Dating to sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries, Beowulf is the oldest surviving old English long poem. It corresponds to a period in English history where Anglo-Danish people made up a large portion of the British Isles’—a multiethnic makeup which is reflected in the story itself—and its style and theme are planted in the Germanic heroic tradition. However, and despite its use of some Norse pagan symbolism, it has some explicitly Christian components.
Children today (and perhaps adults in the general populace as well) are often not drawn to what they need, but to what is right in front of them. Truth, goodness, and beauty are available and can be found in nature, great literature, works of art, music, and such, but amusement and frivolity are available as well—and are even more easily accessible. Our parents’ generation had the T.V. We have streaming services, and Facebook, and YouTube, and Instagram plus 500 cable channels we don’t need.
We classical Christian educators have little trouble giving reasons for reading the Iliad. Despite its pervasive violence and darkness, it gave birth to much of the Greco-Roman and English literary traditions. Homer established the Western canons of storytelling, and his epic poems make us grapple with ideas and problems central to the human condition. As C. S. Lewis would say, reading Homer “enlarges our being,” and “old books” like the Iliad “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds.”
In his book, Christ and Architecture, Donald Bruggink says, “A church interested in preaching the Gospel must be interested in architecture as well. For the architecture of a church either augments the preached word or conflicts with it.” This is true of the classical, Christian school as well. A classical, Christian education places a high value, not only on the redemptive work of Christ, but on the whole child of God. We believe that if Christianity is true, it must not be true for just the mind, or the body, but for the whole man.
We live in a sexually saturated age. Anyone can see that. From deodorant advertisements to children’s clothing, our culture has become shockingly sexualized. Even people who have fully embraced the Sexual Revolution express concern that we may have gone too far. Not surprisingly, Christians have observed this frightening trend and tried to respond to it. Often at the heart of this response is a conversation about modesty.
Sweet Home. It’s more than just a lovely sentiment on a cross-stitched pillow. You might say it’s engraved, embedded, etched on our very souls. From the time we are little and draw a crayon square with a triangle on top to the day we leave home for college or set up our first apartment or purchase a house for the first time or bring that first baby home, we are ever consumed with a desire for a place of our own, indeed a place to make our own.
When it came to school, my mom believed that if you can get your children to love learning then the rest of their education will work itself out. That’s when I came along. Ten hours of labor, followed by a nasty reputation in the church nursery, and I let my mom know quickly that if she made me do anything unpleasant, I would fight her on it. This put a tiny crimp in her homeschooling plans. Maybe it was impossible to make math and science entertaining to a little girl who hated numbers and bugs, but surely there were plenty of ways to make history fun and exciting, right?
Israel lived through centuries of Divine silence; then came the Word and angels sang. Hundreds of years of stillness ended when God spoke Himself into the world. This occurrence, like so many of those in Scripture, serves not only as an historical account but as an instructive tale: It admonishes us, “Wait! Be silent!”
Be still, God says, and in that stillness you will come to know Me (Psalm 46:10).
Like most readers, I’m often asked to recommend books or name my favorite authors. These questions are fun and generally easy to answer, but that little skeptic inside me wants to know why I have seldom answered these questions the same way. Do I really not know the answer? Am I trying to impress or please my interrogator? Am I unconsciously sizing her up and offering her a book or author I think she’ll enjoy?