A Life of Education

By Jasmine B., Logic School teacher

I stood in front of a father and his two uniformed children at the grocery store the other day, eavesdropping. 

“Nine times two is?”

“Eighteen!” 

“Twelve times three is?”

“Twenty four?”

“Say what now?”

The kids laughed, but Dad looked pretty serious. “Thirty-six,” his son said, and Dad immediately cracked a smile. “No more B’s on our math tests.”

This dad understood that his responsibility to help his son learn math couldn’t be completely abdicated to whatever school they were enrolled in. He was taking an active part in getting those math facts into his kid’s head. And it didn’t just take place at his desk at school or at the kitchen table at home, but in the grocery store checkout.  

And that poor kid’s eye roll resonated deeply with the childhood “me.” 

Education as Part of Life 

As a homeschool graduate, the scene looked familiar. 

Growing up, we did school all year round, taking breaks whenever family vacations or burnout presented themselves. We didn’t have a set time to finish school each day, sometimes finishing at noon, sometimes taking long breaks during the day and finishing after dinner. And, speaking of dinner, our conversations could range anywhere from why mathematics is important for believers to conquer (there are very few math lovers at my house) to why George Orwell is just a much better dystopian author than Aldous Huxley (my brother and I could never agree). 

For us, education wasn’t just something that happened at school time. All of life was full of opportunities for discovery and illustration. We weren’t antisocial eggheads by any stretch of the imagination, but our thirst for learning was stoked by realizing that learning wasn’t just something that we did from eight to three every day—it was the active worship of our Lord. 

Education as an Act of Worship

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” –Deuteronomy 6:4-9

As the Israelites stand on the verge of walking into the Promised Land, Moses speaks the commandment given him directly from the Lord: love him with all of your heart, teach his ways diligently to your children, and never let up. 

Now, true, this passage says nothing about drilling math facts while you’re buying produce. But throughout the ages the Lord has made himself apparent in a redemptive plan that has been ever-unfolding, a plan that has been revealed to us through the years, a plan that we interpret through his Word. 

And as the plan has unfurled, great mind after great mind has interacted with thought after thought. The act of educating ourselves about these thoughts not only enables us to gain deeper insight into truth, but to articulate that truth with a confidence all our own. And the greatest thinkers have always known: this discovery does not take place in a box. 

Education as a Lifestyle

The concept of education as a lifestyle may be hard to impress upon a middle schooler rolling his eyes in the grocery store checkout. And the concept of education as a lifestyle isn’t always rooted in the gospel. 

But when it is, something beautiful happens:

Education becomes less about not getting a B on the math test and more about viewing math as a vessel for God’s glory. It becomes less about winning an argument and more about relating to others in a meaningful, challenging way that points them to truth, goodness, and beauty. It becomes a passion, a fire lit by educators who want more for their students than empty, heartless repetition eight hours a day. 

This is my goal in the classroom because this was my parents’ goal at home. And abroad. And in the car. And during soccer practice. And in the grocery checkout. 

I hope I never stop learning, never stop growing in a curiosity that is rooted in a desire to know more about the world the Lord has given us, and to become more adept at communicating those truths to others. I hope that for my students, and I hope that for their parents. 

I might have balked, mouth wide open, during those summer days of homeschooling if you told me that I’d end up spending my days in a classroom. But the older I got, the more that balking gave way to the fact that being involved in education as an adult was just inevitable for me, because education is such an inextricable part of my life and my walk. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Annual Pep Talk

By Neil Anderson, Head of School 

It is time for our beginning of year pep talk. I know you need it, so don’t resist. I refuse to begin until you take a deep breath, smile, and say out loud “I am not crazy for doing this.” Well, in fact, you are a bit crazy, but that’s what makes it good.

Now, a few reminders:

1. Be painfully patient. You must give things at least through the first quarter to feel like you have completely found a rhythm. It’s fine to talk through your struggles early with faculty and friends, just don’t gauge your ability to “do this” by what you are experiencing now. Be patient and wait. Your homeschool days will get significantly easier. I have spoken with several veteran families and the struggle is the same for them as they encounter the new territory that comes with students entering higher grades and getting reorganized for a new school year. Be painfully patient.

2. Be joyfully frustrated. Don’t get mad at me, I know this is easier said than done. We talked a lot last year about being an educational community marked by joy. This will not be accomplished if we let our frustrations rob our joy. I do believe there is a way to struggle and to chip away at problems without it being strenuous and joyless. In Pauline fashion, we will “consider it pure joy” when our homeschool days are absolutely killing us. We consider it joy because we are Christians which means that all of life is to be marked by hope and joy, even when life stinks. This is the glorious paradox of the Christian faith, that we can struggle with hope, laugh while we throw our hands in the air, and smile in the midst of sadness. We must refuse to forget that the kingdom of God is at hand. A mind set on the kingdom of this world will be absorbed in futility, but the mind set on the kingdom of God will find life and peace in all things.

