A Scholar’s Daily Schedule: Entertainment

Homeschool moms, you are the primary educators of your children. Give your child entertainment options that reinforce the classical admiration of truth, goodness, and beauty, rather than entertainment options that undo these ends.

Tea should be taken in solitude…for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere. The ones I learned to use so at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodotus, and Lang’s History of English Literature.

–C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

With Granite’s last class day behind us, many Granite families are in full summer-mode. With that in mind, I want to take one last look at Lewis’s scholarly schedule to glean some guidance from him about what kinds of entertainment children should be pursuing. Of course, the proportions of entertainment that children will enjoy during summer days are probably much higher than during the school year, which only makes his advice all the more relevant now.

Reading
In this part of his scholarly schedule, Lewis gives us what may seem a rather lofty goal for the modern-day student: reading Herodotus for pleasure! But the main point here, I think, is that reading for pleasure should be a regular source of entertainment for the student. Whatever our modern-day perception of Herodotus, Lewis found him “gossipy and formless,” meaning casual and unstructured. Herodotus’s Histories covers the major events of the ancient Greek world, ambling from one episode to the next. (Something like The Story of the World might be the modern-day student’s equivalent.) Something easily read, not overly concerned with plot or artistry, and interesting. Lewis also names some popular novels of his day and says that they served a similar purpose. That purpose is to stimulate the mind and to bring enjoyment to the spirit.

When I was growing up, my brother and I used to read collections of “Calvin and Hobbes” comics together. The medium was a bit fluffy, but the content was entertaining, wholesome, and probably did more to expand my vocabulary than some of the academic books I read. I also read gobs of historical fiction. My brother was attracted to DK-style books with spreads full of interesting facts about the world. Each child is different, but there are enough resources out there to find something your child will pick up for fun. The point is to make reading a source of pleasure, one that your students can draw from even outside of “schoolwork.”

Get Off the Screens
The big takeaway here is that some forms of entertainment are good and aid the scholar, while others are not. Screen time, for instance, has been shown by a plethora of studies to have negative effects on developing brains, from disrupting cognitive and processing abilities to hurting a child’s emotional range and capabilities. Whenever possible, substitute reading for digital media use. Reading almost anything is better for your child’s brain development than screen time. Not only that, but as many classical educators have pointed out, you are much more likely to be forming your child’s loves and affections well with a book than an iPad. A Caldecott or Newberry award-winning children’s book gives your child access to wholesome, useful, thought-provoking content, and limits access to anything else (you can’t click away from a book page to watch videos on YouTube) while a tablet likely gives a child far more access to unwholesome, or at the very least frivolous content.

Games
There are other forms of entertainment that can be useful. Strategy games like chess have been shown to hone important critical thinking and foresight skills. The tangible, academic benefits of such thinking skills are obvious, but they have spiritual significance, too. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes that Satan is “like a good chess player”–“always trying to manoeuvre you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop.” Of course it’s just a metaphor, but it’s an apt one, because the strategic thinking skills your child picks up from such games (joined with a developed affection for truth, goodness, and beauty and a healthy reliance on the Holy Spirit) will help form him in to a person who has the foresight and wit necessary to develop self-regulating and temptation-avoiding strategies for his life. Those are not skills a child will develop from watching 6 episodes of “Adventure Time” in a row.

Gymnastic
Another excellent entertainment option is physical activity. Different from rejuvenating outdoor activities, physical entertainment is interactive and often aerobic. Run around outside, play tag, catch frogs in a creek–send your kids outside and spend time as a family having fun outdoors this summer! Activity is not only physically healthy, but it teaches your children to enjoy and make good use of the bodies God has given them.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates even goes so far as to say that “gymnastic,” that is, formal physical training, ought to be part of the academic curriculum (and not just entertainment) because it develops certain qualities in the soul, such as fortitude and firmness. Find structured activities for your children, too. When I was growing up, I spent literally thousands of hours in the ballet studio. My brother spent similar time at his fencing club (that’s fencing as in swords). The hours I spent developing the physical art of ballet developed my perseverance and determination, and honed a love of beauty and artistry in my soul; the hours I spent playing computer games did not. To whatever extent your kids are physically able, teach them to prioritize physical activity over sedentary entertainment.

