The Classical Parent


CCE Corner – Nursery Rhymes to Shakespeare: Our Annual Speech Meet

December 16th, 2021

We recently held our sixteenth annual Speech Meet. While the event is a highlight for many, a few students, especially those who dread the spotlight, may wonder why this is imposed upon them each fall. A short answer is that we’re a classical school, and classical schools do things like make students get up in front of people and speak. We think it’s good for them. The Speech Meet, like Bible memory, science presentations, history reports, book club discussions, Latin at Lunchtime, and Reader’s Theater, helps build skills in rhetoric—the art of effective, persuasive, even beautiful, speaking or writing. Skills in rhetoric are something classical schools value. We value growth that comes from hard work. We value the moral imagination.

It takes hard work and perseverance to select a piece, memorize it, and polish it to the point of public presentation. For those of us who have been around for a while, it is a joy to see students grow over the years, some of them from leaning against the classroom whiteboard, fidgeting, mumbling, and forgetting their lines to confidently addressing the entire school and guests with poise and delight.

In early fall, many students (and sometimes their parents) embark on a mini literary adventure, pouring over poems and Scripture and speeches. In the process of making and interpreting their own selection and in listening to fellow student selections, they gain an appreciation for the vast range of expression in the literary landscape. We invite you on this journey and ask you to imagine briefly our students reading, reciting, listening to, and thinking about this year’s speeches.

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CCE Corner – Lives of Faith, Reason, and Virtue: Dante

November 14th, 2021

As we continue the discussion of our new tagline, “cultivating lives of faith, reason, and virtue,” we’d like to draw attention again to our 100 Days of Dante reading group. It’s not too late to join!* Dante begins The Divine Comedy with these words: “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wilderness, for I had wandered from the straight and true.” Dante’s epic poem is a profound picture of the life of faith, reason, and virtue as a journey from that dark wilderness to heavenly light. As Dr. Brian Williams observes in his reflections on Canto 6, such a life is a turning from earthly vices to heavenly rewards; a journey in which our intellect, affections and wills become “upright, wholesome, and free.” Dante and Dr. Williams draw a profound contrast between a life of “mud pies, cold rain, and eternal emptiness” and one of “living water, warm bread, and nourishing wine freely offered at our Lord’s table.” We hope Trinitas helps students see that contrast too. Even if you haven’t been reading Dante, Dr. Williams’ twelve-minute reflection on Canto 6 of Inferno is well worth a listen!

*You can still sign up for 100 Days of Dante. We are looking forward to our first discussion group on Friday, December 3, at 7:00 p.m. We’d love to have you join us! The videos and readings are short. If you would like to watch or listen to what you have missed, you can search YouTube–just type “inferno canto [#]” and you should be able to find any of the videos that have been posted by Baylor Honors College’s Dante project.

Welcome to the Classical Christian Education Corner!

November 13th, 2021

Watch for articles about classical Christian education, from the philosophical to the practical. We will include reflections on Scripture, poetry, philosophy, literature, summaries of relevant books and films, articles, podcasts, and “best practice” tips from fellow travelers on this journey toward lives well lived.

CCE Corner—Discernment Continued: Squid Game

November 3rd, 2021

In this post, we continue our discussion of the virtue of discernment by noting that cultivating discernment requires guides. Listening to scripture and the words—spoken and written, past and present—of wise and mature Christians is necessary for us to grow in this virtue. Relying solely on our own wits is never a good idea, and when we consider how to navigate digital culture for ourselves and our children, we must recognize our utter inability to stay ahead of the digital deluge. At Trinitas we highly recommend a couple sources—Plugged In and Protect Young Eyes (PYE)—to help families make good choices regarding things to read, watch, listen to, and play.

Speaking of choices, we’re drawing your attention to the disturbingly popular show you may or may not have heard of yet—Squid Game is #1 in 90 countries. We recommend that you read reviews by PYE and Plugged In. Examples like this series and the recent TikTok “trend” of stealing and vandalizing school property to post as “trophies” make it clear that parents must be aware of what their children are viewing and doing online or even just hearing and observing from other kids being online.

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CCE Corner – Lives of Faith, Reason, and Virtue, part III

October 24th, 2021

We concluded our previous post with the observation that a robust view of human reason will not only include virtues of intellect but virtues of character as well. One virtue that lies at the heart of this intersection is the virtue of discernment. “Discernment” comes from the Latin word discernere meaning “to see, discern, distinguish, separate.” It may be used in a variety of contexts, for example, someone with a “discerning eye” may have a knack for identifying things of particularly good quality. When we talk about discernment as a virtue necessary for human flourishing, we mean the ability to distinguish or separate good from evil. This requires two things: recognition of a standard outside of oneself and an act of the will.

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CCE Corner – Lives of Faith, Reason, and Virtue, part II

September 30th, 2021

In this Classical Christian Education Corner, we continue our discussion of our new tagline, “preparing students for lives of faith, reason, and virtue” with a look at “reason”. It seems obvious that a school would have the cultivation of reason as a primary goal. Isn’t that what schools are for? This goal may not be as widespread as one would think, or hope, however. Certainly, some sort of knowledge and skills are objectives for any learning environment, but classical Christian schools operate with a more robust concept of human reason—one that is informed by the view of human nature mentioned in our previous post about faith. In that discussion, we said that one principle of a classical Christian education is: “there is more to this world than what is seen” — that the material world is not all there is; and, human beings, having been created in the image and likeness of God, are not mere material beings. What implications does this have for education?