It is very dangerous to say something funny while arguing with my wife, but sometimes it is just what is needed. It cuts the tension. It pulls us out of this tight box we have squeezed ourselves into and reminds us that minor things have become major things and it should not be so. So when you work out frustrations, please, wait to do so until you have sought perspective from the Lord. Wait for joy to be restored, and then lets figure some things out together.

3. Be an imperfect perfectionist. I do some homeschool days myself so I understand, you just want to get it right and sometimes you don’t feel like you can. Sometimes you need a little bit more information, sometimes there is a typo in the lesson plans, sometimes you forget where to find what you need, etc. So you get stuck or you have that unsatisfied feeling that you are there, ready to do things perfectly with your students, but you are unsure if you are doing it the way the teacher wants. This absorbs time and makes your schooling feel less than fluid, which in turn can make you feel like your student is not getting what he/she needs. What I mean by an imperfect perfectionist is that you should certainly strive to get it right, but also be willing to fall short without obsessing. This means that while you work at the most fluid and seamless homeschool day possible, be at peace with the days that are not so. Be at peace with not having it quite right yet. This is a basic principle for life. We want it right and want it right now.

I couldn’t sleep at night because our carpool line, with the increase in students, was taking too long and it was chaotic despite our time investment planning. We’re shaving more minutes off the line each day now and it is not chaotic anymore. The obsessing was futile. For homeschooling, this issue is connected to the unavoidable tensions between true learning and grades. Grades are necessary for objective measurement, but they are also a huge distraction in education because so often we obsess over getting it right at the expense of using our instincts to focus on true learning. Sometimes it’s more important to let go of your focus on doing exactly what is supposed to be done, take control, and focus on learning the objectives in front of you based on common sense, as you would if you were homeschooling on your own.

4. On long school days and heavy workload. We have a steady stream of feedback regarding workload and length of homeschool days. This feedback generally spans both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, though it is weighted at the beginning of the year towards “this is so much work.” We do not pretend to believe that we have the workload just perfect, but we are confident that the current load is good. We have told you the target times your students should be working at home, but there are just too many variables to expect the time limit to be normalized for everyone. The main encouragement I want to give you is not to despise long school days. Especially in upper school, the homework concept is grafted in to what we do so it is not unusual to be working in the evening at times. Embrace long days. Your attitude will make all the difference. I realize it can feel like your student might be burning out at times which we do want to be cautious about. But the endurance gained by students on the longer days will be most valuable for them in the future.

The Lord is doing a good work among us and as with any endeavor with humans beings, there will be strain. Let’s strain with joy, be gracious with each other, and model the lives we are calling our students to live. If this isn’t fun, we’re doing something wrong! We are praying that Jesus Christ will reign in your homes, bringing life, joy, and good fruit.

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for reward
Save that of knowing I am doing your will.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

A Note From Mrs. Anderson…

by Marian Anderson, Pre-Grammar Academic Director

At the end of every school year, I start a mental yearly review and summer planning list. I know all the different aspects of this model of schooling and what it takes to get my four kids out the door, ready and in proper uniform, on the first day of school. I know what it takes for me to feel ready for that first home day. I know that it will require many hours spent ordering, shopping, checking lists, and organizing. So come mid-May, I start my mental list of what to do better than the previous year. Order early. Wait for this or that particular sale. Label books as they come in. Yes, rolling backpacks are expensive… and so on.

Our family moved this summer, so things have been a little off kilter. I ordered uniforms in May, patted myself on the back, and resumed all other school related preparations in late July. But no matter what, if I am super organized or barely scraping by, I have this one moment every summer. When the books arrive, and most of the supplies are purchased, and I look at the piles and piles of books and teacher manuals–I always feel completely overwhelmed. I laugh at my mental checklist and begin to consider unschooling.

This year, thankfully, that predictable moment came right before teacher training. Immediately after I battled those thoughts, (I cannot do this, let’s hire a tutor, whose idea was this to begin with, let’s move to Africa) I had the privilege of spending the week in training with our faculty and staff. We spent the week discussing why we are a Christ-centered, Classical, and Collaborative-style school. Why? What does it mean to be these things? I sat and listened to their hearts, to their passions, and the reasons why they are a part of Trinity. And that is what I want to tell you about today, not from a teacher/administrator perspective, but from a mom’s perspective.

One of the points that we came back to over and over throughout the week is that what makes our school Christ-centered is Christians–people who love Jesus and His purposes on the earth. As a mom, I want my children to know math and science and history, but most of all I want them to love Jesus. I want the people in their lives who are influencing them and discipling them to truly love our Savior. And I want their education to be fueled by the desire to know our Creator. I am thankful that the Lord has assembled a faculty at TCS that loves HIm, seeks Him, and desires to make Him known.

