What should school look like? Part I

Have you ever wondered why desks were arranged in rows, curriculum focused on memorization, and students were expected to sit still and only speak if called upon?

Callahan’s iconic book, The Cult of Efficiency, exposes how big business dictated public education. And big businessmen, like the Henry Fords, needed mechanistic laborers, as early 20th century economics exploded thanks to the assembly line’s efficiencies. Assemblers needed to do the same actions all day every day, without questioning or thinking, just doing what they were told to do. Well, 21st century big business has replaced assemblers with robots. So what the heck should school look like nowadays?

Sure big business has power, but instead of asking what companies need, as though the end goal of education is a job (is it?), what if we flipped the system on its head? What if the end goal of education was life? Howard Thurmond once wrote, ““Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” What if we started the education question with, “What does the learner want to know; what brings her alive?” Now, I am not indicating that a 3 year old knows what she really wants. But have you ever heard a 3 year old say, “Daddy, I goed to the bathroom?” or “Mommy, I lefted my toy outside?”

While classical students are repeating endless Latin declensions, elementary Spanish students are parroting colors and numbers and “Donde está el baño?”, middle school grammar students are diagramming sentences, and High School and Higher ed language students are laboriously conjugating every tense under heaven… a 3 year old somehow magically says, “goed.” Stop for a second and get your mind around the fact that 3 year olds are still figuring out their sense of time and they have never heard the word “goed”, ever. Yet, somehow he has deciphered that he “go” to the bathroom before this present moment, and he should add a hard sound at the end of “go” (mind you he does not even grasp the letters “e and d”).

Whether your chid tells you if he likes language or not, his actions demonstrate that his brain is playing with a genius aptitude, effortlessly conjugating words (ignorant of irregulars like “went”) while 10 years later he doubtlessly will despise conjugating anything. And what is even more amazing is he can absorb language and grammar in more than one language (Schools have not championed this aptitude, because it just turns out that American culture and big business have not prioritized multilingualism… yet).

Ponder this- is it possible that preschool covers the most important schooling years of your career? Seriously, think about it. In the area of oral fluency, compare the fluency of a preschool student who has been immersed in multiple languages for 4 years to a college graduate who majored in foreign languages (while you’re at it, compare tuition costs too).  Beyond language, the convictions, the personality, and the preferences of preschoolers are carved out in these early, formative years. Add to that movement and sensory integration, or music or socialization… In short, intractable learner dispositions are launched in the early years.

So to start this dialogue, what if school should start when our culture still calls it “pre” school. Yet, don’t picture 3 year olds sitting in rows, scared to talk, and bribed by grades to memorize everything under the sun. Picture 3 year olds playing. Playing their hearts out. Playing in other languages.

I am not saying multilingualism is the great end all, but I am stating that 0-7 year olds both relationally and cognitively want to learn language(s). And this gift of communication will doubtlessly make them come more alive.

To be continued…


Your year end gift will continue to Inspire World Changers

As we finish 2017 and reflect on the school starting 3 years ago this month, we are awestruck by this movement. CBA has grown faster than anyone could have imagine. We started with 7 children in December 2014 and now have 140 students. 140 students who are learning their second or third languages, while interacting with different cultures and experiencing the incredible love of God through their amazing teachers. In just 3 years we are outgrowing our incredible space at Friendship Baptist Church. Please consider donating a tax-deductible gift towards our renovations and future Student Life Center (elementary classrooms and sports facilities). In just 1 month we have already raised almost $25,000 towards meeting our first goal of $200,000 to attain a matching gift.

donate button

Giving Tuesday- A chance to invest in something greater than us

donate button

Perhaps you have heard it said, everything we eat is medicine (good or bad). For example, before I think about using painkillers or antibiotics to reduce pain and sickness (or more personally statins for cholesterol), I should at least ask, “What else have I put in my body to combat infirmity?”. Am I eating a diet that bolsters my body or weakens it? Even a free, yummy Chick-fil-A milkshake is not free, for my body will pay a cost. Perhaps the cost is worth it, but nevertheless it is a cost.

Can we say the same about money?  Every dime we spend is an investment, beit gasoline for our car, a book, a lunch on the run, a date, a vacation… Since finances are limited, every penny spent is an investment into something instead of something else. And ultimately, our credit card statement reveals our treasures.

The same can also be argued about our time and talents. We invest them in what matters most to us. It is probably pretty safe to say the parents and grandparents reading this blog would prove that their family is most important. Family is where they invest most of their time, treasures, and talents. But just as with food, we can make good and bad investments.

