by Dr. John Scholl, Academic Dean and Rhetoric Director

This year, the TCS ninth graders are engaged in a four part study of the ancient world—Israel, Greece, Rome, and early Christianity—and at each stop along our journey we have analyzed heroes, men and women who were idolized by these cultures. Thus far, we have compiled a long list of men and women, including Abraham and Jacob from Israel, Achilles and Odysseus from Greece, and Mucius and Lucretia from Rome. These people are windows into the cultures they represent and are worthy of study because they show us what kind of people these cultures considered great and admirable.

I also find this study rewarding on a personal level. As a kid, I often thought about heroes, of course the superheroes who lived on TV, but even more so, historical American heroes: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and my favorite, Davy Crockett. I wanted to emulate them, so I dressed as Davy Crockett for Halloween and read several books about him. My heart thrilled with excitement as I learned his story: his rise from obscurity to the halls of Congress (he even considered running for President!), his journey to Texas, and his death at the Alamo, as he sacrificed himself for the liberty of his new home. It seemed like a marvelous story. It inspired me and shaped my vision of greatness.

Crockett would have fit easily among the ranks of Roman heroes. In the third quarter, the 9th graders read Books 1 and 2 of Livy’s History of Rome and there encountered many of Rome’s most cherished legends. The story of Mucius is a great example. Mucius became a hero when he attempted to assassinate a king who was marching against Rome. The assassination went awry, but rather than accepting execution meekly, Mucius stood before the king, jabbed his right hand in a fire, and casually burned it off, to display the courage and determination of the Roman people. His message was simple: Romans would sacrifice everything rather than accept the loss of liberty. Shocked by Mucius’ act, the king gave up his invasion. Livy argues that Rome’s greatness and glory were established by men and women like Mucius, lovers of liberty, models of courage, patriotism, and self-sacrifice.

Then Julius Caesar arrived on the scene (to oversimply the story just a bit). Caesar was certainly courageous but not terribly interested in self-sacrifice or liberty. He sought glory and was as much a Greek hero, in the model of Achilles or Alexander the Great, as a Roman one. His accession to power was a watershed moment for Rome. In accepting him as dictator for life, the Romans created a new heroic ideal, by which men became idols (in fact, many were deified) partly by wooing the people with gifts: food—ultimately free grain for a city of more than 500,000 people—and entertainment. This new type of hero, almost a complete opposite to the heroes of the past, was the standard for Caesar’s successors, the emperors who created Imperial Rome.

Why study this? Or what should we learn from this? I always struggle to answer those questions for my students. Applying the lessons of history can be a difficult task, one that is done poorly, in my opinion, more often than well. That said, I will offer briefly one lesson that I hope the 9th graders will learn from our study.

The rise of Caesar, and in him the creation of a new Roman ideal, is a great reminder that we need to choose our heroes carefully. Livy wrote his history to point out the dangers of the new imperial ideal and to call his fellow Romans back to the past, to the greater, higher heroism of men like Mucius. In a similar vein, one might call Americans back to our past heroes—surely a fitting pursuit in an election year. However, I want to take the lesson in a different direction. As a youth, I could love Davy Crockett only because I was ignorant of his faults. He was courageous and patriotic, yes, but also neglectful of his family and of God. He was in many ways, then, a great American—patriotic, courageous, passionate about liberty—but not a great Christian. American Christians can easily fall into the trap that captured me, lionizing American heroes while ignoring their pursuit of Christ. Sadly, many great Americans have not been great Christians. We must, therefore, be wary of following them too closely and look elsewhere for our heroes. That is what my students are considering as they study early Christianity in the fourth quarter.