This alone flooded my heart with peace. Books will come late and pages will be missing. Water bottles will be lost and expensive rolling backpacks broken. But as the new year begins, I hope that this will serve as a reminder that those things are not the center of our children’s education. TCS strives to make Christ the center in all things, from pencils to philosophy. The administration and board have prayed about and sought counsel on everything, from curriculum to scheduling. Those things are important and vital to the life of our school. But as a mom, I am so thankful that my kids will spend Mondays and Wednesdays with teachers who love Jesus, and love them.

Acquiring Good Taste–Practical Steps

pretty tea cup

by Dr. Lindsey Scholl, Logic School Coordinator

In the last blog post, we discussed the importance of acquiring a taste for the true, the good, and the beautiful for ourselves and not just for our children.  This is important not just because we want to be good models for our children, but because we ourselves are individual children of God; having a healthy intellectual life should therefore be our joyful pursuit, whether we have children or not.

All of this sounds nice in theory, but how do we practice it?  As Yogi Berra has said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”  There are many ways to approach a godly life of intellect.  For this post,  I offer what I consider to be three foundational practices that will aid us in practice and not just in theory.

The first step to acquiring a taste for what is true, good, beautiful, and possibly daunting is attitude.  We must prayerfully adjust our attitudes from “I can’t do it and I don’t want to do it” to “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”   None of us should attempt to read intimidating books, tackle foreign languages, or learn trigonometry in our own power.  We are believers in Christ.  We have emptied ourselves of our own power and we have been filled by Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden!

Sometimes I think that a believer who tries to do something in her own power is in a worse state than a non-believer who attempts the same.  We have already signed over our rights to Christ.  Therefore, whatever small strength we may have had is gone, subsumed into the magnificent, unstoppable power of God.   Bible verses pile all over each other to prove this point, but here is one: 1 Cor. 6:19 states that you are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God with your body (and your mind).

Your attitude and my attitude should be the attitude of Christ Jesus, and Jesus had the unruffled confidence, the steady assurance, the joyful yet impressive work ethic of a conqueror.  As Romans 8:37 says, “we have become more than conquerors through Christ.”

A real-life inspiration for what we can accomplish through God’s help is Cheryl Lowe.  If you are a TCS parent you may recognize that name, since it’s written across the bottom of your Latin books and many other pieces of curriculum.  Cheryl Lowe was a public school teacher who became a homeschool mom, who became dissatisfied with the Latin options for kids.  So she wrote her own curriculum.  Then she founded a publishing press.  Then she founded a school.  Cheryl Lowe has the attitude of a conqueror.

The first step to a healthy intellectual life, then, is to modify your attitude into one of dependence on God, yet utter confidence that he will strengthen you for every good work.  Academically, this good work may be simply pronouncing an unfamiliar term, it may be reading an ancient classic in translation, or it may be it may be learning calculus.  God’s strength is enough for all of the above, and plenty more.

The second step is awareness of the situation in which God has placed you.  When you have young ones running around the home, it is highly unlikely that you’re going to tackle a 900-page book with success.  We have to be realistic.  To start a major intellectual project when you have twenty minutes a week to carry it out might lead to frustration.

You have the option of carrying that “with Christ I can do this” attitude into what your child is learning and learn along with them.  Recite things with them.  Get stronger academically with them.  If while going through the process you can say you have learned a large portion of what your child has learned, then you’ve just received something more valuable than a college education.  If you have a student in the upper grades, read their literature books along with them.  If you have a student in the lower grades, and they’re researching, for example, the state of Ohio, find adult parallels to what they’re learning.  That way, you will become an expert on Ohio–a rare find in Texas–and also be able to supplement your child’s learning.

Your intellectual growth does not have to be a different project than your child’s.  The chances are great that you will not have time to study the constellations if your student is studying the parts of a plant.  It is okay, even desirable, to merge your subject of study with what your student is studying.

The third step of practicality is to learn with your inclinations, but stretch your inclinations.  Not all of us are Lord of the Ring fans, and not all of us are math wizards.  Learn in the areas that interest you, but be willing to stretch that circle bit by bit into other areas.  Is it possible for you to develop a taste for Ernest Hemingway when all you have read is C.S. Lewis?  Yes.  Is it possible for you to take interest in the working of a cell when what you really want to be doing is eating humus and exercising?  Of course.  I may never be a mathematician, but how wonderful it would be if I could learn enough math to apply it to the subjects that are close to my heart?

I mentioned earlier that drinking tea is a respite for me now, whereas at one point in my life it was a chore.  The same applies to learning.  One of these days, you might find that a Jane Austen novel or gazing at the stars and knowing their patterns is a desirable experience that refreshes you.  You’ll be drawn toward those experiences, you’ll thirst for them, because you’ve made it a priority to acquire a taste for them.

Note: A great resource to start you on your lifelong journey of education is The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, by Susan Wise Bauer. This books offers suggestions on how to read various literary genres.

