In the Middle: A Teacher’s Tour of the Logic Stage

[Editor’s note: This post is the fourth in a series on how we teach the Trivium at Morning Star Academy. The Trivium forms the structure of classical education. It includes three stages: Grammar (grades K-5), Logic (6-8) and Rhetoric (9-12).]

Brenda Porter

Logic school is the three-year period between the Grammar and Rhetoric schools at Morning Star Academy. In this stage, students are invited to become more independent in their thinking, to go beyond mastering facts, and to make connections between the things they’re learning. They consider big ideas and “why” questions. In science classes, for example, Mrs. Spykstra helps students to “break down the difference between the changing nature of scientific knowledge and the unchanging nature of Truth.” Across the hall in the history room, Mr. Bradford encourages students to seek answers about the purpose and value of studying history. In Mrs. Hixenbaugh’s logic class, they learn the principles that will help them to distinguish truth from fallacy. 

While keeping the focus on the big questions, teachers also plan for experiential learning, the kinds of memorable activities that shape hearts and imaginations. Students read, act, give speeches; they draw, sing, conduct experiments; they research, recite, solve problems; they write, recite, memorize scripture. They taste knowledge, grasp meaning, make connections. A story in literature has roots in an ancient historical and biblical setting; a science equation works like a math problem! 

If that sounds like a lot, it is! Logic school days are busy. To assist students in meeting the growing demands on their time, their teachers also give them practical instruction in the development of good student habits like note-taking and annotating their reading. They teach them to observe and value the MSA Code of Conduct and to make wise decisions about behavior and relationships in light of their identity as children of God. 

In all these experiences, students are taught to see the world through the lens of Christianity. A two-year sequence of Bible—Old Testament in seventh grade and New Testament in eighth grade—is the framework that informs all other content. Teachers encourage their students to observe and appreciate God’s beautiful and orderly world. They help them to realize that they are people created in God’s image, young men and women who can exercise their creativity in music, art, and writing. 

As they finish eighth grade, they’ll take with them new understandings of the created world, and new tools—practical, theoretical, theological—for the final stage of the classical Christian journey, the Rhetoric school.

Brenda Porter teaches English, writing, and rhetoric at Morning Star Academy. She and her husband, Rob, are the parents of three grown daughters. 

A Logic Student on Loving Words and Learning to Write

Editor’s note: This post is the third in a series on how we teach the Trivium at Morning Star Academy, and it’s our first student perspective! The Trivium forms the structure of classical education. It includes three stages: Grammar (grades K-5), Logic (6-8) and Rhetoric (9-12).

Sadie V.

Proverbs 15:4 says, “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” This verse is a great example of how powerful and beautiful words are. Their beauty and strength are what caused me to fall in love with words, and consequently with writing as well.

I fell in love with words at a very young age. When I was a toddler I used to snatch a picture book from our bookshelf at home, find a little corner and start “reading” to myself—making up a story from the pictures provided. I also pestered others to read to me. When I reached the end of second grade, I began to explore my own personal reading options. Then my mom took me to the library. I was in heaven! A whole world of books at my very fingertips! 

Slowly my love of reading extended to writing as well. I would chop two little pieces of cardboard off of a box, cut some paper the same size as the cardboard, zip-tie them all together, and create my own little makeshift book. That was the beginning of my writing career. 

In third grade, my parents decided to send me to Morning Star Academy. When I got there, I discovered that Mrs. Bohonek gave the class stories to write at least once every day. I was thrilled! I took to those assignments like a fish to water. In later years, my teachers expanded my writing skills as they asked for essays and book reports. From the annual Academic Night essays that I wrote in fifth and sixth grade to the short journal entries Mrs. Porter had us write in seventh grade, my teachers have and continue to give me every opportunity to sharpen my writing skills. 

Building on all those years of writing practice, I am now working on novels and short stories. I could never have come as far as I have in my writing if I didn’t have the amazing teachers that I’ve had and still have at Morning Star. To those teachers I say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  

Sadie V. is in 8th grade at Morning Star Academy. She lives on a small farm outside of the Quad Cities. Apart from reading and writing, she loves to sketch, paint, sew, cuddle with her dogs and spend time with friends.

