Once a Trinity teacher, always a Trinity teacher
Classical Christian Education in Preschool, by Tricia Calderon
Tricia Calderon, a preschool teacher for 27 years at Trinity Christian School, writes her thoughts on classical Christian education from the perspective of a preschool teacher.
Tricia is a talented artist, and she began a new business adventure with her son starting this January. We will always remember Tricia's smile and are thankful to our Lord for blessing us with her talents. May God’s grace and favor shine on her! —Vicki Leong, Academic Dean
Preparing preschool students when teaching using developmentally appropriate practices is teaching with a classical pedagogy. At the preschool level, it’s not about teaching the Trivium—grammar, logic, and rhetoric—as it is in Kindergarten through high school. Rather, it is about meeting students where they're at and immersing them in what is true, good, and beautiful, setting the foundation on which to build the next level of knowledge. Preschoolers (3-5 years old) learn by doing. They are refining skills they have acquired in toddlerhood, and by helping them refine and build upon these skills, we are preparing our students not only for the next stage in their lives, but for a lifetime of learning.
For example, when we study honeybees, the students learn what is true about bees. New vocabulary, math and science concepts, and social skills are introduced and taught throughout the study. In particular, they learn about the honeybee’s body parts and their functions, such as the bees' life cycles, what they eat, where they live, what they make, how they work together, and if they have any enemies.
Next, when we make bees out of paper, we talk about how many legs, eyes, wings, stingers, and what each body part is used for. We build bee colonies out of blocks, paper, magnet tiles, or other available resources for our paper-made bees. The students begin to understand what is true about a honeybee and how intricate God has made this little insect.
Then we roleplay the lives of different honeybees. A nurse bee takes care of the bee larva, and each child acts out being both a larva and a nurse bee. They also act out worker bees, collecting pollen and nectar. Roleplaying aids in knowledge and understanding of the honeybee, and when we learn about other insects, students learn wisdom when they make a connection between what makes a honeybee an insect—how they're related to other bugs—using the vocabulary they have learned, such as that an insect has three body parts and six legs. We also discuss the differences and commonalities between other insects.
Using developmentally appropriate language and practices, we are teaching children to value what is true, good, and beautiful. We start where the children are at and build upon their experiences. By having the students learn through songs, books, art, role play, and repetition we begin the transition into the grammar stage of the Trivium. It is true, good and beautiful!
The Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) just released their first movie about the classical Christian education movement! See the trailer below. You can now view the whole movie here, and you'll need to make a new account if you haven't already.
"Surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is.”—C.S. Lewis
In a new podcast from the CiRCE Institute, "Brian Phillips is joined by Keith McCurdy, President and CEO of Total Life Counseling in Roanoke, Virginia. In addition to his over 30 years of counseling experience, Mr. McCurdy has spoken at the annual conferences for the Society for Classical Learning (SCL) and the Association of Christian and Classical Schools (ACCS). In this episode, Brian and Keith discuss the value of struggle, how hardship makes us stronger, and how those truths can us stronger, and how those truths can be applied by parents and teachers alike."
Find the podcast (episode is first in the list) on iTunes here.
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.
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 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.”
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).
Using Discernment: Reflections from Irene Kano
Written by Irene Kano, Mauka Campus Principal
A few weeks ago, I found myself face to face with a child whose face was dripping with sweat and bright red with anger. He had been “sent to the Principal’s office” for a recess altercation where he had punched his classmate. Violence is entirely unacceptable, and as the Principal, it is part of my job to enforce school rules to keep all students safe. But as a parent and teacher who is tremendously thankful for the grace and patience of my Heavenly Father, I have learned the importance of taking the time to ask God for discernment and trust His insight to guide me so that I discipline children the way He teaches me.
Over the years I’ve learned that when supervising kids, we often only see the adverse reaction, but not necessarily the cause, of an altercation. The boy who was hit initially cried victim and the red-faced boy has been in my office a few times before. But when we got to the bottom of it, the “victim” was the one who had initiated the fight. I then had the opportunity to talk with both boys about how each of them was wrong in the situation, and explain how they shared the responsibility in the sinful act. It is easy for us to jump to conclusions and label our children or colleagues as “difficult” or “problems.” But when we do so, we limit our fellow image-bearers to our skewed perceptions of them and don’t leave room for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and hearts. Discernment, grace, and the patience to understand are especially crucial when disciplining our kids and confronting our brothers and sisters when we’ve been wronged. I’m still learning to do this, and when I don’t get it right, I’m thankful for the reminder that God sees us entirely. In our best and in our worst, He remains loving and just.
