Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Writing as a Life Skill

At Agia Sophia we early on in our history valued and emphasized the importance of writing skills. Some of our students have WOW-ed us over the years by the quality of their writing.
For the most part students are writing stories, although there is also some inclusion in our writing program of various genres in order to familiarize students with those styles and types of writing and also as a way of encouraging those interested in more essay writing to develop that skill.
In writing stories, we stress plot development with the understanding that to have a plot there must be a problem or predicament that gets either solved or remains unsolved. We teach them the difference between fantasy and reality in the process and that even fantasy must have a reasonable aspect to it. This can be a struggle for some. The younger students are the more gaps they leave in a story, so we try to teach them how to fill in with greater detail.
In evaluating children’s writings, we use the 7 Traits system that copies of can be supplied to you upon request so you can be involved in the process of helping children develop their writing skills.
We believe that, though most children will not make their living writing stories, they will likely need to be able to communicate with others effectively in the work place as well as at home and in normal human interaction. Developing a plot assists in discerning the main idea of material being read or listened to. Expressing oneself well aids in gaining the respect of others in the workplace. Additionally, we might agree that the world needs more clarity across the board. This too can be developed in practicing one’s writing skills.
With this understanding in mind, we spend valuable class time allowing children to write freely their ideas in the hope that in the end they will profit from the exercise in various ways.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Compassion

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; 
love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous. - 1 Peter 3:8

To begin our virtue of the month for December, this year, #givingTuesday fell on the first Tuesday of December (#givingTuesday is always the Tuesday following Thanksgiving). For our school, we chose to support Sts. Mary and Martha Philoptochos at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in their “Grab and Give” bag ministry for those experiencing homelessness. Families either donated items or money to purchase items that the children put together in a Ziploc bag. We were able to put together 48 bags! 

I shared the following with the children while they were putting the bags together:

Mrs. B: How many of you ate breakfast this morning? (raise your hand)
How many of you brought lunch to school? 
How many of you have a snack when you go home after school? 
How many of you know that you will have dinner tonight? 
How many of you eat a snack before going to bed? (not quite as many hands raised)
Mrs. B.: I drive by a gentleman standing on the street corner a few times a week. When I am able, I give him one of the Grab and Give bags. One day, this gentleman told me that sometimes, the bag that I give to him is the only food that he eats that day. We are given so much and our faith teaches us to show compassion to one another. 

These bags are located under the ASA bulletin board. Please take a few, keep them in your vehicle, and when you encounter a person experiencing homelessness, give them a bag. This is a small act of compassion that we can show our fellow man. 

May it be blessed!
Christina Blankenstein

Monday, November 18, 2019

Fr. Thomas Hopko on Gratitude

The OCA website has Fr. Thomas Hopko's (of blessed memory) book The Orthodox Faith available online.
Here is a link to his section on Gratitude:


May it be blessed!
Christina Blankenstein

Virtue of the Month November- Thankfulness

Thankfulness: expressing gratitude to others

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
-1 Thessalonians 5:18

November and Thanksgiving- it seems like a natural virtue for this month to focus on Thankfulness. At a recent staff meeting, we were discussing ways that we were thankful for our own parents. Virtues that they instilled in us from a young age. The “battles” that they chose in our upbringing. Based on these staff conversations, we will be adding a “My Upbringing” section to our Monthly Messenger. There were times, when I was a child, that I was not thankful for the things that my parents made me do or the rules that they made me follow. As an adult with my own children, I am thankful for the values that my parents instilled in me and we, God willing, are passing on those same virtues to our own children. 

My hope and prayer is that you will also see value in our sharing with you tidbits from our upbringing. And if you have something you would like to share, please let me know. 

