“The Person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Several months ago, in the article Growing Gracefully, we discussed Bonhoeffer’s quote in relation to how we can introduce new families to the classical tradition. We talked about our responsibilities as the director to love the real people in front us and to be present in our Scholé Group communities. Today let us take another look at this same quote, expand our view of what it could look like to love the people in our communities, and how to begin crafting a purpose statement for our communities.

There are two primary aspects to this quote. First, the aspect of loving those around you. Second, the aspect of the leader’s dream of community. What is Bonhoeffer telling us? Is he saying that it is somehow harmful to dream about your community? What does Bonhoeffer mean by ‘love those around you’? Is he saying that we just need to have lots of moms nights out and make sure to bring each other meals when someone has a baby? Or, are there other ways to love those around us, especially applied to the specific role of a Scholé Group director?

Loving our dream can be in opposition to loving those around us because the nature of a dream is that it is imaginary and abstract, whereas the people around us are real and concrete. Dreaming can be an energizing place to begin, but those dreams must be articulated in a vision, in a purpose, and fleshed out in real plans. The plans we make for our community need to be as concrete and real as the people around us. The way we love them needs to be specific. Loving the people in our communities is not relegated to common acts of Christian service. While these are noble endeavors, I want to suggest this is not the primary way we as Scholé Group leaders love the people in our communities. Rather, it is in how we communicate the community’s purpose and how we live that out in plans and particulars. It is a tremendous kindness to our families to tell them precisely what we are all about so they can form their expectations truthfully, so they can know we are a good fit for their family. If they do not know these things, the result is frustration, disappointment, and high turnover rates.

It all starts with the purpose. The number one way we can love our people is by being clear about the purpose and central point of unity of our Scholé Group, but where do we begin in crafting a clear and cohesive statement of purpose?

In my experience, there are two significant questions to ask and answer to identify your group’s purpose in a way that you can communicate it to others. First, whether your central point of unity will be church tradition or educational philosophy and what kind of teaching will occur at your community?’ It is up to your group to determine where they want to direct their focus. For example, a community whose central point of unity is church tradition, whether it be Catholic, Baptist, Orthodox, etc. will first and foremost make sure they align their group with their chosen church tradition. This group will also have decisions to make about educational philosophy and teaching goals, but it the aspect of unity in Church tradition that becomes the primary lens through which they make their decisions. This also means that the group may treat matters of educational philosophy with more flexibility.

If, on the other hand, educational philosophy is your point of unity then that will be your primary lens for decision making. To illustrate, if you are a Scholé Group, then we each commit to pursuing the classical liberal arts course of study, in a spirit of Scholé. This is what makes a Scholé group distinct. Therefore, when we communicate with potential families what we are all about, we can say that up front.

In our community, because this is our primary focus, the Christian tradition one identifies with is less important. All parents at Paideia know that their child could have a teacher who is Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic. That also means that our statement of faith does not assert beyond what we all share in common.

Second, each group needs to decide what is the purpose of their group. Do you want to get together, share teaching, and enjoy fellowship? Do you want to have class discussions? Do you want to dig in and teach the core skills of the liberal arts? In general, you see three kinds of homeschool communities as they relate to purpose, teaching goals, and structure. The first kind of homeschool community is the homeschool cooperative, more affectionately known as the homeschool co-op. In this model, every parent is required to teach, assist, or be involved in some other significant volunteer role. Second, the experience centered community is probably the most misunderstood of homeschool communities and is somewhat unique to the Classical/Charlotte Mason models. The goal of most communities like this is three-fold. First, to offer community; second, to provide accountability; and third, to do things together that are more difficult or much less enjoyable when done alone. The teacher/mentor/tutor is there to be a leader in the experiences the class encounters. Lastly, there is the homeschool “school” community. This type of group offers tremendous help to parents who want to homeschool but do not have the time to invest in teaching their children and cultivating their teaching skills. Homeschool “school” communities also offer great fellowship opportunities for students to develop friendships with other students and are coaching students in the various skills related to the classes they offer. If you are a director, I recommend you read the article ‘Three Kinds of Homeschool Communities‘ to see a full explanation of each kind of homeschool community and the pros and cons of each.

Once a community knows what their central point of unity is and how they will be structuring their group they will be well on their way to defining what their group is all about and being able to articulate that in written form. Doing this allows us to love the parents in our groups because they will know what to expect and can make an informed and intelligent decision about whether our group is the right one for them. Doing this allows us to love the teacher/mentor/tutor because it clears up what is their responsibility and what it the parents responsibility. It helps prevent burn out and frustration on all sides. Doing this allows us to love the director because they have firm ground to stand on as they communicate with parents, students, teachers, and potential families. Doing this allows us to love the students because they too will know what to expect. All in all, having a clear purpose and point of unity creates an environment of peace, an environment that is free from the anxiety of not knowing what to do, an environment where you know you belong. I can not think of a better way to love our communities than to offer them such an environment.

If you find you would like more help in crafting a purpose statement for your Scholé Group community, please check out our Scholé Group Mentors & Consultants page. Certified Scholé group Mentors are available to help you with tasks like this as well as other tasks related to starting and cultivating a thriving Scholé Group Community.

Jennifer Dow, the founder, and owner of The Paideia Fellowship is a classical teacher, writer, and speaker. Jennifer has completed the CiRCE Apprenticeship program as a CiRCE certified Classical Teacher and has taught humanities, rhetoric, and the fine arts since 2009 throughout the local and online homeschool community. Jennifer researches, writes, and speaks about classical teaching, serves as the director of the Paideia Fellowship Homeschool Community, teaches online at St. Raphael School, works with Classical Academic Press on the Schole Groups team, and is the co-host of The Classical Homeschool Podcast. Jennifer’s published works can be seen on the Paideia Fellowship blog and other blogs and podcasts across the web.