Our children are growing up in a world where culture, friends, parents, and grandparents often teach them that life is about… well, them. If we feed them all this life has to offer (sugar, toys, unlimited attention, no limits, free tantrums…), we will end up with an oversized baby that has an endless appetite and a hangry temper. Then later in life we tell them, “life is all about you, but by the way, you will never be satisfied.”

Here at Charleston Bilingual Academy we teach our children that life is bigger than us. Life is bigger than our children, bigger than our parents, bigger than our grandparents, and even bigger than our community.

In my own story, I was graduating with my doctorate while developing international curriculum and meeting with schools all over the planet. And one day, while conversing with God, I happened on my wife and children sitting around a little table in our home: loving, laughing, and learning: all in Spanish. And in my heart I knew we had something bigger than ourselves. Our family took steps of faith to follow God and join something greater than our home. We would love, laugh and learn with more families all in Spanish. Three families and two more teachers jumped on board in December 2014. Then each month we added some more families and teachers, and eventually we added Mandarin. Each family that joins is not simply joining for their child or themselves. They are joining this movement: a movement that is greater than us. A movement where children are inspired to live a life that is greater than themselves and where we equip them to go and change the world.

Through a hands-on, inquiry-based, project-based education, our children learn how to think instead of simply what to think. They learn to live in at least 2 languages, simultaneously making friends from many cultures, all the while being saturated with the great love and truth of God. They learn about this God who was not content to watch humans suffer in brokenness while He enjoyed heaven. Jesus came, suffered our brokenness, died and rose again, to rescue us from ourselves, and free us to love and be loved by Him and our neighbors.

Through a CBA education research tells us our students will experience great gains. Here are just a few:

  • Increased concentration- Bilingual students demonstrate more concentration and engagement (Thomas & Collier, 2005).
  • Critical thinking- Bilingualism improves the executive center of the brain, which impacts critical thinking, metacognitive, and metalinguistic skills (Thomas & Collier, 2005)
  • Learn additional languages- Bilingual speakers are more likely to learn additional languages (Cenoz & Valencia, 2004)
  • Score higher- Bilingual students score higher on the SAT in Math and English (The College Board SAT, 2003)
  • Improves English- Learning another language improves English structure and vocabulary (Curtain & Dalhberg, 2004)
  • College Entrance– College admissions and scholarship committees are now looking past just grades for students that stand out, and multilingualism helps separate students from the general applicant (Callahan & Gándara, 2014)

Yet, we are not doing this school to simply make our children great, but that they would use their skills to love and serve others, changing the world one child and one family at a time. What started in our home with my wife and 3 children has now expanded to 17 faculty and staff and 140 children.  The reach of the current 140 children at CBA will be thousands across the globe, and who knows where those thousands will go…

We invite you to invest in something greater than yourself and your family. We invite you to join us in the movement of Inspiring World Changers.

On this Giving Tuesday, please consider giving an online, tax-deductible gift towards one of the following:

  • Renovations and new construction for our elementary school (We have been given a matching gift of $200,000 so we need to raise $200,000!)
  • Teacher Education Fund (for our amazing teachers to pursue further degrees in education)
  • Scholarship Fund (to date CBA has given over $200,000 in scholarships in 3 years)




How much is elementary education worth?

Charleston Bilingual Academy is launching its full day elementary school August 2018 (1st grade). Why in the world would you pay for school when there are plenty of free options? Why do we pay for anything for our children?

In this life, they are the most precious possession we will ever have. Why bother earning money, if we are not going to invest it into our families? We often do not choose the most economic option of our children.  If we invest in good shoes, how much more should we invest in the people who are forming our children for 15,000+ hours (Im not saying there are not good public options, but I am encouraging you to read on!).  Most families start saving immediately for college, yet 18 year olds are mostly formed by that point (personality, character, desires, language, thinking), whereas preschool and elementary ages are the most formative years of your children’s lives. (PS- most Spanish majors in college ($200,000 later) do not speak Spanish nearly as well as our 2nd graders).

Think about a deal where you can pay someone who loves your child almost as much as you do, who is completely trustworthy, who is highly educated, who teaches your children passionately to become world changers, imparting skills you can not give, in a small class environment, and you pay them less than $3/hr (counting the endless hours of lesson planning)?

So is it worth it? Well, you decide how much the following is worth?

Speaking, listening, reading, writing in 2 languages, while scoring significantly higher in SAT Math and English.