A Mom’s Glimpse into Grammar: Marveling at the “Great Given”

Editor’s note: This post is the second in a series on how we teach the Trivium at Morning Star Academy. The Trivium forms the structure of classical education. It includes three stages: Grammar (grades K-5), Logic (6-8) and Rhetoric (9-12). Keep reading for a parent perspective on the Grammar stage!

Kat Carter

As a parent with three children in the Morning Star Grammar school, and one who’s recently advanced to the Logic school, I thought I’d share a few glimpses into our journey at Morning Star and why we’re excited to continue.

Fun

While it’s great fun to be a child, and I’m certain children are having fun at schools all throughout the Quad Cities, Morning Star offers a deep sense of delight. Maybe the word I’m looking for is closer to marvel or wonder. Reading great books triggers wonder and a love of learning. In Kindergarten, during Mrs. Norton’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe unit, my children would stare out of the van in the evenings, watching carefully for the entrance to Narnia at neighborhood lampposts.

The way in which the Grammar students learn—using songs and hand motions—is also great fun. One of my best memories of Mrs. Spykstra’s second grade class was watching my middle son dance (!) and sing (!) in front of an audience (!) as he recited all the countries of Africa. Singing is not only a method of learning at Morning Star; it also develops a love for music in my children, cultivates selflessness in their ability to overcome shyness, and builds an appreciation for lyric verse. 

Friends

I am thankful my children are growing up alongside children who, along with their parents, love Jesus and honor and obey God’s Word. My kids are not just making lifetime friends—I’m certain they are building friendships for all eternity. This extends to their teachers and parents whom we are privileged to know more and more each passing year. All four of our children were adopted from foster care in Iowa. As they continue through adolescence, they are going to have big questions about why God allows sad and bad things to happen and also wonder about His plan for their lives. We’re counting on like-minded friends to keep pointing our children to Jesus.

Faith

There are several Christian schools to choose from in the Quad Cities. One of the reasons we chose Morning Star is for its holistic approach to learning. Its classical model includes curriculum and teaching methods that reflect how God made our children. Little kids love to sing and move and memorize facts (Grammar). Tweens, I’m discovering, like to argue (Logic), and teenagers like to express what they know (Rhetoric). But Morning Star isn’t just a rigorous academic school with a Bible class. Every subject is taught as though it were under the Lordship of Christ, because in fact it is (Colossians 1:16-17).  

Science and mathematics point to the universe’s created order and reliability. God is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33). He never changes (Hebrews 13:8). Neat penmanship, cursive, and spelling point to the beauty of the written word and the importance of not adding to or taking away from God’s Word (Deuteronomy 12:32). Mrs. Bohonek, the third grade teacher, once left a note in one of my son’s science notebook, saying “Being neat and orderly is a reflection of who God is. Be sure to always work your best at that!” This was such a great exhortation. We strive for godliness not to earn God’s pleasure but to reflect His excellence!

The Great Given

At Morning Star, our family appreciates the fun and wonder of learning, friendships that encourage and sustain us now and into eternity, and the faith-filled education our children are receiving under the “Great Given”: that all things were created by Him and for Him, He is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1 again!).

As our children’s academic journey continues in light of this reality, we pray that they will be less likely to disassociate their education from their faith as they reach adulthood. As all their learning, questioning, debating, and wrestling occurs under this Great Given, we pray they will be more likely to trust God when they doubt and struggle later in life. We are thankful for Morning Star’s holistic approach to educating our children and pray it will result in whole-hearted devotion to The Morning Star—Jesus.

Kat Carter is retired from the U.S. Army and now provides operational, logistical, and emotional care support services for her squad on a full time basis (AKA stay-at-home mom). She and her husband, Bill, are the parents of four Morning Star students.

A Third Grade Glimpse into the Grammar Stage

Editor’s note: This post is the first in a series on how we teach the Trivium at Morning Star Academy. The Trivium forms the structure of classical education. It includes three stages: Grammar (grades K-5), Logic (6-8) and Rhetoric (9-12).

