Federation Festival, a non-competitive evaluation under the National Federation of Music Clubs, took place February 11th at Northwest Florida State College. Twenty of our music students were enrolled for the evaluations in piano solo, vocal solo, piano concerto, and music theory.
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Parents are in the business of working themselves out of a job. Think about it: from early in a child’s life, the role of parents is to prepare children to be independent. We train them to eat, use the restroom, brush their teeth, dress themselves, read and write, say please and thank you, and lots of other things before they ever lose their first tooth. It doesn’t stop there, of course. By the time they’re teenagers we’re making sure they can get themselves out of bed and to school or work on time, drive themselves around, make all the right friends, take the classes that lead them to the best colleges and then on to the best careers. All these things we do because we know they’ll be on their own soon, and we won’t be there to tell them what to do.
But what about their faith? What about their spiritual condition? We want our children to take up their crosses and follow Jesus. As parents, how are we preparing them for that? All too often we are dependent upon the church alone to prepare our children spiritually; or if our children attend a Christian school, we feel as if we have doubled-down on the spiritual issue. Unfortunately though, even children raised in the church and in Christian schools leave the faith in heartbreaking numbers once they get out on their own. This research was first reported by the Barna Group and has become common knowledge in the Christian world during the last decade.
One reason young adults leave the faith is that they have not seen a complete picture of Christianity that fits the world they live in. If the child attends church faithfully and attends a Christian school, he is likely ahead of the game and getting a fairly consistent message from two of the three most important influences in his life. Still, what happens at home carries the day. It is easy for us as parents to think, “I have him in church every time the doors are open. What more can I do?” The answer is, a lot!
Remember how long it took to potty train Junior? how long it took to teach him to ride a bike, read a book, throw a baseball? Anything worth learning takes teaching, training, and lots of practice. Faith is the same way. Parents cannot, of course, be the Holy Spirit in a child’s life. God does the saving, not Dad and Mom, but a child of God needs to learn how to practice his faith in everyday living. He needs to learn to pray, study God’s word, and apply biblical principles to his every day decisions. If this doesn’t happen at home, Junior’s faith may not make it in the real world. He couldn’t go to school until he was potty trained, and he can’t take up his cross and carry it into the real world until his faith is strong enough to stand on its own.
In 1 Corinthians 3:2, Paul tells the church at Corinth that when he first came to them he fed them with “milk, not solid food, for [they] were not ready for it.” He was referring to teaching them Scripture and the daily practice of their Christian faith. He started them at the beginning as is appropriate, teaching them just what they were able to understand. Unfortunately, when he wrote to them much later, he found them still in the same spiritual condition and said, “even now you are not ready.” He wanted them to be maturing in the faith, but they had not put the work in and were thus easily led astray because of their spiritual immaturity. They were still drinking milk like babies when they should have already been eating meat like adults. They were like modern young people who leave the church when they get out of Dad and Mom’s house.
Parents must work hard to help their children mature spiritually. It will not happen on its own anymore than a child left to himself with no guidance will potty train himself or teach himself to read. As parents, we must see to it that our children are secure in the faith and walking close to God before they go out on their own—eating meat, not stuck on milk. This is the work God has given us to do as parents. It is the most important work we have, and even though the church and the Christian school support us in it, the work is ours (Deut 6:6-9).
This past week, the Juniors were challenged to create an art piece to accurately explain and represent Dante’s Paradisio, in which Dante the Pilgrim travels through seven spheres and three outer heavens. This art piece represents Dante’s physical and spiritual journey through Heaven in Paradiso. He travels through the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Fixed Stars, the Primum Mobile, and the Empyrean. The seven spheres combine to form one sphere to emphasize that the souls are in unity in Heaven though Dante meets them in different spheres. This also relates to the idea that the Church is one body, made up of different parts, who all worship God in unity. The different strips of the spheres encapsulate the themes and virtues embodied in them such as Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, and Prudence. Also, the descriptions of the different spheres in Medieval cosmology, given by C.S. Lewis in The Discarded Image, aided in the design of the planets. The Heaven of the Fixed Stars is represented by the constellations of Gemini, Cancer, Libra, Canis Major, and Aries. The Primum Mobile, which is referred to as the Crystalline Heaven in the poem is expressed through the use of glitter. At the top of the art piece, there are rose petals, which are lightly shaded with red. This is the Rose of the Emphrean where the glory of God dwells. The petals are lightly shaded red to show Christ’s passion and love for all believers when He died on the cross. Finally, the background was water colored to look like the galaxy for aesthetic purposes since Dante does not give a description for what the area between the spheres looks like.