The Heavens Declare

heavens declare

by Kate Patrick, Rhetoric School Math/Science

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words,

whose voice is not heard…

The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure,

making wise the simple;

the precepts of the Lord are right,

rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure,

enlightening the eyes;

Psalm 19: 1-3, 7-8

Take a few moments and transport your mind back to the Renaissance. You’re Tycho Brahe, spending your nights gazing at the stars from the attic of your home, taking notes and doing math, charting the regularity of God’s creation. During the day, you join your family and your community at mass, hearing, in Latin, the words of the 19th psalm. King David, speaking to you from across the centuries, communicating the rhythmic regularity and beauty of the created world. You think, “How did David know? Had he charted the course of the stars? How could he have this depth of knowledge of God’s perfection without the physical evidence I am faced with night after night?”

Tycho Brahe, believing wholeheartedly in the perfection of God’s created order, correctly predicted several major astronomical events in his lifetime. He then passed down his charts and computations to Johannes Kepler, who would in turn, gave them structure and codified them in to scientific law. These men, scientists to their core, physicists before the science had unified in to one field, relied on the Word of God’s promise of perfection to explore His Created world. One could argue that this was the reality of scientific exploration through the majority of its history – men (and later women) of faith, seeking to define what God had already perfectly balanced and enumerated.

When Sir Isaac Newton published his magnum opus, 1687’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematice, he used the work of Brahe and Kepler to expand the natural laws that God had set forth to include the concept of gravity and suddenly, our solar system came into view. Our Heavens sung the song of perfect creation and we could describe natural phenomena, wondrous creation that had captured the imagination of generations. Science’s faith in God’s perfection in creation even lead to a 200 year-long chase to capture the “missing” 43 arc-seconds per century in the perihelion of Mercury. Many scientists tried and failed to find the cause of the shift in Mercury’s orbit, something that would cause the planet to seem to defy the order of the Laws of Creation. Finally resolved by Einstein in his description of relativity, the chase was over, and the perfection of God’s creation left scientists in awe once again. Einstein himself said, “There is no logical way to the discovery of elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.”

This brings our trek through the history of science and scientific thought to today. No longer taught to seek out God’s perfection seeing everywhere the “order lying behind the appearance”, scientists are currently being educated in the art of the fudge-factor. If chaos births chaos and created order is not to be expected from our world, then there is no reason to pursue an answer to a question. Science is compromised in the substitution of interpretation for facts, in perspective for the truth. If there is no Creator and no created order, then there is no reason to believe that perfection can be found, so the pursuit is dropped wholesale. As Believers, we know that this is not true, that we can see the Hand of God working in our natural world and that His creation is ours to discover.

As we steward the next generation of scientists, let’s remind them (and ourselves) not just of the beauty of the world around us, but of the order and the regularity of God’s design. Who knows what wonders can be unlocked if our science begins, once again, to acknowledge that we are not describing a chaotic system of uncontrolled chain reactions beginning with a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa, but that we are observing and defining an intricately designed machine that was built specifically with us in mind and in heart?

Singing the praises

keys_treble_clef_music_notes_74359_2560x1440by Brandon Pafford, Choir Director

Greetings from the TCS Choir Director! Teaching choir is a fascinating position with many challenges and rewards and I am honored and blessed to teach at TCS. I love working with the students on the aspect of music making. In my first TCS blog post, I’d like to share a little about myself as well as what I am trying to achieve at TCS.

My journey as a pianist began under the tutelage of my piano teacher-mother. I vaguely remember being given a choice to either do dishes or practice piano after supper. In our house of mostly boys (Dad, two brothers, and myself), Dad made it a rule whoever cooked does not do the dishes… In high school I enjoyed making music at the piano and took that skill to college. Then I earned an undergraduate and Masters in Piano Performance and a Masters in Accompanying and Chamber Music, and soon I was working as a musician in Houston.

So where does children’s music fit into that, you ask? I asked the Lord the same question when I kept bumping into Neil Anderson around Bethel (my church). The topic of TCS needing music in their curriculum came up each time. I told the Lord, “All I know is piano, theory, music history; not teaching music to children.” But you know the Lord, always stretching and wanting us to go places seemingly foreign for His purposes and not ours.

The blessings were immediate. I experienced satisfaction and fulfillment through tough lessons and students, as well as the Lord’s guiding presence. I realized I had retained a lot through my parents’ years of teaching children’s music at church, experience which I believed the Lord instilled in me from their instruction over my entire childhood.