Finding the Difference between Classical Christian Education and the IB Program: Part 1
Written by Mark Brians, 7th and 10th Grade Humanities Teacher
My alma mater, Kaiser High School, has an amazing International Baccalaureate (IB) program and I am close with some people who either teach in such programs or whose children are (or have been) a part of this kind of learning. Both in conversations with these people, as well as with others whom I encounter in the field of education, some questions arise regarding the relationship between the classical tradition and the IB program. At the outset, it is easy to reduce both pedagogies, the Classical Christian Model and the IB Program, to various exterior methodologies (one teaches Latin, the other modern languages; one has a capstone project, the other a ‘thesis,' etc.). But this sort of surface-level review fails to assess the deep and fundamental differences in theory which distinguish the programs from one another at their core.
What follows is the first of four installments, where I hope to be of service by outlining in three major headings the underlying differences between the IB programs and the Classical Christian tradition.
Before I begin, however, allow me to say that I have a healthy respect for the IB program and for those who teach it. Doubtless, it is a rigorous curriculum that produces high-achieving students who have been given an education that situates them for relative success in college and the global economy.
Indeed, even in some of the desired goals of the IB program, I think we can find commonality with our Classical Tradition. Both pedagogies desire to foster human beings who can engage meaningfully with various cultures across the globe, who have genuine concern for their neighbors, and who can emerge as meaningful voices in our rapidly changing culture. But while we may agree on these things, there remains a fundamental difference not only as to how to achieve these desired ends, but how to define these desired ends, what the purpose of these desired ends is, and what idea of “success” is being used to measure learning outcomes.
Fundamentally, we can arrange these differences into three major categories: 1] the nature of humanity and the purpose of education; 2] the nature of excellence and how it is measured; 3] the centrality of the Faith. I trace a brief sketch of these three differences below. I hope to address each of these categories in greater depth in later posts. For now, I offer a summary.
If we are in the business of educating humans, it would seem that the first two things we ought to understand are humans and education. While this may seem a trivial pursuit or at least a questioning of the obvious, it is neither obvious nor trivial, for it gets right to the heart of the difference that we are trying to uncover.
Now, humans do a lot of things. We think, we relate, we build, we invent, we love, we worship, we make war, and many other things unique to our race which separate us from the animals. The question here is not “what do humans do?” in general, but rather, “what is it that defines humans before we do anything else?”
Central to the IB Program is the concept of humanity as producer. This is to say, under the IB paradigm, humans are primarily oriented around what they produce (thought, goods, and services, organizations, finance, treaties, etc.). An example of this belief about the nature of humanity is manifest in the term the IB Programs use when referring to their students, as “learners” and “thinkers.” Thus, the primary purpose of the IB Program is to shape its “learners” into productive participants for the global market. If humans are fundamentally producers, a good education would be one that makes them more productive and more peaceable, insofar as peace makes humans more productive.
The Classical Christian Tradition differs here profoundly. While we do not deny that humans are producers, we do not believe that production as such is the definitive character of our being. Rather, we believe that humans are first and foremost affective (emotional) creatures, driven and defined primarily by what we love, desire, and adore. Everything we do is undeniably intentional, aimed at a certain goal; pursuing a particular vision of human flourishing. We may produce, we may think, we may cook, but when we do so, we do it guided and informed by loves and longings.
If, as we come to understand it in the Classical Tradition, humans are primarily affective creatures, then the purpose of education is to shape and form human loves towards the pursuit of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Education, then, is about far more than “getting students to learn” or “preparing them for the real world.” It is instead about leading them to love learning, to love the things they learn, and to engage the world as not only a necessary accident of human production but imaginatively in the pursuit of the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
Tune in next week for Part 2!
by Vicki Leong, TCS Academic Dean
A Christian education should be through the lens of an absolute. I believe there is an absolute God. So, I as a Christian and an educator, am rooted in the belief that the “aim of a Christian education is to prepare individuals to be wise and virtuous adults who are able to discern truth, choose what is good, and beautifully express the reason for their choices.” (Trinity Christian School, 2015).
My educational philosophy originates back centuries ago to Socrates time, then Plato, Aristotle and to contemporaries Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal and Dorothy Sayers. This conviction came to me around the year 2000 as a friend recommended me to read Susan Wise Bauer’s book, The Well-Trained Mind. I read her book and I experienced a light bulb moment and wanted to use this with my children. Providentially, another friend introduced me to a classical Christian school which followed the same model. It was there where I heard about the Trivium more in depth and the Poll-Parrot, Pert, and Poetic stages. Below is a comparison chart I made between Adler‘s Paideia Proposal and Classical Education.
Children are naturally bent to learn in these different stages as they mature. Our responsibility as an educator is to provide a conducive environment that facilitates learning rather than impede it. We are able to control the tools of learning, and it is through the social and cultural interactions that take place in the classroom that the child begins to make sense of the world (Dunn, 2005).
I base my belief in the strengths of this educational philosophy as a result of what I have witnessed in our graduates at Trinity Christian School and at St. Stephens Academy. Most of our graduates, I am personally acquainted with, are knowledgeable, articulate, able to organize their thoughts, formulate a strong opinion, and develop a defense while communicating it well with eloquence. Christian education is the process of educating the child through the lens of our loving and all-powerful God.