Entertainment is Formative
In Plato’s discourses on education, the Socrates of The Republic asks, “Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?” The question is designed to make us think about the consequences of entertainment and to help us realize that entertainment is formative. Socrates goes on to identify mothers and nurses as the main source of formation in children.

Homeschool moms, you are the primary educators of your children, even when “school” is not in session. Don’t allow yourself to be supplanted by a screen. Give your child entertainment options that reinforce the classical admiration of truth, goodness, and beauty, rather than entertainment options that undo these ends. As Socrates notes, the formation of character starts early, and entertainment choices affect character: “The beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.”

In Surprised by Joy Lewis writes of the times of entertainment he most looked forward to as a school boy: “On a Saturday afternoon in winter, when nose and fingers might be pinched enough to give an added relish to the anticipation of tea and fireside, and the whole weekend’s reading lay ahead, I suppose I reached as much happiness as is ever to be reached on earth. And especially if there were some new, long-coveted book awaiting me.” May your children’s entertainment this summer be formative, so that when winter comes, they share Lewis’s desire for the fireside and a good book!


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

A Masterpiece

This is my deepest desire for you. That you would not allow your worship to be contained to the four walls of a church building, but that in every talent, gifting, and pursuit, you would glorify and honor your creator, your life a living sacrifice.

The following is the commencement address given to the Granite Classical class of 2017 by Mrs. Bethany Pautrat.


To Mrs. Morton, The Granite Board, tutors, parents, family, friends, and graduates. It is an incredible honor to have the privilege of being here with the Granite Class of 2017. Thank you for the opportunity.

As I started to prepare for this moment, I began to recollect and reminisce about the beginning of the year when we first met and started to get to know one another. I knew some of you by name or by a “hi” or a wave in the hallway. But the first day of classes, which oddly seems like yesterday and so far away at the same time, was truly our first introduction.

We started with basic first day formalities such as names and expectations, and we chatted about what we did over the summer. There was some expected senior thesis moaning. There was also quick jokes, laughter, grammatical corrections, snarky looks, and brilliant exchange of words. Two hours flew by, and you all ran out of the door to lunch with a, “See you next week Mrs. Pautrat!”

As I sat at my desk, I did not ponder my excitement at your dreams for thesis, at the study of the postmodern world, of my dreams of discussion of art and culture, or of reading and analyzing Orwell, Lewis, and Keller to name a few. No, my first thought was this: I am in serious trouble. They are quick-witted, well-spoken, opinionated students who think they are are smarter than me. And I’m a bit concerned they may be right.

It has been an absolute joy to be kept on my toes this school year by such a tremendous group of young people. I want to take this one last time to speak to you and to impart a few things I have learned on the way.

When I was graduating from high school somewhere in a strange place called the 90s, it appeared that I had it all together. I loved Jesus, I had been on a few mission trips, I had a 3.8 unweighted GPA, AP credits, college scholarships, honors program offers, and finally, the perfect pointe shoes. Appearance can be deceiving. You see, I was actually unsure of God’s calling, a perfectionist who wanted a 4 in front of that decimal point and full scholarships, and I was highly insecure in my identity.

As I have delved into the the depths of God, I have come away with truth and healing in three key areas.

1. Fear Will Paralyze Your Pursuit of Destiny.
I cannot tell you how many opportunities I passed by because I was scared of rejection. I was terrified of what people thought about me, how they would respond to that poem I wrote, to the idea that was aflame inside of me, or to a testimony I wanted to give. As a pastor I once heard said, I was living by the praise of men and dying by their criticism. Seniors, give your fear to your Father. Trust Him with your pursuits and with your desires. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” His love is perfect and can be relied on to demolish fear. You are children of God, conduits of His Glory, and deeply loved. Brennan Manning summed it up best when he said, “Define yourself radically as one beloved of God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion.” Know who you are in the heart of your Father and as the scripture teaches, fear not, for He is with you.

