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Making Music in Classical Christian Education

September 19, 2018
By Trinity Christian School

Written by Claire Butin, Elementary Music Teacher

Music is a powerful learning tool in classical education.  In the grammar stage, students learn how to use their God-given voices in the very best way, the basics of music theory, the beginning stages of music reading and instrumental performance, and an appreciation for many classical masterpieces of music.  Music can bring joy and change hearts, and it is important to give each child this gift.   

In kindergarten and first grade, we learn to sing with solfege and solfege hand signs for the different scale degrees.  The hand signals help the students get the feeling of the notes into their bodies and to firmly establish pitch relationships.  These hand signs are internationally used. 

Instrumental performance is an important part of music education.  Even at a young age, children are developing self-control, teamwork, rhythm reading, stage presence, musical expression, and having fun through playing simple percussion instruments such as rhythm sticks and maracas.   

The elements of music are also taught in a classical way: through songs and jingles!   

Each month, the students study a different composer.  Though Vivaldi did not write any words for his masterpiece, “The Four Seasons,” we have added a few.  By having the children sing these classic melodies with some added words, it helps them remember the composer, which part of the piece they are listening to, and what mood the composer was trying to convey.   

Body percussion is a fun way to have students grasp harder rhythmic concepts.  

Finding the Difference between the IB Program and Classical Christian Education: Part 4

March 29, 2018
By Trinity Christian School

Finding the Difference Part 4: On the Classics & the Gospel 

Written by Mark Brians, 7th & 10th Grade Humanities Teacher

(This is the final installation in a series of four essays, click here for part one, and here and here, for parts two, and three, respectively).

Where do we find our definitions? 

In his masterful work on virtue, philosopher Alasdair McIntyre has explained how we “can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”  

In much of this discussion about the major differences which distinguish the classical Christian tradition from other modes of education (the IB Program in particular), we have highlighted how these differences come from differences of definition: what it means to be human, what the purpose of education is, and how to measure excellence. These definitions are, in some sense, like answers to the question above, “what am I to do?” The answers and definitions furnished by classical Christian pedagogy, which we have discussed, are born from a prior answer to a more fundamental question, “of what story or stories are we a part?”
To this question we offer a simple answer: we are a part of the Gospel story —God’s story. But God’s story is a large one, including within it, many smaller stories. In being a part of the Gospel story, we find ourselves inextricably inheritors of another story, the classical one (hence the term for our pedagogy, “classical Christian education”).   In this final essay, we will examine what exactly we mean by this, and why this matters for school life.

What do we mean by “Classics” and “Christian”? 

By “Christian” we refer to the Person of Jesus Christ as He is faithfully revealed in scripture. By this we refer, concomitantly, to the life and witness of the people of God in history and across the globe; and to the work of the Spirit of God in and through His Church.

By “classical” we refer to the collective wisdom and experience of the human past in general, with a particular focus on those of the West and Hawaii. This includes but is not limited to the histories, and names, and songs, and genealogies, and thoughts, and stories, and scientific discoveries, and skills, and practices, and knowledge, and moral lessons, and failed attempts at glory, and great victories; the living and dying of those people who came before us and gave us the now which we inherit by nature of being alive. We are the inheritors of a world that existed before we did, in the Gospel we are commissioned to be a part of the story God gave it.

Why does this matter for school life?

This may seem strange in an era that is deeply suspicious of words like “tradition” or “authority” and where the prevailing attitude in literature, philosophy, and history studies is purely critical (as opposed to receptive, attentive, grateful). 

The problem, however with our culture’s deep resentment of authority and the past, is that it creates a vacuum in which nothing is called true except for inert “fact.” Roger Lundin incisively reveals what happens to a culture in the absence of these greater common authorities: “Instead of appealing to an authority outside of ourselves, we can only seek to marshal our rhetorical abilities to wage the political battles necessary to protect our preferences and to prohibit expressions of preference that threaten or annoy us.” 
The observations of Clark and Jain is that “all education takes place in a context of a mythos (story), a logos (reason), and practices. Without a commitment to a tradition that establishes these, education is a drift from its moorings… and technological solutions alone will only protect us for a time.”  Rather than balk against the notion of authority beyond the myopic present, we acknowledge, in the words of Michael Polanyi, that “no human mind can function without accepting authority, custom, and tradition: it must rely on them for the mere use of language.”  