Why Latin? The Short Tale of Two Historians

by Dr. Lindsey Scholl, TCS Logic School Coordinator

There have been many, many articles published recently on why the study of Latin will help your children’s thinking, improve their SAT scores, provide them with an expansive vocabulary, and generally help them to understand—or even improve—Western Civilization as we know it.

It’s all true. Latin is invaluable as a learning tool; it not only expands our own minds, but it opens doors to almost every discipline in which your child may be interested, from music to chemistry, from engineering to theology.

Today, however, I will only recommend those articles and not try to rewrite them. Today I want to share a personal story about the learning of Latin—or rather, the lack thereof.

My PhD is in Roman history, and in order to be a historian of any salt, I had to know Latin. Yet I did not take my first Latin class until I began my Master’s program, not because I didn’t want to take it earlier, but because Latin was not offered in either my high school or my undergraduate program. As a result, though my PhD concerns the culture that produced Latin, I often felt behind in the language. Many other graduate students felt the same; they loved history, but were frustratingly barred from a full understanding by a lack of background in Latin. Some struggled to complete their degree because of this.

My husband, on the other hand, began studying Latin in third grade. He is also a historian, although in Medieval History, where Latin is critical. While he didn’t particularly enjoy Latin class as a child, he’s grateful for it now. During the course of our degrees, I would have to resort to a dictionary, while he, with paradigms lodged firmly in his head, picked out the accusative and the nominative with blinding speed, and had the sentence halfway translated before I was out of the starting gate.

As Cheryl Lowe says in the introduction to First Form Latin, “Students enjoy what they have thoroughly learned. They do not enjoy what they have half learned and half understood.” I will further add that a subject half learned can drive the learner crazy, as she has learned just enough to realize her own lack.

For better or for worse, Latin is the linguistic key to our culture and to a large portion of our church. From the publication of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate in the early 400s to the spoken language translations beginning in the 1300s, Latin was the language of Christianity. Anyone who founded a university knew Latin. Anyone who wrote on Christian subjects wrote in Latin. As late as the 1800s, an industrialist named J.P. Migne compiled a massive collection of almost all western Christian writing, called the Patrologia Latina. Migne saw no reason to translate those writings. Nor did he see any reason to write the introductions to those treasures of our past in English. It’s all in Latin.

Your children may not grow up to be historians. They may never want to read the Patrologia Latina or contemplate an inscription on a stained glass window. But then again, they might. You want them to be able to do so with confidence; you don’t want them to have to wait for a graduate program to learn what they could have learned in grammar school. Trust me–in graduate school, they don’t provide helpful and fun recitations.

If you haven’t enrolled your student in Latin for the 2012-2013, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. At TCS, we are trying to open doors to our students by using traditional educational methods and subjects. We want our students to enjoy the tools of learning that were not available to many of us. And we want our students to excel at anything God calls them to be (and I think I’ve already seen some future historians walking the halls).

Meals

by Neil Anderson, Head of School

I love a good meal. A nice table, solid chairs filled with people I love, ample time, and… oh yes, good food. Food is what defines a meal, but hardly what makes a good one. It is important that our children grow up healthy and strong, eating the meat and vegetables that put hair on the boys’ chests and help our young ladies become princesses. The “meal” is formative beyond nutrient consumption though. In the Christian home, the meal becomes a critical opportunity for discipleship, education, family nurture, and even training in manners.

Meals are a regular part of the Biblical narrative, from the Israelite traditon of feasts to Jesus’ method of quality time with his disciples to the promise of what is to come in the new creation. In these contexts, eating is a means of relational investment, celebration, quality time, and education.

I have two goals in writing about meals. One: If you have not yet begun to regularly use a meal as context for family nurture, I am hoping you will reconsider. Two: If family meals are already a regular part of your home routine, I want to tempt you towards milking more out of them–no pun intended.

I believe a couple of lists would be appropriate here to avoid an all-too-lengthy post:

Reasons for regular family meals

  • Families need time to ALL be together on a regular basis. It seems tragic to me if this time is only on weekends, at bedtime, or on vacations.
  • I don’t know about you, but much of what I remember from my childhood, by way of family time, happened at the dinner table.
  • Dinner might be one of the rare moments in the day when you have all your children still for an extended period of time at once.
  • It’s a valuable Christian tradition that is worth keeping intact. If we do it, it is likely that our children will too when they are parents.
  • Sharing meals teaches our children that we value family in a practical way.
  • It’s a good accountability measure to get mom or dad home from work at a healthy hour.
  • It’s an excellent context for family worship, nurture, education. See next list.

