Club Protocol and the Spring Formal


In this modern day, the practice of etiquette is something that is becoming a lost art. Because we want our students to be prepared and able to be confident and comfortable in many different settings, and because we also believe that good manners never go out of style, we decided to offer a new experience for our students this winter: Club Protocol.

Humans love to be independent, justifying that we are stronger if we do everything on our own. The problem with independence is that it directly contradicts what God wants for us as a people. We are called to be a community, working together, learning to lean on each other, and in essence, care and love one another. How can we possibly learn what it’s like to be united if we are running solo in life?


For about eight weeks this winter, students came together once a week to learn about proper etiquette in a more formal setting and about good manners in general. Topics included how to set a table, how to eat properly (how to use utensils and which items to use for what), how to be courteous (opening doors and pulling out chairs), and even how to respond to an RSVP and write a thank you note.

When I taught the students about walking together and opening doors for one another, the explanation is that it’s not that we are incapable or helpless, it’s that we can’t all lead and we can’t all wait (for the door to open) either. One must lead, and one must allow for it. If we all lead ourselves around, we bump into each other and it becomes very messy. In class, the students were also able to learn the roles required by etiquette, as well as learning how to sit and eat at the table properly. They learned how to set the table, and why it was arranged in such a fashion. They were taught what was acceptable as well as inappropriate at the table. In the world of etiquette, there is always a reason for the behavior we should carry. Lastly, they learned why manners were important; manners show respect for others. Without understanding the importance of respect, we cannot possibly have good manners. The two work hand in hand.


After eight weeks of learning the roles of protocol, the students finally were able to show off their new skills in a beautiful formal setting. The pressure was off, as the event took place privately rather than out in public. The students all dressed up in beautiful dresses and handsome suits. The gentlemen escorted the ladies to the table, and seated them to the chairs. They stood when the young women left the table. It was so refreshing to see young people acting in such a courteous manner.

Our wonderful seniors had arranged the tables in a lovely setting and served dinner (using correct serving techniques!), and etiquette was in full swing in the room. An amazing three-course dinner was served to the students including a soup course, main course, and dessert course – beautifully prepared by parents within the school. Finally dessert and tea was served, and the students practiced the art of sitting still and conversing. Being still in today’s environment is so very important, as it shows each other they are dedicated to sharing time with that person (without checking a phone every few minutes!).


After dinner was served, the students had a wonderful opportunity to learn how to dance. An instructor by the name of Mike Stowers from Metropolitan Ballroom taught the waltz and salsa steps. After 15 minutes of instruction, the students were able to dance to music and slowly were becoming accomplished dancers! The evening wrapped up with a little contemporary music and I was pleased to see many of the students formally thanking the adults and seniors for their hard work. It was a beautiful and successful evening, and we look forward to continuing this tradition in years to come!

by Andrea Robson



Let the Little Children Come

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The other day I was walking by the playground in the cottage and a young voice cried out, “Mrs. Fisk, look what I can do!” I turned and saw the most adorable little redhead on the monkey bars, swinging his legs up and over one of the bars and hanging there suspended for a minute. He was so proud of himself and it was impossible not to smile.

“Great job, Carson!” I said. I watched him for a few minutes and as I walked away, I thought about his sweet optimism and excitement over a newfound skill. He was filled with a joy that you don’t often see in people as they age, and when you do it is refreshing. This past week, a beloved radio co-host, Tom Magliozzi (better known as one-half of “Click and Clack, the Tappit brothers” on public radio’s Car Talk) died from complications associated with his Alzheimer’s disease. As a loyal listener who found myself smiling at his jokes on many a Saturday morning, I wept at the news. I have no idea if he was a believer, but I do know he was absolutely, irrepressibly filled with joy. And it was so refreshing that even a person as mechanically impaired as I am tuned in to listen to him regale his audience with car advice peppered with lots of laughter.

As Christians, we are called to “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Philippians 4:4). We are called to rejoice despite circumstances. But the pressures, worries, and just plain busy-ness of this life often make that difficult. At Arborbrook, it is truly not enough for us to prepare kids for college (though that is part of what we do), and it is not enough that they can get As on their papers or high scores on their SATs; rather for us, it is about passing on the joy of learning and the joy of the Lord. We want students to not only learn, but love to learn. It is in doing so, that they become hungry for more and that the knowledge really sticks.

We are choosing to focus on the things that matter most, “nourishing a love of learning and flourishing in Christ.” For what will it matter if our kids get a high-paying job if they have no space in their life for the Lord? What will it matter if they achieve high test scores but are so turned off by years of being pushed that they have no interest in pursuing higher education? What will it matter if they can read 20 books in a month if not one of those books inspires them to deeper, truer thoughts or more noble actions? What will it matter if they are filled with knowledge but lacking in wisdom?

