Some things never change, no matter how time marches on through the ages.
A hot beverage always tastes just right on a crisp fall morning.
The Lord's faithfulness continues through all generations.
Oh, and kids always like to play knights and princesses.
Okay, of course there are exceptions (at least to the last one, right?), but for the most part, ever since the Middle Ages brought about that vision of a courageous knight in shining armor and the elegantly adorned lady, castles and royalty have captured the imaginations of little ones.
Knight and princess costumes dominate dress-up closets and costume sale racks. Swords and shields have remained favorite play props for centuries. Visiting a castle is a dream in the hearts of nearly every little girl.
Why? What is it about this particular bygone era that so ravishes our children?
I would venture to say that it has something to do with three things very close to Veritas Academy's heart: truth, beauty, and goodness.
These transcendentals connect much of what we seek to instill here at Veritas; they are the focus of our vision statement, and often cited in Classical Christian Education as a cornerstone of what we do and how we teach.
If you desire those virtues in your child's life, then encouraging and expanding on their knights and royalty play is one great way to do it. Our Kindergarten Masquerade Party is just one example of this at work! Yes, the event is centered around their study of the letter "M," with plenty of masque and "M" themes involved from crafts to food, but it's all wrapped up into an elegant (well, as elegant as kindergartners can be), beautiful, and special ceremony in their castle-centered classroom. During this class event, our head of school arrives dressed in kingly garb, gives a charge of honor and godliness to the young pupils, and then "dubs" each girl and boy with a new "Lady" or "Sir" moniker.
Here are some ways that you can apply knight and princess pretend play to cultivate truth, beauty, and goodness in your children's hearts and lives.
Much of the tradition of knights and royalty in that era of castles and kings relied on adherence to and love for Holy Scripture. For all of the pitfalls that stemmed from the church's control over government at the time (and yes, there were numerous), we can remind our children how a true knight and lady of the castle would have honored God's word, the ultimate Truth.
Honesty was a mainstay virtue to the knights of old - as of course it remains today. As your children engage in their knightly and princess adventures, you can read to them the oath sworn by the legendary King Arthur in Thomas Mallory's work Le Morte d'Arthur (it's a massive work that our juniors read as part of their Omnibus V curriculum, but this oath can be taken to heart by the little ones, too):
“This is the oath of a Knight of King Arther's Round Table and should be for all of us to take to heart.
I will develop my life for the greater good. I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth, I will never boast, but cherish humility instead, I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word, I will defend those who cannot defend themselves, I will honor and respect women, and refute sexism in all its guises, I will uphold justice by being fair to all, I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship, I will abhor scandals and gossip-neither partake nor delight in them, I will be generous to the poor and to those who need help, I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven, I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward.”
Yes, there are a lot of "big" words and concepts here, but you can use this opportunity to teach some new things to your little knight.
As part of your children's play, a parent can act as the king or queen charging their little knights and ladies to take up their great adventures with this oath. Stage a ceremony where you give your child this oath and have them repeat the lines after you. Additionally, you can print out this knight image with the oath to hang somewhere in his room or at home.
A Valiant Quest
Encourage your little pretenders to always be on a "quest" for truth. The traditional transcendentals of truth, beauty, and goodness each corresponded with the three ideals of human interest, with truth analogous to science. Science can be applied not only to chemistry, biology, and physics, but simply a desire to seek out the truth behind what we see. With God's Word as our guide, we can spur our ever-curious children on to uncover what is true - in history, science, and even in their day-to-day lives with friends, teachers, and others in the community. May our children ever be on a valiant quest for truth.
Come on, it's no secret that one of the biggest factors that draws little girls to princess stories and princess play is a matter of aesthetics. Jewels, lace, flowing fabric, regal splendor...it's all the things that make our littlest ladies' eyes sparkle.
Give your little ones (girls and boys) a chance to embrace and appreciate beauty any opportunity you get. After all, God is not only the creator of all things truly beautiful, but He Himself is the epitome of beauty. As the Psalmist mused: "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple." (Ps. 27:4).
At the Kindergarten Masquerade party, the girls are utterly in their glory, gliding and dancing proudly around the room in their gowns and crowns. They revel in their own - and in each others - beauty. It also gives a forum for them to practice a bit of etiquette (more on that will come with the class tea party held later in the fall). After all, beauty must be protected and respected.
A Beautiful Search
You can capitalize on this desire and appreciation for beautiful things by searching out beauty in the world with your children, and teaching them that the things we find beautiful - like fancy dresses, shiny swords, glittering crowns - are but a reflection of the truest beauty. Talk with them about other things that are beautiful, and stretch their minds beyond what we can simply see. Remind your kids of what God finds beautiful, using 1 Samuel 16:7 as an example: "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
This beauty scavenger hunt can (and should) include good art! In the transcendentals, the beauty ideal of human interest corresponded with art. At Veritas, we place a high value on the fine arts, and the disciplines of creating and appreciating that which adds richness to our culture.
Throughout the year in Kindergarten, students are led by the imaginary Sir Percival, a boy knight who illustrates their phonics studies with great paintings from history. So, instead of just getting a clip art picture of a hat for the letter H, the kids w
ill receive a copy of Renoir's Young Girl Reading painting, and get to learn a bit of art history while they're at it.
We are created to find joy and comfort in things that are beautiful. Encourage your little ones in their pursuit of beauty - even as they play in princess dresses and tiaras - always finding ways to point them to the most beautiful One of all. We've made a "crown of beauty" sign for your little princess as well, to remind her of her true identity.
A knight and a lady were expected to defend the defenseless and act with honor and justice. Every Crusader had to swear "to defend to his uttermost the weak, the orphan, the widow and the oppressed; he should be courteous, and women should receive his especial care."
Look, chivalry is not so popular nowadays. Women have been grappling for equal footing with male counterparts for centuries and have made wonderful headway; but in that struggle, much of what was good and pure about chivalry has been lost, deemed degrading and outdated. But, dare I say, with the #metoo movement and the incessant outcry over the abhorrent treatment of women at the hands of men, it may be time to take this code of chivalry a little more to heart. And it starts with our kids.
There is another oath of knights that has been traditionally passed down, though its origin cannot be validated.
"Be loyal of hands and mouth, and serve every man as best you may. Seek the fellowship of good men; hearken to their words and remember them. Be humble and courteous wherever thou go, boasting not nor talking overmuch, neither be dumb altogether. Look to it that no lady or damsel be in reproach through your default, nor any woman of whatsoever quality. And if you fall into company where men speak with disrepect of any woman, show by gracious words that it pleaseth you not, and depart.
The office of knight is to promote faith in Jesus Christ as Lord of Lords, King of Kings and the only Savior and to protect those who seek to worship in His name any where upon the face of this earth that He has made."
Don't we wish that more men - young and old - would "show by gracious words" that disrespectful talk does not please them, and that they would depart with strength and dignity? Instilling this code in our littlest "men" - showing them that it is truly good and honorable to treat ladies with respect - will hopefully pay dividends for all with whom they come into contact in the future.
Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly
The final transcendental of human interest ideals - goodness - corresponds with religion. How fortuitous that our Lord's commands line up so well with a knight and lady's expectations. Perhaps because the nobility of old sought for goodness...and God is just so good.
Micah 6:8 reminds that "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" And James 1:27 tells us "religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
Make no mistake: the world will seek to erode and strip away truth, beauty, and goodness from your children's hearts and minds as they venture out into it. And so, even in the imaginative playtimes of our toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary kids, we must establish a love for the Lord's truth, beauty, and goodness in their hearts, and train their minds to look search out and speak forth these things in the world around them. Then, they will be effective instruments of God's love - and mighty knights for his kingdom!
Would you like to experience a school that, in every aspect of curriculum and culture, seeks to connect your student with truth, beauty, and goodness for Christ's calling? We invite you to see what we mean and witness Classical Christian Education in action at our next tour, happening November 13!