From Serving Our Country to Serving the Best BBQ

From police officer to barbecue pitmaster, Sam Cielakie has had an interesting life journey, to say the least. Sam graduated from Fredericksburg Christian School with the class of 1996. He went on to attend Liberty University and enrolled in the police academy there before serving almost 18 years in law enforcement. Throughout his time in service, he received multiple awards, including the Detective of the Year Award for his work in undercover narcotics. Sam credits his lessons learned at FCS for instilling a strong sense of ethical responsibility in him.

“Having a biblical foundation going into law enforcement was very critical.”

Sam stumbled upon his passion for barbecue one day in 2005 when his wife and her friends needed a whole hog cooked for a work event. Without having any experience or knowledge on how someone should go about cooking a whole hog, he accepted the challenge. After digging a hole for the pig and cooking it overnight, he was met the next day with a black, crusted hog. To everyone’s surprise, it turned out delicious! After successfully completing his first major endeavor into the world of barbecue, Sam couldn’t stop. Unsatisfied with commercial barbecue sauces, he decided to create his own.

His first two sauces were an Original, which is a sweet tomato style sauce, and a Carolina-style sauce, a vinegar based sauce with heat and tomato. His family and friends couldn’t get enough of his new homemade concoctions. Suddenly faced with high demand, Sam began bottling the two products with his parents in 2011. “Barbecuing is a passion for me…it started as a hobby but then I couldn’t stop,” he said.

The Success of Sweet N Sassy BBQ

His passion for barbecuing continued to grow as he entered into professional barbecuing competitions, took classes, and continued to develop his traditional cooking skills as his knowledge grew. He resigned from law enforcement in March 2017, and partnered with a friend, James Sharon, and his father to open their now successful restaurant – Sweet N Sassy BBQ Company. His Original sauce has taken 1st place in multiple competitions in Virginia. In case being a father of two kids, a police officer, and a business owner wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Sam went back to Liberty and continued his education; earning a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling in May 2017.

Sam’s FCS Family

FCS still feels like home for Sam and he keeps in touch with his fellow classmates and teachers on social media. He enjoyed the small class sizes at Fredericksburg Christian, which made it feel like they were a family.

“The level of care that you got one on one at FCS really made it special.”

And the lessons he learned there still resonate with him today. He specifically recalls working on group projects in Ms. Raney’s class, where he first learned to really rely on others and use teamwork to get things done. Being a business owner, he relies on others every single day to accomplish tasks.

Today, Sam is happily married to his wife Brandie and has three sons: Jacob, age 13, Danny, age 6 and Mason, age 5. As a family, they enjoy going to Kings Dominion, fishing and camping in their free time. Sam is currently enrolled in Auguste Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts where he will graduate as a professional chef in 2018.

6 Tips on How to Grow Your Relationship With Your Grandchildren

Not too long ago, grandparents were like an extension of the nuclear family, regularly participating in daily activities like meals, attending church together, and helping out around the house. Involvement with the grandchildren was seamless, as most grandparents lived close to their children and grandchildren, often in the same house.

Times have changed.  Now, it had become so important that you grow your relationship with your grandchildren, and work at it all of the time. Grandparents don’t always live close to their grandchildren, both parents are often employed outside the home, and grandparents are sometimes employed as well. In order to spend time with grandchildren, grandparents have to be deliberate about how and when this will happen.

Here are 6 ideas to make the most of your time and grow your relationship with your grandchildren and create lifelong memories.

1. Share Your Own Hobbies & Interests

Share your passion! The hobbies and interests that kept you entertained over the years might be just as thrilling for your grandkids. Whether your hobby is collecting WWII artifacts, building model cars, or woodworking, you likely know a great deal of interesting and valuable information to pass on to the next generation. Invite them to help you organize a collection or select a pattern for your next project. You never know what might trigger a lifelong passion when you share with your grandkids. If your passion does not become their passion, they will still love learning about the things that interest you.

2. Grow a Garden Together

Even the tiniest tot can plant a seed and douse it with water. Watching their little seed grow into a plant is almost like magic. Not only is gardening a great way to bond with your grandkids, it also helps them understand where food comes from and what it takes to sustain life.

3. Volunteer at Their School, Church, or Daycare

Involvement with your grandkids can include volunteer work, too. Volunteer work models the behavior of all good citizens, so you’re giving them a moral lesson while spending time with them and nurturing your relationship. Look for opportunities like cleaning up local parks or renovating the playground at their school. Schools, churches, and other community properties host regular painting, repair, and clean-up days, which are all great opportunities to show your grandkids that you really care about their school and their future.