2. Listen to Winston Churchill: Failure is not Fatal.
I took every failure as an indicator that I was a terrible student, creator, artist, writer, friend, or even Christian. I allowed failure to stop me in my tracks, boss me around, and tell me that I was worthless and would not amount to anything. I was missing a tremendous opportunity to grow and learn. I wish I had heeded the words of Thomas Edison. He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Don’t give up on the ideas; they are seeds that God has planted in your heart. Feel the sting; take a deep breath. You can get up again, and if you never experience failure the victory will never be quite as sweet. You have to have the ability to throw cowardice out the window if you want to be be victorious. There is something about being able to overcome. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” You will fail and it may not feel wonderful, but your strength and your sustenance comes from your heavenly Father. So climb that mountain, scrape your knee, and get back up. In the words of Helen Keller, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

3. Hope is an Anchor
I was the queen of pessimism and worry. I always thought of the worst case scenario when I heard about something terrible on the news. There are things happening in our world that through earthly eyes seem unprecedented. The unhinged political scene in the United States alone is enough to make you feel hopeless, not to mention radical Islam, terrorism, and droves of people turning away from the light and accepting evil as truth. The world appears to be shaking. But we have something the world does not have. We have hope. We have Biblical hope: confident expectation or joyful expectation. When I look at you, seniors, and I see who you are and who God has created you to be, I am filled with hope. You are light bearers and are going into the world ready to impact the lost and the dying with the greatest Hope there is–the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Psalm 147:11 says, “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” C.S. Lewis so aptly describes our deliverance in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” Jesus has come. He has the victory.

I Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.” Face the the future with an expectation of the victory won by Jesus. To quote Brennan Manning once more, “We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt.”

I want to leave you with this. In the 1980s, there was a famous movie called “Chariots of Fire.” It is the story of the life of missionary and champion runner Eric Liddell. There’s a famous scene where Liddell is being reprimanded by his sister for not putting God first as a missionary to China (which he later pursued and gave his life for) and for taking a season to pursue competitive running. Liddell responds, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” This is my deepest desire for you. That you would not allow your worship to be contained to the four walls of a church building, but that in every talent, gifting, and pursuit, you would glorify and honor your creator, your life a living sacrifice. There’s worship song that so beautifully illustrates how God wants to use to your life. It says:

Pick me up like a paintbrush
Dip it in the colors of my life.
Paint your picture, Father
And fashion a heart that is fully yours
Take your fingers, God,
Master potter come form the clay
Tell your story
As you mold me
Fashion a heart that is fully yours
And write your name in the clay
And sign your name on the picture. (Julie Meyer)

God wants to make a masterpiece of your life, with colors and shapes which he has sovereignly ordained for you.

So.

Bekah: Help people to feel better and stronger in their bodies as you train them to be healthy, and feel his pleasure.

Caleb: Save the world from computer viruses, create, get a patent, and feel his pleasure.

Gabriel: Write the shorts stories, plan the famous novel, get published, and feel his pleasure.

Reagan: Create innovative robotic solutions to help make the world a better place, and feel his pleasure.

Susanna: Design, create, solve difficult problems with great thinking and beauty, and feel his pleasure.

One more time: Awake Narnia.

Love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”
Think: “and with all your mind,”
Speak: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love. Think. Speak. Take all that has been planted deep inside, and go change the world for the sake of the Gospel. I cannot wait to see what you do!


Bethany Pautrat teaches history and Omnibus at Granite Classical Tutorials.

A Scholar’s Daily Schedule: Rejuvenation

For Lewis, the natural world provides a key component to the scholarly life: an opportunity for the rejuvenation of the mind and spirit.

“By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the out-door world…The only friend to walk with is one…who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared. The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four.” –C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

In my last post, I noted that the foundation of Lewis’s proposed scholarly schedule is extended periods of contemplative, individual study.

But Lewis indicates that academic contemplation alone is not enough for the scholar. Lewis also insists that the daily routine involve a walk–and a very long one by today’s standards: two hours! He furthermore insists that this walk, in most cases, be a solitary one, because walking with another person turns the experience into a social affair, which upends the purpose of the walk. The daily walk, according to Lewis, is a time for reveling in the beauty of nature and for refreshing the mind with quiet stimulation, rather than with boisterous or forced conversation.

For Lewis, the natural world provides a key component to the scholarly life: an opportunity for the rejuvenation of the mind and spirit. Our brains of course need a break after long periods of learning and absorbing. But the physical body needs a change too–physical movement increases oxygen flow to the brain, which helps us think better, and our eyes tire after long periods of reading. Allowing the mind and eyes to relax, and getting the body moving at about mid-day will help make that afternoon study time much more productive.