It was so good to be in Assembly this past Thursday and hear some of our high school young men share testimonies of when it was hard for them to trust God. It was so good to see our young people encouraged to take leadership and to share with their peers. It filled me with joy to see the faith of these young men and to know they are being encouraged by teachers who love them and who model a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

IMG_1479So what does the love of learning look like? Sometimes it takes the form of a fun hands-on activity or a book that is so good you don’t want to put it down. Sometimes it is the joy of discovery like finding a HUGE sweet potato growing in Mrs. Shepherds home garden. And sometimes I think it takes the form of excitement over something that a student thought was too hard and they find one day that they are able to do it. Challenge, provided that it is appropriate to the child’s age and maturity, can be a source of joy and pleasure for our students.   Like little Carson on the monkey bars, or the junior high student who thought he hated to write suddenly writing a beautiful poem- there is pleasure in accomplishment and in the learning of new skills.

Wouldn’t you like to be a little more like Carson on the monkey bars, excited over the new things you are learning and reaching for the next bar that is just out of reach? Wouldn’t you like to be more like Tom Magliozzi and full of laughter? Or like Emily Shepherd, whose passion for God’s creation is totally infectious? I know that I would.  I want to come to Jesus full of trust in Him regardless of circumstances, rejoicing always.   🙂

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17)

A Butterfly with Half a Wing

by Emily Shepherd, Nature Study Teacher & Garden Coordinator
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What can be more satisfying than watching God use the low, humble things of this world to accomplish His glorious goals? We had a front row seat to this paradox in one of our nature study classes this week. As I was teaching the students about the decomposers out in the garden, one of the students would not even look at the photographs of the decomposers I was showing as part of the Worm Bin Bingo we were about to play. He told me he was deathly afraid of all bugs. As we moved outdoors, he held back, away from the garden, as I put scoops from the worm bin and compost pile on sheets of cardboard. The other students jumped right into the dirty fun of the decomposer search, but this one student was visibly shaken. I prayed, and a few other moms working in the garden prayed.

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Suddenly another student cried out, “Mrs. Shepherd! There is a butterfly with half of a wing!”  We stooped low to look at it. It was stuck in the carrot green where it had started as an egg and needed rescue right away if it would ever be able to make it to food. All the hubbub drew the attention of the student now standing outside the fence. We showed him the disabled butterfly. I told him that the butterfly needed him now.  I asked him if he would like to hold the stem the butterfly was on? He did! We needed to take it to nectar; would he be willing to carry it there? He agreed! Oh wow…my heart trembled with a growing awareness that perhaps this butterfly had been sent, broken and needy, “for such a time as this.”

photo 1He walked with the trembling insect into the school and we prepared a box with some squished-open orange on which it could feed. He gently set down the butterfly, a new light in his eyes. We decided that it needed a name, and why not let this student choose it, since he had shown such courage in overcoming his fears to help this little creature of God? The whole class burst into cheers of “Yes! Yes! YOU pick it!”  He thought and thought. Finally it came down to two choices. We took a class vote. It was a tie, but he broke the tie with his vote of…Rory. Rory the Butterfly. He was now beaming, and all the students were smiling and gazing down at Rory in such a protective way. I basked in the moment, let me tell you. And this Scripture Picture came to mind:

“But now, by actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy…”

Colossians 1:22

-by Emily Shepherd, Nature Study Teacher & Garden Coordinator

A Creeper Trail Adventure!


by Libba Armenta (Arborbrook Parent & Junior High Writing Workshop Teacher)

My family joined around 100 students, parents and faculty members in Damascus, Virginia, last weekend for the third annual Arborbrook Creeper Trail trip. We had heard nothing but praise for the trip and, even though it felt a bit ambitious with our young children, we decided to give it a go. The weather forecast predicted a 90% chance of rain, but inspired by the Creeper Trail slogan, “More than a trail, it’s an adventure,” we prayed for safety and loaded up the truck anyway.

No sooner had we carried our last bag inside the cabin than the skies let loose and it began to pour. Was this going to stop our fun? Of course not! Children flocked to the open field to catch raindrops in their smiling mouths. Some older students bravely entered the cool creek water and swam all the way out to the rock. Others mounted their bikes for an adventurous, slippery ride around the campground. Tent campers were invited to sleep under the covered porches of the cabins. Our Thursday evening bonfire may have been squelched, but not our sense of adventure!


