Each year the Kindergarten class celebrates their 100th day of school by collecting supplies for Heartbeat Pregnancy Center in Nacogdoches. This year the kindergarteners, with the help of the Regents students and families, collected more than 100 receiving blankets, diapers, onesies and baby booties to donate to our friends at Heartbeat. Great job, kindergarten class!
Who are the most important people in your family? This is a crucial question that some parents may not have considered but that is consequential for all parents. Even if we have not actively considered our answer, the way we parent undoubtedly reveals our view on the matter. Psychologist and author John Rosemond answers the question with directness, clarity, and wisdom. His column appeared in newspapers last year, and his answer to the question is quite evident in the title: “Your kids should not be the most important people in the family.” I offer his column to you here as food for thought.
I recently asked a married couple who have three kids, none of whom are yet teens, “Who are the most important people in your family?” Like all good moms and dads of this brave new millennium, they answered, “Our kids!”
“Why?” I then asked. “What is it about your kids that gives them that status?”
And like all good moms and dads of this brave new millennium, they couldn’t answer the question other than to fumble with appeals to emotion.
So, I answered the question for them: “There is no reasonable thing that gives your children that status.”
I went on to point out that many if not most of the problems they’re having with their kids – typical stuff, these days – are the result of treating their children as if they, their marriage and their family exist because of the kids when it is, in fact, the other way around. Their kids exist because of them and their marriage and thrive because they have created a stable family.
Furthermore, without them, their kids wouldn’t eat well, have the nice clothing they wear, live in the nice home in which they live, enjoy the great vacations they enjoy and so on. Instead of lives that are relatively carefree (despite the drama to the contrary that they occasionally manufacture), their children would be living lives full of worry and want.
This issue is really the heart of the matter. People my age know it’s the heart of the matter because when we were kids it was clear to us that our parents were the most important people in our families. And that, right there, is why we respected our parents and that, right there, is why we looked up to adults in general. Yes, Virginia, once upon a time in the United States of America, children were second-class citizens, to their advantage.
It was also clear to us – I speak, of course, in general terms, albeit accurate – that our parents’ marriages were more important to them than their relationships with us. Therefore, we did not sleep in their beds or interrupt their conversations. The family meal, at home, was regarded as more important than after-school activities. Mom and Dad talked more – a lot more – with one another than they talked with you. For lack of pedestals, we emancipated earlier and much more successfully than have children since.
The most important person in an army is the general. The most important person in a corporation is the CEO. The most important person in a classroom is the teacher. And the most important person in a family are the parents.
The most important thing about children is the need to prepare them properly for responsible citizenship. The primary objective should not be raising a straight-A student who excels at three sports, earns a spot on the Olympic swim team, goes to an A-list university and becomes a prominent brain surgeon. The primary objective is to raise a child such that community and culture are strengthened.
“Our child is the most important person in our family” is the first step toward raising a child who feels entitled.
You don’t want that. Unbeknownst to your child, he doesn’t need that. And neither does America.
The 4th, 8th, 11th, and 12th grades are busily preparing for their upcoming Medieval Feast presentations. The students are collaborating to research and prepare Powerpoint slideshows, puppet shows, and demonstrations on various aspects of Medieval life and society that they will present at the feast in February. It’s a joy to see them working together!
Classical education seeks to train students to use the tools of learning so that they can become lifelong learners. The tools of learning include grammar, logic (or dialectic), and rhetoric. When a student grows in wisdom and virtue and he or she moves through the curriculum and nurture of a classical school, that student gains the ability to know, to relate knowledge into a coherent whole, and to express him or herself winsomely and persuasively. Certainly, one essential skill included in the tools of learning is that of argumentation. Yes, parents, we are actually teaching your students to argue – and that is a good thing! Of course, this means that we are not training students to bicker or quarrel; that is a different matter, indeed. Classical Christian educator Christopher Perrin discusses the value of learning to argue in his brief article “Students Should Argue … But not Quarrel.” Notice how Perrin closes his article by inviting you to become a student of argumentation yourself.
“Students Should Argue … But not Quarrel”
by Christopher Perrin
Those of us seeking to classically educate our children know that they have a built-in capacity to bicker and quarrel. Bickering comes naturally to all children, and is only disguised by refined adults.
When it is time for students to learn dialectic, however, we want them to learn how to argue. There is no art to quarreling, but there is indeed an art of argument. It was Chesterton who said that his principal objection to a quarrel is that it ended a good argument. Just what is the distinction, then, between a quarrel and an argument?
Well, we instinctively know what quarreling is because it is so common and effortlessly rises within each of us. A good argument is quite uncommon, and takes effort and training to produce.