As described by Junior students Reagan Chandler and Cate Price
The 2017 Chrysostom oratory competition preliminary winners were announced yesterday. Our first place winner, representing the Junior class, was Cate Price, followed by McKinley Traylor in second place. Faith Heifner was awarded third place and Hannah Pfeiffenthaler, representing the Seniors well, placed fourth. These select winners will be presenting their speeches this Friday, March 10th at 8 am. Please plan to come listen, enjoy, and support these exceptional Trinitas ladies as they compete to advance to the national competition.
Last week I proposed that the classical school movement is seeking to preserve the heritage of western civilization, in part, by teaching and training good oratory skills. I also explained some of the ways Trinitas begins this teaching and training as early as kindergarten. If the beginning is, as I mentioned last week, as simple as teaching five-year-olds good eye contact and clear enunciation, then the end of that training is guiding eighteen-year-olds through the writing, presentation, and defense of a senior thesis. There are, of course, many, many varied components between those two stages but perhaps none as important and exciting as the John Chrysostom Oratory Competition.
John Chrysostom (c. 349-407AD) was an early church father who was and is well known for his writings, but most especially for his preaching. In fact, his name (Chrysostomos in the Greek) means “golden mouth.” The Association of Classical Christian Schools conducts a speech competition each year named for Chrysostom; it is open to juniors and seniors of ACCS accredited schools. Trinitas has finished second in the national competition three different times since becoming ACCS accredited, and we are excited about our chances of winning this year.
The contest is judged according to a strict rubric to determine the winners. In the Chrysostom contest, speakers are judged for the soundness and organization of their arguments, their choice of language and syntax to construe the desired meaning, their ability to establish competence or ethos with the audience, and their appropriate appeal to emotion. Additionally, there are six major parts to a speech that will be assessed individually and as part of the whole. Finally, the speakers are judged on the things that are easier for us all to see: familiarity with the material, clear meaning, language that pleases and inspires the audience, enunciation and volume, tone and pacing, and bodily gestures and positioning.
We begin training for this contest in seventh grade even though students are not eligible to move on to the national competition until their junior year. We don’t do this only in hope of winning the competition. We do it because Chrysostom speeches are based on a fairly common classical formula for essays, speeches, and the like. We do it because it is part of that training in rhetoric I have been writing to you about; and not just the speaking part, but the writing that precedes the speaking—that is rhetoric too. We do it because it is good practice for students to form an idea and the arguments that support it, and then try to persuade their classmates to see things their way. This sort of persuasive writing and speaking is not only part of our western heritage, but teaching it is also part of fulfilling the Trinitas Vision. We want Trinitas graduates to “reason persuasively and articulate precisely” and to “dissuade those who are stumbling towards destruction”—that is a high calling for eighteen-year-olds in today’s West, but it is one that many Trinitas graduates can answer.
At 8:15am on Friday, March 10, 2017, the winning speakers from seventh through tenth grades will present their speeches in the Trinitas Grand Hall for all who would like to attend. When they have finished, the top four speakers from the eleventh and twelfth grades will face off to see who will represent Trinitas at the national level. If you want to see how this rhetoric project that starts with teaching proper eye contact at five looks at seventeen or eighteen, you don’t have to take my word for it; join us in the Grand Hall and see for yourself.
From Ancient Greece to the founding of the United States, one mark of western civilization has been excellent oratory. From Pericles to Patrick Henry and John Chrysostom to Thomas Jefferson (with Demosthenes and Cicero thrown in for good measure), the roots of western civilization have been nourished for more than two-thousand years by those with the ability to articulate lofty ideals in a way that leads to both understanding and inspiration in the hearer. We could call them the Silver Tongues of the West. But the West isn’t what it used to be. Oratory now seems most often employed to convince us to spend money on some product or to vote for a particular candidate. Of course it has always been used in this way, but it seems that in times past, good oratory was more memorably used by men such as those mentioned above to convince others of good ideas, the kind of ideas that change the world for the better.
Even though the West is losing its identity at a break-neck pace, the classical Christian school movement is heading in the opposite direction, educating some 40,000 students every year in the foundations of western culture and heritage in hopes of preserving the legacy the West has given to the world. One way classical schools are doing this is by teaching excellent oratory skills in hopes of reclaiming this important mark of western civilization.