As families gathered Friday morning at Sundog Outfitter for bike and shuttle preparations, conversations seemed to center around rain survival and tall cups of morning coffee. The shuttle vans knew the way up the winding roads, but our stomachs did not. After a few minutes, passengers on the back rows of the van commiserated over feeling queasy. But before we knew it, we were greeted by mountaintop air, fresh, cool, and inviting. We climbed on our bikes, snapped a few pictures, and began the journey.


The Creeper Trail was breathtaking and peaceful. Patches of the gravel trail were damp, but the tree canopy had spared most of our path from the rain. Every plant in sight showed signs of the Virginia summer’s gentle warmth and abundant precipitation. We watched the creek for miles, enjoying its gentle soundtrack. With quiet space comes a heightened awareness of all that is around. Think of the last time you looked as far as you could in every direction and found not one person. What a treat to enjoy the mountain breeze and beauty with the sense that they were, if only for a moment, just for you.


The cheers and encouragement from passersby were plentiful. My favorites were directed at my 4-year-old son, who rode most of the trail on his own bike: “Way to go, big guy!” Another memorable remark came from a group riding a good distance behind me (thankfully): “BLACK SNAKE!” One group that finished shortly after us counted nine snakes; my family saw none. I give credit for this to a sweet prayer said by Jon Miller on Thursday as Mrs. Rosser’s kindergarten class prepared for lunch: “Dear God, I pray for the Creeper Trail and for everyone to be safe and for NO snakes.”

When hunger and fatigue compounded, families gathered at the Creeper Trail Café, a hot dog joint with splurge-worthy onion rings and milkshakes. You could see the trail’s mark on all the riders as they stood in line to order: matching mud splatters up our backs like a skunk’s stripes.

Fueled for a strong finish, we jumped back on our bikes. Breaking for lunch had re-distributed our group to some degree; what fun to ride in closer proximity to other families on the final stretch back to Damascus. Excited, energized junior high students breezed by as those of us with small children spent the last several miles coaxing our young riders to “pedal, push, come on!” Whether they whizzed to “Off the Beaten Path” for a double scoop of mint chocolate chip, or sought after the nearest shower, every rider seemed to relish the accomplishment of completing the 17-mile ride.

Back at the cabins, the sun was still shining and the creek was once again full of Arborbrook students. A crowd gathered at the water’s edge to cheer on a handful of swimmers as they ventured toward the rock. What a joy to overhear numerous conversations among adults and students alike, focused on hobbies and passions, family and faith. Junior high students threw the ball with younger students and parents of older children helped chase other families’ little ones. As we circled up for prayer before dinner, I marveled at the uniqueness and authenticity of the Arborbrook community.


Dinner was delicious. The salads were fresh and colorful and some saint thought to bring Fritos for the chili. Mrs. Andrade carried out a pot of fettuccine Alfredo with chicken and the crowd rejoiced. The s’mores spread was elaborate. Cinnamon and sugar graham crackers with Nutella spread and a roasted, toasted coconut marshmallow ̵ now that’s bonfire-gourmet.


My family headed in early to put our little ones to bed, but we continued to enjoy being serenaded by the echoes of conversation and laughter outside. I said to my husband, “Today was a child’s feast.” The weekend was a picture of what we desire for our children: that they be so enthralled with God’s best, that all else pales in comparison. This weekend our students ran, swam, climbed trees, frolicked in bare feet, splashed in puddles, played tag and hide and seek, biked, laughed, tossed rocks, shot rockets, roasted marshmallows beneath the stars among friends, and more. My children never even noticed that there was a television in our cabin; they were satiated with the bounty of God’s creation. Arborbrook community, you are a gem, and Damascus, Virginia, we’ll be back!


-by Libba Armenta, Arborbrook Parent and Junior High Writing Workshop Teaher (photos by Malana Ennis)

Reflections from the Washington, D.C. Trip


As memories of D.C. linger in our minds, we wanted to share some sentiments written by our Jr. High Students.

“Recently my 7th and 8th grade class went to Washington, D.C. for a four day field trip. We took a giant ROSE bus up there. It took us about eight hours to get to D.C. I had an awesome and fun time while I was there and made lots of memories. I will never forget one of the most special times of my life. One of the most fun things we did was to go on a night bike tour. Another of the things we did was to visit the Jefferson Memorial. While the tour guide was telling us all about it, there was a group of four women dancing to “Happy” and making a video.  It was so funny!”


This Jr. High Student goes on to share about her funny memories and the things she saw, including a man proposing in the park and the girl saying Yes! Our student “loved this trip so much and wished (she) could do another one next year for a longer amount of time.” Truly our students have great minds, a love for learning, and an uncanny eye for funny details!