So my background, albeit void of traditional music education, was preparing me for Trinity. Besides my history, I have specifically trained in a method called Kodàly. Basically, a Hungarian composer sought to make the whole country improve music literacy so that every student could read music when they graduated from traditional schooling. He used the folks songs passed down from generations to instruct students in singing, reading, and creating music. Due to poverty, musical instruments were not as readily incorporated, as in other more prominent European countries. I have found this same method engages students in music.

Think about it: where did you learn “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “London Bridge is Falling Down,” “Ring-around the Rosie,” etc.? Through “classic” folk repertoire, children learn and enjoy music. At TCS I like to take this a step further to traditional Christian folklore, such as “The Wise Man Built His House,” “Deep and Wide,” “I am a C-H, etc. There are literally thousands of folk songs that simplify music to the basics of tuneful singing, rhythm/beat development, and—probably the most important aspect—love of music. You’ve heard those waiters in the restaurant trying to sing “Happy Birthday” haven’t you? They never can quite stay on pitch. Hopefully every TCS student by graduation can not only stay on pitch but also read music.

So those are the basics—but for what? What then do we do with that? I’ve tried to wrestle with this and ask the Lord how to take it a step further. I have two main objectives.The first is that music making through choir or singing is to glorify God. The Psalms are saturated with praising/glorifying God through singing (Psalm 13:6, 18:49, 96:1, 104:33). Scripture clearly tells us to sing. I saw a quote on another music teacher’s window that proclaimed, “Music is what feelings sound like.” It is my prayer that TCS students can learn to sing well in order to express their feelings and grow closer to their Creator.


The second aspect was actually made clearer in last quarter’s morning assembly passage, Romans 12. Of course v. 16 stands out to me because of the musical term “harmony,” but I also hear the theme of “discipline yourself to be selfless.” The word “choir,” derived from Latin chorus, has the meaning of “uttering the same thing simultaneously.” I love the vowel ooo. For some reason a true unison and perfect intonation is achieved. There is something moving when 50+ 3rd graders do that on a single pitch. Why not direct that to the Lord for His glory?

It is my goal at TCS to discipline and teach the students to “live in harmony with one another” through music making to praise and glorify God. I understand if choir is not everyone’s favorite part of TCS. I understand it can be difficult to love and enjoy music when I make them sing silly songs like “Mrs Murphy’s Chowder” (for pitch tuning), or say tah and ti-ti (for rhythmic literacy) or singing solfège hand signs every lesson (do re mi fa sol la ti do for music literacy and pitch recognition). But the overarching goal is for the Lord.

I hope that gives you insight to choir if you’ve never known what really goes on. I also hope you  see the importance of music. I didn’t even mention the studies that say musical training results in improved cognitive skills, higher paying jobs, and literal growth of the size of the brain. That can be another blog entry.

My prayer for your TCS student is to enjoy music and use it to glorify the Lord.

Great Expectations

fish-high-expectationsby Sarah Pfannenschmidt, Logic School Humanities teacher

While in Dallas at the ACCU conference last summer, I had the privilege of listening to Classical educators Douglas and Nancy Wilson give a session entitled, ‘High Expectations.’ I’m not sure what appealed more: the chance to hear the Wilsons speak or the possibility of defining what ‘high expectations’ means.

There’s something about Christian Classical education that seems to foster high expectations and require their articulation in a set of standards. Here at TCS, we certainly expect a great deal from our students. Anyone who browses through our academic schedule (rigorous!) or read our dress code policy (extensive!) would confirm this. Yet in a world that increasingly trumpets that there is no absolute truth, these expectations-turned-standards are both inspiring and daunting. I confess that as a teacher, I often wonder if my expectations for my students are appropriate. For example, I remember the terror my third graders shot at me when I challenged them to memorize chemistry definitions or parse Latin nouns. Their reactions were sufficient to make me paranoid as a first-year teacher. I couldn’t help asking, “Am I expecting too much of these kids?”

