Lessons Learned: What the Great Books Taught Me About Motherhood

Four days before Christmas last year, my husband, Austin, and I welcomed our son, Andrew, into the world. As any parent will tell you, your first-born turns your world upside down, especially in the early weeks and months, and our little bundle of joy was no exception. Slowly though, we got used to life with less sleep and more laundry, and we love being parents—more than we ever thought we could.

Austin and I are both Templeton graduates, and we often reflect on how much our time at Templeton has shaped our understanding of marriage and family life. Our professors and their families were real-life examples of how each family is a little “domestic church,” witnessing to the beauty of self-sacrifice, hospitality, and devotion to one another. I remember watching our professors with their children at church or Templeton functions, noticing that their children were curious and bright-eyed—a clear indication that our professors’ dedication to inquiry and wonder extended beyond the classroom and into their own homes. They often invited us over for tea or meals, and we saw a glimpse of what we could have for ourselves: a family filled with laughter and conversation, where children quote Shakespeare at the dinner table (this really happened!), and faith is a lived reality, influencing all aspects of the home.

Cassie Detwiler (’13) with husband, Austin (’13), and son, Andrew.

We know that parenthood has ushered us into a long line of men and women who are charged with the task of raising not just children but Christians. When Andrew was baptized, the priest turned to us and, reading the baptismal rite, said: “You are accepting the responsibility of training Andrew in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” We, of course, answered “We do,” but I sometimes wonder if we knew what we were signing up for.

The undertaking can seem daunting, but I know that our years at Templeton helped to prepare us for this task, in more ways than we know. Those late nights reading Dante, the heated debates over Aristotle’s Ethics—these played no small part in equipping us for our unique roles as parents and educators in the lives of our children. They formed us in a way of life which looks to the past for wisdom and beauty, in order to nourish and sustain us as we make our way through life, with all of its joys and perils—both of which parenthood promises in full supply.

And with God’s grace, we hope to pass on this beautiful heritage to our children. One of my favorite thinkers, Charlotte Mason, says that parents themselves provide the very atmosphere of the child: “There is no way of escape for parents…about them hangs, as its atmosphere about a planet, the thought-environment of the child, from which he derives those enduring ideas which express themselves as a life-long ‘appetency’ towards things sordid or things lovely, things earthly or divine.”

Austin and I regularly marvel at how Templeton opened our lives to—or, in Mason’s words, created an “appetency” for—things lovely and divine: from beautiful literature and theology, to art and music, much of which now fills our own home and, we hope, provides an atmosphere of grace and beauty for our family. As Templeton provided us a spiritual and educational home for four years, we hope to give our children a similar gift: a life rooted in the faith and richly nourished with all things bright and beautiful.

Cassie Detwiler (’13) is a Templeton graduate with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and is currently a stay-at-home mom, teaching part-time at a local homeschool cooperative.


  1. Herb and I were privileged to meet you and Austin at Mary Franks’ graduation. You two are definitely choice servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. May He bless you daily as you invest in each other and into the life of your precious son.


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