The classical Christian model of education begins its course by building a “robust and poetic moral education”  grounded in the Gospel of Jesus and the wisdom of the classical tradition before moving to analysis or critique. This does not only help us to “get the facts” but enables us to array them within a life-giving framework by which we can work cooperatively, creatively and rationally towards critical thinking and thoughtful exploration. Instead of seeing the witness of history or the authority of the Gospel as foreclosures on human discovery, an ugly “gulf to be bridged,” we celebrate them as “the supportive ground of process in which the present is rooted.” 
So far from eschewing the analytical, or “higher order”, categories of student performance, this bedrock, laid in the richness of the human past (“the classical”) under the genius of the Gospel (the Christian), actually produce the kind of vibrant academic community so many educators and families long for.

The  Gospel is light, and in that Light, we see the light. Only within the fecundity of a historical witness and the Gospel that offers an authority beyond individual urges does reason truly flourish. As Gustav Mahler said, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”


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Why Speech and Debate Matters: Part 4

March 27, 2018
By Trinity Christian School
Why Speech and Debate Matters: Part 4
Written by Rachel Leong, Class of 2016


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,

“Speech is power, speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”

I was terrified to take Speech and Debate. My heart leapt out of my chest, my knees would shake, and my palms would perspire every time I thought about it. A required class that involved arguing competitively? No thank you. Politics? That scares me. Waltzing around in suits in Hawai’i humidity? Hello, stress sweat.

However, once I got past my first tournament in Junior Varsity (JV) Policy discussing economic engagement with Cuba and medical tourism, I realized professional arguing was not as terrifying as I thought it would be. A few laughs here and there from not understanding political terms and pretending like I did made the process not only educational, but lighthearted and fun. From that memorable first round saying, “It’s for the children” multiple times in my concluding speech, I grew and was massively pushed out of my comfort zone all the way to the state tournament in JV Policy in my sophomore year of high school. After one year in debate, I tried my hand at the speech side of the forensics world and fell in love. 

I competed in Dramatic Interpretation (DI), Humorous Interpretation (HI), Duo Interpretation (DUO), and Original Oratory (OO). These categories allowed me to play writer, director, choreographer, and actress all in one, with all the creative liberties I could dream of. Speeches ranged from acting out “Bridge to Terabithia” (DUO), to a consolidated version of my senior thesis (OO), to my Nationally-successful piece discussing “Society’s Lack of Authenticity and Fear of Vulnerability” (OO). I felt like I could convey whatever message I wanted to, in the exact way I wanted to. I could curate a piece that was mine. 

Needless to say, I was completely hooked for my last two years in high school. 

When I became immersed in speech, my aim was to put my entire heart into every single tournament and get that trophy. As the tournaments progressed, I was met with a different reason than success. My coach discussed with me how I was representing not just the school, but the morals and values of a Christian in a secular league. The way I was competing was not the traditional way to succeed in the NSDA, but regardless, I was doing well. I chose to refine skill, content, and wit rather than falling prey to the flash, crass, and cliché that was so easy to win with. I refrained from using any profanity or crude language in a category that thrives on that for success. This shocked multitudes of people who knew that Humorous Interpretation was not a category for many who proclaimed to be Christians. And through God’s will, I won the State title and competed in Nationals with a completely clean piece. Getting that far did not make logical sense. This was when I knew I was a part of something that was out of my control. I began to understand that my skills and abilities brought me to a platform where my role was larger than just little ole’ me. 

While my knees still shook and my palms still sweat, I knew that the Lord would speak through however I performed. Terror became a trust in an understanding that this was what I was supposed to say, to this audience, at this moment. Junior year, I won 1st place in Humorous Interpretation, qualified for Nationals and 4th in Dramatic Interpretation. My senior year, I won 2nd in Original Oratory, qualified for Nationals, 3rd in Duo Interpretation and the District Student of the Year Award. While these titles can seem impressive, from the beginning I had learned that nothing I achieved was due to my own abilities. God was using my achievements as a platform for His light and His love.  