At Trinitas, we start teaching the foundations of good oration, often referred to formally as rhetoric, in kindergarten. That may sound too difficult for five-year olds, but relax; we don’t ask them to deliver a fifteen minute extemporaneous speech. Instead, we start with foundational pieces: we teach them to make good eye contact with the person to whom they are speaking, to greet people cheerfully, and to speak clearly with adequate volume in all situations. We do ask more of them eventually, but these are the foundations upon which the rest of their rhetoric education is laid. Before they leave kindergarten, of course, they will have recited nine memorized passages of Scripture in front of the class and at least one memorized poem or story before an audience of several hundred. There will be a few other small opportunities, too, but these mentioned are the main oratory pieces. This kind of training gives our students a solid foundation for their rhetoric education that will continue through twelfth grade.
Part of the Trinitas Vision is to graduate young people who can articulate precisely, and we find it important to begin working toward that goal in kindergarten. The ability of our students to articulate lofty ideals precisely, and even with humble deference to the ideal and the audience, is one way classical Christian education is helping to preserve our Western heritage and culture; but more important is the fact that these students have been given the Gospel of Jesus Christ to spread to all the ends of the Earth. Even though the Gospel does not depend upon excellent rhetorical skills, our graduates’ ability to explain the Gospel beautifully will certainly not diminish its power. And it will put them in the prestigious company of other great orators in the western tradition who have been used to preserve Christendom for two thousand years. Long live the tradition of the Silver Tongues of the West!
by: Ron Gilley
Re-enrollment season at Trinitas is in full swing and, in fact, the deadline to re-enroll current students for next year is just a few days away. With the thought in mind that parents re-evaluate their child(ren)’s education during this season, it might prove helpful to review some of those distinctions that make Trinitas a rather not-so-ordinary sort of school.
Now Trinitas is far from perfect because all the board, administration, faculty, students, and parents are a bunch of sinners. But then that’s no different from any other school, is it? What is different is that we are working on being perfect; in other words, we are a community of believers who are growing together in Christ. We are not adversarial toward one another—most especially the relationships between our parents and teachers are not adversarial; though, that is exactly the norm for parent-teacher relationships in many places. Instead, when we offend each other, we confess our faults to each other, repent, and seek forgiveness. We are working towards a common goal and growing together in Christ as we do. That is not an ordinary quality in schools.
Another distinction is that Trinitas is classical, both in what we teach and how we teach. Our aim is to graduate young people who know a lot, but who most importantly know how to think and learn for themselves. We spend much of our time training students to think and articulate precisely by having them practice on languages that are no longer spoken and by having them write tens of thousands of words and present dozens upon dozens of speeches. We read stacks of old books every year, some of them written by people who have been dead for over 2,000 years; in fact, we read no primary sources by living authors. We read everything by the light of Scripture. Rather than tell students what to think, we force them to work hard to understand the ideas being presented and to evaluate them according to their truth, goodness, and beauty. When students get into the world on their own, and we are not there to tell them what to think in a given situation, the value of this education will prove its worth. We don’t tell them what to think; we teach them how to think. That is not an ordinary quality in schools.
We desire our students to be persuasive speakers for the sake of the Gospel; indeed, we also desire them to be spiritually gracious and socially graceful for the sake of being better representatives of the Gospel. We ask them to recite poetry before large audiences of people they don’t know. We teach them how to drink tea and which fork to use and how to fold their napkin. We make them sing…and dance…with each other…in front of other people. We require them to love their neighbors, as Jesus commanded, by being kind and polite and respectful, even if they are 13 years old. We ask them to engage with but respect different doctrinal positions their classmates hold. That is not an ordinary quality in schools.
We expect parents to be engaged in the life of their student(s) and the school. Unlike the state, Trinitas is not here to raise children. We are here to come alongside parents and help with the things many parents are unable to do—teach Latin, Algebra, music, art, et cetera. We stand in loco parentis, in the place of the parent, at school, but parents are the ultimate authority in children’s lives. If children will not obey their parents at home, they will not obey their teachers at school and will, therefore, become a burden on the school. Trinitas parents see to it that their children uphold the Fifth Commandment. Trinitas parents side with and support teachers. Trinitas parents support the school with their time, talent, and treasure as they are able. That is not an ordinary quality in schools.
Trinitas is a board directed school. The school was founded on a mission and vision that is distinctly Christ-centered and classical. The board is responsible for guarding that mission and vision and for seeing it carried out. They are not open to every wind of educational change. In spite of pressure to do otherwise, their job is to remain true to the mission and vision. That is not an ordinary quality in schools.
