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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.  

What is Classical Christian Education?

August 10, 2018
By Trinity Christian School
What is Classical Christian Education? 
Reflections at the start of a new school year
by Eric Fugitt


There is a crisp feeling in the air on a cool August morning as the doors to Trinity Christian School open wide and a new year begins to unfold. There is a flood of enthusiasm amongst the faculty, parents, and students as we eagerly anticipate the wonders we will uncover over the next 9 months. Uniforms are freshly laundered and neatly worn, and an eager smile shines on every face. I see waving parents—resting in the confidence of their choice of school for their children—dropping them off at the curb or walking their little ones to their fresh, new classrooms. The atmosphere is electrified with wonder, awakened from its summer drowsiness, igniting anticipation in having that wonder fulfilled.

Throughout the next few months, the halls of the grammar school in this classical Christian environment will resound with the echoes of chants, sound-offs, and songs being ardently practiced each day by energetic and enthusiastic children taking satisfaction in their ability to memorize astonishing quantities of material with relative ease. These children are being taught according to their God-given gifts. We are teaching “with the grain” of each child, which promotes wonder and makes for a happy and contented student. Gone are the days of goading the child to prematurely reach far beyond his grasp to higher-level thinking which he finds unpleasant—making little sense to his developing mind. This child is the most content when life consists of black and white, right and wrong, and facts and rules. He takes delight in his ability to recall and recite volumes of information from their latest science or bible lesson, sing funny grammar jingles, or chant about his history time-period.

In the grammar school, we are about the business of teaching the facts and rules (the grammar) of each subject in God’s creation to foster a sense of wonder already present in the child’s mind. There is a telos, or purpose, in teaching this way. We are preparing him for a life with Christ as well as for the next level of his classical education—the logic stage—where his “wonder-grain” starts to take on a new pattern.

As he moves out of the grammar stage, his mind is bursting with knowledge that the secondary teachers begin to rework. His new sense of wonder takes delight in analyzing the world around him while looking for flaws. Everything is prey to his analysis. No lapses in logic are insignificant. He scrutinizes everything so as to argue everything.

Knowing their students possess in full measure these characteristics, the teachers begin to train him to discuss and debate moral issues in a Christ-like manner. Teachers at this level challenge their students’ assumptions. This requires a tough skin, because the teacher is now the target of his students. We educate him in the fine art of argumentation with an intentional concentration on his demeanor (ethos), logic (logos), and persuasiveness (pathos) so that he may bring glory to God and be firmly grounded when interacting in the adult world. We encourage and help facilitate a deeper relationship with Christ so that He may mold the child into His image—creating within him a deeper beauty.

Finally, as he progresses through to the Rhetoric stage, he now has his facts and rules of the world around him; he has dissected the significance of the Logos (Christ—the glory of God); he has logically debated the effects of the Creation, Fall and Redemption of man; and he now learns to articulate his viewpoint reasonably and persuasively for the glory of God. It is in the Rhetoric stage that the “wonder-grain” bends once again as the student now desires to articulate the wisdom God has given him. This articulation is performed both orally and in written form. Deep, meaningful discussions permeate the Rhetoric stage. Along with core academic classes, students take formal rhetoric to refine the craft of discussion and persuasion. A Christ-like presence, an ability to reason in a reflective, thoughtful manner, and an attractive persuasiveness in speaking the Truth are the aims of a classical Christian education.

The ultimate goal of a classical Christian education is heart and character formation for the glory of God. True education can only be accomplished within the context of a strong biblical worldview. We establish our students in the truth of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. We bask in the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus Christ found in His Word and in His creation. This is what we do. This is our spiritual act of worship each day. Soli Deo Gloria.


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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Using Discernment: Reflections from Irene Kano

March 23, 2018
By Trinity Christian School
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.

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Finding the Difference between Classical Christian Education and the IB Program: Part 3

February 28, 2018
By Trinity Christian School
Part 3: On Excellence

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

This is part three in a series of four, click here for part one, and here for part two. In a previous article, I discussed one of the major convictions which distinguishes the classical Christian model of education from a host of other kinds, namely the International Baccalaureate Programs. Here, I countenance a second major difference in the classical Christian model: our understanding of the nature of educational excellence. Much like the question we asked in the earlier essay concerning the nature of humanity, it might be easy to assume that “we all know what we are talking about, when we use the word excellence”. The truth, however, is that excellence, by its very nature, is a relative term. The qualities that make one an excellent banker are very different from those that make one an excellent bank-robber. The nature of excellence is beholden to the subject it modifies. So then, two schools might both employ the word “excellence” in describing their programs of study (or other similar words, such as “superior” or “robust”) while differing greatly in the nature of the education they provide.

