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”.
Welcome to the Classical Christian Education Corner!November 13th, 2021 by Trinitas Classical
CCE Corner – Goldilocks, Creaturehood, and the Posture of HumilityMay 25th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
Our Virtue of the Quarter is Humility. “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” may not be the first story that comes to mind for instruction in this virtue, but had the tale of the burglarous little girl been available to Aristotle, he might have chosen it to illustrate a fundamental observation about all virtues. According to this ancient Greek philosopher, virtue is a mean between two extremes. In Goldilocks’ vocabulary, “A virtue is something not too much and not too little, it’s just right.” Courage, for example, is the mean between the extreme of cowardice on the one hand and rashness on the other. Neither Goldilocks nor Aristotle had much to say about humility specifically, but we can use the idea of getting things just right or finding the mean between extremes as a fruitful way to explore this virtue.
So, what are the two extremes, the vices, on either side of the virtue of humility? The more obvious vice is pride. Simply put, pride is thinking too much of oneself, of one’s abilities or importance or worth, especially in comparison to others. Pride can be a private sentiment, but it also often seeks to draw the attention of others. The proud “are like the fly on the chariot wheel, crying, ‘See how fast I make it go!’”1 The other extreme is a less obvious vice because it is sometimes mistaken for the virtue of humility and it goes by a less familiar name: pusillanimity. Pusillanimity is thinking too little of oneself; it is a “smallness of soul,” a smallness “that shrinks from noble or arduous tasks.”2
What both pride and pusillanimity have in common is a hyper focus on self which perhaps explains the familiar quotation about humility often misattributed to C.S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”3 What Rick Warren, the author of those familiar words, got right is that the antidote to pride is not less self-confidence, it is less self-consciousness. It is thinking about God and others before ourselves. What Lewis actually said about humility goes even further: “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”4
Why does Lewis attach joy to humility? Perhaps because joy comes with living in harmony with the way we were designed, and we were designed to have an outward focus. We were made first of all to Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and second to Love our neighbor as ourself. (Perhaps you’ve seen the acronym JOY—Jesus, Others, Yourself.) In contrast, the inward focus of the vices of both pride and pusillanimity robs us of joy.
At the foundation of the virtue of humility is the recognition of our creaturehood. We were created from the dust of the earth. And with the breath of God. Pride forgets that we are dust and makes us into gods, creators and masters of our own destinies for our own glory. Pusillanimity forgets that we are image bearers of God and shrinks from the destiny that is ours as children of the King. Both fail “in co-operating with divine grace to achieve great things for God’s glory” and the good of others. In recognizing our creaturehood, humility gets our position in this world just right and opens us up to the fulfillment and joy of the work of the Spirit in us and through us.
One of our daughters has a figurine in her room of a young girl with arms and hands lowered and outstretched, palms facing upward. Its title is “Blessings.” One of the reasons I have always liked this small figure is that its posture seems to be one of both receiving and offering blessing. It is, in fact, a perfect image of the posture of humility: arms and hands lowered and outstretched both to humbly receive the blessing of God and to humbly offer the fruit of those blessings to others. It is in this posture that we find the antidote to the twin vices of pride and pusillanimity.
This posture of humility is one we try to strengthen at Trinitas. Spending time with others who are older or younger than we are is one good and often enjoyable way to do this, and so we intentionally cultivate relationships across the grade levels. Experiences like our recent trip to Raybrook, an assisted living and nursing care facility, also help to expand our worlds beyond ourselves. During that visit, students performed some of their Fine Arts Night pieces, and we joined the residents in a hymn sing and shared homemade cards and conversation. One parent sent this in response: “What a lovely event! Thank you for offering them this opportunity to share their time with an older generation. When we talked about it that evening I could see both our sons recognizing the value in bringing joy to others—such a character-building experience for them!” And for all of us!
CCE Corner – Shaped by StoryMarch 29th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
Mrs. Tellinghuisen returns to the CCE Corner with another reflection inspired by the Calvin Worship Symposium and the March 6 Vital Worship Grant event.
We are story-shaped people who live in a story-shaped culture. Let’s withhold any “that’s good” or “that’s bad” judgment for the time being (spoiler: it depends on the stories we hear and tell) and simply acknowledge the reality. Everyone and everything tells a story. For all that we see around us has history, context, function, and purpose. When we walk through a neighborhood, we are not just seeing houses, and sidewalks, and trees, and utility lines. We are seeing a story. When we stroll through an art exhibit, we aren’t just seeing pictures and sculptures and artifacts. We are seeing a story. When we meet a person for the first time, we aren’t just exchanging words and social pleasantries with someone. We are seeing a story incarnate.
Granted, we don’t see the whole story. To know more about that neighborhood, you’d need to talk to some of the neighbors and research the history of the city that led to that area being developed. To learn more about the area or people group featured in the art exhibit, you would have to read some books, take some classes, or even travel to that location. To learn more about another human? Well, you would need years together. And even a lifetime together wouldn’t tell you everything. (You’d probably learn more about yourself along the way too!)
Stories are involved and complex. They take time to tell. But we like facts, don’t we? “Just the facts, ma’am,” said Dragnet’s Sergeant Friday. Facts are simple, obvious, clear-cut. Unless they aren’t. One need only flip through the various news channels to see that we don’t always agree on facts. But don’t have to take the path that leads to flat-out relativism to recognize that facts are always internalized and interpreted before we inject them into our conversations and contexts. If this sounds at least a little disconcerting, it is. How can we live in community (familial, local, national, global) if we are “my story is what I know” kind of people? On our own? Not so well. But there is a good answer for this, and hopefully your mind is already going there.
