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The Great Works Initiative

Lisa Eekhoff| April 16, 2019

This past fall, two fifth-grade girls came to Dr. Stoner with a proposition.  They even had a petition signed by their classmates.  What they were asking for was time built into their school day for rest, a break from the academic subjects, moments dedicated to simply reading, drawing, or other quiet activities.

Though we are not going to be adding a nap time into the fifth-grade schedule anytime soon, these girls had actually hit upon something that is deeply classical in nature.

Schole is the Greek word from which we derive the word school. It means leisure, uninterrupted time to contemplate the most worthy things.”

And that is the idea of schole.  Schole is the Greek word from which we derive the word school.  It means leisure, uninterrupted time to contemplate the most worthy things.

This petition sparked an idea that has been eagerly embraced by our faculty and administration. We are calling it our Great Works Initiative.

The Great Works Initiative

The purpose of the Great Works initiative is threefold. We seek to provide intentional opportunities for our students to

  • encounter great works of literature, art, and music
  • appreciate and collect moments of true beauty
  • and develop habits of leisure and schole that nurture the soul.

 

This new initiative serves as an extension of our classical model, encouraging students to seek out and discover the good, true, and beautiful in their lives outside of the classroom.  We hope to build in our students a robust cultural literacy that will undergird not only their educational careers but their lifelong journey of learning.

Immersed in Great Works

Over the coming months, we will be working to create comprehensive lists at each grade level of the classic literature that we believe every child should read.  But we want to expand our horizons beyond just books.  We will also include important pieces of art, music, and even film that integrate into our curriculum at each level.  It is our hope that this list will be helpful to you as parents and serve as a guidepost each time you go to the library or visit the art museum.  It will become one more piece of our partnership with you in the education of your children.

We will also make these works available to your children here at school, stocking our classroom libraries with important books and providing teachers with access to art and music that can be integrated more fully into the school day.

The Practice of Commonplacing

Additionally, we will be introducing a practice called commonplacing.  This is a discipline that has been used by men and women throughout history, from Marcus Aurelius to Mark Twain.  Simply put, it is the act of collecting beauty.

“We seek to stand against the trend of busyness and hectic pacing so prevalent in our lives today and teach our students how to practice true rest, reflection, and contemplation.”

A commonplace journal is a special book in which to record the true, good, and beautiful quotes that one hears or reads. We will be providing a commonplace journal to each child who enters Covenant, which will travel with them throughout their years with us.  This journal becomes a beautiful record of a child’s growth and development, as they record the truths and bits of wisdom that have impacted them.

The process of intentionally searching out the true, good, and beautiful is a wonderful way to cultivate a child’s taste for these things.  We want to give our students such good books to read and mull over that they are entirely ruined for reading anything but. We want a good book in the hands of every child.

Moments of Schole

The final piece of this initiative is the devotion of time in our school week to schole. These moments of rest will take various forms, such as time to read for pleasure, contemplate a beautiful piece of art, or record quotes in our commonplace journals.  In so doing, we seek to stand against the trend of busyness and hectic pacing so prevalent in our lives today and teach our students how to practice true rest, reflection, and contemplation.

About the Author: Lisa Eekhoff is the principal at Covenant Classical School.

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