The Elijah School Hands-on learning for real life success Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:56:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Riddle Race Results! Thu, 21 Nov 2013 22:20:40 +0000 THANK YOU to all who came out and participated in our first ever Riddle Race!  It turned out a beautiful day with good friends, food, and courses.  Here are the results; missing times will be posted tomorrow.

Strolling Scholars:

  • Singles Champion: Alex Haber
  • Singles Reserve Champion: Candy Moleff
  • Pairs Champion: Raymond & Kim von Wahlde
  • Pairs Reserve Champion: Jeanne Griswold & Caie Patches
  • Team Champion: Nathan Windle & Mario Gangemi
  • Team Reserve Champion: Steve & Amy Phillips

Meandering Masterminds:

  • Team Champion: Jenette & Tisha Buch (1:27)
  • Team Reserve Champion: Anissa Butler & Family (1:36)

Fleeting Faculties:

  • Pair Champion: Jackie McCann & Francis Coker (1:25)
  • Pair Reserve Champion: Kelly Conner & Kelsey Roland (2:13)
  • Singles Champion: Four-Way Tie: Sharon Faty, Leslie Damron, Madeline Henry, Brooke Scott (2:13)
  • Singles Reserve Champion: Joyce Neifeld (1:36 – GREAT TIME, but did not solve riddle)


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TODAY is the Riddle Race! Fri, 15 Nov 2013 22:31:25 +0000 Looks like it will be a beautiful fall day at Fair Hill for our first-ever Riddle Race.  Please come out and join us – with your horse, if you have one, or come walk/run our 5K course.

There will be drinks and hot soup as well as some great merchandise for sale.  A special thanks to Rachelbeth Photography for donating time to take some photos!

We hope you will come out and join us – starting at 900am, and the last groups will go out at 100pm.

Our event is at the Gallaher Road parking area – across the street from the intersection of Gallaher Rd. & Big Elk Chapel, through the black gates.  Hope to see you there!


Riddle Race 2013 Logo

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Riddle Race is Saturday!! Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:53:26 +0000 Please join us on Saturday from 9:00am on for the big event! There will be two courses for equestrians – a fast 8 miler and a slower paced 4-5 miler. Also a 5K course for runners and walkers. It’s not just about time, it’s about solving the riddle for your course, too!

The weather promises to be beautiful, and we have hot soup and chicken & dumplings coming from our friends at Nicanor.

We just hung this banner on one of the Fair Hill bridges – hope to see you!!

photo (1)

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Riddle Race Paper Chase UPDATED!! Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:25:03 +0000 The November 16 Riddle Race is really shaping up to be a fun event.  We are hoping to have 120 riders/runners/walkers over the course of the day and we are busy making preparations.

So far, eight companies or individuals have sponsored the event – our MANY thanks to

Outback Trading Company
John Huganir
Eastern Shore Forestry Products
Gifford’s Feed
Whizard’s Lair
Oxford Veterinary Hospital
Tri-State Inspections
The Randolph Bower Foundation
Ambling Acres
John J Taylor
Feet First Natural Hoofcare

Also, a big THANK YOU to those who have donated prizes:

Kim Mackie
Delaware Chiropractic
320 Market Cafe
PNC Bank
Gunnar Schilling
Candy Moleff
Diane Sept-Sutton (Back to Basics Equine Awareness)
Doug Johnson
Herr’s (snacks)

We could also use gift cards to be given away as prizes: $15 or more per gift card would be terrific!

If anyone would like to come out and help us, we can always use volunteers to help us at the registration table, finish line, or helping to serve food (we’ll be serving soup, chili, drinks, and snacks).

We are blessed with a wonderful group of supportive parents, staff, and prayer partners.  Thank you so much!!

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A Few Words About Jefferson Bethke Mon, 14 Oct 2013 17:52:45 +0000 I had no idea who Jefferson Bethke was when a friend posted his video on Facebook, “Jesus>Religion”.  Now, people who know me also know that I can be just a wee bit hyper-critical and, in a nutshell, nitpicky.  But, after watching the video a few times, I kept coming back to the same conclusion: while Mr. Bethke makes a few good points, his performance is riddled with half-truths, innuendo, and confused terms.  I decided to show the video to our students and ask for their emotional reactions as well as whether or not they felt the points Mr. Bethke made were well-argued.

Everyone agreed that the video is indeed a powerful performance.  But the problems started with the term “religion”.  I am quite sure Mr. Bethke means a particular brand of fundamentalism or legalism – perhaps both – but the word’s roots in Latin mean “relationship”, to “bind back”.  Our students have had that drilled into them over and over again, so they immediately picked up on it.  Words have meaning.  When people talk about religion v. relationship, we have the sense they didn’t start with much care.

