Instruction at the Country School began in the fall of 1970 at the farmhouse residence of the Sugg family forty miles west of Houston, Texas. It was started as the means of continuing our children’s Christian schooling while rearing them in a rural environment and still paying the bills. Through the grace of God, these objects have been essentially accomplished for something over seven years now.
Christ-centered academic instruction for an average of about 15 youngsters from beginners through high school has been given by the schoolmaster, assisted by older students formally and informally helping the younger. The three eldest daughters of the family have each taken a substantial part of their own time to instruct formally one or two beginners, and each day some older student may informally assist a younger one by explaining a math procedure, listening to an oral reading or memorization, reading a story aloud, or observing a writing exercise, all for some short period when the schoolmaster is engaged with other students.
The teaching at the Country School is principally the tutoring of each student for various short periods rather than instructing a class for a more extended time. The major part of the learning is accomplished by each student studying individually assigned work at his own desk and bringing his completed work or questions to the schoolmaster for grading or explanation. This individual approach is made feasible by such elements as generally suitable text material, the discipline of a personal schedule of completion, a somewhat broadly prepared teacher, and the interested willingness of older students to assist the younger when necessary.
This student assistance is essential to the school’s success and is made practical for us by the rather wide difference in age among the students. This year as an example, we have only ten students, but there is one for each grade except 3rd 6th, and 8th. The use of such assistance has prevented the lining up of scholars waiting for help, and it has had the additional benefit of developing in some of the young people an early sense of responsibility not only for themselves, but also for their influence upon the younger ones. Older students do not all develop well in this regard, but enough have done so as to work a real benefit for the school and themselves.
From the description above it can be seen that our little enterprise is probably more like a big family than an orthodox educational institution. In this regard, we are humbly aware that it is in the family that most of us have the greatest need for God’s gift of love for our neighbor, which may be seen as the branches of that tree which is our love for God, that wonder tree which God has planted and nurtures in His love for us. So it is in the Country School.
The school’s continuance has been rather tenuous from the beginning. Almost two years ago, when financial problems seemed insurmountable, the Lord allowed us to continue by a new avenue. This was the opportunity of our family working together to produce necessary income independent of the school, but still permitting the school to continue on a somewhat more limited and more concentrated basis. We began a janitorial service in which all the family has participated in some way, with the principal work being done by the schoolmaster and the older children. Through the gracious provision of a comfortable rural residence just outside Katy, Texas, it has been feasible for us to enter this new undertaking. This course is not without its rough spots, having many stresses, strains, and groans, but with God’s strength all are accepted as part of the work which He has appointed for our sakes. The children are making an essential contribution not only to their own education but also the well-being of the whole family.
Surely the Lord has done this to help bind us more closely together at a time when the bulwarks of the family are being struck at viciously on all sides. Since the time some 15 years ago when the oldest first entered school, we have looked upon Christian schooling, aside from its other great objects and benefits, as one of the most effective means of drawing the family together and protecting it from the world’s onslaught. This is said in face of the fact that some of our greatest trials have had to do with such schooling, but we thank God that even as we remain weak, He is ever-faithful to give strength.
As we reflect upon the loving care of our Heavenly Father in holding our family together and close to Him, which He has accomplished in part through giving us a deep concern for Christian schooling, our hearts are filled with gratitude for His graciously drawing us to the Protestant Reformed Churches. Our varied Christian experiences of the two decades earlier have prepared us to appreciate better the covenant faith and walk of these people of God of whom we now are a part. We have come to see more completely than ever before how the Christian family is itself a type of God’s greater family, the covenant people to whom He is Father. What a comfort it is to be a part of Christ’s body where providing Christian schooling is a common obligation and not a lightly regarded exception. With the formal organization of our congregation, the arrival of Pastor Bekkering and his family, and now having seven out of ten students coming from P.R. families, we have much encouragement to develop the Country School as close to the Reformed pattern as possible until such time as we may be able to establish our own parental school, if this be God’s will. We pray that we may continue to be set apart with increasing clarity in our Reformed church, homes, and school to the end that God may be glorified, even by such earthen vessels.