Another Student writes:

“The trip to D.C. was awesome! We all had so much fun on the bus ride, chatting, playing games, and having a good time. We got to see some amazing artifacts from our U.S. History as well as some stuff from WWII in Germany. I can’t wait to tell you what we saw in all of the museums! The first stop I wanted to share was our nightly bike tour. It was a three-hour tour and I hadn’t biked in forever so I was nervous. All was well and we got to see so many memorials such as the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the MLK Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, President Mason’s Memorial, and the Capitol at night!” On our (daytime) Capitol Tour we had the most hilarious tour guide…we were laughing with every joke he made, he was the best! Whether it was bike riding, listening to tour guides, or playing games at our hotel, we always seemed to have a great time!”


Another Jr. High Student shares serious snapshot: “I can vividly remember being at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. I’m refreshed by the cool breeze blowing after all of the pedaling and biking. I look up for a moment to see Lincoln in his enormous chair. His eyes are kind. Lincoln looks straight ahead over the nation’s capital. I see a sense of power and calmness washes over me. I stare straight ahead at a magnificent leader. When times runs out I don’t want to leave him behind.”


It’s just this kind of awe and wonder that we experienced as we saw the magnitude of our great capital.  We hunted for inscriptions of Bible verses such as John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  We gazed at great paintings such as Washington praying and looked at his own family Bible in his home at Mt. Vernon.  We visited the gravesite of “An American Soldier Known But to God” and came upon an actual graveside funeral with a band led procession with soldiers.  We were quite somber as we realized freedom does not come free.    -Tracy Alexander


Reflections from the Rooftops of London


I took a few moments to ask Lower School students what they might of learned from being in the school play.  Truly it was Mrs. Tillman’s Thank You on stage that got me to thinking about this idea.  I treasured talking with the students and thought you might want to hear their thoughts.  One Jr. High student wrote that she learned to have a good time, and laugh at her mistakes.  She also wrote, “If you care about what people think of you, it isn’t going to go well.  Just be yourself!”  Wow, such a valuable life lesson taught not through a book, but through the experience and gift of drama.  She continued, “I also learned if you work hard, you will have fun in the end.”  Tenacity taught, a valuable lesson learned.  Another student who watched the play wrote, “I learned that God can use people to show something that He wants to tell us.”  A Message from our Maker straight to her heart?  She added, “When you’re in a play you’re not just playing/acting for people, you’re praising God with your heart, mind, actions, and voice.”  Oh the gift of doing all things onto Christ our Lord.  This is a student I know that has taken on responsibilities that take courage and have allowed her to give glory to God.  It sounds like she has already learned such a valuable lesson of no matter what you are given to do in life, to do it all unto The Lord.
Speaking of responsibilities, one of our many crew commented that there are many deadlines in  a production, all of them needing to fit together like a giant puzzle, with only 1 minute to solve.  The experience was a “giant team building exercise” for this young man.   I am certain this will stay with him as he continues to workout his role within the body of Christ.  Another crewman spoke about this same job being important and hard, writing “It was fun to work alongside some of my best buddies.”  Isn’t that true of our own hats we wear? It’s the people that we work alongside with and serve that make it so much fun.
Another cast member wrote about praying together backstage with all the chimney sweeps for the few minutes the sound wasn’t working.  She continued to write, “I also learned to enjoy every moment on stage and have fun with it.  Cherish the moments you get.”  Gratitude is such a gift. Praise Jesus she gets it.  The answered prayers of The Lord were felt by many.
Several students commented about Mrs. Tillman’s reliance on Him, and how the details “came together” when the Drama Team asked Him for provision.  One young lady told about a scene that Drama Team member Mrs. Andrews was working on to get it flow better.  The Student said after praying to The Lord, Mrs. Andrews had an answer, that just worked and fixed the problem perfectly.  She said, “That’s a Jesus Moment.”  “I think He was really by our side.”  Mrs. Scott was a treasure to students with her dedication to details.
Comments from our youngest Cast were especially candid with statements like, “You have to have a lot of patient love.”  And, “You can’t be so shy, so shy that you mess up and have to say it again.”  A couple of students shared sentiments about being nervous, practicing hard, and working through being nervous.  One young lady commented, “Being nervous is okay!”  Another very young man shared that it was really good exercise for him. Now there’s incentive for all of us to join the Drama Team!  There were just so many honest and heartfelt comments shared from our students about their experiences in this year’s play.  However one that will stay with me for a long time is from one of our Elementary students.  He described the paper cast members completed at the beginning where they got to check off what they liked or didn’t like to do and he said, “All the stuff I didn’t like to do…it turned out to be my best things.”  I think I’ll just let that sit awhile…and hope that I can say that one day too.

