By Kelsey Bonilla
I had a weird little ache between my jaw and temple, that I’d only felt one other time, during another Cambridge event a few weeks earlier. After considering for a few minutes it dawned on me; I had been smiling consistently for over an hour! The ache was from smiling for such a long time while soaking in the joyful experience of being in this new community, a community that so closely aligns with our family’s values. As we’re closing out our second trimester at The Cambridge School, my hope and joy for this school and how it is shaping our family has only deepened.
Our daughter spent five years and our son spent two years at a very fine public elementary school; but something felt unsatisfying about our experience there. Our family life revolves around the liturgical calendar and it was startling to be one of the few families that prioritized church over soccer or Girl Scouts on a Sunday morning. In so many little ways, it became clear that this secular school was advocating for a very particular worldview, even in its insistence on being neutral.
We became frustrated with the lack of continuity between the catechism we taught our kids at home and church with the worldview they were receiving in school. On an instinctual level, we knew that our children were being shaped by a culture that we did not fully endorse. However, we couldn’t know then how much richer and more fulfilling a Christian, classical school would be. Early this year, I read James K. A. Smith’s You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. The timing was perfect. Smith articulated what my gut feeling had told me for years; my children were being shaped by rival liturgies and images of “the good life” that elevated cell phones and videogames over family experiences and reading good books.
According to Smith, “It is crucial for us to recognize that our ultimate loves, longings, desires, and cravings are learned. And because love is a habit, our hearts are calibrated through imitating exemplars and being immersed in practices that, over time, index our hearts to a certain end. We learn to love, then, not primarily by acquiring information about what we should love but rather through practices that form the habits of how we love. These sorts of practices are “pedagogies” of desire, not because they are like lectures that inform us, but because they are rituals that form and direct our affections.”
There is a great intentionality in the teachers and administration at Cambridge to direct students to love what is good, true, and beautiful. This is so refreshing within a secular culture that cannot direct hearts toward the truth; in large part because truth is absent when completely relative. Our family life now has a beautiful congruence, where our children are learning a consistent worldview in school, in church, and at home.
More than that, our daily habits have been transformed. The television barely comes on throughout the week and we’re all spending much more time reading. We’re listening to classical music in the car and the kids practice recitation of Bible verses everywhere! Discussion of faith and reliance on Christ has increased as Sienna and Mateo are being challenged to grow as students. Our family has embraced a growth mindset and cherishes the gift of grace that flows from Christ, this school, and one another as the kids strive to catch up academically. Cambridge is rigorous, there’s no doubt. However, it’s also a place of abundant love and support. Together, these characteristics provide a place where students and families are able to learn and grow to the glory of God. We are overjoyed to be here.