Best friends with the same values (At our fall festival, one mother remarked, “I have never been to such an event and seen every child so well behaved, waiting in line, not complaining, and taking care of others”). Your children’s friends will have immeasurable impact on your child.  (And its a great place for parents to find best friends too, through our coffee talks, Spanish classes, bible studies, workouts…)

-Hands-on, inquiry-based, project-based curriculum, where children do learning, instead of passively memorizing facts to pass a test. (Just about every school calls their “curriculum” the textbooks they purchase (made by people who have never met the students). Through group planning led by a doctor from the country’s #1 school of education, CBA creates its own curriculum, adapted to common core standards, yet tailored to our Christ-centered, intercultural, language immersion-based mission.

Children learn how to think instead of just what to think. Children will learn to ask great questions, and then apply rules of logic and scientific method to scrutinize between truth and falsehoods.  Across the curriculum, we ask “Who made it?”; “Is it true?”; “What is its purpose?”; “Is it good or bad?”; “Is it beautiful or ugly?”; “Why do we need community?”, while constantly teaching students to define their terms. Students will leave CBA living on purpose- bringing truth, goodness, and beauty to a broken world, and changing it.

Teachers in the classrooms will love and teach students sacrificially, just as they have been loved by a God who gave us everything (Romans 8:32- He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?).  Students will get to know just how great the Triune God is through learning the Bible as well as seeing his love fleshed out every day in our teachers. We guarantee our teachers will love your children day in and day out (never a bad day).

Intercultural- Currently 30% of our families have a least 1 parent who is a minority. All of our teachers are minorities (from 9 different countries). We do not simply go to school side by side, we go to school face to face, learning to respect, appreciate, and learn from each other’s cultures, while loving each other as Christ has loved us. According to Bamford & Mizokawa (1991), learning languages and cultures in the most formative years increases cross cultural friendships and reduces prejudices.

Individualized- We do not believe this world was made by an accident. We do not believe your love for your child is simply composed of chemicals predisposing you to continue on the species. We do not believe that the most fit have the right to survive at the expense of the weak. We believe every child is beautifully and purposefully made by our loving Creator. And we will let your child know that from the second they get out of the car and our director is welcoming them by name at the door. They are special, and we will love them; we will keep them safe, and we will differentiate our curriculum to teach them according to their readiness.

Academic Excellence: If learning a second language by first grade is not enough proof,  check out just a little bit of research which we are already proving:

  • Increased concentration- Bilingual students demonstrate more concentration and engagement (Thomas & Collier, 2005).
  • Critical thinking- Bilingualism improves the executive center of the brain, which impacts critical thinking, metacognitive, and metalinguistic skills (Thomas & Collier, 2005)
  • Learn additional languages- Bilingual speakers are more likely to learn additional languages (Cenoz & Valencia, 2004) 
  • Score higher- Bilingual students score higher on the SAT in Math and English (The College Board SAT, 2003)
  • Improves English- Learning another language improves English structure and vocabulary (Curtain & Dalhberg, 2004)
  • College Entrance– College admissions and scholarship committees are now looking past just grades for students that stand out, and multilingualism helps separate students from the general applicant (Callahan & Gándara, 2014)


How much is it worth to you, to partner with CBA in inspiring your child to become a world changer?

By the way, we have never turned a family away who wants this and cannot afford it, because great education should be available to every child made in God’s image.



What do you ask your child when you pick him/her up?

Questions are pivotal to parenting. So often our good “talks” are just that- us talking and our kids listening. But what are our kids saying? What are they thinking? Well, what questions are we asking? I firmly believe that our questions not only help reveal their souls, but also form their souls. If that is true, then what are the questions we are always asking?

Let’s just use one scenario. You will probably pick your child up from school at least 2340 times. So what is the first thing you ask? If you ask the same question 2340 times, you will reveal what is important to you, and in time it will become important to them.  Personally, instead of asking my son “What did you do today?” I am trying to ask him first, “Did you protect anyone today?” That question complements the other question I always ask my 5 year old, “Why did God give you such big muscles?”, to which he responds, “to protect my sisters and friends.” Thinking of others, as well caring for, defending and protecting them is essential to being a man. I want my son to understand and live a manly life, so I want to ask him manly questions.

What is important to you?

Eternal Show & Tail

2 weeks ago my son took our 8 year old, Venezuelan born, bilingual golden retriever to show & tell. My heart wanted to jump out of my chest watching my 2 oldest lead the kindergarten class (video).  And yes, Dominoes barked in English and Spanish.

This past Sunday, Dominoes passed away. We had no idea that cancer was killing him, and we have been in a tailspin all week, as anyone who has deeply loved a pet can understand. In between tears, we have been sharing stories about his precious character that we desperately miss. Every time we would go over to him, he would quickly come to us. Whether he is in the forefront or the background, he is in everyone of our pictures. He has stuck closer to us than a brother. He has been so faithful, even to the very end as he laid his head in my lap. He would truly have had to deny himself before he would ever stop being faithful to us. Regardless of the amount of times we did not love him as he deserved, he would humbly forgive and remain faithfully by our side.

