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The Classical Parent

 

CCE Corner – In the Beginning: World(view) Formation

January 12th, 2023

At the beginning of the new year, we turn our attention to The Beginning by looking briefly at two creation accounts. One thing a good Christian education should do is provide a keen awareness of both the familiarity and foreignness of Christianity (as G.K. Chesterton put it, both the “welcome and the wonder” of it). As we are prone to take Christian teachings for granted, they can lose their power in our lives, so it is an important act of the spiritual imagination to occasionally stop to appreciate the strangeness of it all. * A brief comparison of the Babylonian creation story, the Enuma Elish, with the account in Genesis can do this for us.

Before we compare those accounts, there is another reason for this exercise. There is an expression that “ideas have legs” and this is certainly true of origin stories—they have an impact not only on our thinking about how the cosmos came into being but also about its present and future states, as well as our place and purpose in it. In other words, creation accounts are not only about a world but also a worldview. As we’ve noted before, Trinitas students in the logic stage (grades 5-8), learn to ask “Ultimate Questions.” As they engage history, scripture, literature, and popular culture, they are encouraged to ask what is being said about God, Humanity, and Nature, and what are being identified as problems and proposed as remedies. In this post, we conduct something like a logic-stage exercise, looking at the two creation accounts to see what answers they give to such questions.

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CCE Corner – Faith Formation: The Importance of Inter-age Relationships

November 30th, 2022

Faith is central to our mission at Trinitas, and so we take seriously the task of cultivating an environment in which faith can grow. In addition to striving to maintain high standards in the context of warmth and demonstrating that we are “all in,” we also intentionally foster inter-age relationships as part of faith formation.* In the study mentioned in our previous posts, the authors focus on the important role of grandparents and great grandparents as moral and religious models for children. Their findings suggest that strengthening intergenerational bonds strengthens faith.

In addition to family, church is the place where children are most likely to engage with those who are generations removed from them. Our own family has been deeply blessed by witnessing the faithfulness of older congregants and hearing their stories. And our children have been blessed by opportunities to share their own stories as well. One Sunday, a nearly ninety-year-old gentleman asked our sixth grader if she had read any good books lately and if she would be willing to write a review for the church newspaper. As soon as we arrived home, she eagerly ran to the computer and quickly produced a piece on The Narnia Chronicles. The older man’s interest in her and her ideas eventually led our daughter to become a regular contributor of poetry for the church paper. This prompted others of his generation to warmly express their appreciation for her work. These and similar experiences, like singing in the Holiday Choir next to choristers five to six times her age, have given her a deep feeling of belonging to this intergenerational family of God.

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CCE Corner – Faith Formation: Parents Who Are “All In”

October 27th, 2022

We continue our series on faith formation looking at three characteristics of families who successfully pass on their faith: 1) high standards combined with warmth, 2) strong intergenerational relationships, and 3) parents who are “all in.” * Our previous two posts focused on high standards and warmth. In this post, we’ll focus on what it means to be “all in,” saving intergenerational relationships for a later post. If we want to pass our faith on to our children, they should be able to see our own commitment to and delight in the ways of God.

We tend to do this more naturally with things like careers and hobbies. Children often follow in their parents’ footsteps, ending up with similar interests and pursuits. In our family, four of our children explored STEM but eventually chose humanities majors in college (and the fifth is headed that direction). They just couldn’t get away from the passion for philosophy, religion, politics, history, and literature that seems to be in the air of our home. And, we know Trinitas parents whose own passion for the sciences has been passed on to their children. Whatever one’s passion—football, golf, choral music, hiking, woodworking, cooking—the interest and excitement we show and the energy, time, and even money we spend in pursuit of it will be evident to the young eyes watching us and learning from us. In very many cases, children grow to love what we show them we love. That’s not to say that children always follow in their parents’ footsteps. Sometimes they surprise and delight us and expand our worlds with interests and loves that are unique to them. Still, we should be aware of the influence our own interests, commitments, and loves have on them.

As a school, we hope to help you help your children cultivate God-honoring loves, and we try to provide various ways for them to see that when it comes to the Christian faith, you are “all in.” We are almost through the first quarter. Much has happened since the first day of school. New people have been met. New things have been learned. New routines and habits have been formed. One of our daily routines is all-school Morning Prayer. This time isn’t just a way to start our day; it’s a way to center our hearts and minds. What do we do in Morning Prayer? We sing and pray and meditate on God’s word. We’d like to remind you that parents are always welcome to stay and join their children in worship! And we would also like to encourage you to follow along at home as well. You can use this link to The St. James Daily Devotional Guide for information on subscribing to the same materials we use at school.

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CCE Corner – Faith Formation: High Standards and Warmth, part II

October 6th, 2022

In our previous CCEC on faith formation, we referenced a comprehensive study on religion and family* which concluded that having high standards combined with warmth is crucial to passing on one’s faith. We observed that having high standards sometimes requires us to speak with vocabulary that differs from the world’s. In that post, we looked at the un-worldly word “holiness.” In this post, we look at “reverence.”

Reverence is not a commonly used word nor a commonly pursued posture. Various dictionaries define reverence as “a feeling of great respect or admiration for someone or something.” Some include “a gesture of respect (such as a bow).” The verb, revere, not surprisingly, is “to regard or treat with reverence.” An important part of faith formation is cultivating such habits and feelings of reverence where they are due.

Reverence is due first of all toward God, the holy creator and sustainer of all. Scripture is filled with examples. In the presence of the burning bush, Moses was told, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Isaiah and John wrote of six-winged seraphim and ten thousand times ten thousand angels encircling the throne and unceasingly declaring “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come,” “the earth is full of his glory”, and “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” A life of faith involves this posture of reverence. As our former language arts teacher was fond of saying, true education begins with the recognition that there is a God, and you are not He.

