I come from a long line of educators. Most of the people in my family are somehow involved in education. My mom retired as a teacher. My sister is going into her 20th year as a teacher. My cousins are teachers. My grandfathers were both teachers. My uncle and aunt were both teachers and test developers. So education was "dinnertime conversation" in my house growing up. I remember listening to my mom complain of the different struggles that she was experiencing, and thought to myself: "there must be a better way to do this..."
Then the idea...
Years ago, while walking through Amsterdam airport on my way to Kenya for a mission for my last job, I saw a copy of The Economist magazine on the newsstand with a picture of a plastic violin.
The caption read: “Print a Stradivarius.”
Are you familiar with 3D printing? I wasn’t at the time, and, as I researched the technology, two thoughts came to mind.
First: if I can print a Stradivarius, my money woes are over...
...and second (and more importantly to you): how would a high school science class look different with one of these printers in the classroom? What could I expect them to do with one of these that I cannot expect them to do now?
The Answer Came to Me...
I could expect them to design and invent a device.
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out! I have worked with youth for a couple of decades, and for years it has struck me that our best students, in our best schools, on their best days, are consumers of information; while being capable of producing “adult value.”
For those that chose to roll their eyes anyway, what stops these kids from becoming inventors? Overhead? Time? Ambition? Assembly requirements for prototypes and testing? What if these problems were solved? Would it be possible then?
Thus was born the idea for the Invention and Design Course (described elsewhere). By the time these kids are 16 years old, they have either said themselves, or heard someone they care about say: “I wish I had something that does _____________!”
I would show them how to provide that, as well as many other useful adult deliverables.
Then came the rest of the courses
I first had the idea for the rest of Frontier Christian Academy's courses several years ago, when I was pulling night watch in Stuttgart, Germany, and trying to supervise Qadafi's collapse in Libya.
We were always having to set the conditions for the soldiers that worked for us to be successful, and I got to thinking. What is necessary for our children to be prepared for the “emerging world”: not the world that we graduated into, or even the current world, but the one that they would have to lead as adults?
I had been working with youth for a couple decades, so I wondered: what knowledge, skills, and characteristics would high school graduates need to lead that world?
I had nothing else better to do while waiting for the phone not to ring, so I came up with a set of courses that, if combined, would make a graduate a formidable leader, with skills that would always be in demand.
I came home in the morning with a 9-page document, exhausted, but exuberant.
We have come a long way since that night watch, but I am still just as obsessed with empowering high school graduates to lead the emerging world.
In the 1500’s, less than two dozen men challenged the impossible and changed the course of history forever.
Imagine what happens when I am unleashing hundreds per year! Welcome to the new Renaissance. Thus was born Frontier Christian Academy!
But why homeschoolers?
This was actually some good advice from a friend of mine in Boone, NC, and some better advice from my wife, who told me to listen.
We were visiting friends in Boone, and I was explaining the idea for my school to whomever would listen (yes, I was that guy!)
When one of the dads asked if I had ever considered homeschoolers. I politely told him that I had not because I was planning on doing this thing "brick and mortar" and "all or nothing."
He pointed out that the experimental nature of what I was doing naturally lent itself to homeschoolers, who tended to be a bit more adventurous than other educators. We ended the discussion with politeness on both sides, but resolve on mine not to compromise my vision in this way.
Fortunately, my wife had overheard the conversation, and she told me that I needed to listen to my friend.
After much kicking the dirt and shaking my head, I came around, and that move has freed me up to do so many things when it comes to development. It also has made the idea much more cost effective!
In short, it was the best decision that I ever made, business-wise, and I look forward each year to helping homeschooling parents provide real value-added to their programs.