Next, the students picked up on Mr. Bethke’s assertion that religion has started ‘many’ wars.  First, ideas can’t start wars.  What he presumably meant to say was that ‘many wars have been started in the name of religion’.  Well, nobody would argue with that, and it is a shame that we have done so many things in the name of Christ that have brought shame upon His name.  (One student noted that Mr. Bethke had plenty of criticisms for Christians but nary a negative word about Islam.)

Here are some additional thoughts from the students:

“Likewise, religion per se doesn’t preach anything.  The church preaches a message, which is supposed to be the Gospel.  That’s the whole purpose of the Church.  It sounds like Mr. Bethke has been exposed to some rather bad churches and/or preachers.

Who are the “they” that think they can fix themselves?  It certainly isn’t any Christian who has any understanding of his own faith.

Why is logic “unworthy”?  Logic has its limitations, to be sure, but if Mr. Bethke had followed some logical principles, his video wouldn’t have caused so much confusion.

If grace is water, as Mr. Bethke says, then GOD is the ocean, not the Church.  It’s an important distinction.

“Jesus hated religion.”  Really?  He hated God’s chosen people?  He WAS one of them!  He came not to abolish the Law, but fulfill it!

Mr. Bethke is equating legalistic church doctrines and teaching and religion.  He has formed no basis for doing so.

Are we to understand that Joseph of Arimathea – a religious man of the Sanhedrin who took Jesus’ shamed and unclean body and buried it – evil for doing so because of his position?  Whaaaat?

“I aint judging”  Yes, you most certainly are.

“Jesus comes from God but religion is man-made.”  God sent Jesus to establish the new covenant with man: how is that man-made?  Jesus came that we might know Him – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – better, in a relationship based on sonship.  Is that man-made?  Are the Scriptures man-made, too?  Are we under no obligation to believe them and obey them?  Or do we get to pick and choose?

Christianity doesn’t just say “done”, it says “be”.

Religion does put us in bondage – do I have to repeat the relationship thing again? – to Christ.  Can you think of people who actually enjoy bondage?  Lovers, perhaps?  What’s wrong with that?

Christianity is not God’s search for man, but God’s rescue of man.  Once and for all.

The ending about all people having room to kneel at the cross is very powerful.”

Amen to that, at least.

Mr. Bethke’s video can be seen here:

Postcript: Mr. Bethke authored a column for Fox News this past Sunday.  He said:  “Jesus isn’t…after…getting back to the good ol’ days. (Side note, by the way: it really bothers me when people say they want to get back to the “good ol’ days,” as if white people owning black people as property and women being seen as second class citizens was somehow “good”.)

He went on to talk about the good ol’ days of Acts 17, when people owned slaves and women were second class citizens.  I didn’t read any further.