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CCE Corner – Faith Formation: High Standards and Warmth, part I

September 15th, 2022

The beginning of the school year is a good time to reflect on faith formation. Take a minute to think about just how important this is. If we believe that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), then passing on our faith is really important. In fact, neglecting to teach our children about our faith would be worse than neglecting to teach them to read. Think about that.

Just as we spend time at Trinitas learning how to teach reading well, we also spend time learning how to raise children in lives of faith. In Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations (Oxford University Press), the authors communicate the results of one of the largest studies of religion and family across generations.* Spanning nearly four decades, their research follows more than 3,500 people in over 350 families to determine how faith is passed on, or not. In this and upcoming posts, we’ll reflect on some of the characteristics of families who successfully pass on their faith. According to this research, such families have: 1) high standards combined with warmth, 2) strong intergenerational relationships, and 3) parents who are “all-in.” We’ll explore what these can look like both at Trinitas and at home.

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CCE Corner – Super Stories

April 28th, 2022

Chances are you’ve heard this story before. An ordinary citizen going about an ordinary day suddenly gains superhuman power (from a fancy suit, an insect bite, an experiment gone wrong). Maybe our hero is truly superhuman, like a surprisingly normal-looking alien masquerading behind a pair of glasses. (Seriously, could no one figure out that Clark Kent was Superman?) With this great new power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. Our new hero (superhero!) might fight that responsibility at first, perhaps feeling unworthy or perhaps feeling the enormity of the task. But our hero eventually submits to duty, bringing justice to a corrupt city and saving it from a maniacal villain.

Superhero movies are popular to say the least. Consider this: there have been more than two dozen Marvel movies in just fifteen years. It’s no surprise that they generate interest—and revenue. They are full of action, adventure, and intrigue. Just about every emotion we are capable of feeling is on display at some point: love, fear, anger, regret, doubt, joy, grief, hope.

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CCE Corner – Gratitude – All as Gift

April 14th, 2022

In a recent introduction to our post on grumbling v. gratitude, we asked, “What do the Feeding of the 5,000, the Last Supper, and the Road to Emmaus have in common?” In each of these accounts, after receiving bread, our Lord first “gave thanks.” He then “broke it and gave it…” Gratitude was central to these generous, self-giving, miraculous acts which overflowed in abundance and faith. In this post and the next, we’ll reflect on these accounts a little more.

As we mentioned in the previous post, G.K. Chesterton defines gratitude as “happiness doubled by wonder.” A sense of wonder notices not only the desirable qualities of a thing, but it sees those things as gifts. What is the proper response to a gift? Gratitude.

We respond most naturally with thanks to a gift that is out of the ordinary or we feel is undeserved (e.g., a surprise party, a “random act of kindness,” a glorious sunset). If something is ordinary or we think we deserve it, it is easy to take it for granted. We fail to recognize that it too is a gift and something for which we should offer thanks (e.g., a regular dinner, a school or music lesson, time with a friend).

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CCE Corner – A Grumble or a Gratitude

March 11th, 2022

As we mentioned in our previous post, our virtue focus for the quarter is Faith. As is the case with other virtues, Faith has some “prerequisites”—certain things that are required as a condition for faith to grow. Perhaps chief among them is a sense of gratitude. A heart that is full of thanks rises to the One to whom that thanks is due and overflows with generosity toward others. It can be hard work to have full hearts. Pride is often identified as the first sin of the Fall, but ingratitude did not play a minor role. Adam and Eve were given all of the trees of the garden but one, and yet…. You know the rest of the story: discontent became part of our fallen human nature.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, an unnamed Narrator finds himself in Grey Town where he boards a bus. That bus takes the travelers to the foothills of Heaven. Grey Town, it turns out, is either Hell or Purgatory, depending on whether one chooses to remain there or not. On his journey, the Narrator meets George MacDonald,* sent from Heaven to greet him, and their conversation is “interrupted by the thin voice of a Ghost talking at an enormous speed…” If you’ve read the book or seen the play, you know what follows is a veritable flood of complaints, a self-absorbed “shrill monotonous whine.”

MacDonald notices the Narrator’s distress: “What troubles ye, son?” asked my Teacher. “I am troubled, Sir,” said I, “because that unhappy creature doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of soul that ought to be even in danger of damnation. She isn’t wicked: she’s only a silly, garrulous old woman who has got into a habit of grumbling, and one feels that a little kindness, and rest, and change would put her all right.”

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CCE Corner – The Virtue of Faith

February 25th, 2022

Our virtue focus for the third quarter is Faith. In the next few CCE Corner posts, we will talk about the importance of passing our faith on to our children and ways to do that well. If you missed it earlier this fall, now would be a good time to read this introduction to the virtue of Faith.


CCE Corner – Made for Love, part II

January 27th, 2022

In our previous post, we encouraged our readers to listen to a reflection on Canto 17 of Dante’s Purgatorio. In this post, we draw your attention to Canto 18.* Here, Dr. Steve Boyer examines the moral psychology of love. He takes us on a journey inside the soul from attraction through imagination to inclination to quest. If one’s reason does not actively stand guard in the face of temptation, Dr. Boyer observes, the soul finds itself captive to worldly passions. If you do not listen to his 12-minute reflection, do at least hear Dr. Boyer‘s words about the dangers of distraction:

“Time is love. What you do with your time shows what you really love. And it ultimately becomes what you love. So, don’t be content with mere entertainment. Don’t doze off. Wake up! What are you giving yourself to?”

*Again, even if you have not been reading Dante’s Comedy or listening to the lectures, this is worth a listen! We recommend parents listen first, before sharing with their student, as not all content may be appropriate.