What does excellence look like in the classical Christian Tradition? 

As discussed in the earlier essays, the classical Christian model is very clear on the kind of education we want to provide: namely, the formation of humans whose loves are ordered to the glory of God and in service of their neighbors; humans whose formation in the liberal arts [1] will prepare them well for a wide array of skills [2] in the project of peace and human flourishing. The idea of educational “excellence” refers uniquely to specific articulations of educational goodness and the concomitant pedagogy respective to each. Thus, our standards of excellence countenance the content, the instructional practices, and the kinds of school culture which best serves this goal. McLuhan’s dictum, as regards to practices, holds weight: the medium is the message.[3] We cannot dislocate the “what” of education from the “how” of doing it. Everything —from content, to student ratios, to faculty and administrative practices, to modes of assessment— is a part of the education. How does this differ in practice from more common forms of education? To demonstrate it might be helpful to examine three (of many) practical examples of the way in which the classical conviction is enfleshed, or lived-out, in practice.

1. Multum non multa

This Latin proverb translates loosely to “much not many”. We place a high value on developing mastery and depth of thought over merely giving students a cursory perusal of many variegated subjects. Let us borrow the language of “uncoverage” pioneered by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe to describe this kind of pedagogy.[4] Often we find, when institutions grow focused on “covering” vast amounts of content, they have successfully “covered” (i.e. hidden, veiled, withheld)[5] much of the meaning; creating a vacuous pedagogy of impersonal facts whose meaning is equal only to their extrinsic market utility. The classical Christian model instead dares to suggest that when students learn deeper, they actually learn more. As studies in history and mathematics reveal, it is this kind of deep learning, of conceptual mastery and intellectual wonder, that best teaches for retention and breaks the detrimental pattern of cram-pass-forget.[6] 

2. Difficult does not necessarily mean Good

It is easy to assume, when faced with the current plight of American education (the apparent lack of “excellence”), especially when compared with that of emerging countries, that if the answer is not “more” then it must be “harder”. If American students, the thinking seems to go, are falling behind, then we must push them farther and harder. And so we pride ourselves when we brag about the “rigor” or “difficulty” of our classes and schools. Often, however, a failing system is symptomatic of a much deeper sickness. Merely running an ailing body harder and faster, whipping “rigor” into it, exhausts an already over-taxed system. The cudgel is no remedy for the sick. This is the danger of making sheer difficulty our measure of excellence. Instead, the classical model takes a holistic approach to the human learner, understanding the place for both rigor and rest in education.

3. Excellence and Mensurability

At other times, “excellence” can simply refer to scores on standardized tests or college acceptance rates. While we certainly see the real value of such metric assessments of academic vitality, we feel that these by themselves are not adequate to measure the kind of excellence for which we aim. Helpful as they may be, they are understood by educators within the classical tradition as part of a much larger system of measurements by which we evaluate learning outcomes. For if the purpose of our education is the formation of affective creatures along lines of virtue and mutual flourishing —if this is our standard for excellence— then many other things in addition to raw test scores must be taken into account. We must be careful not to limit excellence to mere success on tests which, for all their worth, are unable to give an account of a student’s honesty, or courage, or oratory skills, or poetic genius, or musical skill, or deep retention of content. In all our desire to provide an excellent education for our children, we must be wise about the kind of excellence to which we refer.  The promise of sheer “excellence alone” does not guarantee that the education a child receives is one that aims their loves towards a holistic, Gospel-centered, vision of human flourishing. 


[1] The classical seven (Music, Geometry, Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Astronomy) crowned by Philosophy and Theology.

[2] In this distinction we follow the historical distinction between “arts” (i.e. ways-of-being-human, ways-of-relating-to-the-world-and-to-others) and “skills” (i.e. the utilization of things, ex. robotics, graphic design, commerce, etc.).

[3] McLuhan, Marshall. 1994. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT Press.

[4] Wiggins, G. and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd Edition. Alexandria: ASCD Press.

[5] See the discussion in Calder, L. 2006. “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey.” The Journal of American History. pp. 1358-1370.

[6] See Mays, J. 2017. “Slaying the Cram-Pass-Forget Dragon.” SCL Summer Conference Presentation. (notes available here); ironically, modern research is catching-up to the wisdom of the classical tradition’s emphasis on depth, see the conversations in: Vasagar, J. 2016. “Why Singapore’s Kids Are so Good at Maths.” Financial Times. Available here. American Institutes for Research. 2005. “What the United States Can Learn From Singapore’s World-Class Mathematics System: An Exploratory Study.” Available hereCompare with the findings in Huberman et al. 2014. “The Shape of Deeper Learning: Strategies, Structures and Cultures in Deeper Learning Network High Schools.” American Institutes for Research. Available here.