Then I read the following in the Bible:

-Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

-There is One friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

-At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” 22 Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 1 Timothy 2:13

Through lots of reflection, we are realizing that the Creator shared some of His glorious character with our puppy. As we grieve, our family hopes that we might see Dominoes in heaven some day. Perhaps we will be walking down a street of gold, and he will come running up wagging his beautiful tail. Yet, in our current emptiness, we know our greatest longings are going to be satisfied by the Triune God Himself, for all eternity- the Faithful and forgiving God who wants to be with us, closer than we can ever imagine, without ever having to say goodbye… again.

Jesus- “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in the Father, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

clone tag: -2911889383870882198

Unintentional Racism?

Does your child have at least one, significant, cross-cultural friendship?

Do we really grasp how much children are formed in the first 5 years? Perhaps the whole nature (genetics) vs nurture (environment) debate would be greatly minimized if we truly understand how much nurture intersects with nature early on in forming our children in indelible ways. Specifically, in this conversation, how does formation intentionally/unintentionally impact racism and classism in our children?

We can say all day long to our children that our family is not racist, classist or xenophobic (prejudiced against foreigners), and yet if all of our meaningful relationships are people of the same skin color, same culture, same language, same socioeconomic status, same legal status… then what are we truly forming in our children? Who do we invite to our homes? With whom do we spend time? With whom do we organize play dates? Character is not only formed by what we input in our children but also by what we omit. Intentional or not, by 6 years old we have instilled in our children what is normal and what is abnormal.

If we tell our children to not be racist and yet never lead them into friendships that cross cultures, then will we not raise a generation that says they are not racist yet view having intercultural friendships as abnormal?

At Charleston Bilingual Academy our mission statement strategically uses this word “intercultural.” We are not interested in simply being multicultural where diversity is present. We want to create a culture where our diversities interact- learning, appreciating, admiring and ultimately loving one another as image bearers of an infinite God.

John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


Should I make my child eat his broccoli?

Humans are formed more in the first 5 years of life than throughout the rest of our lives. Whether intentionally or accidentally, personality, conviction, persistence, concern, preferences and ultimately character is sculpted in our toddler years.  Cultural currents are pushing parents away from parenting and towards facilitating. Parents often say they just want their child to be happy, and parent out of this mindset. The irony is teaching them to run after every whim will make them insatiably unhappy throughout life. Whereas the opposite can actually be more likely to lead children towards happiness (Fences let good things run wild- Chesterton paraphrase).

A 3 year old thinks he knows what he wants, but he does not have the character yet to choose wisely.  If we facilitate choosing before we carve character, then we will form children who do whatever they want, when they want (even running across a parking lot without holding an adult’s hand). While getting what you want when you want it will probably get you a Burger King Whopper, it will not get you a job; it will not get you a loving marriage; and it will not give you a heart to put others before yourself. What it will give you is an 8 year old who thinks she is a teenager, and a teenager that thinks he is a college student, and a independent who thinks she is still a child…

Parents, before asking your preschooler if they want to choose what they wear, whether they want to try the broccoli, or if they would like to play soccer, ask yourself, are you carving character, or simply avoiding a meltdown? I think we have all met adults who still meltdown when they do not get what they want, and you cannot help but wonder, “I bet he did not have to eat his broccoli.”

There is a reason God starts humans off as small, so we can carve in character. Once they are as big as we are, if the character is not formed, then prepare yourself to parent your child for the rest of your life, cleaning up after their childish decisions. Ohhh, but we all know it is NOT easy to fashion obedience and character, and it IS easy to avoid the meltdown and acquiesce. Its also easy to build a house on sand…

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”



Mandarin-Immersion Preschool

Why not just provide a Mandarin class at our preschool? From a marketing perspective that might make sense due to the fact many parents are happy to find out a school is offering foreign language classes. However, it is not best practice. Adults who took foreign language classes are living proof! They often can say some introductory salutations and find the bathroom and that is about it (even for the adults who took several years of language in high school and college- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8x8eoU3L4).

A Mandarin class exposes a student to another language, but does not engage the child in that language.  Mandarin immersion creates a similar environment as if the child actually would study abroad.  A child who is immersed in a foreign language environment for 4-7 years develops native level fluency. So just think about it, your child could be fully fluent in two languages by the time they are in elementary school. Why not give your child that gift?