4. Fill in For Mom & Dad

Today’s parents get the idea from magazines, TV shows, and the media that they have to do it all themselves. From working full-time to keeping an impeccable lawn to shuttling kids to and from soccer and music practice, modern moms and dads think it’s all on them. You can take the load off your kids and increase your involvement with your grandkids by simply filling in for one or two of their weekly responsibilities. Take the kids to give them a date night or offer to act as chauffeur to after-school activities sometimes.

5. Attend Their Activities & Sporting Events

Even if mom and dad don’t need help shuffling kids to and fro, take the time to attend those ball games, dance recitals, and school plays. These are all opportunities to get to know your grandchildren and their world. It gives you something to talk about with them and lets them know you’re an active participant in their lives. Offer to help Kayla improve her softball pitch or to help Jonah rehearse his lines for his class production. Who knows, you might learn something, too!

6. Learning to Use Social Media Improves Involvement with the Grandchildren

Instead of becoming frustrated over the endless hours your grandkids spend with their heads stuck in a screen, step into their digital world for a bit. It’s surprisingly easy to learn to use their favorite social platforms, like Twitter and Instagram.

Above all, don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your grandchildren. If a few minutes at the ice cream shop once a month is all you have time, energy, or money for, that’s okay! Even a little time is meaningful if it’s spent with the ones you love doing something you enjoy. This is one time when you do get an “A” just for the effort. Grow your relationship with your grandchildren, and make memories for generations!


Age-Appropriate Chores to Fit Any Family

Getting help around the house is somewhat of a chore, in and of itself, as tasks that need to be done won’t always fit your “cleaning crew” and their set of abilities; thus, the need for age-appropriate chores grows alongside your family. Small children generally love helping with anything you’re doing, and older children are more likely to need a list and some gentle prodding. Making realistic chore lists for your little ones isn’t as complicated as it might seem to be, however, as the larger piece of the cooperation puzzle is compromise. Making chores reasonable, realistically timed, and fun can drastically improve morale around the house. Here are some age-appropriate chores that each group should be able to achieve:

Age-Appropriate Chores for Ages 3 to 7

Preschoolers and young children are the easiest to get enthusiastic (albeit hyperactive) help from. Though their motor skills and attention spans aren’t yet fully engaged, young children can do their part through short, simple tasks made fun. To kick up the entertainment factor, try playing happy, upbeat dance music while doing chores. The kids will love the opportunity to wiggle and move while completing their daily tasks! These tasks might include the following:

●      Making the bed

●      Cleaning windowsills

●      Wiping lower cupboard doors in the kitchen

●      Emptying small trash cans

●      Putting folded linens into the proper drawers or on shelves

●      Picking up their own toys and keeping their play space neat

●      Drying and putting away silverware while dishes are being washed (minus the sharp utensils, of course)


Be sure to make your little one’s jobs easier by giving them a stool to stand on and their own cleaning towels. Bonus fun points are awarded if you can find child-size versions of your adult cleaning tools, such as brooms, dustpans, mops, and gloves! Practicing good cleaning habits with this age group will instill both a feeling of accomplishment and a lasting habit of cleanliness.

Ages 8 to 10

This age group is less likely to just volunteer a helping hand, yet, when given proper direction, tend to excel at age-appropriate chores. Making a chore checklist or rotating chart (for multi-child families) can reduce confusion and teach a lesson on personal responsibility. Older children are likely to want compensation for their contributions, which is part of another lesson in entering the workforce, but should begin to learn the difference between obligations and responsibilities. Remind them that the reward for completing these tasks is, ultimately, a clean and inviting space to live in, something that is taken for granted by a lot of people. Examples of easy tasks for this age group are:

●      Vacuuming

●      Helping younger siblings complete tasks as a team

●      Sorting and pairing clean socks

●      Setting and clearing the table after meals

●      Bringing in groceries

●      Watering plants, both indoors and outdoors


Though teaching lessons about keeping a clean home for yourself are important, a rewards system can greatly reduce your chances of seeing eye rolling and hearing complaints from your preteens. Instead of opting for monetary rewards, try a points system, where an accumulation of points awarded for completing tasks can be “spent” on a reward, such as a family camping trip or a pizza and movie night. Then, the whole family can benefit from the hard work you’ve all been doing!