It was, therefore, immensely reassuring to hear the Wilsons explain that high standards are supposed to be “hard for” students to achieve, but not be “hard on” them. What’s the difference? The design of high standards is to train our students to 1) recognize the value of hard work, 2) develop self-respect, and 3) learn to thrive in the obedience that liberates. Consider God’s righteous and perfect law, which is the highest of all standards. His expectation is that we will demonstrate Christ in all we do, whether it be washing dishes or teaching Latin. We are enabled to do so because Christ has already met the standards on our behalf. Truly, this is good news! We are allowed to fail because Christ did not. God’s high standards remain, but now we have Christ in us completing the good work that he started. He is the reason we can and should have higher expectations for others and ourselves.

At TCS, we desire that our students will experience the freedom that Christ gives us to live a life of excellence. How do we motivate and help our students develop a desire to meet our high expectations?

First, a warning: Our students will not be equipped or enabled to meet our high expectations if we do not model them first. Let us not do as the Pharisees, who would “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves [were] not willing to move them with their finger.”

Rather than condemn others to uphold an impossible standard, the Wilsons suggested three ways in which we can promote a culture of high expectations:

1)   Show gratitude: be thankful for high expectations! Too often we are not held accountable, and then we are left to fight persistent sins that flourished in consequence.  Be grateful that someone cares enough to ask more of us.

2)   Choose cheerfulness: demonstrate joy in all things, especially the high standards. After all, the Psalmist declared, “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul.” That’s certainly something to be cheerful about!

3)   Acknowledge that hard work is hard: It’s okay to admit that our standards are high. After all, they’re high because our expectations are high, and these are high because we care. Our students also need to know that we feel the burn. Sometimes I encourage my students by telling them, “I understand. [This task or concept] is hard for me too, but together we’ll get there.” They’ll respect us more if they know that the challenge is there for us as well.

In the end, be encouraged that having high expectations for your students does not make you (as my niece would say), “big mean meany-heads.” What is does make us is a people, freed by Christ, to give our all in every task. Let us therefore “press on toward the goal” with joy!

Observations and an invitation


by Kyle Bryant, Director of the upcoming TCS Heights Campus

My first few weeks at Trinity Classical School have been many things—informative, encouraging, challenging, and life-giving. There is so much to learn, understand, and implement that sometimes it feels overwhelming. But through all of that, I still walk through the halls of TCS thinking, “This exists?” What a gift from the Lord! So, while I have much to learn, I am grateful to be a part of TCS.

For those whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Kyle Bryant, and I am the campus director for the soon-to-be Heights campus. In many ways, I am a stranger to classical education, having grown up in the public school system. But after seeing the godly fruit of classical Christian education over the past few years, I decided that this was something worth pursuing wholeheartedly for our children and future generations. That’s why I am here at TCS: to pursue planting a TCS campus in the Heights. So I will be immersed in TCS this school year, learning, growing, and planning.

Because we are seeking to replicate what TCS does so well, I have had my eyes and ears open these first few weeks of school. I have found that there is a genuine love for God’s word at TCS, which is a direct result of God’s blessing and grace. We continually ask for humility in how we pursue education, and God has responded by creating a culture where his word is read and cherished. I am convinced that this will also help us become better learners (and educators) because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. All of these begin with truth, and truth comes to us from God in his Word.

That’s why we rightly place God’s word at the beginning of each campus day. If we want our students to learn any truth, we need to start with the truth, because we believe that all truth is God’s truth. So, during morning assembly this quarter, students are memorizing Psalm 46. “The Lord is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” They are also memorizing sound-off questions like “Who made me?” (God!) and “Why did God make all things?” (For his own glory!). These exercises, while appearing routine at times, help sow deep truths into the hearts of our kids. When the Psalmist invites us to “Come, behold the works of the Lord,” he is beckoning us to learn about God and his ways. For how can we behold that which we do not know? God made the earth, moon, and stars, and it is he who governs their motion. He made the mountains and the seas and all the creatures that inhabit them. So when we come to behold the works of the Lord, we come to learn math, astronomy, biology, botany, and poetry, for all of these were spoken into existence. In other words, learning about God and learning about math, science, and reading go hand in hand. All of life (and all of learning) are under the lordship of Jesus Christ, so we teach our kids to that end. But it does not stop there.