"I began to understand that my skills and abilities brought me to a platform where my role was larger than just little ole’ me."

It was all for one goal. To embody, speak, and live out the values of Jesus in an otherwise obsessive, achievement-driven world—to speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Specifically, in Original Oratory, I found the Lord using me as a vessel for His truth. I worked hard, yes, but I knew that I had to do what He was leading me to do. I made it to the Top 60 in the nation in Oratory. Why? I wholeheartedly believe it is because the people in each of my rounds, leading up to that final room, needed to hear the words the Lord spoke through my mouth.

Fast forward to being a college sophomore, and I am no longer competing in Speech and Debate. Currently I am studying Organizational Communication, minoring in Sociology, and working as an Educational Programs Intern in the Intercultural Life Department, advocating for justice in faith, specifically in areas of racial reconciliation. I invested myself in these areas after seeing the empowerment of young leaders in the NSDA. These were world changers, 16- and 17- year olds, who were starting organizations advocating for women of color, those differently-abled, women in STEM fields, men not fitting the societal masculine mold, the hurt, the oppressed, the poor, the people God calls Christians to intentionally work on loving well. I garnered a heart for the marginalized and oppressed after the Lord “broke my heart for what broke His,” to speak out and remind followers of Christ that loving others does not mean avoidance of the hard and uncomfortable. 

"I wholeheartedly believe it is because the people in each of my rounds,
leading up to that final room, needed to hear the words
the Lord spoke through my mouth."

On a daily basis, I use the skills I learned during my time in speech and debate for almost everything. Every speech I give with ease, every controversial conversation I think through cautiously and have the confidence to discuss it came from the long nights of drilling facts into my head, memorization and after-school meetings. Debate gave me the mindset and critical thinking to thoroughly examine life issues, instead of blindly believing everything I hear. Speech gave me a voice to speak out and stand for what I believe in. I would not, I repeat, would not be in this position if I did not have the confidence and tools Speech and Debate gave me. 

Just like the characters in The Wizard of Oz, I feel like I gained a heart, brain, courage, and a home. Speech and Debate was by far one of my most favorite memories in high school, and equipped me best for taking on the world. 

I will always be an advocate for the values and experience that speech and debate cultivates in students, and I believe that every high schooler will reap more than they realize. Everything that I have accomplished, every plaque, every trophy, every ballot—I attribute it all the Creator who has formed me exactly in this way for the purposes of furthering His Kingdom. His instilling of passions and abilities is only using me as a vessel and testament to His goodness.

 “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


A Class of 2016 alumna, Rachel Leong attended Trinity starting in 2008. Now in her second year at George Fox University, Rachel is an Organizational Communications major and Sociology minor. In the future, she hopes to possibly start a Christian non-profit or get her PhD in anticipation of being a Professor in Intercultural Studies (and own a dachshund). 

Why Speech and Debate Matters: Part 3

March 19, 2018
By Trinity Christian School
Why Speech and Debate Matters, Part 3
By Joshua Hu, Class of 2017

Six hundred college students pack into a large auditorium. Talking ensues but halts when a spokesperson yells an announcement through a microphone. Suddenly two hundred and fifty team names shuffle down a projector screen in rows of four with room names and team positions. Everyone frantically jots down their necessary info, then takes out their phones to take a picture of the new debate motion which appears on the screen. This round is focused on international relations. After fifteen minutes of talking, scrambling to find your room, and formulating arguments using only your mind, perhaps a paper dictionary, and an almanac, the debates begin. Judges render decisions, then the whole deal repeats with new topics every round.

This will be the scene next month as public and private colleges and universities across America, most notably Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, come together to compete in the US Universities Debating Championship (USUDC) in Stanford, CA. Debates will be held in the “British Parliamentary” format, modeled after the British House of Commons. In this format used by universities around the world, four teams of two (two government and two opposition) debate on a unique topic each round. I am extremely fortunate to be able to represent the University of Hawaii nationally as well as internationally as I go through college.