I think it’s worth noting that Lewis finds the natural world particularly suited to this kind of refreshment. A break to watch cartoons or to play a game on a screen will not have the same effect because these activities are simply modern day replacements for the kind of bombardment that Lewis specifically wants to avoid. A walk taken while listening to music or to a podcast via earbuds also provides more bombardment than true mental rejuvenation. Even an activity like playing tag with the siblings outside doesn’t accomplish exactly the purpose of the solitary nature walk. Outdoor games certainly have their place in home education and family culture, but they aren’t what Lewis is talking about here because they don’t allow the mind to subconsciously digest what the student has been learning during study time against the quiet backdrop of the natural world.

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Addison’s Walk, at Magdalen College, Oxford. Lewis took many walks here when he taught at Magdalen.

Deep Work author Cal Newport is in agreement with Lewis about the usefulness of walking for the scholar. In his book, Newport recalls that the days on which he walked to work were his most productive, because he used that walking time to digest and think over the mathematical proofs he had been working on the day before. Because the student is outside, there is no burden to continue to absorb and learn new information, so the mind is free to mull over what it has already taken in. Paired with light physical activity, a period of quiet, solitary contemplation can provide real rejuvenation.

True rejuvenation from scholarly activity means giving the mind time to debrief, and letting the body move. Now that spring is here in full, Lewis’s suggestion to do this against the backdrop of nature is one that we stand a good chance of following, in one form or another! Of course, you might not be able to spare two full hours at a time, but even fifteen or twenty minutes climbing a tree, biking around the neighborhood, or walking the dog could have the desired effect, if that time is solitary rather than interactive. (In other words, look for opportunities to give your students these little rejuvenating moments to enjoy away from their siblings.)

This won’t be possible every day, but whenever weather permits, and whenever it’s logistically realistic to give your students (especially logic stage and older) time to themselves outdoors following a long period of study, take advantage of that opportunity for your student to be rejuvenated.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

A Scholar’s Daily Schedule: Study

Overcoming the temptation of distraction requires discipline and perseverance. These are not easy skills to develop, but they are worthwhile.

In Surprised by Joy, Lewis shares what he believes to be the ideal schedule for the student. He derives this pattern from the “routine” which he was accustomed to at an in-home boarding school where he was, in essence, homeschooled, along with a handful of other boys. He says this daily routine “has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a ‘normal’ day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of [this] pattern.” Here’s the ideal scholarly schedule, according to Lewis:

I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better…At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road [for a walk]…The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude…for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably…At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading.

Other than meals, Lewis’s day consists of four basic activities, each of them distinct from the others: school work, walking (which he specifies must be done alone), reading for pleasure, and then finally conversation. Each of these four components represents a vital part of the scholarly life: study, rejuvenation, entertainment, and social interaction. In my next few posts, I’d like to cover each of these topics in turn, considering how Lewis’s habits can be helpful to the homeschooler.

The foundation of the school day, of course, must be study. What strikes me the most about this passage (other than the seemingly magical arrival of lunch and tea) is the extended periods of continuous study: reading or writing for five hours in the morning, and then another two-hour block of school work in the late afternoon.

Lewis was at about the logic stage when he first followed this schedule at his boarding school. It’s impressive to me that a student so young could work for such extended periods of time without taking a significant break. In many ways, I think modern day home educators have a much more difficult battle to fight for their students’ attention spans than Lewis’s teachers probably did. Extended periods of serious study are increasingly difficult to achieve for the modern-day student who is constantly bombarded by a fast-paced world that demands attention (and offers distractions) at every turn. Scholars like Cal Newport, author of Deep Work have written extensively about this problem. In his book, Newport notes that the average modern day brain is so unaccustomed to boredom that it does not know how to not be distracted:

If every moment of potential boredom in your life–say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a restaurant until a friend arrives–is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where…it’s not ready for deep work–even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration.

This means that extended periods of deep concentration will be difficult for the modern student, especially for older ones who have been pulled fully in to the technological culture.