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Dan John, Prophet? Tue, 16 Jul 2013 20:01:32 +0000 Every now and again I encounter an author who challenges me not to simply rethink things I do (or the way I do them), but my very behaviors. That’s a remarkable thing, since I am a very stubborn person and tend to embrace change the same way I approach broccoli: not on your life, pal.
Recently I read and re-read a couple of books by Dan John. If you don’t know him, he is a world-class athlete, coach, and prolific author about strength and fitness concerns. He writes with a lot of clarity, logic, passion, and (this is where he had me) humor. Now, his books are certainly packed with a lot of good advice and information sifted from his forty-or-so years of competition and coaching. But what struck me most is that the principles he writes about are applicable to most areas of our lives, inside and outside the weightroom. Mr. John’s work deals with truth, not just opinions – truths he and his athletes have proven over and over again. Here are a few examples:
• “The body is one piece. If you don’t believe me, stick a fork in the leg of someone who’s bench pressing.” It’s so obvious, we tend to miss it, but it’s exactly right. It’s true for most animals; my wife and I have horses, and if they aren’t right in their feet or their hips, they’re not going to be right to ride. You may be able to get on and ride, but the animal won’t be sound, and certainly won’t be in the right frame of mind – so to speak – for training.
o Likewise, the body simply can’t be trained in parts and end up with a holistic result. Joints, tendons, ligaments, “helper” muscles are all involved in every substantial movement. Back to the horse analogy: when you see a really fit horse – racing, hunting, whatever – the whole horse is fit and sleek, not just its legs. It won’t be able to perform to its potential unless the whole body is worked properly.
o Let’s also think about the fact that we, as God’s creation, are body-mind-soul. You can’t really divorce one part from another without losing your life or your identity. Why, then, do we try to train parts of ourselves at a time? We need sound minds, bodies, and souls in order to be truly well and completely trained.
• Dan focuses on “basic human movements”: push, pull, hinge, squat, and loaded carry. Now, I’ve been doing that with our students since I first read Dan’s work last year, and it is remarkable to see the improvement in conditioning, strength, and proprioception.
o Our school’s mission is The Basics. You might even call it Mastery of the Basics. Again, we’re talking about training the whole student.
o How many of these movements are you going to need for the rest of your life? All of them. That’s my idea of efficiency. Let’s equip our students with skills they need for their whole lives.
• Coach Dan readily and cheerfully admits stealing ideas from others and then tweaking them. That really resonates with me, since I frequently do the same thing. Why? See the next point.
• Dan says things like “Learn from great minds in your field” again and again. Dave Ramsey says the same thing about your finances: “Imitate rich people. Don’t imitate poor people unless you want to be poor.” Years ago an eminent British surgeon was asked how to differentiate a good surgeon from a great one. He replied “In terms of manual dexterity, there isn’t much difference. The great surgeon knows more.” We need to be learning from and imitating the best.
o How does your behavior match your goals? is one of the things I discuss with our students almost every week. It’s one of Dan John’s mantras as well. There are a lot of disconnects in peoples’ minds.
• “Do what your competition isn’t doing.” That is good life advice. 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Want to be one of the 70% or the 30%? Do what your buddy prolly isn’t doing: save and don’t go into debt. Other PE programs have students write papers and eschew anything that lets individuals shine? Well, I’d rather be different and right.
• “Give it a few weeks.” How many people go from one thing to another to another in all areas of their lives? Exercise, diets, finances, jobs, even approaches to their animals. They don’t follow through with the program, or the recommendations, or the rules, don’t get the results they want, and then move on. It could never be them, or their animal, or whatever – the answer is always a new program. Stick with something long enough to figure out (a) if it works and (b) why or why not. Maybe the program can be tweaked and you won’t have to start out at zero again.
o This is a huge lesson for our students, many of who have experienced a lot of frustration in their lives. Let’s help them judge the fruits of their efforts fairly.
• “A bad program consistently administered trumps a perfect one done with lack of vigor.” Hear, hear. I constantly tell our students “Take a whack at it!” “Try with everything you’ve got!” “Don’t tell me you can’t until you’ve gone all-out. Then I’ll believe you.” Lazy and tepid performances leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
You get the idea, I hope. Now, I’ve been working out and lifting weights on and off for a lot of years, but decided, after reading Dan’s book Intervention, that I was (a) too weak, (b) not challenging myself enough, (c) not focusing on the basic movements myself, and most importantly (d) not working towards well-defined goals (and thus not assessing my progress or lack very well). So I took on one of Dan’s workouts for 40 days.
I’m still in the midst of the 40 days, but here’s the thing: I’m stronger now than I have been in years. I seem to have lost a hogshead of body fat. The confidence boost alone has been quite something. I don’t mean to brag, but I took the occasion to write Mr. John a brief e-mail, just thanking him for his work and the effect it’s had on both our students and myself. Truth be told, I didn’t expect to hear back from him. But he wrote back the same morning, thanking me for my kind words. This is indicative, I suspect, of how Dan lives his life. He gives a lot of his time away, especially to young athletes, and seeks out opportunities to teach, correct, and encourage people.
So why do I think he’s dangerous? Well, he’s turned a 48 year old principal-father-husband-teacher into a leaner, stronger, more focused man. I’m looking at life – and the new school year – with a renewed sense of what is possible. If, with some good coaching, I can make progress towards some goals, who can hold our students back?
Much has been made of the could-should-must idea of motivation, that is, nobody really does anything until they get to “must”. I’d like to tweak that and say something happens to people when they find out they actually “can” do something: almost instantly, the sense of accomplishment, or success, makes that person say “Now, I must.” Now that a student knows he can, he WILL!
I used to work out just to keep some level of fitness. With Dan’s help, I have pretty rapidly gone beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. Now, I have two sets of goals – an immediate one that I think I can accomplish over the next several weeks, and then I’m already looking ahead. Perhaps I’ve really gone round the bend, but I talked a couple of young (read: half my age) friends into entering a Strongman contest with me this year.
In one sense, I think I’m nuts for taking a stab at this at my age. Dan John tells us to get out there and see what our competition is up to. So I’m going to do it “Because Coach Dan said do it.” Only God knows if I’ll win or lose, finish in a blaze of glory or a limp and groan, but the point is I’m going to get out there and take my best shot at it. Hopefully we’ll make some friends and learn a few things about how to train and how to compete. The events aren’t for the weak-hearted, but when you get right down to it, life ain’t for the weak hearted.
I can think of nobody better than Dan John to help us get stronger for the journey. His books are well worth your time.
Richard Starr, Head of School

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Why do we do it? Sat, 23 Apr 2011 21:21:28 +0000 I’ve been thinking a lot about why we do what we do at Elijah School.  Teaching non-traditional learners isn’t easy; they require a lot of attention and a lot of brain power.  There isn’t any prestige.  We are constantly under financial pressure and there certainly aren’t any monetary rewards.  Students can be physically and emotionally draining, especially when they are struggling with a new topic.  Or when they are struggling on Monday morning with the same topic they knew hands-down 48 hours before on Friday.  Sometimes it is frustrating almost beyond endurance.