Ideas for regular family meal content

  • Nothing formal, just be together, laugh, touch base, look each other in the face, regularly realize God’s goodness to your family.
  • Disciple
    • Read through books of the Bible together.
    • Read from a family devotional.
    • Sing hymns before or after… maybe practice morning assembly material?
    • Let a different family member be the prayer focus each meal.
    • Use the meal as a context to learn about and pray for people who rarely have full meals… we eat all of our vegetables because we are grateful, not necessarily because we like them!
    • Ask probing age-appropriate heart questions (grammar school in mind here)
      • How do you know God was part of your day? What made you happy today? Did you have any struggles today? Did anything make you mad? Sad? What did you do about it? How were you obedient? How were you disobedient? Is there anything you need to make right? Did you honor your father/mother? Did mom or dad do anything we need to ask forgiveness for? Did you love your siblings well? What are you proud of? Are you giving all the credit to Jesus? Etc.
    • Ask thought-provoking questions about God and His world
      • Why do you think God made things this way or that way? Why do you think God does this or that to us? Did you know that Bible says x,y,z -amazing thing? What do you think Jesus thinks about this or that?
    • Share your life with your children. Answer their questions about what goes on during your day. Tell them when your days are hard or stressful. Tell them what mistakes you made that day and what you did about it. Tell them what you love about being a mom/dad. Tell them stories of what you were like when you were a kid.
  • Educate
    • Ask what your child learned in school that day. You will find that you will have to be specific here, especially with most boys, which may require you to know ahead of time what they learned. In most cases Mom does most of the home teaching, so if Dad leads this time, this is a great opportunity to show your children that Dad values their education and is seeking to be a part. It is also a form of continued education since you are basically having your children informally narrate what they have learned. This is often more effective than formal narration.
      • I understand you are reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at lunch. What is happening in the story? What did you learn about Napoleon today? Was he a good man? What did he do? Are fractions easy or hard? You need to eat at least one third of your broccoli.
    • Work through a great piece of literature during dessert. There are several great anthologies of short classic children stories that are good for this. Or read the Narnia series along with us. Rereading sections at home would be great for students as they are sometimes distracted during lunch.
    • Do some informal education through a fun facts or trivia book.
    • This may sound weird, but we often make our kids answer questions in order to get their dessert. We have fun with it, silly and serious questions, usually a mix from all different places in their curricula (Recite Romans 12:9-14. What is an adverb? How do you say “father” in Latin? Who is your favorite dad?). They still get dessert if they get it wrong.
    • Teach your children manners. If you don’t have meals together, it is hard for children to have any regular context for learning manners. Different families have varying amounts of expected formality at the home dinner table. Even if your expectations might be lower at home, children will need to know how to put more formal manners into play when it is expected. We have some day-to-day expectations (sitting properly, chewing with mouth closed, saying “please pass,” asking to be excused, etc). But we also have mock formal dinners every once in a while for fun. We break out the “fine china,” make sure everyone is properly clothed, and pretend like we are at a fancy restaurant. Our children get to learn some finer manners in this context. And Dad gets to remember his.

I am sure many of you have great ideas from your experience- please share! We do not have dinner together every night. I wish that were the case. But we do as much as possible. Saturday breakfast and Sunday lunch with extended family have been significant in our family as well.  We do different things from the list above in different seasons of life as the Lord leads.

At our recent “TCS Dads and Donuts” gathering, I was at a table discussing application questions from Bill Streger’s encouraging message.  One of the TCS fathers at the table happened to have an older and younger set of children. The older ones had already left home. His comments renewed my passion for the dinner table. He said he would pay any amount of money to have one more meal with one of his older ones as a child again. I know we will all feel the same. Let’s treasure these times and glorify God at our meals.

Neil Anderson / Head of School

 

 

Commitment

by Neil Anderson, Head of School

We cannot pursue a classical and Christian education as a fad. We are not purchasing intellectual hula hoops for the kids.” ~ Douglas Wilson

For many, the introduction to Trinity Classical School came in the context of an Information Meeting. I love Information Meetings. I love them because they give me a platform to speak about some of my greatest passions (Christ, worship, family, education, etc.) and to try to convert families in Houston towards a Christ-centered, classical vision of education.

Information Meetings are also quite dangerous. The reality is, classical education sells. When it is articulated well it typically scratches people where they are itching, whether they are grieving their own education or frustrated with what they are experiencing in a progressive school. While I am happy to scratch, I am nervous about the short sell. Many of us are the type who are easily excited by new and challenging ventures without fully considering the cost. Show me a documentary of a marathon runner and I’ll have my shoes laced up by time the credits roll, forgetting that I have a wife, a bunch of kids, a job, a church, and need to be willing to beat the sun out of bed. Or, if I’m struggling to get back into running, I may feel I just need a new pair of running shoes, as if the shoes will run for me.

“A classical and Christian education is not a package-deal. No one supplier or textbook publisher will provide you everything you need in a 50 pound box, delivered by UPS. Western culture weighs more than this…” (Callihan, Jones, Wilson; Classical Education and the Homeschool). I would also add that no one classical school, administration, or set of teachers, can supply this either. The danger, to be more explicit, is that we get sold on university-style, classical education as a great option for our children, but forget what it is asking of us as administrators, teachers, and most importantly… parents.

Of the many things classical education is asking of us, there are two that reign supreme: reading and teaching.

