By Peahi Kapepa, TCS parent
When deciding to send my daughter to Trinity Christian School, I was very attracted to the school as a whole. First, for the obvious reasons that the Bible is taught and prayer and Christ are woven throughout everything the students do from playtime to resolving conflicts and problems.
Now, three years later, I’ve learned about the Classical Christian approach and its benefits as a natural progression of education. At first, it sounded strange to me. When it comes to things that seem complicated and fancy, I assume that it’s something that it’s not. My skepticism was proven right and wrong. Right, by learning what Classical Christian education is, I realized it is relatively simple and a common-sense approach that has been shown over time. And wrong, in that the American public education system has strayed far from what was working for so long. The “new” progressive method has “dumbed down” the basics of how children are taught.
The Trivium is comprised of Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric stages but I’ve chosen to focus on the first part of the Trivium: Grammar. Not only is grammar taught but heavily emphasized in the classical format in K-6. Grammar is explained using the vehicles of song and chant which is invaluable to memorization. It’s also fun and causes the kids to thrive in their early years. Instead of merely learning “grammar,” students are learning all subjects from a logical perspective. It has been fascinating to see this at work in my daughter.
Another part of the grammar stage of the classical method that attracted me to Trinity is the focus on language. I was glad to find out that Hawaiian is taught in the first few years of Elementary school because my daughter and I are part-Hawaiian. I have taught her to first identify herself as a child of God, but it’s important to me that she learn about her culture and the beautiful place we are blessed to live.
The other language subject that impressed me is that Latin is taught. My parents both studied Latin in high school and college, and I know how much they value the understanding it gave them. I look forward to my daughter delving into the subject.
We are approaching our fourth year at Trinity, and I am absolutely sold on the classical Christian method of education. I’ve had the perspective of witnessing the school as a parent and as a teacher. I will testify to the value of classical Christian education and how my daughter has blossomed and excelled in this system. Our Christian family values are being reinforced at school. My daughter is receiving a superior education based on a proven record. It will continue to enhance her life after she graduates.
Finding the Difference Part 4: On the Classics & the Gospel
Written by Mark Brians, 7th & 10th Grade Humanities Teacher
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.”
Did You Just Call 9-1-1?
Written by Nancy Keegan
I really enjoy my job. I’m entering my 10th year as the person at the front desk on the Makai Campus. In the beginning, the Makai Campus only housed the 5th-8th grade. We were really small, but each year the campus grew and will continue to grow as classes fill out and eventually double through all grade levels.
There is a pretty big leap from 3rd grade to 4th grade. Not only do you change campuses but you are now going to school with some kids who are 18 years old! In August, the 4th graders are so small but little by little they start to grow up. Before you know it, your little 4th grader will be the big Senior! The students will grow in responsibility and autonomy every year. In August of 4th grade, it might seem unimaginable that in a little over a year, you will say good-bye to your 5th grader as they head off to the Big Island with their class. A huge rite of passage and a critical building block toward high school and eventually adulthood.
When students move to the Makai Campus things are done a little differently. When you’re not feeling well, typically you will be instructed to call your parent to let them know the situation and together you can make a decision if you should stay in school. Some points are non-negotiable (fevers and vomiting), but as you get older, a student and their parent need to weigh out the cost vs. benefits of missing school. To talk to your parent, a student needs to learn phone etiquette and simply how to use a phone. It is not as easy as it sounds, most kids have not used a land line, they’ve grown up with only a cellular phone.
It is just basic skill building. Funny story, if a parent has a non-Hawaii number you need to dial, 9, then 1, then the phone number. One day a student looks up at me and says, “I made a mistake, what should I do?” I look down and see they dialed 9, then 1, then another 1. Yikes! I hang up the phone, hoping my quick reflexes were faster than the 9-1-1 operator. They weren’t! I’m not sure how 9 was chosen as the number to get an outside line. I’m even more surprised I have not had this problem happen more than once.
As we grow these young 4th graders into mature TCS graduates, we will stumble occasionally, we will fall a few times, we will undoubtedly make tough decisions, and learn some hard lessons, but I think this is all pretty normal. I had a wise mom say to me once, “Pray, that your child gets caught early and often.” This is great advice. I want my children to make mistakes and get caught now so we can guide them and help them to make better decisions as they get older. Mistakenly calling 9-1-1 is a simple error, but most likely not one this student will repeat.
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