursday observance also serves as a teaching moment for our students. It offers an opportunity to delve into the rich theological significance of Holy Week and to explore the timeless truths of our faith in a tangible and meaningful way.


As teachers and parents, I encourage you all to embrace this tradition with your students and to use it as a catalyst for meaningful conversations about the significance of Holy Week and the central tenets of our Christian faith. Together, let us journey through this season with hearts filled with gratitude, reverence, and love.


Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we strive to cultivate Christ-centered leaders who embody truth, goodness, and beauty.



Ryan Gorman, Head of School at Anthem Classical Academy



Ryan Gorman,

Head of School



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by Tom McMahon


The year was AD 1402, and things were touch and go in the city of Florence. For much of the

year, the city had been under siege by the army of Milan and its fearsome duke, Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Visconti, who had been uniting Italy through war and political intrigue for the past 15 years, dreamt of rebuilding a glorious new Roman Empire. But one of the last obstacles in his way was Florence, a free city that had not surrendered to his iron will. The curtain was about to close on the city, though. As losses mounted and foodstuffs in the city became scarce, Florence’s defeat became all but inevitable.


The Siege of Florence- Renaissance Education
The Siege of Florence by Giorgio Vasari, 1558

It was in the midst of this hopelessness that the hand of God moved. Plague struck the siege

camps, killing many of the Milanese soldiers and, most importantly, Duke Visconti. At the news of his death, the army disintegrated into the Italian countryside and Florence was saved. But it had been a near-run thing. Florence had been brought to the edge of destruction, and its people stood in awe of how close they had come to losing their independence to tyranny. Quickly, the leading men of the city met to discuss plans for rebuilding, and the main topic of discussion was how to prevent something like this from ever happening again. That is, Florence wanted to know how best to prepare for the next warlord.


In the past, I’ve tried to put my students in the shoes of the Florentine council at this momentous occasion and ask them how they would avoid such disasters in the future. Their answers match what I think most generals and political leaders would suggest: increase the defense budget, make logistical improvements to the city for future sieges, or use diplomacy to create a coalition of cities against Milan. While all of these options might have worked, what the Florentines did was much different. Coluccio Salutati, the Chancellor of Florence, and a man of great foresight, realized that Florence’s problem went much deeper than military or logistical concerns. Florence’s people, in his estimation, were unable to deal with crisis. If it was to survive the next warlord or disaster that came along, Florence needed a different kind of citizen within its walls. The great reform that followed the siege of 1402, then, was not of the military, infrastructure, or government, but of education.



Coluccio Salutati, Renaissance in Florence
Coluccio Salutati

In the new system, Florentine learning was oriented around two concepts: sapientia and eloquentia, or wisdom and eloquence. Wisdom, or correctly-applied knowledge, as we define it in my Bible classes, was taught so that the future citizens of Florence would not succumb to panic, instead keeping cool heads and making rational decisions in matters of state and war. Moreover, Sapientia was taught by returning to the classics of Greek and Latin, which had become increasingly absent in the era’s curriculum. Students would be encouraged to look to the past for examples of virtue and courage in the face of danger, giving them models to inspire them and pattern their own actions after. In doing this, students see that when they choose virtue over vice, they honor and take part in the long heritage of pursuing the good.



Eloquence, on the other hand, was how to convince opponents to your way of thinking.We

might call this rhetoric today, which can have the connotation of manipulation. The way the

Florentines saw it, though, was that having great wisdom was useless if you were unable to

share it with others; if you were unable to persuade your community towards the good. Wisdom and eloquence, therefore, go hand in hand. Both are necessary if we want to strengthen the community around us.


This educational reform revolutionized not only 15th century Florence, but the entire Western

world. Salutati and his fellow reformers were early movers in what would become the

Renaissance, an intellectual period that saw great developments in thinking and learning. And in many ways, we continue their work here at Anthem Classical Academy today. We believe that children who are brought up to know sapientia and eloquentia will be sturdy–in their intellect, emotions, and faith–and that this sturdiness will help them defeat whatever warlords come their way. After all, crisis came again to Florence later, but the city still stands today. Our prayer for students at Anthem is that when crisis comes, they will have the training to deal with it, and do so gracefully.

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