“Why debate?” is a question many parents and students may ask themselves as they see that debate is a required part of the Trinity curriculum. And it’s a question I consider before, during, and after each tournament I compete in. After four years of debate in high school, why do I coach high schoolers across America? Why do I continue debating in college? I debate because I enjoy the skills I gain regardless of win or loss, the friendships I am able to make with others, opportunities to travel, and the passion I have for discussing these issues. 

Why Debate?
The most obvious benefit one gains from participating in debate is improvement in one’s confidence and abilities to speak in front of an audience. Not only does this prepare one for the TCS senior thesis and success in life in general, but as Christians, it better equips students to confidently face others and “give an answer for the hope that is within us” (1 Peter 3:16). But debate is much more than that, and matters because it teaches decision-making, empathy, and fosters the pursuit of truth—which students today dearly need—in a way that no other activity can. 

Debate teaches decision-making in numerous ways. In an age where we are bombarded more than ever before with contrasting information and opinions, debate requires that students examine the reliability of sources that arguments are built on. When two PhDs give completely conflicting explanations, students cannot say that “both are 100% right,” but are forced to look at the reasoning behind the explanations, and decide which (if either) argument is true, or at least more true. Debate forces students to slow down in their lives and think about how people, societies, and governments make decisions, and what the most important goals or interests of those high-stakes decisions are. Not only do students become more aware of their own decisions, but of others’ decisions that influence how we live today. 

At the same time that debate teaches logical thinking, it teaches empathy as well. People are emotional creatures, and the way a message is expressed is often just as important as the message itself. How can I communicate and persuade a mom, a grandparent, a professor, a college student? How do they think and what do they value? Who is affected by this debate topic, and how can I make these situations real and pertinent to my audience? How can I not just speak about a conflict, but speak on behalf of a group facing harm or needing aid? Successful communicators understand their audiences’ biases, but don’t compromise. They start on common ground and move forward with their opinions. This is only possible when we have empathy and can place ourselves in the shoes of another. Such empathy requires one to step out of a self-centered mindset, and value others above oneself, something Christ called us all to do in love.

At the same time that debate teaches logical thinking, it teaches empathy as well. People are emotional creatures, and the way a message is expressed is often just as important as the message itself.
How can I communicate and persuade a mom, a grandparent, a professor, a college student?
How do they think and what do they value?


Most fundamentally, debate occurs because it fosters the pursuit of Truth. Debate has the power to allow one to bring or take one from the Truth, and it is the reason why this tool is so precious, yet dangerous. Too often, especially on college campuses, opinions are censored because they are seen as “hateful” or “improper.” The spirit of debate condemns this perspective and says that every person’s perspective is worthy of consideration, no matter how vile that speech may be. If one believes in falsehoods and is convinced otherwise through debate, as the philosopher John Stuart Mill noted, that person has the benefit of exchanging error for Truth. But if someone spews vile falsehoods, debate and discourse can occur to snuff out those beliefs and strengthen the Truth.

The world will never get everything right. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that man “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised” (Rom. 1:25). Discourse and debate may bring others to the truth in some cases, but in many others, may lead one down the wrong direction, blinded by lies and sin. In a fallen world, speech allows us as Christians to bring attention to the needs of others and to guide others toward the Good, True, and Beautiful. If we fail to express the importance of Truth, in word and in deed, how can we witness to the world, how will things change? And if we fail to do so in love, why will others heed our call?

I initially joined Speech and Debate because my good friend Bobby Treakle (’14) was captain at the time, and because I had heard that Dr. Laurie Wilson (then my Latin teacher) was a great coach, and it sounded like a fun team to join. I absolutely did not like public speaking when I joined but as time went on my fears eased and I gained a love for discussing issues and debating—to this day, I enjoy the opportunities to speak and share my beliefs with others. 

