Living a 4-Square Life
A former headmaster with whom I worked once commented that he often felt overwhelmed by the student discipline issues he dealt with…until he talked to other administrators at the local schools! Then he realized that his case load, and particular issues, was not that distressing, and he was blessed to deal with such “mild” infractions. I would echo that is the case at WCA. We are blessed with amazing students, and the “major” accomplishments greatly outweigh the “minor” infractions. WCA would like to honor those students who exemplify the virtues and character qualities that befit a Wildcat.
American entrepreneur and philanthropist WILLIAM H. DANFORTH (1870-1956) is most famous for founding the Ralston Purina Company, but he also helped launch the American Youth Foundation in 1925 as a resource for spurring kids to becoming the best they can be. His life took a major turn as a young, sickly boy when his teacher dared him to become the healthiest boy in the class. “Billy” took up the challenge, became healthy and went on to achieve many admirable and inspirational accomplishments. From fighting in WWI to working at the YMCA to starting his own company to establishing youth leadership camps, Mr. Danforth left a legacy of helping and encouraging others. He captured his story and inspirational ideas in a little book called “I Dare You!” in which he challenges others to take on the dare of living the 4-Square Life. Mr. Danforth extoled the idea that life should be lived by pursuing excellence in four distinct areas: mental, physical, social and spiritual. As a person took on the challenge to keep these four areas in balance, they could accomplish great things. The four white squares in the red and white checkerboard logo of Purina live on as a reminder of Mr. Danforth’s dream.
These four areas align well with the biblical teaching to “love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.” In an effort to encourage students to develop these characteristics based on our chapel studies from last school year, WCA will present Student of the Month awards to 7th-12th grade students who demonstrate excellence in the areas of Academics, Athletics, Citizenship and Christian Character. This custom will build upon the Chapel Awards that are currently presented to Grammar School students (grades K-6). Any WCA staff may submit students’ names; submissions will be reviewed and honorees selected by Mr. VanDerhoof, Mrs. Hazey and Mr. Lund. The awards will be recognized during the first Upper School chapel each month and published in the monthly newsletter. We praise God for the wonderful students at WCA and pray that He will use this tradition for His glory as students seek to glorify and enjoy Him forever.
In 480 B.C. the Spartan king, Leonidas, led an army of 7,000 men in an effort to hold off up to 2 million Persian invaders at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. After 3 days of fighting, the undersized band of soldiers was almost depleted and only 300 Greeks remained to stand against the colossal army of Xerxes the Great, King of Persia. The Greek Historian, Herodotus, records in his Histories that when a Greek scout was asked to report, he revealed his despair at seeing such a tremendous force with these words, “Their arrows will blot out the sun!” To which the Spartan soldier, Dienekes, replied, “IN UMBRA, IGITUR, PUGNABIMUS!” …which translates, “So much the better, we will fight in the shade!” This retort of courage and confidence has been adopted as the motto of the 1st Artillery Detachment of the United States Army, and it is the slogan for the WCA spirit wear this year.
As we look around and give a report on the current status of WCA, we may become distracted by the immensity of the work that awaits us and the changes that may not have followed our plan. We can be tempted to only see the Cloud of Arrows. Whether it’s a concern about enrollment numbers or the melancholy that often sets in when families and staff move on to a new season of life or the pressures of financial stresses or the need to dispel rumors in the community, these situations can appear to be an immense invading army that fabricates feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Instead, the Wildcat Nation has chosen to stand with Dienekes and proclaim, “IN UMBRA, IGITUR, PUGNABIMUS!” …So much the better, we will Fight in the Shade! And, while the retort of Diekenes may have been a last ditch effort of courage and insolence in the face of certain defeat, WCA believes it has a strategy that will spawn victory. The Wildcat Nation asserts the following plan:
Entrenched in Christian Ed – the school culture and curriculum is Christ-centered. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and Jesus is the one foundation upon which we build.
Elevate academics – we will continue the transition to classical Christian education (cCe) as the past implementation of Latin and rhetoric is now followed by the inclusion of logic class, the grammar and writing programs now include Shurley Grammar and the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), students in 7th-12th grades will begin to study the Great Ideas from an Omnibus approach, and the Rhetoric students will develop a Sr. Thesis.
Educate teachers – since teachers are a school’s greatest asset, WCA is committed to providing the training and resources to help our faculty develop as cCe teachers. They received outstanding insights from Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute last fall, and a team of seven Wildcats attended the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) summer conference. This fall we have the honor of welcoming Dr. Christopher Perrin who will provide extended training and insights about Schole’, teaching from rest.
Expand athletics – under the direction of our new AD, (but same old) Mr. Stephen Lund, soccer is back at the middle school and Varsity levels.
Establish the Fine Arts – all K-12 students now have the opportunity to learn enjoy Art and Music every week for the entire school year.
Embed a School Culture – in an effort to purposefully connect the events of the school year to help students develop character, instill habits, and establish traditions, a House System will be implemented in the Upper School. Also, there are numerous After School Clubs that afford students to pursue areas of interest in art, chess, science, math, music, etc.