Explaining Classical Education Succinctly: What Will Your Elevator Speech Be?

February 21, 2018
By Trinity Christian School
Explaining Classical Education Succinctly: What Will Your Elevator Speech Be?

A while ago, a friend asked me, “What is a classical education in 50 words or less?” He wanted a start on his own “elevator speech” to share with his friends and colleagues who expressed interest in the educational alternative he and his wife chose for their children.  I’ve read, heard, written and spoken on this subject hundred of times. Most of the statements are lengthy, and the subject deserves the more lengthy treatments contained in books and pamphlets by luminaries such as Dr. Christopher Perrin, Kevin Clark and Ravi Jane, Douglas Wilson, Gregg Strawbridge, Dr. George Grant and many other contemporary reformers. But trimming it to 50 words! After four iterations while wrestling with the 50-word maximum here is my reply. Try it.

Classical education is pedagogy in the Western tradition about becoming fully human through the liberal arts, humanities, and gymnasium. It inculcates grammar, ancient and modern language and literature, reasoning and the art of persuasion, mathematics, sciences, arts, and physicality. It is the acquisition of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Rodney J. Marshall, Ed.D.

Head of School

Princess Kaiulani: the Hawaii Tradition of Classical Christian Education

December 06, 2017
By Trinity Christian School

Written by Vicki Leong

As I reflect on the goals of a Trinity Christian School graduate, I am reminded of a Hawaiian Princess, Victoria Kawēkiu Lunalilo Ka'iulani Kalaninuiahilapalapala Cleghorn.

This spirited, educated, gentle lady is more familiarly known as Princess Ka'iulani, the princess who died much too soon. She was the daughter of Miriam Likelike, David Kalakaua’s sister and Archibald Cleghorn, a prominent Honolulu businessman, from Edinburgh, Scotland. Her uncle, David Kalakaua was the ruler of the Kingdom of Hawai'i when she was born.  As he had no children of his own, Kalakaua saw Ka'iulani as the heir to the throne after his sister, Lili'uokalani.  He introduced Ka'iulani to Robert Louis Stevenson, a well-known author and poet from England. Stevenson was captivated with Ka'iulani’s curiosity.  They became good friends and were often found under a banyan tree in Waikiki, where they would discuss a myriad of topics.

“Education is simply the soul of society, as it passes from one generation to another.” —G.K. Chesterton

When she was just 12 years old, misfortune found Ka'iulani when her mother died.  After this, her uncle Kalakaua, with his friend Robert Louis Stevenson, realized the need for Ka'iulani to “receive training traditionally given to children of European monarchs in preparation for ascending to the throne.”

Ka'iulani then found herself on the way to England where she studied French, German and English.  During this time, she was under the guardianship of the Theophilus Davies who cared for this inquisitive, articulate and gracious “hapa-haole” young woman. Davies wrote, “I know it is Ka'iulani’s great desire to help the Hawaiian girls into lives of Christianity and purity.”

Trinity aims for graduates who love God, love others, love learning, think and articulate precisely, engage cultures, delight in beauty, and walk humbly. —TCS 2015

Princes Ka'iulani loved her God and embraced her people.  Although she cherished learning about Western culture, she spoke resolutely about the injustice against Hawaii. In 1893, Ka'iulani’s aunt, Queen Liliuokalani was deposed from her throne, after a struggle for power between the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii. This action greatly grieved Ka'iulani, aware that she was next in line to the throne, and as she sensed annexation looming ahead, she bravely spoke these words in New York on her return to Hawaii.       

Seventy years ago, Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to Hawaii. They gave us the gospel, they made us a nation and we learned to love and trust America. Today three of the sons of those missionaries are at your capital asking you to undo their fathers’ work. Who sent them? Who gave them authority to break the constitution, which they swore they would uphold. Today, I, a poor, weak girl, with not one of my people near me, and all these Hawaiian statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong, strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of 70,000,000 people who in this free land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to mine.” (

Trinity Christian School, in Kailua, Hawaii in the Ko'olaupoko Ahupua'a endeavors to graduate those who will follow in the steps of Princess Victoria Kawēkiu Lunalilo Ka'iulani Kalaninuiahilapalapala Cleghorn. We desire for graduates who love God wholeheartedly, and who love those from all cultures. We seek graduates who love learning and logical thinking, who articulate succinctly and persuasively, and delight in all things beautiful, while walking humbly before our God.

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