As I look back on my time in high school, Speech and Debate has been one of the most influential activities I have been a part of—it’s given me a job, an ability to travel and meet others, and it’s shaped my interest in the world and what I’d like to pursue for a career. 
Not everyone will enjoy debate, but like any class, there’s always something for everyone to learn, for everyone to take away. If you’re reading this article, students, go in with an open mind, and learn what you can. The world needs more people who are confident enough to think well, speak Truth, and proclaim the Gospel. 

Two hundred and fifty teams will compete at Stanford USUDC 2018, but only one will walk away as champion. Regardless of the result I will continue to debate because I know its value is not in mere victory. It’s in being equipped to speak the Truth with boldness and confidence in love. 

Joshua Hu is a Class of 2017 alumnus who attended Trinity from preschool to 5th grade, and then again from 8th to 12th grade. During his time at Trinity, Josh competed in Policy and Lincoln-Douglas debate formats, winning the Hawaii Speech League State Tournament three times, earning bids to compete at the 2015 National Tournament in Dallas, Texas with Hannah Goda (’15) and the 2017 National Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. Now a freshman at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, Josh is majoring in Business and Economics, with plans to pursue a law degree after undergraduate studies. 

Why Speech and Debate Matters: Part 1

March 02, 2018
By Trinity Christian School
Why Speech and Debate Matters: Part 1
Written by Kai Glorioso, Class of 2018


It’s hard to articulate just how important public speaking is. As a senior, I can tell you that just about every presentation, every essay, and my upcoming thesis were all made much easier by using the skills I have learned in speech and debate. In the rhetoric stage (9-12th grade) of classical education, nearly every subject is in some way related to either critical thinking or eloquent speaking, both of which are used in Speech and Debate. It has been a huge blessing in my life, and I know that the TCS team has also been a huge blessing to many other students in the same way that it has been a blessing to me.

The Bible is very vocal about the use of speech among the prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself. As Christians, we are called to spread God’s Word, and by learning to speak concisely and thoughtfully, we can better communicate our message to the world around us. However, the ability to speak in public has become increasingly rare among high school students. Trinity, however, deviates from the status quo, not only offering, but requiring that students take at least one year of debate. This ensures that every student has exposure to public speaking and acquires strong research and logic skills.

I joined the debate class as a freshman. During that first year, I didn’t know much about what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to be there. The very concept of debate intrigued me, and I felt something about debate beckoning me to join the class. Plus, my favorite teacher was the coach, so it was a no-brainer at that point. But it wasn’t until after joining that I fully realized just how important speech and debate is. For the first two years, I was not very professional or eloquent, but eventually I gained enough experience to be a capable and eloquent speaker.              

After 4 years on the team, I have seen nearly every student have one thing in common before their first tournament: anxiety. Every student is worried about their first debate round, believing that they will humiliate themselves, and that they are incapable of functioning in a debate environment. After the first tournament, every student has changed. The initial stress is gone, as every student discovered that debate is not nearly as scary as it appears on paper. For some reason, many people believe that public speaking is an incomprehensible skill that very few people have, but it is a skill that anyone can learn and reap benefits from. Students learn how to defend their beliefs, see issues from both sides, and present their stance persuasively and eloquently.

But that description alone makes speech and debate sound like a horribly boring extracurricular, which is simply an incorrect assumption. I have found that the class builds the same kind of teamwork, camaraderie, and friendship akin to those built by sport teams, and it is during these times of unity that much of the fun is present. In fact, many of my favorite memories from throughout high school come from the speech and debate team. Every January, the team flies to the Big Island to compete, and during those three days, everyone shares funny stories from the tournament, laughs together, sometimes cries together, and overall enjoys fellowship with one another. I’ll never forget being tricked by riddles, walking through lava fields, and eating a ton of ice cream as a team, simply out of the love we have for one another.

One of the key factors that makes Trinity’s team so wonderful is the fact that the goal of the class is not on victory or beating opponents, but on glorifying God and developing the skills that He has blessed us which. Sometimes we win, and that is truly wonderful, but for every victory we have also felt defeat. But in the midst of all of that, God is with us. Speech itself is a wonderful gift, but He has enabled our little school to have a team that uses speech not as a weapon, but as a means of finding the truth. Speech and debate has been a huge part of my life, and I thank God for the fact that He let me be on this team, and I hope that He will continue to bless people with the wonderful benefits of speech and debate.