“For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.” 

Dorothy Sayers

Missy Bohonek

What I love about this quote by Sayers is how it aligns with what we are doing at Morning Star Academy. We want to develop thinkers. We want students who know how to think, not merely what to think. What does this endeavor look like day-to-day? I want to invite you into my third grade classroom to get a glimpse into a classical Christian education.

I must say, I love grammar school students. It doesn’t take long to see their excitement for new and interesting facts. They often explain in detail what they have learned, and they will most likely relate what they have learned to their own experiences. Their ability to memorize still blows me away every year. They enjoy collecting and organizing items, and being able to grasp a new language is another one of their strengths.

Knowing these traits and building a curriculum around them is what makes classical education beautiful. Walking into the third grade you most likely will hear us singing. Whether we are singing the Bible verses that accompany our catechism questions, singing our history song or reciting the 52 prepositions for our grammar lessons, singing is often happening in our classroom. 

Another staple of classical education is helping students become comfortable in front of their classmates. When we read as a class, students stand while it is their turn to read. Along with this, students develop the skill of narration, which is being able to retell the main points of what they just read to the class. Narration provides a smooth transition to project presentations, like Trojan Horses and Greek mythology, and gives them confidence when they recite poetry. By the end of the year, they are memorizing lines to Aesop’s Fables and performing plays in front of a room full of people. This is one of my favorite days! 

Let’s not forget how easily grammar students can learn a new language. Learning Latin, which is a catapult to other languages, helps students to reason and think critically. They not only gain helpful vocabulary, they see that language has structure. And we also want to develop good writers. One of my favorite lessons is teaching my third graders how to write a persuasive paper. I think many parents were buying puppies after last year!

Lastly, we teach and learn all our subjects through the lens of Scripture. As a parent, I want my kids to have a solid biblical worldview that thoroughly equips them to faithfully test their choices and decisions by the Word of God. I am thankful for Morning Star Academy and parents who are like-minded and value a classical Christian education. We are in this together!

Missy Bohonek teaches third grade at Morning Star Academy. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling and watching sports. She and her husband, Chad, have three children at MSA.

The Rohdes Hit the Road

Kendra Thompson

Joel and Pam Rohde have never lived outside of Iowa. They met at Central College in Pella where they studied ministry, music, and art. When Joel became a pastor and Pam became a mom, she held many quirky side jobs. Everything from Airport baggage handling to Greek tutor to shave ice franchise management, all while Joel served as Director of Worship and Discipleship at North Ridge Community Church in Eldridge, where he still ministers. When their oldest was about to start Kindergarten, they found Morning Star Academy and were thrilled not only to find a unique Christian education for their son, but also a chance for Pam to use her art education and theological training in a scholarly setting.

For seven years Pam Rohde has taught at Morning Star Academy. For the first three years, she taught art part-time. Four years ago, she went full-time, adding Bible coursework to her workload, and really sweetening the deal.

After fourteen years in Eastern Iowa and seven at Morning Star, the Rohdes have been obedient to see what God might do next with their family. In Pam’s prayer journal she sensed that something big might be coming. She even wondered if it involved moving overseas, but this seemed to come out of nowhere. Until, that is, she found out about the M.Litt. program at St. Andrews University in partnership with the Logos Institute. This would be an opportunity for Pam to further her biblical studies and add depth to her already robust scholarship in this field. The family considered it prayerfully, applied, and figured if God willed it, they’d walk through the next door as it opened. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” was one of the scriptures Pam had written in her journal. “And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Paths continue to open for the Rohdes, and with the blessing of both their workplaces to take a time of “sabbatical,” they will live in St. Andrews, Scotland for the next academic year. For Pam this means two full semesters of coursework and a summer of dissertation writing. For Joel, he will be their four children’s primary educator for the next year and hopes they don’t end up tripping over each other in whatever housing situation they’ll be in – likely much smaller than their Eldridge, IA home! “It feels like a bit of a reset button,” Joel said. “I’m looking forward to more intentional time together and investigating what God is doing in this part of the world.” They say they are also looking forward to sitting together in worship for the first time in many years. Since Joel is a worship pastor, and often Pam has opportunities to serve in other churches, they don’t always get to just sit in the pews and worship together as a family.