The Latin roots of the words help with this distinction. Our word quarrel comes from the Latin querela which means a complaint, or plaintive sound. It is related to the Latin verb queror, which means “to complain or lament.” The adjective querulus means complaining, even warbling (think whining). From the querulus we get our word querulous meaning “full of complaints; peevish.”
Our word argument, on the other hand, comes from the Latin argumentum, which means “evidence, proof.” The related Latin verb arguere means primarily to prove and make known. The related adjective argutus means “clear, distinct, graceful.”
Can you see now why argument can be an art? It takes artistry to present ideas and evidence that are clear, distinct and graceful. To learn an art takes training and apprenticeship. But who will train our children in the art of argument, if we lack training ourselves?
Of course we could seek a suitable teacher for our children. Would it not be better though to find a teacher for both our children and us? We could learn with our children and gradually become a qualified teacher of dialectic ourselves. How could anyone argue with that?
Some of the most well known documents and speeches in history were extraordinarily brief. The Ten Commandments are composed of only 301 words. The Mayflower Compact was but 298 words. The Declaration of Independence was a little more than 1,330 words.
On November 19, 1863, minister and politician Edward Everett spoke for two hours at a battlefield in southern Pennsylvania, but few remember his 13,500-words speech. It is Abraham Lincoln’s two-minute, 266-word address that has become one of the most famous political orations ever delivered. The ancient Greeks used to say that the goal of oratory is to give a sea of matter in a drop of language. Solomon reminds us that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 11:25).
Big ideas have great power when expressed succinctly.
Christian classical education understands this principle and seeks to harness the power of these big ideas, dressed in the lovely garb of succinct oratory, by equipping students to think clearly, speak well, and communicate with grace and forcefulness. Classical education propels children on a journey toward wisdom and eloquence. Through the grammar and logic years, students are taught knowledge and the logical relationships inherent in that knowledge. Then in the rhetoric years, students are taught how to speak and write so that a sea of content can indeed be communicated in a drop of language.
Regents Academy aspires to teach students to read, write, and reason, and to do so within the classical tradition, guided by the light of Scripture, the greatest books of the western tradition, and an effective phonics-based reading approach. As students graduate we aim for them to have a masterful command of language so that when they speak, they choose the right words and speak well.
Amidst the changing cultural and educational fashions of the day, classical education stands steady and alone as the most developmentally appropriate approach to learning and the best suited to training Christian leaders who have something so say and know how to make their words count. And that makes Regents Academy a simple and powerful education solution for the days in which we live.
We are so glad that you are part of the Regents family and that your children are walking this path with us toward wisdom and eloquence.
Regents Academy is now a CLT-partnered school! If you haven’t gotten to know the Classical Learning Test, it’s time you did.
Learn more from the Classic Learning Initiatives Facebook page:
One guiding principle of classical education is a commitment to cultivating not just knowledge and skills, but wisdom and understanding of the “deep springs of our culture,” that is, the big ideas and abiding truths that have shaped our civilization. Author Andrew Campbell explains this principle in terms of a Latin phrase articulated long ago by Pliny the Younger, “Multum non multa,” or “much, not many.” Our faculty read and discussed this article this week, and it is well worth the time and attention of parents also.
It is all well and good to talk about traditional classical education, but how do we put it into practice today? Don’t we have far more history to learn other than classical history, not to mention science, modern languages, and common school subjects like health and driver’s ed.? After all, we’re not preparing our children to be Greek philosophers, Roman orators, or (most of us) British statesmen. We have practical matters to consider: government requirements, standardized tests, college admissions.
Yes, all that is true, at least to a certain extent. But we can still derive some important principles from the history of classical education. One of these principles was articulated by Pliny the Younger; that principle is multum non multa: not many things (multa), but much (multum). Formal education should not merely introduce us to many things, the “multa,” which can, by necessity, lead only to superficial knowledge, but should encourage us to drink deeply at the springs of our culture. Much, not many.
How does this play out in the classical curriculum? First, the number of subjects is limited to a few key disciplines. We are accustomed to schools expanding their offerings to include vocational and technical subjects such as home economics, wood shop, and computer keyboarding. In the wry words of Jacques Barzun, we expect our schools to turn out “ideal citizens, super tolerant neighbors, agents of world peace, and happy family folk, at once sexually adept and flawless drivers of cars.” The classical curriculum, on the other hand, insists on a limited number of demanding subjects taught in depth. Moreover, formal study of certain subjects, especially science and modern languages, is reserved for high school. As we’ll see, this is actually an efficient use of the student’s time and effort.
Second, whenever possible, subjects are taught in relation to one another and in the context of broader intellectual concerns. For example, as the student gains proficiency in Latin translation, some historical, literary, and theological readings may be undertaken in the original language. The student doesn’t just read a chapter about Julius Caesar or Cicero in a history textbook; she reads Caesar’s and Cicero’s own writings in Latin. The study of selections from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica is at once a lesson in Latin, logic, history, and theology. Further, one of the key “intelligences” is lateral thinking, the ability to make connections between seemingly disparate fields and ideas, and the classical curriculum encourages this skill. In all subjects, students should be led to ask big questions: What is Man? What is the good life? How, then, should we live?