But even in our fractured modern day, students can learn the habit of continuous, uninterrupted study. It grows easier with practice, as the brain re-learns the discipline of concentration. Set up a technology-free/Internet-free zone where your students must spend some amount of their study time. Set a timer and ask your student to read for the duration. Or, for an older student, set a reading goal (“Try to read the next canto of Dante’s Inferno without taking a break.”) Gently increase your student’s goals for extended periods of study over time.

Lewis’s schedule is also a one designed to put the learner in a place of contemplation whenever possible. Lewis’s approach to study seems to frame it as a primarily contemplative act. It is not primarily a social act, or a source of entertainment. There is a time and place for sociability (after dinner) and a time and place for entertainment (reading for pleasure during tea). The rest of the time, the student is to be studying in solitude. Depending on your student’s age, abilities, and learning styles, you may need to supervise and interact with your student during long blocks of study, but even so, Lewis’s perspective is helpful. We should strive to make contemplation the primary goal. Find places in your home for your students (especially your older students) to sequester themselves for deep contemplative work and build a routine in which they stay put for a set period of time, even if that time is relatively short to begin with.

Overcoming the temptation of distraction or the impulse to find distraction when we feel bored or tired of the same activity requires discipline and perseverance. These are not easy skills to develop, but they are worthwhile. If your young student can persevere through twenty pages in a chapter book now, she will have the fortitude necessary to persevere through Dante later. If your logic or rhetoric stage student can persevere through an extended writing or reading task now, he will be able to organize himself for the much more monumental task of his senior thesis later. A mind that can focus on a scholarly task for an extended length can accomplish far more than most in our modern day. Imagine what your child will be able to accomplish if, by adulthood, she has been practicing the discipline of contemplative study for all of her school age years.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Letters to Children and Being “Drawn Out”

The true, the good, and the beautiful are ends which transcend the child. He must be drawn out of himself and pointed towards them, and this is what an education, in its truest sense, does.

For most of last month, I used excerpts from Letters to Children as the basis for some brief reflections in our morning chapel at Granite. Letters to Children is a compilation of C.S. Lewis’s correspondence with the young children to who wrote to him, usually about his Narnia books. While Lewis seems to have rarely touched on religious topics in most of his letters to children, when he does, he consistently points children to a God-centric view of things, rather than to an ego-centric view of things. His letters remind children that their experience of God does not in any way change His reality, and that dwelling on the finished work of Christ ought to replace dwelling on themselves.

For instance, when Lewis writes to his goddaughter, Sarah, in 1949 to apologize for missing her first communion, he tells her not to worry if she doesn’t have a deep emotional response when she participates in the sacrament:

Don’t expect (I mean, don’t count on and don’t demand) that when you are confirmed, or when you make your first Communion, you will have all the feelings you would like to have. You may, of course: but also you may not. But don’t worry if you don’t get them. They aren’t what matter…Our Lord will give us right feelings if He wishes–and then we must say Thank you. If He doesn’t, then we must say to ourselves (and Him) that He knows us best.

In another letter, Lewis likewise acknowledges very frankly to a young boy named Laurence that “people do find it hard to keep on feeling as if you believed in the next life.” But in both cases, Lewis affirms to these young children that their own feelings in no way change reality. Lewis tells Sarah, “The things that are happening to you are quite real things whether you feel as you w[ou]ld or not.” Sarah has been saved by the work of Christ, and her own emotional response to acts of worship have nothing to do with that reality. Lewis likewise tells Laurence, “It is just as hard to keep on feeling as if you believed you were going to be nothing after death. I know this because in the old days before I was a Christian I used to try.” In other words, our feelings are temporal; everyone naturally experiences doubt in his convictions at some point, but those doubts do not change the reality of eternal life. Lewis is drawing the focus of these children away from themselves and towards something higher, something beyond their own experiences and feelings.

This is education in a most classical sense. The word education comes from the Latin word “educare” which means “to draw out.” In this sense, a true education cannot be ego-centric; it cannot be focused on the self. An education that promotes navel gazing by asking a child to constantly contemplate his own feelings about a topic is nearly useless. After all, the child does not already possess within himself a knowledge and understanding of the true, the good, and the beautiful. These are ends which transcend the child, because they transcend all of humanity. The child must be drawn out of himself and pointed towards them, and this is what an education, in its truest sense, does.