From talking to the Rohdes, I’d say confidence is a word that marks their decision to go. The choice to move temporarily across the globe is one they sought together in prayer and discernment. Pam mentioned a little book she read with her eleventh graders at Morning Star. Paul Little’s Affirming the Will of God. While she meant for it to be instructive for her upperclassmen, it ended up being a tool of discernment in her own life. Through this little book, she asked herself: Am I being obedient to God’s will? Am I sharing this opportunity with people I trust? Am I seeking the Holy Spirit in prayer? Interestingly enough, when she described the program at St. Andrews to her eleventh graders, one of them said: “Wow, Mrs. Rohde. Sounds like a Biblical Worldview Degree!” And that is just what it is, and what she teaches. What a gift to be able to gain that insight and bring it back to the Quad Cities and Morning Star Academy. The Rohdes plan to return in 2022 to share what wisdom they’ve gained from their time in such a radically different setting than what they are used to.

They say their kids are at once excited to go and also eager to stay in touch with friends back home – primarily through letter-writing, but a family blog might possibly be in the works, too. For Eva, their youngest, she’s looking forward to the travel itself as she has never been on a plane or a train.

The Rohde family leaves for Scotland at the end of summer. If you know them, reach out to shower them with congratulations and prayer. If you don’t know them yet, I highly recommend meeting them. And, if you would like to receive prayer updates and/or follow their family blog, contact Pam or Joel at: joel.rohde@gmail.com and pamela.rohde@gmail.com.

Kendra Thompson served as Morning Star Academy’s part-time director of communications. She and her husband John have two children who attended MSA while their family lived in the Quad Cities.

When Pilgrims Eat Cake: Reflections on Psalm 145

Anna Carrington

At my fifth birthday party, I demanded a particular piece of the cake my younger sister and I were sharing for our joint celebration. As I made this demand, I informed the guests—my friends—that they would all receive party favors and that they should therefore “Be grateful!” for whatever piece of cake they were allotted. Cute. Selfish. It’s all on a video somewhere … hopefully in an obsolete format!

We often consider blessings to be positive: a good gift, value added, something we wanted. That’s certainly true; blessings are those things, and we can thank God for them. What about negative blessings—blessings that come only through the wilderness?

Telling someone to “Be grateful!” or “practice gratitude” in a valley isn’t wrong but it can sound like a thin sentiment. Why? Because they might start counting positive blessings, and when those don’t seem to outweigh grief and loss, your appeal to “good stuff” may be insufficiently comforting. Also, when gratitude is not directed at the Giver it can be just a coping mechanism. It can keep us from digging deeper under our disappointment and asking, “What is God like? Can I trust him?”

Psalm 145 is one of my favorite Psalms. It carried me through an anxious season in college, when I was grasping for control as I realized how much uncertainty lay ahead. Notice how the rich promises of provision (verses 14-19) are given only after an extended meditation on God’s power, unsearchable greatness, splendor, righteousness, goodness, gracious and merciful love, enduring kingdom, and faithfulness across generations.

The pilgrim road of following Christ goes between mountains, not just on top of them. We can’t see what is ahead but we can see who is ahead: We are following our Forerunner, Jesus Christ, who suffered great grief and death on a cross, that we might inherit eternal life in his unshakeable kingdom. He conquered the grave, ascended into heaven, and gave us his Spirit so we might walk in freedom, even now, even in suffering. “And joy, it is severe, when the way is rough and steep,” sings Josh Garrels. Hard-won joy is the “negative blessing”—and the pilgrim road is the only way to it.

I’m writing this on my March birthday. If I’m remembering correctly, my fifth birthday cake had a frosted scene with a road on it. God doesn’t tell us what our piece of road is going to look like, and we can’t demand one piece above another. Psalm 145’s posture of praise recounts what God is like, what God has done, and what God will do. So keep walking, knowing he is near, he opens his hand, he fulfills the desires of those who fear him. The same God who did not withhold his own Son gives us food “in due season.” When the Giver gets the glory, that manna turns into cake.

