2017-2018 New Parent Welcome Dinner Speech
On August 10 veteran parent, Amy Wu, shared her personal journey of choosing The Cambridge School as the place to educate her children. Addressing first and second year families at the New Parent Welcome Dinner, she encouraged them by offering her story of prayer, trust, and hope. You can listen to her speech by clicking on the audio file. You can also read along by following her transcript below.
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Hi! My name is Amy Wu and I’m excited to be here with you all tonight. My husband John and I have two daughters, both of who are here at The Cambridge School. Abigail is a rising freshman and Jasmine is a rising 6th grader. Our story begins with the fact that we never intended to send our kids to private school. In fact, we bought a house in 4S Ranch (mello-roos and all), within walking distance of the elementary school. When Abi was entering her second year of pre-school, one of our friends whose son had been at the same preschool as Abi, told us about this wonderful new school she was sending her son to – The Cambridge School. She told me she thought it would be a really good fit for Abi. I listened and nodded and said it sounded nice but we were planning to just send our kids to public school.
Around that same time, I joined Community Bible Study. One of the ladies in my core discussion group mentioned that she would be late the next week because it was her daughter’s first day of school. Oh, which school? The Cambridge School. Hmmm….sounds familiar.
And then we were at the street fair. As I was walking around I saw a banner and table for…that’s right – The Cambridge School. Ok, so this was the 3rd time – clearly God was trying to tell me something. And of course after talking to Jean, I was intrigued. I wasn’t sold but I was drawn to her vision.
So John and I started discussing the pros and cons of public vs. private vs. Christian private. We are both engineers and I’m rather neurotic so we toured different schools and asked lots of questions. Probably the toughest hurdle to overcome in choosing Cambridge was the element of the unknown. I like to have everything planned out and have a Plan B, C, D, and E just in case. But that just wasn’t possible. The school didn’t have a permanent building, it didn’t have a track record or a reputation. In fact, I remember one of the moms at Abi’s preschool was also applying to various Christian private schools. Both of our daughters had been accepted to another school that was well established and had a good reputation in the community. When I told her I was leaning toward Cambridge, she looked at me with shock and said “But what if you go and then you don’t like it? Such and such school won’t have space for her and then what will you do? Are you sure you want to give up your spot at this other school? That’s pretty risky.” And let me just say I don’t like risk. So that was definitely something that I agonized about – giving up her spot and not having anything to fall back on. And then when I told my mom about the school, her response was “So you want to pay money to send your kids to a school that hasn’t been around very long so they can be guinea pigs?!?” Ummm….yes? But at the end of the day, we felt called to come. And the verse God gave us was Romans 12:2.
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
And the part that spoke to us was “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. That was what we wanted for our children – that they wouldn’t conform to the world but that their minds would be transformed.
Now lest you think things were hunky dory once that decision was made, they were not. I was still second guessing our decision and asking lots of questions. So much so that Jean offered to give me back my check – because she said she wanted me to be comfortable with my decision. But I think she also realized I was crazier than she thought and maybe she should get rid of me while she still could. It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t continue like that and so I made a deliberate decision to pray for the school. I knew that if this was going to work then I would need to play on the same team as the school rather than second-guessing everything. That doesn’t mean that I put blinders on, but it does mean that through prayer I started to see things as “we” rather than “me and them”.
As I look back I can see that it was definitely important that God worked in my heart to have a team attitude, especially those first years. It was hard work and we did some crazy things, but it definitely felt like a team – actually, it felt like family. When I think about those times, I’m always reminded of the show Cheers. “Where everybody knows your name”. That’s exactly what it was like!
Some of the things we did those first years:
(1) We would practice our elevator pitch – so we would know how to explain the school to people. Because no one knew what classical education was or what Cambridge was. We had a short 30 second pitch, a 2 minute pitch and a longer 5 minute pitch. We would get together as parents and practice on each other.
(2) We would go to street fairs and malls with our t-shirts that said “you’ll wish you could go back to school” and we would sit at a table and try to tell anyone who would listen about the school.
(3) As parents, we would do anything and everything that needed to be done. We would sweep the courtyard, pack and unpack classroom items each Friday and Monday, answer phones, bring food for open houses – everybody did everything. We just followed Jean’s lead in doing whatever needed to be done.