Reading
We cannot be involved in education without reading. For one, students learn much through imitation. If we want our children to read, which we do, it is crucial for them to see us read. This is true of the school staff, although harder to model, but even more important for parents. Teachers can allude to what they are reading at home or even converse openly (in older grades) about what is being read in leisure time. For parents, it’s simple: do your children ever see you read? Christian parents should know the value of being seen reading their Bibles. In other contexts this could be interpreted as pharisaical publicized spirituality. But we know that in the home, we want our children to “catch us” reading our Bibles so they are shaped by what we value. This is actually one reason I am not a huge fan of digital reading. You might by digging into 1 John on your iPad, but for all your kids know, you are emotionally involved in an intense game of Angry Birds. When we don’t read, we are in danger of being hypocritical with our children as we attempt to train them to value and enjoy reading in their education. A child’s love for reading will be shaped much more from a parent’s model than a teacher’s.

Also, as we try to consistently drill in, the quality of books read is most important. Modeling Bible-reading is essential, but then to spend the rest of your leisure reading People Magazine would be counterproductive. Nor is the idea to read Moby Dick as a good model reader, all the while despising what you are reading. As adults we should value spending time in literature that is rich, thought provoking, creativity stimulating, theologically challenging, historically informative, intelligently humorous, etc. If you did not read the Great Books in your own education, and you want to be involved in a classical and university-style school, you will want to get a head start if you have any intentions of conversing with your student in the classics, let alone teaching them. You must be a reader to be a teacher.

Teaching
As we move into the second semester of this school year, it is a good time to remember that co-teachers (parents) need to pursue professional development just as teachers do. Just because the school teacher is taking the lead in curriculum does not mean the co-teacher should abdicate all of the “real” teaching to the teacher. Teaching is hard work and requires preparation to be done well. Novels should be read prior to teaching them and then reread along with the student. Lessons should be studied ahead of time and taught in a planned manner to students. Even if a student is progressing well and increasing in ability to complete lessons alone, the co-teacher should still be involved 80% of the time, teaching and correcting as the student works.

In the early grammar years it is fairly simple to “wing it”. In the upper grammar years it is tempting to allow your student to complete their work without much of your help so you can tend to other things. But students will tend to not take it seriously if you do not. They will also begin to pick up on the fact that you do not feel like working, so neither do they. We all remember having hypocritical teachers who asked much of us but put little effort in themselves. It is difficult to want to do good work for these teachers. Conversely, we were motivated to work for teachers who were by our side until we grasped concepts or who we could tell read our papers thoroughly and provided substantial feedback.

This process requires time and effort, but ultimately, it is far more enjoyable and incredibly more fruitful. You will enjoy home days that are planned and that you have prepared for. Your children will enjoy them too. On a practical note, go back and carefully read the introductions to all of your curricula and also the resources we have put out as a school. These documents will serve as philosophical refreshers. You may be surprised to find things you are neglecting that you didn’t realize.

Typically, one of two things can happen at the mid-year point. Things that you have been negligent of will slip further and further away. Or you will gain some resolve to conduct more dynamic homeschool days through reading, studying, preparing, and taking your students deeper into their academic disciplines. I would encourage you toward the latter.

I do not say this to scare you, but within the university-style school, your student’s academic “success” is largely contingent upon you. You are at TCS because you have felt the conviction to educate your children and I pray that your passion and energy for this will be renewed. If you are tempted to roll your eyes at this as you consider it in light of multiple children, housework, and the grueling homeday trenches… consider unrolling your eyes, commit to re-evaluating your home days, and start with some simple changes in your teaching commitments. All of us can aim a little higher.

For more stimulation in this area, consider starting with two short reads: The Seven Laws of Teaching, by John Milton Gregory, and Classical Education and the Homeschool, by Wes Callihan, Douglas Jones, and Douglas Wilson.

The Trivium: Putting the Pieces Together

by Mark Palmer, Founding Board Member 
The Trivium, Latin for “three ways,” is one of the key concepts guiding the classical approach at Trinity Classical School of Houston. The Trivium shapes the TCS curriculum from Pre-K to our eventual 12th grade. With the concept of the Trivium having many layers, what is the best way to describe this idea? At TCS we apply each of the three phases of the Trivium– Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric– in both a narrow sense and a broader sense. For example, “Grammar” refers to the rules governing language, which TCS students certainly learn, but Grammar also applies in the broader sense to “the rules and basic facts concerning any subject.” Similarly, Logic and Rhetoric are taught as individual subjects at TCS, as well as each shaping an entire four-year phase of learning.Authors and historians have used several methods of describing the three Trivium phases. Dorothy Sayers used the alliterative Poll-parrot (for the fundamental Grammar phase), Pert (for the inquisitive Logic phase), and Poetic (for the expressive Rhetoric phase). As a Christian school, we also find an appropriate parallel in the biblical progression from knowledge to understanding to wisdom. In Exodus 35:31 Moses commends Bezalel by observing that he was filled with “the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.”It’s even possible to summarize the Trivium using the tersest of mnemonics– . ? ! — symbolizing Grammar as the ‘what’ (expressed as a factual statement ending in a period.), Logic as the ‘why’ (symbolized with a question mark?), and Rhetoric as the ‘how’ (expressed with an enthusiastic exclamation point!)