For eighteen years God has blessed Trinitas. During this re-enrollment season I am hopeful for the continued blessing next year of a school full of joyful children who are eager to learn. That is not an ordinary quality in schools, but it has been a quality of Trinitas since the beginning. Does that describe your child: joyful, eager to learn? This school is not for everyone. It is different. There is nothing ordinary about it. But then I am hoping that is exactly why your family is here.
Recently our readings for Morning Meeting came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapters four and five. This selection of Scripture is so rich that we might never mine all the goodness from it in a lifetime of rereading. We certainly couldn’t exhaust all the lessons it has to offer during Morning Meeting, which is why I want to take this opportunity to consider one more point the passage teaches.
In Eph 4:3, Paul says the Ephesians ought to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” While we know Paul wrote this letter specifically to the church at Ephesus, and with a specific context in mind, we also know that if Paul’s exhortation was true for Christians at Ephesus, it is true for us at Trinitas. Maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is no easy task, though, no matter where it is being attempted because we’re all sinners, especially talented at offending each other, hurting each other’s feelings, and generally getting in each other’s way. But when the place you’re attempting to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is a school where 200 people are living in community each day, it is a difficult task to say the least.
One way we try to maintain unity at Trinitas is by keeping short accounts with each other. If one student offends another, simply saying, “I’m sorry,” will not repair the damage. It is the job of the teacher to help the offending party understand what he did wrong in biblical terms. If the teacher can help the student rightly see his error, the Holy Spirit most often brings conviction, producing sorrowful repentance. A student who understands he has wronged his neighbor and who wants to make it right will seek the forgiveness of the offended party. The offended party must be quick to forgive, which, believe it or not, is sometimes the harder part.
The whole process is often messy because we are all sinners who tend to bungle things even when our intentions are pure, but the whole process is nonetheless necessary. To forego addressing sin between members in a small community like Trinitas is to begin the undoing of the community. To confess sin and forgive is to start over with a clean slate or a clean account; it is acting out the Gospel. To ignore or cover sin between members of a small community makes for a long account sheet as sin continues to pile up, paving the way for bitterness. It also sends the message that the Gospel is not true, that the Holy Spirit cannot bring conviction and repentance, or that forgiveness is not possible. A community that follows that course of action will never thrive under the full blessing of God (remember Achan’s covered and unconfessed sin at Ai—Joshua 7).
If there is any way possible, we address offenses between members of the Trinitas community quickly so that sin does not linger, giving root to bitterness. We keep short accounts with each other. In Eph 4:26 Paul tells us not to even let the sun go down on our wrath. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that we are to reconcile quickly with any who accuse us (Matthew 5:25). In Matthew 18, Jesus exhorts us to go to those who have offended us if they don’t come to us first. In all three of these passages reconciliation between community members is a matter of urgency. It is clear we are not to ignore or let offenses linger between us. We are to keep short accounts.
So that your child(ren) does not find this practice unusual at school, try it at home as well. The Bible is clear that sin between believers is to be addressed quickly. If following this practice makes the school community better, it will certainly make your home a sweeter place as it thrives in the will of God. We need to be in the habit at all times and in all places of confessing our faults to one another and forgiving one another. As Paul says at the end of Ephesians 4, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” That’s how we maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Note: One of the greatest obstacles in helping children keep short accounts with each other is helping them understand their own actions rightly when they are the offending party. A great tool for equipping parents and teachers to do this is Lou Priolo’s book Teach Them Diligently. The Bible, of course, is the greatest tool, but Teach Them Diligently is a great resource to get you started and it always points parents back to Scripture. This book is required (and repeated) reading for Trinitas teachers. We also ask all parents to read it in their first year at Trinitas. You can purchase the book in the school office.)
The 6th Grade class enjoyed Cowboy Day last week complete with shooting BB guns, wood carving, and lassoing. The Seniors joined in the fun as they practiced their archery skills and enjoyed some outdoor cooking over a fire pit. Coach K led the group in cowboy classics sung by the fire and Mr. Gilley instructed students on proper lassoing techniques. Mr. Sam Peterson assisted students with their targeting skills and the 6th grade had a “quick draw” competition as well. It was a fun filled day for all!
Learning to dance was a highlight of the winter season this year! Our 9th through 12th graders were thrilled to have our fabulous instructors return for weekly dance lessons. Margaret Sims and Kris Williams are seasoned professionals and graciously instructed our students with excellent results! Please come by the office for a certificate for a free dance lesson generously offered by their studio. Thank you to both these dancers who have since become beloved friends of the Trinitas family.