Ages 11 to 13

Teens are often focused on friends and cellphones more than family and cleanliness, but that shouldn’t stop you from including them on the roster for the Clean House Dream Team! Since they’ve willingly taken on the title of “teenager,” their responsibilities can shift into a new direction, building on lessons learned from their previous chores and responsibilities. For example, simply feeding the dog can turn into caring for Fido’s basic needs in general, like cleaning up pet waste, brushing the dog, and keeping toys and pet beds tidy. A new set of more detailed responsibilities shows teens their own capabilities and can impress upon them the intricacies of growing up, like learning new skills and wearing more hats (metaphorically). Teenagers can aptly complete tasks like:

●      Taking out the garbage

●      Minding their younger siblings while you complete tasks elsewhere in the house

●      Cleaning the bathroom

●      Pulling weeds in the garden

●      Cleaning windows

●      Preparing small, simple meals for the family

●      Folding and putting away clothes


As teenagers are subjected to homework and extracurricular activities, balancing housework and other obligations can be tricky. While trying to remain fair to the other members of your chore warrior tribe, remember that your teen will have to be flexible with chores and not with homework and school, which might mean putting tasks on hold to avoid interfering with good academic performance. Planning chore lists according to your teen’s school schedule can make for less hassle and more productivity, which makes for better attitudes all around!


3 Ways Christian High Schools Provide Advanced Academics

Christian high schools have shown great results in their efforts to produce students that are competitive in the job and college market. In fact, recent studies have reported astoundingly positive results when examining private schools. Roughly 95% of private high school grads go on to four-year postsecondary institutions. Below are four ways that private Christian high schools provide a superior academic experience for their students.

1. Christian high schools often have small class sizes and provide more one-on-one attention to their students.

Studies have shown that smaller student-to-teacher ratios greatly enhance classroom learning ability. Teachers can learn and cater to each student’s unique learning style, allowing the student to learn more effectively. They also allow the teacher to have more time with each individual student, which personalizes the curriculum. This fosters a sense of community within the classroom and makes the student feel more comfortable to ask help when they need it.

2. Christian high schools have high graduation requirements and an additional support system that push their students to succeed.  

Stringent exams, community service requirements, and a helpful and supportive staff make sure that private school students are well-equipped to graduate. Students aren’t simply being passed through the system and are instead making progress in their academic careers. In addition, the teachers and staff provide a valuable support system that is integrated with a Christian worldview. That means that your student will not only be challenged to grow academically, but also spiritually.

3. Students who attend religious private schools also receive high standardized college test scores that make them competitive in the college market.

College-bound seniors who attend faith-based schools score an average of 110 points higher than the mean on the College Board’s SAT (the old or pre-2016) assessment, one of the two most popular college entrance exams in the country. In addition, students attending private high schools scored an average of 2.4 points higher on the ACT, another important college assessment. This small difference in scores can cause a large shift in percentiles, which is an important factor in college acceptance rates. The amount of scholarship money you receive is also based on ACT and SAT scores, which is a huge factor in the college search process.
As you are choosing where to enroll your student, consider the benefits that Christian high schools can provide. They’ll not only be challenged academically, but also spiritually. Plus, they’ll be in an environment that encourages the same values you’re teaching at home. Contact us today if you’d like to learn about Fredericksburg Christian School.

6 Great Summer Activities You Can Do at Home

With lazy, hazy days ahead, finding summer activities for kids can be a definite challenge. Instead of caving to their plaintive pleas to cruise the Internet and zone out in front of a video game, gather up some great ideas to keep them active, involved, and learning. Here are 6 of our favorite ideas for making this summer vacation about more than just kicking your feet up!

1. Go on a nature walk.

This idea is great for kids who seem to have too much energy! Pick a nature trail in your area that has a well-planned layout, grab snacks and drinks, and search for interesting leaves, flowers, critter tracks, and more. This activity can even be done right in your own backyard, which is ideal for curious toddlers who may be too little to enjoy walking on a trail. Remember: give wild animals the respect they deserve by keeping your distance, and dispose of any garbage in the proper receptacles.

2. Volunteer in the community.

Though volunteering seems like “work” to some, it can lead to new and exciting experiences. Through church, community message boards, and even word of mouth, events needing volunteers can be found with relative ease. Some events, such as helping to build a playground or cooking a pancake breakfast for the VFW, teach new skills and can be used later in life as a reference for college and job applications. Helping others at a young age can spark a lasting interest in charitable actions, resulting in a better future.