Post contributed by Tracy Alexander


Snapshot: A Day in the Life of Arborbrook High School


At 8:30 a.m., the students are all seated in chairs expectantly as Jonathan and Olivia lead Assembly for their peers.  Jonathan asks Mrs. Emrich if she has any announcements, and she reminds students about the upcoming ski trip.  We discuss some changes to the dress code and Jonathan Z receives a Falcon award (given for showing school spirit, going above and beyond, and exemplifying the values of Arborbrook).


First Period

Biology students are in small groups, preparing to teach their class about arthropods.  Students in one group are discussing different varieties of arachnids and one is squeamishly announcing she does not like spiders, as she adds text to a slide in Keynote.


History students are in the Assembly room sharing their Art presentations with the class on the screen, analyzing a famous work of art they have chosen and sharing it with the class.


The math students are working away, while in SAT Prep, the juniors have just finished watching a video tutorial and are now working in their test prep. booklets.


Second Period

In between classes, students make brief trips to their lockers, laughing with friends and talking.  There are multiple classes going on right now- math, environmental science, U.S. History II, and Finance for the seniors.  I meet with our guidance counselor Mrs. Emrich and our assistant principal Mrs. Medlin as we discuss ideas and solve problems together.


 Third Period

I stay for Senior English class and get to see a complete class from beginning to end.  In Mrs. Emrich’s class, the students go over their vocabulary homework, and then proceed to complete a KWRL activity (Know, Want to know, Researched, Learned)- writing down what they already know about the Holocaust and questions they have in preparation for a unit on Elie Wiesel’s book Night and on the new book The Book Thief.  Students complete the activity alone and then share with the class.  Some of their questions are great- one student wants to know how Hitler was able to be so persuasive and convince people to do such terrible things, and Mrs. Emrich assures him that is one of the things they will be discussing through this literature/history unit.  She then passes out a timeline of major events during the Holocaust, asking students to work in pairs to highlight verbs and using a different color to highlight any event they didn’t know about.  Class ends before students have time to discuss their upcoming essay or watch a short interview clip with Elie Wiesel- that will have to wait for tomorrow.



During lunch, the teachers meet for their weekly faculty meeting, while the students and a staff member eat lunch together, most of them choosing tables in the Assembly room, but a few going to eat on the outside picnic tables or on the sidewalks near the grass.  This is a favorite time of day for students to unwind and enjoy one another.  As a rule students are not allowed to use their computers at lunch, but with permission, Courtney, on yearbook staff, shows me the senior pages in process.  We have such a great group of seniors this year.  I am filled with that now familiar mixed emotion of being so proud of them and also sad to see them go in just a few short months.


Fourth Period

The juniors in math class are having entirely too much fun, while students in Apologetics seem to be having a very deep discussion.

Page_1Mrs. Allen has taken her 9th grade English class outside and they are sitting in the sunshine on the curb discussing a Tolstoy short story, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”  A few students take notes, a few just listen, while others contribute to the discussion.  I don’t remember getting to go outside to discuss literature when I was in high school, but I am quite certain I would have enjoyed doing this.

Page_2 Just down the hall in chemistry class, students are doing a lab- they are heating up beakers filled with water and a smaller test tube filled with cola and then cooling the test tube in a cup of ice, looking for how the liquid in the tube changes.  Ms. Palmer tells me they are studying soluble and insoluble liquids.


Fifth Period

The junior English class is also enjoying working in pairs, some inside and some outside, answering questions related to their study of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  Sophomore English is right next door, hard at work on an essay test.  The freshmen are engaged in conversation with Mr. Long in Worldview class about the difference between empowerment and enablement, and Ms. Kimball’s Civics/Econ. students are doing research on arguments for and against gun control among other issues, typing up notes on their MacBooks.

Page_5 After School

After school, students head out to various activities.  Many of them are going to the basketball game tonight, and Allie has gotten together with many of the high school girls to make individualized signs to cheer on each member of the varsity boys team.  The game is at Carolina Christian against Central Academy.  It is a tight game and our boys win it 58 to 48, advancing in the tournament, now scheduled to play on Thursday at 4:30 against Charlotte United.

The “abundant feast” was visible everywhere on campus this day.  I am so thankful for our high school students, for our remarkable faculty, and for what the Lord is doing here in hearts and minds.  Thanks be to God!

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

*All pictures taken from Tuesday, February 25th.  Thanks to Grace Noble for the basketball game pictures.

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