In closing, and not related to my upbringing, I am thankful for all of you - the children, the parents, the staff. It is a great blessing to be part of the ministry of Agia Sophia Academy. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve. 
May it be blessed, 

Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

Virtue of the Month October- Honesty

Here is a condensed version of  Fr. Thomas Hopko’s writing on Honesty from his book, The Orthodox Faith which you can find online at https://www.oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith


The wise man who has knowledge lives according to the truth through a totally honest life. Honesty means, first of all, to speak the truth and never to “bear false witness” (Ex 20.16).
This basic scriptural teaching is also that of the apostles.
For we pray to God that you may not do what is wrong . . . but that you may do what is honest . . . for we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth (2 Cor 13.7–8).
Honesty also means to act truly and openly, without pretense, or the presentation of a false image of oneself. It means, in a word, not to be a hypocrite.
Above all things, Christ the Lord hated and condemned hypocrisy, lying, and deceit. He accused the devil himself, first and foremost, of being a deceiver and liar, pretending to be other than he is, presenting himself and his teaching as totally other than the falsehood and wickedness that they actually are (cf. Jn 8.44–47). This is the way of all the false prophets, and of the antichrist himself.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist (2 Jn 7).
In His fierce condemnation of the evil of the scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers, Christ was most violent against their hypocrisy. Of all the evils of men, the most vile in the sight of the Lord is undoubtedly hypocrisy.
The spiritual person is not a hypocrite. He shows himself honestly for what he is, and does not pretend to be what he is not. He reveals himself to all exactly as he actually is. He does not say or do anything that would lead people to have a false impression of him or of anyone or anything. He is utterly honest and pure in all that he thinks, says and does, knowing that God sees all and judges with righteousness all those who “walk-in integrity” (cf. Ps 26.1, 11).

September Virtue of the Month- Obedience

Obedience- Willingness to follow the commands of another

Welcome back to school! 
Why we do the Bible verses and virtue of the month…

For a number of years, Agia Sophia Academy has promoted weekly Bible verse memorization. These Bible verses are based on specific virtues. Each month has a designated “virtue of the month”. These two Faith curriculum activities support the ongoing mission of the school- to provide “a rich academic and arts curriculum grounded in Orthodox Christian values…”. Our Bible verses for the upcoming weeks will be published in our Monthly Messenger newsletter. Clip it out- post it on your refrigerator- keep it in your car and have your child practice every day. There is proven value to memorization. This article “In Praise of Memorization” provides ten reasons why it is important to practice the art of memorization. 

Now, take those memorization skills and apply it to the Bible verses that are based on our virtues and we have given our students a tool to quickly remember something from their childhood when they are faced with making those virtuous choices in their lives. If you have questions about Bible verse memorization or when your child’s class will be reciting their verse, please ask your child’s teacher. 

On obedience: Fr. Thomas Hopko, of blessed memory, said, 
There is no spiritual life without obedience...Our obedience to God’s commandments and discipline is the exclusive sign of our love for Him and His Son.” 
We have many opportunities to practice obedience- children to our parents and teachers, parents to our families and work, all of us to one another. 

May we always strive to be examples of virtue to our children every day. 
Have a blessed school year!

Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2019 Graduate Speech #6 - A.M.

Hello, my name is A.M., and I have been at this school for six years.
I have some really special memories I want to share with you.
My first memory is in first grade when we hatched chicks with Mrs. Blankenstein and at fifth grade when the Metropolitan came at this exact school, it was outstanding to see him in person.
Now, I want to thank some very important people that helped me to come all this way.
First, I would like to thank my family for driving me all this way to this magnificent school and for paying to make me learn at this school.
I would like to thank Mrs. Powell for making me exercise at P.E. and creating the Christmas play and graduation night, you are the best music and P.E. teacher I can have.
Thank you magistra Downs for teaching me Latin and Latin history I really enjoyed it.
Our art teacher Mrs. Perussi gave me a huge experience of creative art, but most of all
I will never forget about the glass icons we made, I really appreciate it.
Thank you Kyria Maria for teaching me Greek, that I will keep with me my whole life and Kyria Thespina for teaching me Greek Byzantine chant that sounds awesome with the whole class.
Tow of our very important people I would like to thank are Mrs. Blankenstein for being the school principal and my first and second grade teacher, and Mrs. Makenzie, the secretary of the school and healing my scars on my leg after I fell down.
Mrs. Padma and Mrs. Rusodan always start my day by giving me a hug and when Fr. ED is not here they sub for him because they are both great teachers.
Last but the best is Fr. ED - our main teacher. Thank you for teaching me enough and giving me extra homework to get me ready for sixth grade. You are the best teacher I have had for three years and I will never forget you.
 Thank you all for coming and I hope you enjoy it.