(4) But perhaps one of my fondest memories is the large amounts of prayer that happened at the school each week. We prayed constantly – especially for facilities. We were renting and it was always unknown if we would be able to stay in our building, if there would be enough space, what we would do when we outgrew our space. I think that’s what makes this building so special – some may see it as just a building, but for those of us who have been praying for years, it’s a physical reminder of God’s faithful and overabundant provision.
The early years were quite crazy, but they were so worth it. As Abi said to me yesterday, it’s the hard work that produces the greatest reward. As I look back on the early years and share what it was like, I’m reminded that the reality is that we’re still in the early years. True, we have a building and, as parents, we’re no longer sweeping the courtyard or packing and unpacking classroom items, but we’re definitely still in the beginning stages of the school. So one encouragement I would like to offer is to roll up your sleeves and jump in. Get involved and do whatever needs to be done – it’s one of the most rewarding things about being a parent here.
This year will be our 10th year. At the beginning, people would ask me if the school “works” and if the students are really what they say they’ll be. At that time, all I could say was “I don’t know. But I know that I want my children to have teachers who teach with a purpose and vision in mind – who have high expectations for them and who want to impart to them the love of the Lord.” In the earlier years, I have to admit I wondered the same thing. Does it “work”? Now that our girls are older, I can say it has been so worth it and I see how it has shaped them as people.
Firstly, it has given them “rightly ordered affections”. One place I see it clearly is in their choice of books. Don’t get me wrong – they still read their share of easy reading, some of which is rather brainless. But then again so do I. But what’s interesting is that they can tell the difference between well-written books and so-so books because they’ve read the good stuff in class and discussed it and through the guidance of their teachers, they’ve grown an affinity for good literature. So much so that they’ll choose to read well-written books on their own because they appreciate and enjoy them.
Secondly, it has given them a proper lens through which to view the world. In their classes, they have seen how everything integrates – history, art, literature, science. It has taught them to see everything holistically rather than in pieces – because that’s how real life is. Things don’t happen in a bubble. Art is a reflection of history, which is influenced by science. And as they learn about their subjects in an integrated way, they in turn process the world that they interact with in an integrated way as well.
Thirdly, and most importantly to us, it has given them a genuine love of learning. I hear it in their voices when they share about something new and interesting they learned at school. I love having conversations with them about everything from the Founding Fathers to Georgia O’Keefe to covenant theology. They love to learn new things not because it’s going to be on a test or because they’ll use it in their future job. They love to learn new things simply because love to learn. This love of learning is something that will stay with them forever, beyond their 13 years here.
Let me just stop and say – the one thing I’m most grateful for is that I love who my children are becoming. They are thoughtful and speak intelligently. They actually love that which is good, true, and beautiful. Not perfectly because they are still human and sinners, but that’s who they’re becoming. I can honestly say that the school has played a huge part in their formation. Thank you Jean.
Now that Abi is entering high school, there’s a lot of talk from everyone around us about college. People ask if I worry that the school doesn’t have a graduating class and they won’t know how to get her into college. I can honestly say that I am not sending her here so that she can get into an ivy league school. It’s not a college prep school; it’s a life prep school. She has learned more here than many people learn in their 4 years of college. She can write winsomely and persuasively. She actually understands where her algebra equations come from (which is more than I can say for myself – to her surprise). She understands certain theological truths that I’m learning at the same time in my CBS class. And she still has 4 more years. So no I’m not worried. I’m excited that she’s being prepared for life. As for college – I’m sure she’ll get into whatever school God has prepared for her that fits her best. And I’m confident that Becky Priest will do a great job guiding her, partially because she actually knows her.
As I prepared to share our story, I asked my husband for his thoughts on the school.
We realized that his affections and appreciation for the school have grown this past year. This past year, he quit his job to start his own company. Doing so allowed him more time to be involved in the every day happenings at school, and most importantly, allowed him to go with Jasmine on the trip to Williamsburg. Going on the trip, he was able to interact with the teachers. And it gave him better insight into the types of things the students learn. He shared with me that seeing things first hand gave him a better understanding of what makes the school so great.
So as a veteran parent, I would like to encourage you to do as my husband did – get involved as much as possible! I know many parents work and so it’s hard to be here as much as you would like. But I would encourage you to be involved as much as possible and as much as your schedule allows so that you can see and experience first hand what your students are learning. If possible, take a few hours off and chaperone a field trip. Volunteer for special days in the classroom and for feast days. Help out with a school function. All of these are excellent ways to experience the school and its culture first hand. I promise you it’ll be worth your time. And you really will wish you could go back to school.