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”.
I was going to title this post “Screen-free Learning at Trinitas,” but our decision to be a screen-free* environment is about more than helping kids build their attention spans for academic achievement. It’s also, and more importantly, about helping them build their ability to pay attention to others, to engage the person next to them or across the table, to “be present” in community. We founded Trinitas in 2006, the year before the first iPhone was introduced. Already many schools were jumping on the screen-learning bandwagon. We resisted that temptation, not primarily for budget stewardship reasons but rather for the sake of the students (and their teachers and families). We suspected that benefits of screens in schools might turn out to be something like the emperor’s new clothes. What we had not anticipated was how screens at school and at home and in cars and in pockets and nearly perpetually in hands could be worse than the naked emperor.
We’d like to highlight two articles recently linked by Protect Young Eyes. (If you do not receive their emails, we recommend you sign up for them.) The first article is very short, it’s on social media and brain development. The second is longer, but worth the read; it’s a call by Doug Lemov for phone-free schools and for re-wiring (or de-wiring) the learning environment for attention, achievement, and belonging. As Lemov points out, it’s not good enough for schools just to say “be responsible with your phones.” I remember waiting to pick up one of my high schoolers for an appointment during lunch. It was a lovely day, and a group of girls was eating together outside. I should say “together.” In the ten or more minutes that I waited, not one of them looked up from her cell phone. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, one did look up briefly. To take a selfie. I’m not exaggerating when I say my heart broke a little when I witnessed that snapshot of what we are losing. Simply put, in light of the overwhelming data on attention, anxiety, loneliness, and depression, a best practice for school and home is carving out long periods of time free of screens.
We are glad to welcome Dean Wiers-Windemuller to teach our music classes. Dean grew up in West Michigan, studied jazz and classical guitar at Wheaton College, and spent five years playing his own music as a solo performer and with a band. He started Riverside Guitar School eleven years ago. Located in Eastown, they have eight full and part-time staff members. We are excited about the opportunity to incorporate guitar for students in grades K-8 as part of our music program!
We thank all the students for another exciting Spelling Bee! Congratulations to our winner, Jude, and runner-up, Jesca, who will advance to the next level of competition.
We also wish to recognize the other classroom finalists who participated in the school bee:
3/4 – Noah, Noelle, Elsa
5/6 – Isaac, Sam, Tommy
7/8 – Jonathan, Joseph, Naomi, Sonia
Though the 1st/2nd class did not participate in the school bee, they did have their own classroom competition. Congratulations to Vincent and Lucy for their superior spelling!
We are beginning our all-school chess club today! Parents and grandparents are welcome to join in the fun today and any of the following Fridays: January 27, February 3, and February 10. Please stop in the office when you arrive.
We invite you to join us on the evening of Monday, March 6, to hear a presentation by Jennifer Holberg from Calvin University. Professor Holberg is Chair of the English Department and Co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. She will be speaking about the power of stories and storytelling and how stories can deepen our understanding of God, others, and ourselves. More details will be coming, but we hope you put the date on your calendar and invite your friends.
This program is made possible through a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc.
In addition to our virtue focus on COURAGE, we are spending time in January on the following Discipline with Purpose skills: Figuring out on your own how to accomplish a task and Leadership. A good reminder for both of these is, “Think and look before asking.” And, instead of being quick to give your child the answer to something, ask what he or she thinks an answer could be. It’s also good to ask your child what the first or next step in a task is and have him or her do it instead of doing it yourself.
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.
We are filled with joy in announcing that we have surpassed our annual fund goal of $75,000 by receiving gifts of just over $100,000. We praise God for his provision and thank our whole community for faithful prayers and generous donations!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
We hope your family enjoyed reading many good stories over break! A preparation guide for this year’s activity/discussion books was emailed during break and a hard copy went home with your student this week.
Reading with your child for Thoughtful Reader Book Club counts toward your Parent Partnership Credit. Middle schoolers are not too old to enjoy reading aloud with family members!
We continue to focus on the virtue of COURAGE throughout the rest of this quarter. The new year is a good time to remember that courage, like all virtues, is a habit that is built over time through repetition, often through things that seem like small actions. Talk together as a family about ways to practice courage.