3. Learn a new skill.

There are more skills to learn on this earth than there are days in a lifetime, and anyone can try their hand at something new. From pottery and knitting to automotive restore and animal care, there’s a plethora of interesting subjects for kids to explore. Start small by choosing some instructional books from the library, such as a step-by-step origami book, and try to use supplies that are already in the house. Not only will those lingering craft notions disappear and make room for new, creative ideas can be born from a limited selection of supplies. Bonus points for practical skills that are learned in a fun way!

4. Put on a home musical or play.

Kids love dressing up, and their stories are often much more creative than any Hollywood writer can dream up, so why not put on a show? Sock puppets and marionettes can be made with relative ease, and almost anything can be an instrument if you try hard enough. If ideas aren’t necessarily pouring in, try recreating beloved movies or singing songs from memory to get the creative juices flowing. Even a round of stand-up comedy, consisting of corny knock-knock jokes, will get the ball rolling for an engaging performance.

5. Read books aloud and in character/theme.

Part of the magic of reading books comes from the vivid mental images some authors can conjure up, sometimes so real that the world around you feels different. Because reading is more of a solitary activity, it might prove difficult to get kids to settle down and focus; instead, cure the quiet time antics by making reading into an actual event! Wearing costumes that mimic the characters, reading in their voices, and assigning a reading role to everyone are all great ways to include books into your summer activities for kids. Go the extra mile and move between rooms and the outdoors with your characters to really get immersed in the story!

6. Help plan summer activities for kids in your neighborhood.

Doing fun activities is great, and keeps boredom at bay; unfortunately, not everyone can come up with things to do, and some kids don’t have siblings or friends to enjoy their free time with. Make sure everyone is having fun by including your neighbors, schoolmates, and those visiting on their own summer vacation. No one likes being left out!



Quality Time With Your Grandchildren

We’ve all heard the cliche’ about how we spend time with those we love – quality over quantity. When it comes to spending quality time with your grandchildren, this can take on a whole new meaning.  While we may feel pressure to spoil our grandchildren with lavish gifts, special treats, and other extravagances, this is not necessary to develop a strong, connected relationship. Rather, your hands-on involvement and presence with your grandchildren will be the most meaningful gift you can give.

Many grandparents are in a unique position to provide their grandchildren with devoted, uninterrupted time together, something parents or other caregivers aren’t always able to provide amidst the daily hustle-and-bustle. If you play the role of both grandparent and child care provider, it is especially important to prioritize this quality time together. Take off your “Babysitter” hat – when you might also be juggling carpools, after-school activities, and daily routines – and savor your time wearing your “Grandparent” hat!

Below are some ideas for quality time with your grandchildren that will help grow and nurture your relationship with them.

To Get More Quality Time with Your Grandchildren – Share a Hobby

Children are generally very interested in “grown-up” activities, such as baking, getting to use special tools, helping around the house, or exploring items such as makeup or office supplies. Sometimes the most mundane task for us (emptying the garbage) can feel like an exciting opportunity for your grandchild! Allow your grandchildren to share in these activities with you whenever you can, as they can be powerful teaching opportunities and create many memories!

Or, Find Some One-on-One Time

If you have multiple grandchildren within one family, set aside time together or plan a small outing with each child individually. This allows for you to have quality, one-on-one time without the distraction or competition of siblings. Allow your grandchild to have a say in what you do, perhaps something they wouldn’t normally get to do with their younger/older siblings around. This could be an ideal time to complete a baking activity or share another hobby or interest.

You Could Be a Special Guest

Find a day to have lunch with your grandchild at their school or volunteer to chaperone a field trip. Your grandchildren will likely think it’s a big deal to have such a special guest to show off to their friends!

And Always Keep in Touch

If you live at a distance from your grandchildren, consider all of the ways you can keep in touch to nurture your relationship from afar. Children are always thrilled to get special messages, whether it is through old-fashioned snail mail, a text message or email addressed to them, FaceTime, or an animated e-card. An older grandchild may enjoy special “phone dates” with Grandma or Grandpa, as well. When you are able to physically be together, prioritize a special date with your grandchildren, ideally without parents around.