Let’s add another illustration to the pile, hopefully adding some perspective on how we view the Trivium at TCS.

The Trivium as a jigsaw puzzle

Neuschwanstein castle puzzleEnvison a large jigsaw puzzle featuring a photo of King Ludwig’s majestic castle Neuschwanstein, complete with blue sky, soaring castle walls, and Bavarian foliage. How can this puzzle help us understand the Trivium? The process of learning with the Trivium is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

 

The first Trivium phase, Grammar (Pre-K through 4th grade), is like getting the pieces of the puzzle. Find a large flat surface, open the box, dump out the pieces, untangle them, spread them out, and turn them all face up. The jumble of jagged cardboard certainly doesn’t look anything like the picture on the boxtop. But it is important to prepare for puzzle-solving by gathering the full set of pieces. This step cannot be skipped; if we reach into the box, scoop up a small handful of pieces and try to start connecting them, we will end in frustration. We need a broad view of all the shapes and colors across the entire puzzle.

 

The second Trivium phase, Logic (5th through 8th grade), is like assembling the puzzle. We sort the pieces, group all the pieces with blue sky into one area, and all the pieces showing trees into another area. Then we find and connect the edge and corner pieces to form the puzzle’s border. We ask questions along the way. Where does this corner piece belong? What colors and shapes belong together? Are there any distinct features that provide clues? Can I analyze the groups of pieces to find patterns and connections?

The third phase of the Trivium phase, Rhetoric (9th through 12th), is like describing the completed puzzle and explaining the story behind it. There is meaning and application that can be extracted from the completed puzzle, beyond the cardboard pieces and the assembled image. What can we say about the image depicted? What does it represent? Why is it important? How did a castle like Neuschwanstein come to be built? What motivated Ludwig to build this? What were the consequences? What lessons can we apply to our life?

The Trivium applied to learning history
We can trace the direct effect of the Trivium on how TCS students learn history. TCS students memorize a Grammar of History timeline spanning from Creation to the present. Learning the 79 timeline “pegs” (which consist of dates and events) allows students to mentally hang subsequent learning on or near a peg, developing a mastery of key events in world history. In the Logic phase students begin to inquire about the “why” of the events. Not just when was World War I fought, but what motivated the alliances? What was each country’s objective? What affect did this war have on World War II? In the Rhetoric phase, students are expected to clearly express an opinion, develop a thesis, and support it with facts and logic from the prior Trivium phases.

The Trivium applied to learning science
We also need to remember that the Trivium principles can apply equally well to math, science, and technology. Let’s look at chemistry as an example. In third grade chemistry (Grammar phase) TCS students get the puzzle pieces. The pieces include electrons, atoms, molecules, compounds, mixtures, acids, and bases. Students learn the difference between each of these. Student learn about pH, electron orbits, atomic weights, and types of reactions. When TCS students revisit chemistry in the seventh grade (Logic phase) they will assemble the pieces. The assembly process involves asking a lot of questions: What is the logic behind the order of the periodic table? What’s so “noble” about the noble gases? Why is copper such a good conductor of electricity? What’s the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry? In eleventh grade chemistry (Rhetoric phase), TCS students will combine their knowledge from the Grammar phase and their understanding from the Logic phase to observe phenomena, make calcuations, and articulate outcomes. How can we use our understanding to balance an equation? Can we predict what will happen when we mix two compounds? How does the Arrhenius concept apply to this problem?

Puzzle piecesSo if trivium education is a jigsaw puzzle, Grammar school is about giving the students puzzle pieces, Logic school is about students learning to put those pieces together, and the main agenda of Rhetoric school is standing over the picture, viewing it, thinking about it, articulating what they see, and creating new applications and insights.

Reading Well

by Annamarie Dewhurst: Academic Coordinator

HOW TO CREATE A CULTURE OF READING IN THE HOME

During our campus days at Trinity Classical School, we work hard to foster a culture of reading. Likewise, we encourage parents to be intentional in creating an atmosphere in their home that values high quality books and reading. Reading is a door into another world, but children can be hindered from discovering that door and fully engaging in the world of excellent books if image-based media (television, videos, computer, ipad, video games, etc) dominates their waking hours.

Unplug. Until children are reading fluently and love to read, TCS encourages you to exclude any type of flickering screen from your child’s daily routine. Once a child is a flourishing reader, still exercise caution and use image-based media very sparingly, preferably as a whole-family activity such as a family movie night rather than as a parenting tool. For more discussion on children and media, we recommend reading Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman and other books such as The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn and Endangered Minds by Jane Healy.