In his matter-of-fact way, Lewis shows us how to draw a student out and to help her meditate on that which transcends her own self and her own experience. The true, the good, and the beautiful are only attainable if our gaze is drawn out of ourselves and pointed to something outside, beyond, or higher than our own sense of being. That is ultimately the goal of a true education: to draw the student’s gaze and contemplation to the One who is the source of all truth, all goodness, and all beauty.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Training the Mouth

As rhetoric students read more and more of the great minds and learn more and more of the great truths of the universe, they will want to engage and join the great conversation. This is when students are ready to truly speak, not for the sake of a classroom exercise, but for themselves.

In a classical education, training the heart in the grammar stage and training the mind in the logic stage are both preparation for training the mouth in the rhetoric stage.

At about high school age, students start to crave something more complex than merely absorbing virtue and beauty and working out thinking puzzles in classroom exercises. As they read more and more of the great minds and learn more and more of the great truths of the universe, they will want to actually engage and join the great conversation. This is when students are ready to truly speak, not for the sake of a classroom exercise, but for themselves.

We can tell a student is ready for this final piece of the classical education when she starts to become aware of how all the ideas and information she is encountering are affecting her own worldview.

For Lewis, this happened perhaps most poignantly when he began to realize that the atheism that he clung to stubbornly for much of his young adult life was being slowly chipped away by the authors he was drawn to:

“I…thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive ‘apart from his Christianity.’ …I thought…that Christianity itself was very sensible ‘apart from its Christianity’….And nearly everyone now (one way or another) was in the pack; Plato, Dante, MacDonald, Herbert, Barfield, Tolkien, Dyson, Joy itself. Everyone and everything had joined the other side….All said, in the last resort, ‘It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?’” (Surprised by Joy)

Lewis writes that these authors took him out of himself, pointing him to something higher than his own heart and his own mind; the “inherent dialectic of desire” pointed him towards the truth, goodness, and beauty that can only be found in Christ.

Soon, of course, Lewis realized that the truths he was seeking were most fully realized in the Christian faith. And like every rhetoric stage student who has firmly established his beliefs, he naturally wanted to proclaim them. We need only look to the body of Lewis’s work to understand how he made use of this natural desire. Lewis is one of the most prolific Christian authors of the modern age, and his image-bearing ability to speak (and  by extension to write) brought a wealth of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty to a broken world.

Perhaps Lewis’s most applicable advice for the student in this stage comes from The Abolition of Man, when he compares the old (classical) way of educating with the new pragmatic way of educating:

“Where the old initiated, the new merely ‘conditions’. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them more as the poultry-keeper deals with young birds—making them thus or thus for the purposes of which the birds know nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation—men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.”

If we are to follow Lewis’s advice, then in the rhetoric stage we must teach our students how to fly.

To do this, we challenge them to bring their own questions to class discussions and to confidently and thoughtfully critique ideas they believe to be wrong. We challenge them to puzzle through new information and consider its implications for their worldview, whether that new material is chemical properties or blank verse poetry. We challenge them to respond to false philosophies, and to consider the most loving and winsome ways to challenge untruths.

In all of this, we are returning to an old, time-honored teaching methodology, one that values the propagation of truth, goodness, and beauty enough to train students to use their mouths to pass on the inclinations of their hearts and the conclusions of their minds.

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The debate lectern at Oxford’s Divinity School, where medieval theology students would practice orally presenting and defending doctrines of the faith.

The True End of a Classical Education

Though Lewis’s own education was very piecemeal, it was in some respects very classical. He did not become a Christian until he was in his twenties, but it’s clear from his autobiography that certain aspects of his education were intricately wrapped up in his testimony, even though he did not realize it at the time.

Similarly, in a Christian classical education, we recognize that everything that we do is ultimately supposed to help students live the Christian life. A poetry copywork exercise might not have an immediate cosmic influence, but it does train your child’s heart to recognize the beautiful, and later he will more easily recognize the divine source of all beauty because of that training. A classroom debate about uniforms versus casual clothes certainly isn’t going to change your child’s entire worldview, but it is training her mind to recognize a sound argument, and that will point her towards truth, and the divine source of all truth. A big speech, like keynote or senior thesis might seem only to wrack your child’s nerves, but it is really training his mouth to speak winsomely and compellingly and to uphold goodness, and the divine source of all goodness, to the world. All of these subjects are ultimately working together to equip your student to be a loving, thinking, speaking image-bearer of Christ.