We as adults need these truths just as well. We need to believe them like children, too. For to such belong the Kingdom of God. Therefore when our kids say “The Lord is our refuge and strength,” we should remember that, yes, God is our refuge and our strength. He is present, to help us in trouble. And the invitation to come and behold the works of the Lord is for us, too. In our daily lives, the Lord proclaims his glory in many ways. Every sunrise is a reminder of God’s kindness. Every rainbow a remembrance of his covenant. And every at-home lesson is a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness through generations. “Therefore we will not fear when the earth gives way.” Our God is a faithful God, and he gives us things like sunrises, flowers, and at-home lessons to remind us of that glorious truth. May we receive it like our kids.


Slaying the dragon

fantasy-dragonby Michelle Graves, Logic Humanities teacher

There is a dragon in education that will steal your child’s treasure. John Mays, science teacher and Novare textbook publisher, calls it the “Cram-Pass-Forget” dragon. At conferences of classical Christian education Mr. Mays sports a campaign button with the red circle-and-slash symbol obliterating those three words.

He starts his talk with a thought experiment: would your children pass a review test in November, say, over the previous school year’s material? Are they mastering subjects or settling for the sad cycle of cram, pass, then forget?

How can we get to the better threesome of “Learn-Master-Retain”? Mr. Mays outlines the principles for mastery-based pedagogy. We slay the dragon by avoiding superfluous content and busy work and by reviewing 30-40% of the time in subject, on and off campus.

On campus this means assignments supporting specific learning objectives. We should focus deeply on the core content, reviewing and rehearsing regularly. Assessments need to be cumulative, drawing randomly from prior chapters and quizzes. Grades should reflect learning that has been internalized, not just effort.

At home there will be constant drilling with lists, formulas, facts, vocabulary, flashcards, explanations. 30-40% of the time in subject! You might have a child who is impatient with review. “I already know that,” he claims. But we are learning to master and retain, beyond the test, beyond year end.

The goal is that your children be caught up in their own cycles of excellence. They enjoy what they are good at. They are good at what they enjoy. We are training children to enjoy mastery learning itself. This can be a joyful way of life that extends into adulthood and eternity. Mays reminds us that expecting mastery doesn’t require being mean. You are the child’s advocate and can say truly, “I’m on your side.” We don’t reserve our affection, waiting for them to measure up. Rather, we provide a loving, friendly environment. We are eager to help children succeed.

Our example as parents and teachers is very important, of course. Do we hold ourselves to these high standards for mastery? Do we take short-cuts that ultimately cost us our joy in learning or work? The Lord is eager to help us raise these children to be His good and faithful servants. Not dragon bait.

Combating Privileged Elitism at TCS

Stack of One Hundred Dollar Bills U.S.by Neil Anderson, Head of School

Last year at Closing Assembly, I felt a deep conviction to steadily and publicly acknowledge that any success we’ve had at TCS comes from God. I firmly believe this school is not a man-made endeavor. Any good that exists in us personally or institutionally comes from our Heavenly Father. The task at hand for all of us is this–in all our ways acknowledge Him.

I have been contemplating our school culture and asking if there are areas which might be hindrances to some of our ultimate goals and I have found my prayer life steadily drawn towards the issue of our wealth.

There are two things that I think we need to get on the table from the outset. I’m hoping for a high level of agreement on these: 1) We are rich; 2) As rich people, our children are spoiled. The spirit of this talk is not one of judgement, but rather humble self-reflection. Listen first to the words of Paul:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.–1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV)

For me, there is no room for debate—I think we are among “rich in the present age.” I don’t think I need to read you the statistics, as most of you have heard them. The American culture in general, and all the more the specific culture at TCS, is one of wealth and abundance. Since we are wealthy, I think most of you will agree with me that being spoiled is somewhat inescapable. We are inherently spoiled because of the culture in which we live. What do we do with this?

