Awakening Students to Transcendental Beauty

Each week our K–6 teachers send email newsletters to our parents, sharing the joys of the week past and the tasks of the week ahead, along with their thoughts on classical education. Below we share a portion of our second grade teacher’s newsletter from early November.

I saw this painting early this fall on a visit with my mother to the Seattle Art Museum, to celebrate our birthdays. This painting is titled Our English Coast, 1852, (Strayed Sheep), by William Holden Hunt, Oil on canvas. You can read more about this painting here. I was thrilled because the Pre-Raphaelite movement was a group of artists from the late 1850’s, who opposed the dominance of the British Royal Academy, and who “championed a narrow range of idealized or moral subjects and conventional definitions of beauty drawn from the early Italian Renaissance and Classical art.” (Google) To my great joy this exhibit had many works of art that depict beauty from the Middle Ages.

Romantic scenes of idealized knights and damsels, and sweeping vistas of elegant British landscapes. Picturesque renderings of flora and fauna and women in the refinement of that enchanting era. Many of the works in this exhibit were the artists creative response to a narrative from Shakespeare or the Bible. Gazing upon beautiful things awakens my soul sometimes to the point of tears. 

Steve Turley in his book Awakening Wonder: A classical Guide to Truth, Goodness and Beauty describes this awakening of the soul and classical education it this way: “the recovery of classical education has an enormous opportunity, for it has recovered the frames of reference for a truly beautiful art that redeems the senses and prepares us for our resurrection.”  It is precisely why here in my class at Cor Deo I want to awaken the wonder of each child’s soul to the transcendent beauty of God. But this cultivation shouldn’t stop at school. Turley adds, “By exploring examples of various metaphors, analogies, and parallels for our students, they can begin the formative process, the morphosis, of being awakened to seeing the totality of life as an integrative expression of the glory of God.”

One way to do this is to continually place in front of children things of beauty with a rich story line. We can do this in meaningful ways in the liturgies we practice around our dinner tables, to the way we organize our vacations. Let us talk of heroes of the faith and men and women who made noble decisions and courageous choices. Classical education is the game changer, cultivating our loves to the good, true, and beautiful.

Heather Wombacher, Cor Deo Second Grade Teacher

When Heather isn’t teaching at Cor Deo, you can find her teaching in-person and online art courses for all ages through The Apprentice Art Studio.