Anna Carrington is a graduate of Wheaton College (IL), a freelance editor, and an avid reader. She teaches children’s Sunday School and Bible studies for women who speak English as a second (or third) language at Christ Church in Moline. Anna and her husband Wes have two sons at Morning Star.

Disrupt My Tunnel Vision, Lord

Joel Rohde

Something that often scares me is how quickly I can begin living as if all that really matters is me.  I am quick to make resolving the littlest inconveniences central to my actions and sometimes I elevate those miniscule annoyances to a level of importance that must seem comical, if not completely narcissistic to people around me.  It is easy to live in a sort of tunnel vision where MY agenda, MY problems, MY health, MY finances, MY dreams all become the driving force that dictates how I go about my life and interact with the people around me.

One of the many reasons a daily dive into the Psalms is important is because it has the power to blow open my tunnel vision and remind me that the one in control of all of this is not me but rather, it is a good God who is in love with his people and desires to dwell with them.  Take Psalm 25:4-11 for example.  David says in this chapter that he is “lonely and afflicted”.  I’m sure many of us experienced some level loneliness and affliction this past year.  While David wants to appeal to God for help, he is careful to rightly place God as the one who is powerful enough to do anything about his loneliness and afflictions and surrender himself to God’s instruction.  David’s path belongs to God and he wants to learn it.  Truth belongs to God and he wants to be taught.  After acknowledging these things David asks God to turn a blind eye to the fact that he was a rebellious youth. He mentions his many iniquities and his need for forgiveness.

David puts full confidence in God’s mercies and love that have been revealed throughout history.  Perhaps we would do well to do the same.  Perhaps our prayer should be that God would teach us our path and his truth.  The best news of every day can be found in Psalms when we realize that we aren’t in control and because of the great God we serve, we don’t have to be.

Joel Rohde served as pastor of worship and youth at North Ridge Community Church in Eldridge for 14 years before transitioning to his current role as pastor of worship and discipleship.  Joel has a deep love for the the church and Classical Christian Education. He coaches fifth and sixth grade students at Morning Star Academy and is committed to using the sport as a tool to guide students toward a life of discipleship and service in God’s Kingdom.

Permission to Complain

Rob Spykstra

You’ve made the polite but inauthentic query at work. “How are you doing?” You are expecting the one word reply, “great” or “fine” only to be stopped in your tracks with, “terrible.” Brutal honesty, it can be refreshing. 

This is why I value Psalm 44. The psalmist vividly expresses his perceived, angry reality of loyalty to God. “In God we have boasted continually . . . but you have rejected us and disgraced us” (8-9). Or this vivid expression, “You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them” (12). Psalm 44 stops us in our tracks. Brutally refreshing.

We are in good company to value this psalm. The apostle Paul in his glorious expression of the inseparable nature of God’s love for His covenant people copies verse 22, “For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom. 8:36). The psalmist’s perception; Paul’s perception centuries later; our perception is the same. Loyalty to God in this world doesn’t pay. Or as one upper school student expressed, “Life is hard, and I may have another 60 years of it.” 

As we experience the brokenness around us and in us, we agree with the psalmist, “You have rejected us and disgraced us” (9a). As we watch our world go off the rails, we agree with the psalmist, “those who hate us have gotten the spoil” (10). In agreement we cry out, “Why are you sleeping, O Lord?” (23a). 

It is this brutal honesty that is so refreshing. For God gives us not only permission to complain, but to do the unthinkable, commanding: “Awake . . . Rouse yourself . . . Rise up; come to our help” (23,26a). We have permission not because God has failed. On the contrary, it is God’s delight to glorify His steadfast love as we are bold and command, “Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love” (26b).

Rob Spykstra has been part of the classical Christian movement for nearly twenty years, as a homeschool dad, a fundraiser, and a headmaster. Rob is married to Tamra. They have four children, all classically trained. He serves as an elder at Sacred City Church. Tamra and Rob enjoy hiking and walking, particularly in Rob’s home state of Colorado.