In regards to our wealth, I am concerned about stagnation and spoil. I’m concerned about the natural way that things ought to flow—in and out. The very nature of the word spoil has to do with goods unused. When we have an abundance that does not get used, that which is left over spoils. When our children are invested into and there is no outlet for that investment, they spoil. In our lives, where is the potential for spoil and stagnation? Where do life-giving streams become cesspools and sweet aromes become putrid smells? Input without outflow is grounds for spoiling.

The two issues of being rich and spoiled are significant hurdles in at least two of our four goals in the portrait of a TCS graduate. Our administrative team spent some time over the summer reflecting on our end goals. We summarize them this way:

By the grace of God, our graduates will…

  • be able to identify truth, goodness, and beauty and recognize Christ as the source
  • be able to skillfully apply the tools of learning (grammar, logic, rhetoric) to everyday life
  • be wise and virtuous
  • use their education selflessly to further Christ’s Kingdom.

Regarding the last two points, wealth is the major assailant. Wealth is the enemy of virtue in the Scriptures because wealth urges our attention and affection toward the kingdom of the world. So as we ponder this portrait of a TCS graduate, we must consider the effects of wealth and abundance. The biblical charge from Paul in 1 Timothy 6 is this: “Rich people, take heed. Since you are rich, you are admonished to:

  • Know and preach the uncertainty of riches (v. 17a).
  • Constantly point to God as the supplier and enjoy your wealth (v. 17b).
  • Work towards a kingdom “savings.” Store up good works (v. 18a).
  • Give from your abundance of wealth. Avoid stagnant pools (v. 18b).
  • Take hold of what is truly life (v. 19).”

The message that needs to emanate from us is that our abundance of food, clothes, toys, and material possessions is fleeting. Preach the uncertainty of your wealth. Tell your kids not to presume the same abundance will be available tomorrow. All of history is a testimony to this. We are to enjoy what we have, but do so in a way that is cognizant of the fact that God is the supplier. Our focus should be on increasing our wealth in the ways of heaven. Being rich in good works is being rich in heavenly ways (verse 18).  Let’s not neglect our eternal savings account.

There is a monetary cost for a TCS education. Our wealth affords the opportunity to get rich in the first two stages of the trivium—knowledge and understanding. Our wealth provides an opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding at TCS, but it does not buy wisdom. The rhetoric stage, where the outflow begins to surge, is a bit of a litmus. What are we doing with the outflow? Is there even an outflow? There is so much flowing into our children—do they have healthy habits of outflow which began in their grammar school years and continue throughout upper school?

Since we live in abundance, we need to take extra care to make sure there is an outlet for worship, giving, self-sacrifice, and self-denial for our children. We will be working to foster this on a corporate level and we encourage you to be working on it in your homes, to help them find outlets of worship. They can be investing and serving their siblings (older siblings even teaching younger ones some). They can use the arts to find creative ways to bless others. Don’t just teach them how to write a letter, teach them how to write a letter and fill it with content meant to bring joy and hope into someone else’s life. Basically, begin to work with your students on how they can be generous with their education.

I want  to loop this back to the talk at the beginning of the year about the hope of heaven. See verse 19: “Thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Paul is not saying to flee wealth. He is saying, “Figure out how to be rich in this present age.” Our children need to know material need. They need to know dependence. They need to know they don’t always get what they ask for. The point is not to be insecure or worried about our wealth, nor is it to hesitate in providing abundantly for our children. But we do need to stay awake to the biblical warnings that material wealth is often destructive. We need to equip our children to be ready to cling to Jesus, no matter the circumstances.

Eternity has already begun—do we really believe that life in him is real and everlasting? Are we harnessing what is truly life? My hope is that we, who are materially wealthy, will be rich in heart and rich in the ways of heaven. Take hold NOW of that which is truly life, this eternal, priceless life thread initiated in you by the Holy Spirit.