Why Trinity?

December 12, 2017
By Trinity Christian School
Why Trinity?
Written by Carol Awaya, parent and teacher


“Why Trinity?”  If you’re like my family, this question resonates in your home throughout the school year as we evaluate each of our children’s’ strengths and needs.  “Why Trinity?”  What is your answer to that question?  Is it because Trinity is the only fully accredited Classical Christian School in Hawaii?  Is it because your child has found their niche in a sport that they play, or feel as if they are an integral part of their classroom or house?  Is it because Trinity has an academic curriculum that challenges your child and prepares them for college?  Maybe you appreciate that class sizes are small,  ensuring your child has the appropriate amount of attention and they don’t have the opportunity to fall between the cracks.  Maybe your love for Trinity is because of the sense of ohana and community that is fostered here, making the school an extension of your family.  Maybe it’s because you know your child is loved by their teachers as they are in your home—even, when the love involves having to put limits on your child or imposing a consequence to shape their heart and grow their character.  For my husband and me, all of this matters to us. But most of all, we are striving to raise children with Christ at the center of their lives and praying that they develop a heart of respect, humility, love for others, love for learning, become confident and articulate adults, and develop a heart that serves—much like what the “Profile of a Graduate” outlines.

"...It takes time, energy, discipline, consistency, persistence and hard work to develop an individual of such character.  For example, if you want to lose weight, it involves a daily regimen of eating clean, working out, getting enough sleep, minimizing sugar intake, drinking plenty of water, and not giving up.  Classical Christian education involves that sort of discipline."

So, what does Trinity’s “Profile of a Graduate” look like?  It is a good reflection of what we would like our children to be one day: those who love God, love others, love to learn, think and communicate precisely, engage culture, delight in beauty and walk humbly.  Can my husband and I accomplish this on our own?  Not apart from the strength and grace of God nor without those who we surround our children with, day in and day out.

I think most of you would agree with me, that it takes time, energy, discipline, consistency, persistence and hard work to develop an individual of such character.  For example, if you want to lose weight, it involves a daily regimen of eating clean, working out, getting enough sleep, minimizing sugar intake, drinking plenty of water and not giving up.  Classical Christian education involves that sort of discipline.  In the Grammar stage, students are memorizing a ton of information through chants and songs to build a bank of information and facts for one to pull from.  In the Logic stage they are making sense of the information, putting an order to that information and are making connections.  At the Rhetoric stage, while still gaining information, they can thoughtfully express their conclusions and convictions and are able to defend a senior thesis.  This does not happen just because our children naturally grow and mature in that way.  It takes practice, being intentional, moments of taking one step forward and three steps back, and persevering through challenges.  The teachers here intentionally work on training our students to be critical thinkers and life-long learners.  Scripture is memorized so that a “branding” takes place in our hearts and that a student can use God’s word to carry them through a challenging part of life or give hope to another in need.  The elementary teachers are intentional about teaching through songs and chants because they know it helps the information “stick” so that they may be able to recall that information when they most need it.  The school is intentional about training up well-spoken and articulate students via exordiums, our drama club and debate team.  Each of these exercises are valuable in themselves, and consequently help develop skills necessary to interview for a job, make an oral presentation in college and help develop leadership skills. 

Secondary teachers are looking for ways for our students to serve in our community and serve alongside our children.  Our coaches continue to encourage the players to do all things for the glory of God and walk humbly even when they may have earned a Championship win.  These are only a few examples of how the teachers and administration  impact our children’s lives.  As parents, we are grateful for this partnership we have at Trinity. As a teacher, I am also grateful that I have my colleagues supporting and helping me become a better parent and educator.  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

My husband and I don’t know what the future holds or what will become of our children when they are adults, but we are thankful we have partnered with Trinity to invest in our children’s lives and their hearts.  Knowing that they know the Lord and have a relationship with Jesus is the best gift we could ask for. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Merry Christmas!


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