Psalm 95 “O Come”

Kendra Thompson

I know a couple that prays with their daughter every night and in their prayers, they invite the Holy Spirit to come and be with her. They sing a little song and ask the Holy Spirit to come into her room…her bed…be with her while she sleeps. Then, they let her add people and things and places she would like the Holy Spirit to visit. That’s how they pray at bedtime. I love it.

Psalm 95 in the Book of Common Prayer service for “Morning Prayer” is called the Venite or “O Come.” It is an invocation, a welcome, an opportunity to trust God’s faithfulness even more than we already do.

I love the opening lines – I’ve practically memorized them! “O Come. Let us sing unto the Lord. Let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.”

For these next two months, we’re trying something new with Morning Star Academy communications. A little video-blog (vlog) project called “Psalms in Spring.” In some ways, it’s like my friends’ bedtime prayers with their young daughter. We are taking time to pause and invite the Almighty to dwell with us as we bask in God’s scripture. In particular, through the songs and poetry of the Psalms.

Each week you’ll hear from someone new who is connected to Morning Star Academy. Some weeks you’ll hear from a staff person, others, a faculty member, even some students will share from their favorite Psalms.

We hope you’ll enjoy these reflections – and engage with them! Like, comment, read, watch…and be sure to tell us what you think. But most of all, enjoy this opportunity to dwell with God’s word and feel God’s presence through these written and spoken moments.

Kendra Thompson is a minister, a writer, a Morning Star Academy parent and part-time director of communications for the school. She and her husband, John, love that their kids’ faith is incorporated into their learning at Morning Star Academy.

Resonance

Wes Carrington

In physics, resonance means that an object vibrates most strongly when subjected to impulses at a specific frequency that is closest to that object’s natural frequency – which depends on the size, shape, and composition of the object.  In this way, objects have their strongest natural reaction, or resonance, when hit with vibrations that align with that object’s own natural frequency. 

I think we humans also powerfully demonstrate the principal of resonance.  When we receive information or experience events, we are quick to judge based on how well it resonates with our pre-existing beliefs, our inclinations, our experiences, and our opinions.  Recent political events have shown that even when presented with the same data, those in different political camps draw vastly different conclusions.  We filter facts, make assumptions, and generally judge the validity of information by whether it resonates with our pre-conceived notions.  And increasingly, our filtering and judging is further distorted when we only listen to those on our side, to those in our tribe.

The problem with this is that we are fallen, sinful people.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “None is righteous, no, not one . . . All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  Sin has distorted and corrupted us. 

This means that what resonates with us is not always what is good or true.  Our “natural” frequency is off-kilter.  Because of this, it’s dangerous to judge the world by how it resonates with us.  In fact, returning to the physics of resonance, perfect resonance can produce increasingly strong vibrations that lose control and eventually shatter the object itself – like the ear-splitting soprano at the opera shattering glass.

Thankfully, we have a source of objective truth that stands outside of our own distortions and fallible frequencies.  God is perfectly true, perfectly righteous, and perfectly good.  Through study of God’s Word, prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can – by His grace – seek to live not by our own decayed senses, but toward God’s perfect standards.

A classical Christian education like that at Morning Star Academy can be especially helpful here: Recognizing God’s primary authority and revelation in the Bible, as well as a child’s natural curiosity about the world, classical Christian education can – in the words of MSA’s philosophy – “train a student’s reason to bring him/her in harmony with the created order” – not the other way around (bringing the created order into harmony with a student’s reason).

How else can we seek to live by God’s standards and not our own?  We can find our identity in Christ rather than treasuring our self-expression.  We can find our communal identity in our church and as God’s people rather than clinging to our individual autonomy and personal liberty.  We can focus our energy on loving and serving others based on their needs rather than gazing inward and expecting people to meet us on our terms.  As the Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)  And we can encourage one another through fellowship and prayer – “build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and exhort one another “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

May God’s power be at work in our lives and may the word of Christ “dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) – even resonantly.   

Wes Carrington is an attorney at John Deere, specializing in the area of global trade and compliance.  He enjoys music, reading, travel, and Hawkeye sports.  Wes and his wife Anna have two sons at Morning Star Academy.