Third, the core readings in English and history (Classical, Christian, and Modern Studies) consist of a very few representative masterpieces that the student reads slowly and studies in depth. Does such a pared-down program sufficiently prepare students for college work, let alone life?
The verdict of history is yes. The great Renaissance educator Vittorio da Feltre assigned only four authors to his young students: Virgil, Homer, Cicero, and Demosthenes. (These were, of course, read in the original Latin and Greek.) The traditional classical model emphasizes the slow, careful reading of a small corpus of great literature, especially the epic poets.
Contrast this with the typical approach of contemporary American schools. One cannot help but observe the trend in modern schools to substitute light “escape” reading for the more difficult classics. The practice is defended in the name of getting students to read. The assumption is that because students learn to read by reading, schools must provide books that students will want to read, books that will not overtax their patience, their limited vocabulary, or even their more limited education. A corollary to this assumption, as we have seen, is that students cannot enjoy reading serious classics with their demanding styles and remote contents. Clearly, the classical academy rejects this thesis. Not only does it refute the notion that classics are inaccessible or unenjoyable to young readers, but it reminds us that the purpose of learning is discovery, not escape. Substituting the literature of escape for the classics is not education, but an attack on learning; it is not intellectual, but anti-intellectual. It represents a capitulation to the adolescent appetites of our students and our race.
In his book, Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin, Tracy Lee Simmons minces no words on this subject:
“Most public schools in America now strive to be cut rate educational malls for the intellectually lame, whether or not students first darken the school doors that way, so most of them leave, while even some private schools pose as little more than colorful felt boards for the earnestly shallow, commonly confusing pious or patriotic piffle with real education.”
Unfortunately, this trend is noticeable even among homeschoolers. While truly “good books” are an excellent and necessary preparation for the Great Books, in most cases they may most profitably be read independently or within the family circle, not as part of formal schooling. Later, students are rushed through the whole Western canon in a few years of Great Books, with reading lists based on those of university programs. For example, the formal reading list for the seventh grade presented in one popular guide includes a dizzying twenty-one books, ranging from Don Quixote (an abridged version is permitted) to Pilgrim’s Progress to the Grimms’ Fairy Tales to Pride and Prejudice. And this is only for English! Another publisher’s recommendations for the same year include eighteen titles, taking the student through Genesis in a week and the whole of the Iliad in five. At the same time, the students are also reading a work of theology, a study on ancient cities, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a challenging adult novel by C. S. Lewis.
By contrast, Simmons reminds us that “schools of the best kind have always aimed high while keeping feet to the ground. They didn’t try to do too much; they tried to do the most important things.”
The core readings suggested in The Latin-Centered Curriculum focus on those “important things” the few truly enduring and representative literary monuments of the past 2,500 years. Ample time is given for students to read, reread, and “live into” their schoolbooks. As will be seen in the following discussion, the ancients possessed an effective method for approaching their great classics, which were no easier for the schoolboys of A.D. 100 than they are for our daughters and sons. The difference is that the grammarians and rhetors were highly selective in the texts they placed before their students. These works were models both of style and of their culture’s aesthetic and moral norms. We would do well to take seriously their approach.
Does this mean that students will go through thirteen years of schooling never cracking an English novel? Are we denying our children the pleasure of floating down the river with Rat and Mole, bursting with excitement when Almanzo wins first prize for his milk fed pumpkin, or pushing past a row of old coats to step into the Narnian winter? Of course not. What it does mean is that we apply the principle of multum non multa in selecting schoolbooks. The streamlined classical curriculum leaves plenty of time for other pursuits, including reading for pleasure and discovery. It is in these hours that students can sail the seas to Treasure Island, sit in the drawing rooms of Austen and Trollope, thrill to the daring escapades of the Scarlet Pimpernel, march with the Roman legions in Eagle of the Ninth, circle the globe with Phileas Fogg, or experience the angst of modern dystopias in 1984 and Brave New World.
In addition to studying the core readings in depth, the student is expected to read independently everyday, and families are strongly encouraged to read aloud for at least one hour three times a week. Daily is better. If time does not permit parents and children to read together regularly, high quality audio books and dramatizations may prove helpful. Independent and family reading is linked to schoolwork and enriches it, but should not be considered part of the formal school day. Rather, this time introduces the student to a wide range of English literature and foreign works in translation, establishes the habit of daily reading, and draws families together.