Add quality literature. Once you have removed screen time from your child’s daily routine, replace that time with books. Not just any books, but high quality children’s literature. Become an expert in excellent children’s literature. Start with the TCS Reading List. You can learn as you go. There are also many other books and resources to help you, including Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson, For the Childrens’ Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and Educating the Wholehearted Child by the Clarksons. Print out the 1000 Good Books List from www.classical-homeschooling.org. Use the list to track books you have read to your children or that they have read or to get ideas for your home library. It is especially helpful for younger children, when you can go through picture books five or ten a day.

Read daily. Aim to read to your children every day. Of course there will be days missed due to illness, travel or other circumstances. But if you aim for every day, the cumulative effect of 18 years of reading together and shared experiences will be a rich heritage for your children. Many fathers have rediscovered reading by having a book they read aloud to their children each night before bed. Mothers or whoever is home during the day should also keep a read aloud going if possible, separate from the evening readaloud. If you need inspiration, take a few minutes to read this article.

HOW TO BUILD A HOME LIBRARY

Show your children that you love books and they will love books, too. You can build a home library and also use your local library to choose quality books and feed your children’s minds with beautifully written books that will nourish their souls.

Books as gifts. Rather than buying toys as gifts, buy books for your children. Ask for books for gifts from grandparents or other relatives who would like gift ideas.

Books as souvenirs. When you travel on vacation or business, bring your children books instead of souvenir t-shirts. Seek out used book shops when you travel–many times they will have out of print treasures that are hard to find, especially at a reasonable price.

Library book sales. One of the best resources for building a home library inexpensively is library book sales. It takes some time to comb through the offerings, but many high quality and classic childrens’ books are being discarded and sold for a fraction of the cost of a new book. Familiarize yourself with quality childrens’ books before going or go with a friend who can help you select books.

Used books. Other good options are used book shops, used online book sellers, e-bay, and even thrift shops.

Out-of-print books. Some of the best books are not being re-printed, though with the popularity of homeschooling and classical schooling, many previously out of print books are being reprinted. It is worth the time and effort to find out-of-print books for your children. When in doubt, buy older books. They tend to be well-written and with strong Christian moral grounding.

The local library. For some families, fostering a culture of reading in their home will mean weekly or even twice weekly trips to the library, checking out the quality books libraries still carry. Do not let your children bring “twaddle” home. Tell them they can choose from anything on a high quality reading list and they will have abundant choices. This will often involve requesting online to be transferred as many Houston libraries have a small selection of the best children’s literature.

  • Harris county Public Library. 26 branches. Books can be requested online and delivered to any branch that you request. They will notify you by email that your book has arrived. Books may be renewed online for up to six weeks. www.hcpl.net
  • Houston Public Library www.hpl.lib.tx.us

APPLICABLE LINKS

Brilliance

by Neil Anderson, Head of School

Dominus Illuminatio Mea

The world is littered with intelligent people who are not brilliant. Smart people who are arrogant. Skilled people who are selfish. Experts who are morally corrupt.

Sometime in the 1700′s the word “bright” began to be used to describe intelligence. Before that it was only used to refer to something that has a shiny quality. Both meanings are important for our purposes at TCS. We are hopeful that our students would be shiny, intelligent people–those who radiate with the brilliance of God.

The people in education who have had the most dramatic impact on me are the ones whose intelligence is brilliant. They have a way of bringing the most mundane subjects to life. They don’t just relay knowledge–they function as vessels of the infinite brilliance of God. They recognize that life is a series of steady miraculous moments in which we should be steadily wowed were we not so indifferent.

It is fairly simple to distinguish between the intelligent and the brilliant in this sense. The intelligent are happy they know what they know and happy for you to hear about it. The brilliant are happy to know some of what God knows and happy to help you access that yourself. Listening to a brilliant person makes you want to learn/worship. Listening to an intelligent person makes you want to sleep. The British seem to have a more effective use of this word. When they say “that’s brilliant,” they tend to mean it is both genius and stimulating.

Brilliance is a great word for the classical Christian education agenda. We are certainly investing towards intelligence, but praying desperately that God would grow a brilliance in our students. Our Latin motto this year is “Dominus illuminatio mea,” the Lord is my light. This is a phrase we have put forth hoping students will own it more and more through the years. Not only that the Lord would be their source of truth, but also their source of the brilliance.

One of our teachers recently relayed some information she thought I would enjoy about a student who was having trouble staying on topic. Apparently this student, who is in one of our younger grades, would raise his hand in the middle of math lessons to announce things like “God is the light of the world,” or “God loves you and you and you and you,” pointing around the room. I did enjoy this. I enjoyed it because little scenarios like this force the issue. In a public school it’s an awkward situation, in our school these comments are every bit relevant to any subject being studied. These comments could never really be considered off topic at TSC.

We pray that TCS students will be bright, knowing the Lord is our light, our Truth, our only hope of brilliance.