Create Your Own Tradition

Start a tradition that is unique to you and your grandchildren. Perhaps you take your grandchildren out for half-birthday celebrations each year. Spreading out the fun allows them to anticipate and appreciate the celebration even more and is something special for you both to share. Again, it need not be anything grandiose – a picnic lunch with their favorite sandwich and a small birthday treat for dessert would undoubtedly be a big hit. Other fun traditions to incorporate could be sharing a special lunch at the end of the school year, taking your grandchildren out shopping for Christmas presents for their parents and siblings, or having a popcorn and movie night every first Friday (or some other agreed upon date).

Take a Special Trip Together – Great Fun!

Start a tradition of taking each of your grandchildren on a trip in a designated year, such as for their 10th birthday or when they graduate from high school. Set parameters around what types of destinations are reasonable (it doesn’t have to be expensive to be special – camping out in the backyard could be great fun!), and then let your grandchild help plan the trip. This “rite of passage” will be something they look forward to, and fondly remember, for many years!

As you have seen, most of these ideas are free of cost or inexpensive, and all can be kept quite simple. Remember: simple does not mean any less meaningful or memorable! More than anything, your grandchild will cherish the time spent together. Sharing this quality time with your grandchildren will not only strengthen your relationship with them in the present, but will create a lifetime of wonderful memories.


FCS Alumna Teacher and The Last Great Race®

March can be a tough time of year for teachers.  The kids are tired.  Teachers are tired.  The routine has become a bit mundane – how about the Last Great Race®?

But for FCS teacher alumna, Heidi Montague Sloan, and her 5th grade students, March is something to look forward to. The Last Great Race®! And next school year this event will take on a whole new meaning for her students, because Heidi will not be teaching from her classroom, but on the Iditarod Trail as the 2018 Teacher on the Trail™.

The Last Great Race®, or the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, began in 1973 by Joe Redington Sr. and runs from Settler’s Bay to Nome, Alaska. As snow mobiles became popular and were replacing the sled dog, Joe wanted to preserve the sled dog tradition and the history of the Iditarod Trail. The trail had been used for gold mining supplies, food, and to carry US mail when the roads became iced over during the winter months. Mushers still carry a mail bag with them on the 1,049-mile trail. The last 49 miles was added to the race to represent the 49th state of Alaska.

For years Heidi has integrated curriculum from the Iditarod into her regular curriculum. Her students follow the race each day. She integrates math, language arts and history lessons as they follow along with the Teacher on the Trail™.

Each school year one teacher is chosen.  Only one.  What Heidi had never imagined is that in 2018 she would be that Teacher!

Heidi started her teaching career at Fredericksburg Christian School fresh out of college. She was hired by the founders of FCS, Gary and Andy Foss. After 5 1/2 years of teaching she took time away from the classroom to have a family. When she returned to teaching she went to the Stafford County Public School system and has been teaching there for 15 years. She attributes her success as a teacher to the early training and mentoring she received from the Foss’ in her early teaching years at FCS. “It really shaped who I am now,” says Heidi.

Being chosen as the teacher for The Last Great Race® doesn’t wait until March – she will begin her position in June. Part of her responsibilities include creating curriculum that is shared with teachers around the country, and the world, beginning this summer. Thousands of classrooms across the nation all participate in this annual project. Teachers have the option of integrating the program throughout the entire school year. “This is also great for homeschoolers,” says Heidi. This makes a great unit study.

During the actual race in March, Heidi will fly up to Alaska and attend the race. She will be there to report and Skype with classrooms about the race as it happens. Flying from checkpoint to checkpoint on a small bush plane, Heidi will be able to show the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes. She will talk to the mushers, visit the towns and villages on the trail, and bring a cultural experience to the students watching.

Becoming the official Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is a big honor. When asked what the application process was like Heidi said, “It was very long and involved. It took from June to December 1st.”After all the paperwork, and I mean paperwork, was done three finalists were flown to Alaska to meet with the Iditarod education team. They toured, were interviewed, made presentations at an Iditarod teacher conference, and were watched every minute. There were people assigned to the candidates to simply watch what they did and how they interacted with other people. All of this was recorded and given to the application team for review. On March 30, 2017, Heidi got her news – she had been chosen. “I have a passion for this. I feel God has brought me this far. It’s not just about the Iditarod. Who knows who I will touch or reach out to while I am there.”

If you are a teacher, homeschooling parent, or just a parent, you are welcome to follow Heidi on her Iditarod adventure.  Or email Heidi at She would love to hear from you!





Day Care vs. Pre-Schools

One of the most frustrating things about shopping for daytime care for young children is sorting through your options. Not all centers are created equal, which makes it difficult to compare them side by side, and there’s a lot more to consider than the price tag