The advantages of the multum non multa approach are many. Eliminating busywork, workbooks, redundant curricula, excessive “escape” reading, from the school day cuts the student’s work time tremendously. Rolling subjects together, Latin and logic, Greek and geometry, history and literature, further reduces wasted time and mental energy. The time savings may be applied to the student’s own interests and to enrichment subjects such as sports, dance, or cooking. Parents will find that their preparation time is much reduced as they eliminate redundant subjects and learn alongside their children. Parents may also enjoy considerable savings on formal curricula, perhaps freeing funds for music lessons, building a quality home library, or other family needs.
The principle of multum non multa, which could be translated, “less is more,” has been subordinated in recent years to what may be termed multum optimum in se -“more is necessarily better.” The educational well-being of our children may depend on which approach we, as parents and educators, choose.
The month of December has begun, which means that it is the best time of the year. But what does it mean for us as Christians to approach Christmas? Is it just an endless rat-race of shopping, decorating, and partying? Dr. Robbie Crouse of Knox Seminary reminds us that approaching Christmas means learning to wait by entering into the story of Advent. Whether you are part of a church that follows the church calendar or not, his words are a helpful and stirring call to enjoy the season to its full.
Our culture has a waiting problem. I think we all know it. We live with instant gratification at our fingertips. Our inability to wait even infects our celebration of Christmas. I saw Christmas decorations at most stores the day after Halloween. I guess we’d rather start our Christmas shopping than pause for Thanksgiving.
With this way of celebrating Christmas, it’s no wonder that we’re tired of Christmas by December 25. The secular calendar of Christmas runs from November 1 -December 25. On December 26 we start to see the Valentine’s Day decorations come out.
Does it seem like there might be a better way? I think there is.
Some American evangelicals are surprised to hear about the older tradition of Advent and Christmas from our Christian past. It doesn’t quite match the way we celebrate it now. Traditionally, Christmas doesn’t begin until December 25, and it is a season, not a one-day event. Remember that song, The Twelve Days of Christmas? The “twelfth night” is another major celebration that brings us to Epiphany (January 6), the feast of Christ’s revelation to the world as the Divine Son, represented by the visit of the Magi and Jesus’s baptism. In many places around the world, January 6 is the day of exchanging gifts (in honor of the magi) and a bigger celebration than Christmas Day.
Before Christmas is the season of Advent. Advent marks four Sundays before Christmas and is quite distinct from Christmas itself. In other words, it’s not about celebrating four weeks of the Christmas story. Many of us are familiar with Advent wreaths and Advent candles, but some funny recent traditions have come in that take away from that earlier meaning of Advent. There’s nothing inherently wrong with naming the Advent candles (“Faith,” “Hope,” “Joy,” “Love” make some sense), but naming them after characters in the Christmas story (“the Shepherds candle,” “Mary’s candle,” “Joseph’s candle) seem to take away from the whole point of Advent as a preparation distinct from Christmas.
So what is the point of Advent?
“Advent” comes from a Latin word meaning “coming.” It’s about the coming of Christ, and that makes sense to most of us. What is less known is that Advent looks primarily at Christ’s second coming, or his “comings” to us now in all kinds of ways. The tone of Advent is one of waiting, longing, expectation, anticipation, preparation, even repentance. John the Baptist’s cry “Prepare the way of the Lord!” is probably the best summary of Advent.
On the one hand, in Advent, we enter again into the situation of Israel waiting for her Messiah. A number of Advent hymns pick up on Israel’s exile and God’s promise of a glorious future. “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” follows Isaiah’s message that judgment on Israel is coming to an end and God’s return is on the horizon. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” uses a different prophetic theme in each stanza with an address to “ransom, captive” Israel “that mourns in lonely exile.” It’s still dark out, but the night is coming to an end.
The purpose of this reenactment of Israel’s longing is to remind us that, although our Messiah has come, we still wait for the consummation of His kingdom. The other aspect of Advent is a theme of Christ’s return in glory. And it’s not focused solely on joy either. There’s still pain the world, but the coming morning will swallow up the mourning. There is a note of repentance and watchfulness in Advent. The parable of the Ten Virgins, a common theme in traditional Advent observance, teaches us to be vigilant and not unprepared when the Master returns.
Advent is the perfect reminder that we are between two appearings of Christ. We can be confident about his second coming when we remember God’s faithfulness to Israel in bringing her Messiah. Because God has been true to his covenant promises in bringing salvation near, we can be equipped by that grace to wait patiently for the fullness of our redemption.
Advent is an exercise in delayed gratification. Does that seem like something American Christians need? Yeah, I think so, too. Following the church calendar is not a commanded obligation by any means. But it is helpful. It teaches us that God works for those who wait on Him. Just as it helps us build anticipation for the joy of Christmas, we can (hopefully) increase our eagerness for Christ’s kingdom to come afresh, in our lives now and on that final day.
Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus.