Cultivating Virtue with CS Lewis
I am excited to dive into the first three books of the Narnia series with you (plus some other fantastic readings)! You might be wondering what kind of course this is: Is it a literature course? A Book club? A Theology course? The answer is, “Yes!” It’s kind of a combination of all three. Let me try to explain…
Our goal together is to follow the imagination of an extraordinary writer in order to explore how the characters, settings and plots of his stories can help us to learn and discern a virtuous path through the unfolding plot and ever-changing landscapes of our own lives. What do I mean? Well, we’ll try to see ourselves in the characters of our books and learn from their mistakes and successes. We’ll share our own experiences and consider how choosing various “paths” through them could lead to wonderful – or disastrous – consequences. Moving between the imaginary world of Narnia and the real world of 20th century England will light up the challenges of the “worlds” that we each inhabit and give us a “way in” to consider how we might best navigate our own stories within them.
Along the way, we’ll meet Clive Staples Lewis (aka “Jack,” or better known as, “C.S. Lewis”), a highly curious and thoughtful boy who became one of the most clever and most well-known writers of his day (and ours!). Lewis’s childhood was full of challenge and difficulty, and we’ll read about how he grew to determine the answers to some of his most difficult life questions. He also happens to be the beloved author of the Narnia series as well as many other thought-provoking books and writings. Unlike his Narnian characters, Lewis is “real” and the story of his real life might also challenge and inspire us to think deeply about two questions: How does what he believes affect how he behaves? And how does the way he behaves influence what he believes? Maybe we’ll ask ourselves the same questions…
… and as we do, we’ll study and define each Narnian virtue in-depth. As a student in my class, you’ll select various virtues to pursue personally throughout the year, and you’ll work together with me, with parents/caregivers, and with your classmates to set and manage goals to cultivate those virtues in your daily lives. While we will be reading C.S. Lewis’s books, we’ll also be guided by biblical scripture and the spiritual practices of prayer, examen, confession and discipline. That might sound a bit formal, but I hope you’ll find that these simple everyday rhythms can become joy-giving practices that help to set you on a lifelong course for following and flourishing in the way of Christ!
My hope is that this course will be interactive and reflective, fun and serious, scholarly and restful. We’ll ask each other questions, share stories from our own lives, and discuss how real life is uncovered through the imagination of Lewis. Through it all, we will be pursuing the truest truth of all – the reality of Christ and the Truth of the Bible – in order to find our best guide through this world and into the next.
I hope you decide to join me on the journey!
Please Note: This course does not constitute a stand-alone writing course. For questions about pace or workload, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Books and supplies are not included in the purchase of the course.
We will be reading three novels by C.S. Lewis, excerpts from some of his other writings and a biography of C.S.Lewis. Students will be expected to read 2-4 chapters per class.
- Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. 189 pp.
- Lewis, C.S. Prince Caspian. 256 pp.
- Lewis, C.S. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 256 pp.
- Geoff and Janet Benge, C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller. 192 pp.
- ISBN-10:1576583856 / ISBN-13:978-1576583852
- Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. 227 pp. (excerpts only)
- Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. 209 pp. (excerpts only)
- The Bible – Choice of translation is left up to personal preference, but instructor will generally read from the NIV.I realize that many families already have copies of the books we will be reading, and it is unlikely that all participants will have a standard version from which we can refer to common page numbers. If you are looking to purchase new books, you may wish to purchase a box set with all seven Narnia books bound separately. If so, I recommend this version, which has original illustrations and a nice margin for students to annotate directly in the book
- Alternatively, this hardcover book includes the entire Narnia series in one binding
- ISBN-13: 978-0060598242
Elizabeth Kaufman holds a M.Ed. and earned her BA in Spanish from Hope College with minors in Music (piano performance) and Elementary Ed.. A missional mindset led her to work in various countries, teaching art and music in an American School in the Dominican Republic, grades 2 and 3 in a British school in Tanzania, and Spanish at a Montessori school in Michigan. Elizabeth went on to choose motherhood and homeschooling as a full-time pursuit and has loved teaching her four sons at home for the past eight years. Throughout this time, she has grown increasingly committed to Classical Christian education and has developed a love for “living” literature and biblical scholarship. She has also combined her love of music and scripture to compose several collections of songs for students and families to learn scripture together and to sing through liturgical seasons. She believes that every course of study is an invitation to witness God’s redemptive work in the world, to be formed and transformed by it, and to engage with Him in it.
Elizabeth lives in Kenya where her husband teaches biblically-based church discipleship and her sons enjoy living and learning “in the bush.” When not teaching or studying classical ed, you can find Elizabeth trail running, composing new music, doing laundry, hosting meals for friends and travelers, or attempting (poorly) to ride motorbikes with her boys. You can listen to her music for learning scripture at www.musictomemorize.org. email@example.com
C.S.Lewis: Master Storyteller + Selected Readings from Surprised by Joy
• How was Lewis affected by other characters? By setting? By plot?
• What was the great conflict and the great resolution in Lewis’s life?
• How did CS Lewis experience God in Three Persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit?
• Book Project
BIBLICAL FOCUS: OUR RESPONSE TO A POWERFUL GOD
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” - Proverbs 9:10
• How does the Holy Trinity relate to the three theological virtues?
• How does the practice of Worship lead to the cultivation of the theological
The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe + Selected Readings from Mere Christianity
• Why is the intended audience of the book important?
• Why did C.S. Lewis write children’s fantasy?
• How do I read for enjoyment vs. for personal growth?
• How do characters demonstrate virtue / vice?
• Book Project
BIBLICAL FOCUS: OUR RESPONSE TO A LOVING GOD
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to
come to repentance.” - 2 Peter 3:9
• How can I define the cardinal virtues in ways that I can understand and apply?
• How can I begin to discern virtuous characters in the book and in real life?
• How does the practice of Examen work to cultivate of the cardinal virtues in my
heart and in my relationships?
Prince Caspian + Selected Readings from The Screwtape Letters
• How does setting reflect virtue / vice?
• Is virtue pre-determined or developed?
• What is the difference between a personal trait & a personal quality?
• How do I participate in a Socratic Discussion?
• Final Book Project
BIBLICAL FOCUS: GOD’S POWERFUL & LOVING RESPONSE TO US
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,
together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high
and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” - Ephesians
• How can I trace the related consequences of virtuous/non-virtuous choices in
the lives of the characters and in my own life?
• Why is the practice of Confession central to the cultivation of virtue in my life?
READING FOCUS: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader + Selected Readings from The Weight of Glory
• How do I trace virtue through plot?
• Can I already begin to “plot” the cultivation of virtue in my own heart by
examining my own life story up til now?
• What is the evidence of virtue as seen in the storyline?
• Final Book Project
BIBLICAL FOCUS:GOD’S POWER & LOVE AT WORK IN US
"So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to
be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” - 2 Peter 3:14
• How do I remain rooted in virtue? How does the practice of Fellowship help me
to do this?
• How does the practice of Praise, Prayer & Discipline help me to branch out in
Computer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.
High-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.
Headset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm
Zoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. To download Zoom:
- Visit zoom.us/download.
- Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
- Open and run the installer on your computer.
- In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.
Scanner: In this class, students frequently submit homework assignments by scanning pages from their workbooks. Students and/or their parents should have easy access to a scanner and the ability to use it.
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