Enhance the Facility – a cleaning service has been contracted which allows Mr. Chad Houpt to focus his attention to keep the facility in great shape. In addition, the gym floor has been resurfaced and new carpet will be installed in the hallways and cafetorium!
Now, this optimism is not grounded in our own conventional wisdom, but is established on the fact that we are blessed by God. Our theme verses for the school year are Psalm 1:1-2: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. We are reminded that the blessing is not in the aforementioned checklist, but rather that we delight in God’s Law and meditate on it continually. All the other “stuff” (number of students, size of building, money in the bank, status in community, programs offered, etc.) are “extras”, benefits from glorifying God and enjoying Him.
So, while WCA may look different than expected today, the suave Fernando Lamas character of Billy Crystal from yesteryear would tell the Wildcat Nation, “You look MARVELOUS…SIMPLY MARVELOUS!” WCA is blessed greatly by a faithful God…let’s continue to fight in the shade!
This year, Washtenaw Christian Academy has added wrestling to its portfolio of sports teams. On Saturday, March 19th, WCA sent a team of six grapplers to Mt. Pleasant to compete against athletes from twelve other Christian schools from across the State of Michigan. None of these young men had ever wrestled competitively before; in fact, a month ago, none of them had even been on a wrestling mat! They trained intensely for three short weeks, building the endurance and mastering the techniques they would need to achieve success at the Michigan Association of Christian Schools State Wrestling Tournament.
Our young wrestlers performed valiantly throughout the day with every one of them winning at least half of their matches! When the tournament reached its final round, five out of our six Wildcats were wrestling for either first/second or third/fourth place, and in the end, they earned a 1st place, a 2nd place, two 3rd places, and a 4th place finish! This is a phenomenal accomplishment for their competitive debut! It’s like climbing Pike’s Peak after just a few weeks of practice on the climbing wall at Planet Rock.
Wrestling may be a recent development at WCA, but it traces its lineage back to the dawn of recorded history. The earliest drawings and carvings depict athletes engaged in wrestling competitions. One of the original Olympic events, a wrestling match was the finale of the five event Pentathlon in which the two best athletes from the four prior events wrestled each other to determine the overall victor.
Throughout history, we find many notable figures who were accomplished wrestlers. For example, the philosopher Plato was a renowned wrestler winning many prizes as a young man. In fact, his original name, Aristocles, was changed to Plato (Broad Shoulders) because of his success as a wrestler! In the Old Testament, the patriarch Jacob physically wrestled with the Angel of the LORD in his desire to obtain a blessing from Him. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and seven other U.S. presidents were all acknowledged as accomplished wrestlers. Additionally, many people are unaware that King Henry VIII of England once challenged King Francis I of France to a wrestling match! (He lost…)
As WCA implements classical education, the sport of wrestling is a great fit. In ancient Greece, education was focused on training the whole person. Physical excellence was just as valued as intellectual excellence. Elementary students split their time between a palaestra (wrestling school) and a “music school” where they learned reading, recitation, writing, and mathematics along with singing and playing an instrument. (The word music in Greek times had a much wider meaning than it does today.) And then, from ages 10 – 14, the youths would continue their physical training at the gymnasium where they studied wrestling, boxing, running, the long jump, and throwing the discus and javelin. Classical education aspires to the development of the whole person; character and intellect are valued just as much as vocational skill.
Known for its level of intensity, wrestling is truly a battle of wills that is often determined by who has the mental strength to compete at full speed through the end of the contest. In a match, you stand eye-to-eye with your opponent, determined to do everything in your power to take him down and turn his shoulders to the ground. In turn, he dedicates every ounce of his energy to not only stop you, but to also do the same. New wrestlers are often shocked at the level of exhaustion they experience following a mere six minute match! Picture the “unstoppable force meeting the immovable object” scenario. By the end of the contest, both competitors are physically, mentally, and emotionally spent!
Wrestling demands strength, endurance, and mental focus. If you ask my wrestlers what they should do when they get tired, they’ll respond, “Work harder!” Our young athletes are learning the valuable life lesson of personal discipline that will continue to serve them well, both off the mat and far beyond high school. They are learning to be able to ignore their self-imposed limits and discover the potential that God has in store for them.
Just as our bodies are able to endure long after our mind is ready to give up, God’s desire for His children is for us to experience abundance and victory in our spiritual lives far beyond what we could ask or think. The Apostle Paul used wrestling to illustrate the spiritual battle facing the Ephesian believers in their Christian walk.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6: 12-15)
As our wrestlers entered their first competition, they faced incredible odds and came out the victors. But they also gained a truer and fuller understanding of what it means to wrestle against “spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.” While success in wrestling relies on physical strength and human techniques, the spiritual battle is won by determinedly employing the full armor of God, having done all to stand firm.
Dean Jeffery is a parent, board member, and wrestling coach at Washtenaw Christian Academy.