In the Community: Instilling the Good, the True, and the Beautiful at Home
Written by Stephanie Gordon
Where goodness and truth exist, one will find beauty. Here at Hillsdale, we seek truth in order to discover and act on what is good and beautiful in this life. One alumna recalls former Provost Dr. David Whalen speaking at her freshman orientation. He said that through the education process, Hillsdale would “tear us down and build us back up.” Hillsdale never promised that life would be easy. This is a great analogy for a seemingly common job in life called parenting.
“It demands my all, and I either have to rise to the occasion, or give up,” said stay-at-home mom Katie Trammell Stockdale, ’11. “The inexhaustible number of exhausting nights, the interminable second-guessing of my choices, and those little eyes watching you ceaselessly, taking in your positives and negatives like a dry sponge. If ever there were a career choice in which you must choose to rise to the occasion, it is parenting.”
Katie, a politics major, said that she cannot emphasize enough the never-ending necessity for perseverance in parenting. She and her husband, Calvin, ’10, have five children together, aging nine down to two.
“We both believe very strongly in the necessity and irreplaceable nature of a full-time at-home parent,” said Katie. “If the most basic building block of the polis is the family, it is crucial to provide the stability and constant attention that only a parent can give.”
She wants her children’s lives to be lived well while they are under their roof. Instilling the “good, true, and beautiful” at home isn’t as clear-cut as it was for her in college, and it is often lost amid the spills, the diapers, and the whining.
Katie teaches her children the good through years of repeating priorities and honing their understanding that there are greater things than themselves. The beautiful is captured in learning to appreciate the small wonders, creating art everywhere in life so that they never resign themselves to basic utilitarianism, and in teaching them to never lose a sense of awe.
“It comes down to a way of living,” said Katie. “We try to pass on an appreciation and awareness of nature. Passive television is limited, but we have so many books that three of our cheap pasteboard bookshelves have literally fallen over under the weight. We cultivate personal responsibility through doing chores and helping each other. We encourage their questions, discuss the hard topics, and search for the answers together. Children encounter truth from what is filling their heads regularly, and through what they watch us as parents living out in front of them.”
Megan Michaelis Hazelton, ’18, majored in Latin and is a stay-at-home mom. She married Matt, ’15, two weeks after finishing her junior year. She was seven months pregnant walking the stage at graduation. They have two children, with another arriving in January 2022.
“If you had told me when I was in high school that I would be a stay-at-home mom, I probably would have laughed in your face,” said Megan. “I had not grown up seeing many, if any, stay-at-home moms, and frankly, it was a nearly totally alien lifestyle to me.”
When Megan came to Hillsdale, she was unsure of the path she wanted to take. By the end of the first semester of her freshman year, however, after volunteering at a local Hillsdale co-op, she knew that she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Hillsdale prepared her for this calling through the people, both the students and faculty, that form the College community.
“Being a stay-at-home mom is a job, or an opportunity, depending on how one looks at it, that we as a society don’t often talk about,” she said. “It’s one of those things where it’s just ‘a part of life.’ But with its normalcy, it’s filled with goodness, truth, beauty, and long-term endless rewards. It’s also messy, tiring, and often leaves the person feeling unseen. Choosing to be a stay-at-home mom is not always easy, but for many, it’s the only choice. For some, it’s a life-long dream.”
Megan believes the study of the liberal arts prepared her for her role as a stay-at-home mom. To her, being a stay-at-home mom can cultivate the pursuit of good, true, and beautiful things through nurturing many ordinary day-to-day practices.
“The books that we read to both ourselves and our children, the music we choose to listen to and sing along with, the disciplines that we instill in ourselves and our children, the intentional ways we worship the Lord and study His Word, the way we interact with people, the ways we love our husbands and our children, the types of conversations we have, the ways we serve others—these are ways that we can actively cultivate what is good and true and beautiful,” Megan said.
Katie echoes that sentiment, noting how what she learned at Hillsdale goes much beyond the surface.
“You learn why math is beautiful and how it informs your ability to understand the world around you,” said Katie. “Art isn’t just some hobby we have on the side; rather it is a way of living. History isn’t dry paragraphs in a poorly written textbook, but vibrant words in life-altering documents crafted by men and women who intentionally or unintentionally have sculpted history’s trajectory. English literature is far above whatever is the next New York Times best-seller. Literature should speak to the human condition, probe our souls, ask the questions we hide from, force us to grapple with the world around us, drive us to tears and joy, and be an old friend we return to again and again. What better basis is there for raising a child?”
Both Megan and Katie said literature classes at Hillsdale were some of their most influential ones. Megan said Dr. Coupland’s grammar and children’s literature classes as well as early phonics instruction were helpful in a practical sense.
“The most influential class I took at Hillsdale was Dr. Michael Jordan’s ‘American Literature: 1890-Present,’” said Katie. “He introduced me to Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter. It would not be an overstatement to say that this book single-handedly changed my views on the importance of community, the preciousness of family, and the value of a small town.”
Katie said she was 19 or 20 when she took this class, and like most at this age, she admitted she was cocky and arrogant.
“Individualism was paramount, and I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone’s expectations of me,” she said. “Hannah Coulter swept much of this stupidity away. People depend on people. When we suffer, it’s the people who show up to hold us up when we can’t stand on our own. When we are showered with joy, it’s the people who rejoice with us. It’s the people. People are what matter.”
How we as people, students, and parents go about instilling the good, the true, and the beautiful varies for each one of us. The irreplaceable work that happens at home to shape our future generations is immeasurable. And instilling the good, the true, and the beautiful into our children is sure to make a measurable impact in tomorrow’s society.
“What a gift to be a parent who can take that child by the hand and together stand in awe at the world around us,” said Katie. “As parents, we are privileged to pass along our joy of learning to these little minds, and inspire them to never settle for a subpar view of the world and the knowledge that is available to us.”
Stephanie Gordon, a lifelong Hillsdale native, is the Managing Editor of the Student Stories Blog. She is married to chiropractor, Dr. Matt Gordon, and has three children – Eloise, Flora, and Jack. When she has a spare moment, she enjoys paleo baking, floating on Baw Beese Lake, and breaking a sweat at the gym.
Published in October 2021