Hunting for Beauty

We are on a hunt for beauty.

Some beauty is easy to find. A blazing orange sunset over the Rockies? Beautiful. Aspens in the fall? Your baby asleep in a crib? Music by Mozart? All beautiful.

Whenever I think of our school’s tagline -- truth, beauty, virtue -- I find myself contemplating the idea of beauty and how it shows up during the school day. Truth and virtue are relatively easy -- God’s Word is truth, and, therefore, we know what is a good and moral standard. Both are are easily integrated into the school day. We study the Bible (truth) and adhere to a moral standard (virtue). But beauty is somewhat nebulous, and trying to define it (or find it between 8:15 AM - 3:30 PM) can feel like trying to nail jello to a wall.

To add to the difficulty of finding beauty at school, throw in teaching medieval literature, history, and theology (Omnibus II) using primary source texts to eighth graders. Mix in the rest of a student’s workload, and we’ve got ourselves a fool-proof recipe for easy beauty. Sunset-easy beauty. Right?

Wrong. What we do have is a recipe for absolute drudgery and students who feel buried by work.

What are we to do?

We have to hunt for beauty.

As a teacher, I want my students to find all that we do at ACA beautiful, and, therefore, to love it. At the beginning of the year, I told my Omnibus students that I didn’t want them to view their work and reading assignments as just another item to be checked off a list. The truth is that we are never really done with our lists and our work. There’s always a new list tomorrow. Instead, I encouraged them to be changed and challenged by what they are reading this year. I gave each student a small commonplace notebook to write down quotes from the books we read that they like or that affect them in some way. Then, promptly on the heels of handing them their commonplace books, I handed them Eusebius’ The Church History (written c. 325 AD) and told them to be looking for quotes to write in their books. (Sometimes, teaching makes teachers just flat nervous, and this was one of those moments. Will they find anything to write? Will this commonplace idea be a total flop? Should I have started it with THIS book? Will the students HATE me?)

At the end of the book, I asked the students to share their commonplace entries for Eusebius.

After an uncomfortable silence, I went first to set the example. I shared that I love when Eusebius writes: “But God became Constantine’s Friend, Protector, and Guardian . . .” Constantine, the Emperor of Rome during Eusebius’ life, had converted to Christianity and subsequently outlawed all Christian persecution. What caught my attention was the use of the words “But God.” When these two words are written together in the Bible, God is usually intervening on behalf of his people and altering history (see Romans 5:8). Eusebius is giving credit to God for the salvation of Constantine, who altered the history of the early church.

Then I asked, “Does anyone else have a quote to share?”

All hands went up. All of my students had found at least one quote from Eusebius to write down. They had found beauty. But it wasn't by accident. It wasn’t obvious beauty like a sunset or a sleeping baby or an art class.

They had to hunt for it. We had to hunt for it. And that's why we found it.

Amanda Rodriguez Writing, Omnibus, & Mathematics