Have you ever found yourself wanting to talk to your friends about the incredible education students are receiving at Clapham School, but you have trouble sharing the basics? You’re not alone! In our fast-paced world, it can be difficult to summarize the educational treasure of our school in just a couple minutes. Whether it’s sharing about the school’s Christian worldview, classical philosophy, or emphasis on joyful discovery, you might throw your hands up and wonder: “Where do I even start?”
Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a situation like the one below.
NEIGHBOR: Hi. I noticed your child wearing a uniform. Where does he go to school?
CLAPHAM PARENT: Oh, it's called Clapham School in Wheaton.
NEIGHBOR: Interesting. I haven't heard of it. How do you like it?
CLAPHAM PARENT: We like it a lot.
NEIGHBOR: That's good to hear. There seems to be a lot of good schools around here. What made you pick Clapham?
CLAPHAM PARENT: Definitely the classical Christian aspect. I think the school's values are something about the personhood of the child, rich academics, and joyful discovery.
NEIGHBOR: Interesting. Can you tell me what you mean by "classical?"
CLAPHAM PARENT: Umm… well, they learn Latin at some point.
NEIGHBOR: And what does "personhood of the child" mean exactly?
CLAPHAM PARENT: Umm… well…
NEIGHBOR: And "joyful discovery" sounds nice. What does that look like?
CLAPHAM PARENT: Well, we use Charlotte Mason's pedagogy.
NEIGHBOR: What's that?
CLAPHAM PARENT: (looking around uncomfortably at her watch) Umm… oh, look at the time. Guess we have to get going.
If you've experienced this situation before, you know it's not a fun position to be in! It can feel overwhelming to know what to share about Clapham School and how to direct the conversation.
Don't worry about it! We are here to help. Consider this scenario and see if you can identify some strategies for having an enjoyable and effective conversation with your friends.
NEIGHBOR: I noticed your child wearing a uniform. Where does he go to school?
CLAPHAM PARENT: Clapham School in Wheaton. Have you heard of it?
NEIGHBOR: Hmm. No, I haven't.
CLAPHAM PARENT: Well, I can tell you a little bit about it. It's a Classical Christian school. It has a rich curriculum, and the teachers are wonderful. We've been there for four years, and my kids are enjoying it and doing well. I feel like they're developing a love for learning, and their natural, childlike curiosities are being strengthened.
NEIGHBOR: Well, that sounds nice. They must be smart.
CLAPHAM PARENT: Oh, well actually, I think the environment has a lot to do with their growth. The teachers have high standards but are also highly nurturing and attentive. They're teaching them how to think, not just what to think. So in a typical school we might expect the teacher to do all the hard work of explaining the ideas, but at Clapham, it's the other way around. The students do the work of learning. They might read a few pages from a book, and then the students will close the book and tell back what they have just read. It's called narration. And it's not just mindlessly memorizing either. The students are expected to remember and articulate the content they just read coherently.
NEIGHBOR: Hmm, I'm not sure I could do that.
CLAPHAM PARENT: Yeah, it takes a lot of practice. But it's a great way for kids to really "show what they know." They start this at the kindergarten level. (Check out our Kindergarten Readiness Checklist!)
NEIGHBOR: That's so young.
CLAPHAM PARENT: I know. And that's one of my favorite parts about Clapham: even from a young age, the students learn to appreciate beauty in lots of ways. They'll sit in front of a piece of art, for example, and discuss what ideas the work brings to mind. Or they'll do the same thing after listening to a piece of music. They'll also keep a nature journal so they can sketch leaves and flowers and trees. It really helps them learn to slow down and observe.
NEIGHBOR: Wow, I didn't think "little kids" and "slowing down" went together.
CLAPHAM PARENT: I know, right? The teachers spend a lot of time working with the students on forming good habits that will set them up to succeed later on.
NEIGHBOR: Oh, so do they start talking about college in kindergarten too?
CLAPHAM PARENT: Haha, no. It's beyond college and career, though those things are important to think about as students get older, of course. As a side note, I have heard the Upper School does a great job of supporting students through the college application process (Check out our College Guidance Checklist!). But for where our younger children are at, we really want them to receive an education that will prepare them for all of life. As I said before, it's a very broad curriculum: history, geography, Bible, science, literature as well as poetry, music, and the arts. I'm already seeing how the different subjects have made my kids more well-rounded: they certainly have interests in things they weren't drawn to before. That excites me. And I love that it's from a Christian worldview.
NEIGHBOR: Yeah, there seem to be a lot of Christian schools around here. I wonder if the Christian element really makes a difference. Is Clapham unique in its approach to learning about God?
CLAPHAM PARENT: That's a good question. I can't honestly speak for how other schools bring faith into the classroom, but my experience is that Clapham goes beyond what you think a school is supposed to do and be. Picture it more like a community of people all on this pursuit of wisdom and truth together. I think that's pretty unique. They don't just talk about God during chapel or Bible class. There are truths to learn about God in every subject. The teachers give students time and space to make connections in each subject they teach. I can see my kids learning to see that God is at the center of it all.
NEIGHBOR: Well, it all sounds very interesting.
CLAPHAM PARENT: It's a really wonderful place. And there's an open house this Friday morning if you're interested. That's how I first experienced it.
NEIGHBOR: Oh, good to know. Maybe I'll check it out.
Not so bad, huh? You can see that in this conversation, the parent was able to steer the discussion to talk about what she loved most about Clapham. She shared aspects of the school's mission (Classical, Christian, Joyful Discovery) without necessarily explaining it in that order. That's okay. The parent used it as a starting point. And she didn't use lots of classical education terminology that the neighbor likely wouldn't know, which is appropriate for the length and depth of this type of conversation.
So here are a few takeaways for the next time you find yourself in a conversation sharing about Clapham School:
- Share your favorite parts about the school, personalizing what you like most about Clapham.
- Invite the parent to attend an open house to experience Clapham for herself.
- Remember, each conversation will look different for each of us. What's been shared are some basic talking points, but I encourage you to always personalize it, as stories and testimonials tend to stick with people more than anything else.
Do you have your own stories and experiences that might be helpful to others who are trying to share about this unique school atmosphere with their friends? Please share them in the comments!