Before we talk about that answer, let’s look for the good in the fact that we all have “my story” and the fact that we are story-shaped storytellers and—story listeners—at our core. Consider the different answers to these “simple” questions.
CCE Corner – Thoughtful Readers: Playing with and Talking About Good StoriesMarch 9th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
Trinitas recently hosted two annual highlights: Book Character Day and Thoughtful Reader Book Club. Each year, students and staff look forward to leaving their uniforms home and coming dressed like a favorite Biblical, historical, or book character. Last Wednesday was a delightful day for the likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ebenezer Scrooge, Anne of Green Gables, King Arthur, and St. Paul to be greeted at the door by Principal Gandalf and to do their math lessons with Grandmother West Wind and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, literature with Athena and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Latin with the golden fleece, history with the Cat in the Hat, and logic with Tweedle Dee (or Dum, we’re not sure which). Students return home excited to read new books or re-read an old favorite. Some even begin planning next year’s costume.
During Friday Focus time the previous week, we enjoyed activities and discussions related to our Thoughtful Reader Book Club selections. This year, our shared reading for the younger grades included fables by Aesop and Arnold Lobel. Students in grades 3/4 talked about how stories that feature animals and their particular characteristics (e.g., monkeys are inquisitive, beavers are industrious) can communicate truths about human strengths and weaknesses. The morals at the end of the fables continue to instruct over 2,000 years later!
Special Presentation – “Complicated Narratives and Important Failures”March 3rd, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
We are pleased to present “Complicated Narratives and Important Failures” on Monday, March 6, at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Jennifer Holberg from Calvin University will speak about the shaping influence of stories and storytelling. Register online or call the school at (616) 855-6518. (Registration is not required, but encouraged for planning purposes.)
This program is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the presentation.
Attendees should use the upper parking lot and entrance for Saint Mark Lutheran Church on the west end of the building (access to the lot is from Maple Creek Ave.). Please note that childcare will not be available.
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.
CCE Corner – Where the Air Is ClearFebruary 23rd, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
We continue our series of reflections inspired by the recent Calvin Worship Symposium. This week, Mrs. Tellinghuisen shares about a faith practices workshop she attended.
A few weeks ago, the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire recorded overnight wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour and a temperature of −47 °F. This produced a new US record low windchill temperature of −108 °F. These conditions are comparable to what airplanes experience at cruising altitude. I was told by my brother (a biologist and weather fact enthusiast, who lives in South Dakota, where they know a lot about cold and wind), that it wasn’t the cold and wind that led to such extreme conditions, but an interesting atmospheric phenomenon. In effect, the top of Mount Washington became part of the stratosphere. Talk about a mountaintop experience! But not one anyone would want.
Mountaintop experiences usually involve moments of clarity, conviction, or renewal. From a spiritual—and Christian—perspective, it might be descriptive of a moment when someone felt especially close to God or felt the moving of the Holy Spirit in a very tangible way. For me, any visit to mountains can lead to a mountaintop experience. The landscape inspires awe and draws my eyes upward and inclines my heart toward praise and wonder.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1–2)
The psalmist was saying more than just mountains are pretty. High places were locations for pagan rituals and sacrifices (e.g., Ahab and prophets of Baal as told in I Kings 18). But the psalmist is saying that when he looks to hills, it is not to seek answers in the idols of man. He trusts in the one true God, maker of heaven and earth. In the gospel accounts, Jesus goes to a mountain to find solitude and to commune with his father in prayer on several occasions. One of the most memorable accounts is the Transfiguration, where Jesus appears radiant in his glory to Peter, James, and John. And, more than that, Moses and Elijah appear alongside him (Matthew 17:1–13; Mark 9:2–13; Luke 9:28–36). Now that was a mountaintop experience! Isn’t it remarkable then that those same three disciples were the ones who fell asleep, ran, and even denied? How could they have seen that and not stood firm? Or maybe, if we are honest, we know all too well what it means to see and yet forget.
CCE Corner – What We’re Learning: Worship SymposiumFebruary 9th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
It was just over a year ago that Mrs. Poortenga and Mrs. Tellinghuisen submitted their application for a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship. This week brought them to the CICW Worship Symposium where they continue to learn and plan for the remainder of our grant year. We wish there was a simple “download” button that would allow us to share everything they’ve experienced, but we will share summaries and resources you can use in the coming weeks. Watch for CCEC posts that will discuss the following workshops: Performing the Bible: Exploring the Performance Genres of Scripture; Discerning Leadership with Students; Faith Practices for All Ages. This week, we want to share from the panel presentation, “Fruits of the Spirit, Mental Health Crises, and Our Practices of Christian Worship.”
This workshop covered a number of the same themes we covered in recent CCEC posts. Angela Williams Gorrell and John Swinton began the presentation by drawing attention to the crisis of psychological distress that is intensifying across all age groups–stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and trouble sleeping all continue to rise at alarming rates. They pointed to both the lack of a coherent moral story and the dangers of many of our digital habits. If we see ourselves as mere individuals in this wide universe, as creators of our own identities, and as part of a world that is interminably in conflict, the natural result is a sense of meaninglessness, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. The pandemic showed us how much we need to be connected to others, but it may also have shown us how much we have come apart.
CCE Corner – Screen-free Community at TrinitasJanuary 26th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
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.
Welcome, Mr. Wiers-Windemuller!January 13th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
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!
Congratulations, Spellers!January 13th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
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!
Friday Focus – Chess ClubJanuary 12th, 2023 by Trinitas Classical
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.