First, education is not merely instrumental. It should not be designed primarily to help students meet their material needs and desires. The cultivation of reason, while certainly of instrumental value, is a good in itself. Subjects like grammar, Latin, Greek, and classic literature, and methods like memorization, critical thinking, debate, and rhetoric, can help students achieve many things, but they also enable students to develop well their God-given capacity for and delight in reason. A comparison to the body may help to illustrate. It’s good to exercise the body so that we can do the various things we need to, but it’s also good to cultivate physical capacities simply because the body is God’s gift and he designed us to delight in its activity. Developing our minds and bodies is part of what God intended for human flourishing.

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CCE Corner – Lives of Faith, Reason, and Virtue, part I

September 16th, 2021

When we founded Trinitas Classical School in 2006, we considered various taglines for our marketing materials. Among them were, “the education you wish you had; the education your child can have” (a sentiment true for many of us) and “Trinitas—a school without walls” (a somewhat humorous attempt to cope with our struggle to find a facility). We chose to use “preparing students for lives well-lived,” and that has been our tagline for the last fifteen years. We’ve made a shift recently though in an attempt to avoid ambiguity about what we mean by “lives well-lived.” There are, after all, a myriad of visions of what a good or the good life is. Our new tagline makes explicit what we understand a well-lived life to be—we are “preparing students for lives of faith, reason, and virtue.” A brief explication of each of these seems like a good way to begin the new school year.

That “faith” appears first in our list is no accident. The Christian faith is both our starting point and our end; it is the foundation of our curricular, extra-curricular, and cultural choices, and it is a goal for which we believe each of us was made and toward which we strive. For an understanding of faith, we could perhaps do no better than Hebrews 11, a chapter our fifth-eighth graders memorize every other year. (We encourage you to read and discuss it this week with your family.) The author begins with a definition: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders [ancients] obtained a good testimony [were commended]. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

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CCE Corner – 100 Days of Dante Has Begun . . .

September 10th, 2021

…but it’s not too late to join! The first video appeared this Wednesday. New videos are released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Use the link below to sign up for email notifications. You can also find the videos on YouTube. Please remember that you do not need to have a background in medieval literature or read Italian or be especially smart to participate. There are no pre-requisites other than a curious mind. The reading schedule was designed to be manageable!

We sometimes refer to a Trinitas education as “the education you wish you had”; 100 Days of Dante gives parents the opportunity for that education! Please watch for details about discussion group opportunities.

Click here to read last week’s full CCE Corner post.

CCE Corner – 100 Days of Dante!

September 2nd, 2021

Welcome back to the Trinitas Classical Christian Education Corner, a spot for articles and links to resources about classical Christian education, from the philosophical to the practical. We will include reflections on Scripture, poetry, philosophy, literature, summaries of relevant books and films, articles, podcasts, and “best practice” tips from fellow travelers on this journey toward “lives well-lived.”

We begin this year with an opportunity to study Dante together! If that sounds exciting, great! If it sounds daunting, please know that it isn’t. You do not need to have a background in medieval literature or read Italian or be especially smart to participate. There are no pre-requisites other than a curious mind, and it won’t even take a lot of time. We sometimes refer to a Trinitas education as “the education you wish you had”; 100 Days of Dante gives all of us the opportunity for that education! Materials will become available on September 8.

Completed in 1320, Dante’s extended narrative poem, The Divine Comedy, is considered one of the greatest works of world literature. Are you tired of hearing that we are living in “unprecedented times”? Dante shows us that our times are not “unprecedented”, that our discomfort, and even suffering, is part of the human condition. Lest we despair at this universal condition, Dante also shows us the vision of heaven and the path to it—the vision of human flourishing God intended from the beginning and that, by his grace, we may attain now in part and in its culmination at the end of time. It is our desire that in reading this work together, we may receive consolation and hope and grow in Christian discipleship together.

Some details: Baylor University Honors College has provided the opportunity for anyone to learn from teachers “who know and love Dante well.” Parents, staff, board members, and alumni from Trinitas can sign up (it’s free!) to receive video essays (six to seven minutes each) that go along with six to seven pages of reading every few days. Note: This is not 100 consecutive days; the video essays will run from September 8 through Easter 2022. We plan to schedule some times for Trinitas discussion and fellowship too. Watch for more details, and in the meantime, sign up to get started!

To hear more about the timelessness and timeliness of Dante’s Divine Comedy, listen to this BaseCamp Live podcast.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Anne Poortenga.

We look forward to reading and growing together!

CCE Corner – Logic: STEM at Trinitas, Part III

June 9th, 2021

You may be thinking, “We covered the `M’ with mathematics, and the `S’ is for science, but there’s no `L’ for logic in STEM; and, where’s the technology and engineering at Trinitas? The short answer is that a rigorous education in math, science, and logic, along with an in-depth study of languages, prepares our students exceptionally well for advanced study and work in STEM fields. A substantial number of our graduates are currently studying or working in the areas of biology, neuroscience, medicine, computer science, and engineering. Continue reading to understand why.

Simply put, the study of logic prepares our students for STEM because it is the study of reasoning itself. Logic is foundational and so especially valuable for subjects that make use of arguments and problem-solving like mathematics, computer science, engineering, and philosophy, but it is beneficial for nearly any subject because it teaches students to understand the relationship of ideas–how to define and classify terms with precision, how to draw inferences and test hypotheses, how to properly get from premises or assumptions to conclusions, and how to determine which arguments are valid and sound and which arguments are weak, muddled, or fallacious. Studying logic develops students’ minds so they are capable of more and more complex chains of reasoning and better able to discern truth from falsehood.

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