It isn’t easy to explain, but four words have been buzzing round in my head for weeks now: taken, blessed, broken, and given.   At first I figured I was just anticipating Easter, but then Pete Scott spoke to our church on the very same words.  And in church on two nights ago – Maundy Thursday, the night of the Last Supper – I thought about how those words are inseparable from Communion, from Peter, the Passion, and the life of every Christian. 

Many of our students have the broken part down all too well; they’ve been beaten down, discouraged, and criticized all through their lives.  And here is where it dawned on me: our job at Elijah School is to help them with the other three things.  We need to show them how God has blessed them, set them apart, and given them unique capabilities all their own.  They need to know how to use those talents and abilities to live out their own walk with Christ – in other words, how they are taken by God Himself and given to the world, how their very lives are gifts to the rest of us. 

Why us?  Why Elijah School?  Why do we have to do this work?  In case you haven’t guessed, it’s because God put the brokenness of these young people on us; He has taken us from where were in life and set a vision in our hearts; He has given us to the students and their families.  But what about the blessed part?

The simple truth is that we are blessed by God because we get to play a part in His vision, in His school.  We get to lift up the name of Christ daily by ministering to a group of His children who are so often left behind and forgotten.  Elijah is more than a school or a calling: it’s a movement.  A movement that insists we recognize that every life is of infinite value to Father God and we can do no better than to reflect that love to our students. 

And that is the core of what we do: we love these young people.

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BOAST-ing? Sun, 06 Mar 2011 12:34:46 +0000 Advocates of excellence in schools should support the BOAST bill now in the Maryland General Assembly. It provides tax credits to businesses who donate to schools – private, public, religious, whatever. The bill will benefit business owners, students, school administrators, and even tax payers: it is estimated that the bill would SAVE taxpayers anywhere from $7 million on up (to $200 million!) In these times, all savings are important, and we should be encouraging Maryland businesses to partner with schools.

For such a “progressive” state, Maryland is postively backwards in these sort of forward-looking programs. Pennsylvania has had a similar program for years, and it has been a great success, helping schools, students, and easing a burden on local taxpayers.

This bill has voted on several times in Maryland but never made it through – insist that your delegate(s) support it this time! It could mean a world of difference to Elijah School and every other school in Maryland!

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Are writing skills really important? Sat, 05 Mar 2011 14:58:37 +0000 One of the things we strive to to do at Elijah School is to integrate writing in all parts of our curriculum.  In almost all of our classes we teach and require some level of writing proficiency.  That can be a big challenge for kids with learning differences, but it is a necessary part of being able to express oneself. 

Beginning in middle school, we teach spelling…and vocabulary…and grammar…and writing…and good editing practices.  Why?  Because if students aren’t learning the fundamentals at an early age, they won’t ever catch up.  Here’s an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal on how poor the writing skills of many MBAs are.  Think of that – students have managed to get into some of the nation’s best graduate schools and they can’t express themselves lucidly in writing?  I agree with the author that more writing-specific classes are not the answer, but a general emphasis on the fundamentals of education, most of which haven’t changed in decades.

As an insurance and banking executive, I can’t tell you how many time I received letters and resumes seeking employment that were riddled with misspellings, bad grammar, and a general failure to get the point of the document across in a concise and meaningful way.  If you can’t get my name right – or the name of the company – you’re not going to get the job. 

Elijah’s approach is different than many, to be sure.  But our students are continually improving and learning how to be better writers – those who haev been with us for a few years now are light years ahead of where they started.  And that’s going to bear fruit.

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What if College Isn’t For Me? Fri, 25 Feb 2011 16:50:48 +0000 More and more colleges, think tanks, and educators are finally getting the message that not every student is cut out for a traditional four year college and degree.  Here, for example, is a study from Harvard that states this very thing: 

The question is, what are we offering as an alternative?  Where do students get work experience, social skills, and the life skills necessary to live in a confusing and (sometimes) toxic culture? 

Elijah School tries hard to give every student those skills, and to help them discover their strengths.  Some students find them in academics; many find them through artistic expression, and many through work.  One of our students has struggled in school all ofhis life – what makes him work harder (and succeed) at Elijah is the fact that every Tuesday his internship is with a local farmer.  He loves that work experience and it motivates him to work harder at the things he doesn’t like.

Our education system needs to recognize that one-size-fits-all does nothing of the sort.  It should be obvious to anyone that two of Harvard’s most successful alumni never graduated: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.  Clearly the traditional path isn’t for everyone, and we thank God that He has created so many different people with such a diversity of gifts.

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