In Surprised by Joy Lewis gives us his version of the “true end” of education. All elements of a worthwhile education, he says, are worthwhile because, ultimately, they help us live the good life, a life centered on Christ: “The true training for anything whatever that is good always prefigures and, if submitted to, will always help us in, the true training for the Christian life. That is a school where they can always use your previous work whatever subject it was on.”


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Training the Mind

A classical education is designed to train not only the heart, but also the mind. As soon as students are ready, we ask them to think critically and deeply in every subject.

In my last post, I looked at C.S. Lewis’s advice for educating the grammar stage student: feed the young child’s natural inclination to absorb and imitate with the true, the good, and the beautiful. By teaching the young student to love and appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty, we prepare him for the logic stage which will require him to defend that love.

When a child reaches the logic stage, he will no longer be content with merely exercising the heart. He will start to wonder why something he has learned as truth is, in fact, true. He will wonder what makes the beautiful aesthetically pleasing. He will wonder how we determine what is truly good. At this point, he is ready to exercise the mind to pursue these questions.

Again, Lewis provides us with a nice example of the logic stage mind. This passage comes from Surprised by Joy when Lewis recalls how he and his friends changed as they grew a little bit older:

“I can…remember from those days what must have been the first metaphysical argument I ever took part in. We debated whether the future was like a line you can’t see or like a line that is not yet drawn. I have forgotten which side I took though I know that I took it with great zeal.”

Logic stage students are marked by a desire to argue! They want to exercise their intellectual muscle in much more significant and challenging ways than they have before.

And in the scheme of a whole classical education, we recognize along Lewis that reason and rationality, when exercised well, will naturally point us to the true, the good, and the beautiful, and will thereby confirm what the classical student has already learned to love.

Lewis gives us several examples of what good teaching looks like in this stage. Though many of the teachers he describes were far from perfect, the ones he looks back on with appreciation nonetheless are those who trained his mind to reason and analyze.

For instance, though Lewis disliked math, he admits in Surprised by Joy that the man who taught him geometry “forced us to reason, and I have been the better for those geometry lessons all my life.” He describes his favorite literature teacher from these years like this:

“He could enchant but he could also analyse. An idiom or a textual crux, once expounded by [him], became clear as day… I began to see that the reader who misses syntactical points in a poem is missing aesthetic points as well.” (Surprised by Joy)

Lewis appreciates how this teacher could reveal the richness and subtleties of a piece of literature to help his students revel in the aesthetics and beauty of an intricately crafted work of art.

Of all his teachers from his early years, the one who perhaps had the biggest influence on him was the man he refers to in his autobiography as Kirk, whom he credits with teaching him how to debate:

“I loved ratiocination….Here was talk that was really about something. Here was a man who thought not about you but about what you said…taking it all in all, I loved the treatment. After being knocked down sufficiently often I began to know a few guards and blows, and to put on intellectual muscle. In the end, unless I flatter myself, I became a not contemptible sparring partner.”

A classical education is designed to train not only the heart, but also the mind. As soon as students are ready, we ask them to think critically and deeply in every subject. They have to back up their aesthetic judgments of a piece of literature with an analysis. They have to back up their assessments of historical people and events with sound arguments. They have to show how their hypotheses are true or false by carefully following the steps of the scientific method. They have to defend their interpretation of a passage from scripture with sound hermeneutics. We teach them to gather information carefully, to reason soundly and without fallacy, and to build their arguments logically so that they can defend their love of the true, the good, and the beautiful.

This is perhaps the most challenging phase of classical education; training the mind is no simple task! It requires both the educator and the student to think deeply and critically about every topic and to follow lines of inquiry rigorously in pursuit of truth. But in a classical education, we are willing to work through these difficult mental exercises because we recognize that the mind is the vital link between the heart and the mouth. A student who has learned to love truth, goodness, and beauty will naturally want to share that love with others, and she must be ready to use her mind in support of that love.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.


This post is the second in a three-part series based on a talk given at Granite Classical’s February 2017 Re-Enrollment meeting for parents. Read Part III here.