Monday, August 17, 2015

Teaching From A Place of Rest

Well, here we are - just about ready to dive into another school year.  We have had the most amazing wonderful summer and I'm really sad to see it end.  Punkin is heading back to Grove City College for her junior year, Banana is starting a new school this year as a sophomore in high school, and my little Boo is homeschooling again this year as a fourth grader. 

One thing I did this summer was to take an online class for the first time ever.   The class was called "Bringing Schole´ to your School or Homeschool" through Classical Academic Press presented by Dr. Christopher Perrin.  The word Schole´ is a Greek word that means restful learning leaning towards contemplation, conversation and reflection.  How ironic is it that our English word "school" also is derived from this word schole´ yet when we think of most typical schools it is far from any kind of restful learning, contemplation or reflection?

When I first started doing the readings for this class I thought to myself, "Great - I'm going to be one of those on-line class drop-outs".  The readings were so hard and it took so much discipline to dig through the heady information to gather what God was trying to place in my heart.  I want to try to summarize here what I have learned because it is something I have become very passionate about - and also to try and further cement into my own head what it is I am trying to accomplish.  I know I will only be able to scratch the surface here for you, but this concept is my goal this year, and by explaining it to others I can better understand it myself.  One of the books we are reading is called The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education.  This is NOT an easy read, but will breathe a new life into your views on education.  This book transcends the familiar three-stage pattern of grammar, logic and rhetoric.  It describes what is like a second big step toward recovering the tradition of a classical education.

Also, the book, Leisure the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper has been instrumental in helping me understand the "common misconceptions about the idea of leisure and its relation to work.  Leisure is not idleness, but an attitude of the mind and a condition of the soul that fosters receptivity to both physical and spiritual realities. The author points out that sound philosophy and authentic religion can be born only in leisure - a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of things, including the nature of God.  Leisure has been, and always will be, the foundation of any culture."

If you have been a reader of my blog for any length of time (thank you to those devoted few who tolerate my sporadic blogging attempts!), then you know all about my passion for classical education.  My oldest daughter graduated as Salutatorian from a classical christian school three years ago, and my middle daughter has been there from Pre-K3 through 9th grade - more on her later.  Our youngest daughter attended our classical school since age 3 and is currently homeschooling.  We have also been a sporadic homeschooling family through the years.  We look at the needs of each child each year and prayerfully consider what is the best educational approach for them in their current stage of life.  Through it all however, we have always held fast to a classical approach when it comes to education.

While I am still sold out on the idea of classical education, I feel like I have a completely different view of it than I used to have - my passion for classical education has taken a new twist.   While the classical education revival is strong and growing across our nation, part of the fundamental roots of what a true classical education IS seems to be getting lost in the process.  There seems to be much anxiety and even frenzy associated with the classical schools of today.  Many of these schools boast of their "rigorous" curriculum.   I've even talked/bragged about it myself here on the blog!  But do you know what that word truly means?  The word rigor comes from the Latin word rigoris which means "harsh, rigid, relentless, stern, inflexible, firm, rough".  This is where we get the word rigor mortis which means "the stiffness of death".  Do we REALLY want a rigorous education for our children?   I have seen first hand - through decades of classically educated children - my own, my friends, being a teacher of classical methods myself - the downfalls of not balancing a proper classical education with that of an education which stems from a place of rest, of contemplation, of leisure, of diligence.

The word diligence comes from the Latin diligere which means "to respect, esteem, take delight in, to love".   I believe THIS should be our goal in educating our children.  To point them in the direction of being able to wonder, to contemplate and to soak up from a place of leisure.   We have blurred the lines between a rigorous education and creating a diligent student.   We get the word "student" from the Latin word studium meaning "affection, zeal, eagerness".  What we want then is a diligent student who takes delight in - eagerly and with great zeal - what she is being taught.   Our job then is to put them in the way of learning, to place them in the way of objects, books, experiences and ideas - ideas that are the "right idea at the right time", and then step out of the way.  Classical educators educate for virtue.  Even Aristotle spoke often of virtue being the aim of wisdom and education.  To spoon feed our children the moral of the story is much like stealing away a great treasure. Instead introduce them to stories filled with great wonder, great virtue, deep thoughts and engaging truths.  The discovery of these things to them in their own time is the very root of enduring education.  Without virtue, education is empty and meaningless.  The heart of classical education is virtue - but this can't be taught, it must be caught.  How do we do this as educators? We live it.  How do we live it? By teaching from a place of rest.   Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety.

Laura Ingalls Wilder once said "The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies".  

It has taken me all summer to truly digest this concept of Schole´ and even to try and wrap my brain around what it means, what it looks like for a homeschooler, what it looks like in the classroom of a classical school - or even a traditional school.  I have met a fellow homeschool mom in the online class I have been taking named Sarah Mackenzie - she JUST published a book entitled "Teaching From Rest - A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakable Peace".   It has been a gem in helping me to summarize all that I have learned.    Teaching from a state of rest or peace doesn't mean teaching calm children, in a calm manner on a calm morning (haha - if only!)  To teach from rest means to "enter into God's rest and then serve Him whole-heartedly, not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust".    She writes "The heart of this book is about remembering what our true task really is, and then throwing ourselves in completely.  Giving our all.  The raising of children, the teaching of truth, the sharing of life, the nourishing of imagination, and the cultivating of wisdom - these are all His anyway; we are merely His servants."

Plutarch once said "The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting".  Think about that for a minute.  Think about times when you truly learned how to do something.  Were you simply "filled" with information, or were you inspired, motivated and really wanting to learn about that thing?  For me it was photography.  I have never taken any kind of photography class, yet I am filled to overflowing with information about photography.  I had a passion for capturing the beauty that I could see all around me and wanting to share it with others.  I dove in wholeheartedly when I bought my first camera and became desperate to know everything I could about the art of  photography.  The information was out there, it was just up to me to discover it.  I now regularly teach photography classes and have a successful established photography business.  For the generations of today, the learning of how to use a computer comes to mind.  Not many of us took a class on how to use a computer (well maybe one here or there), but look at how proficient we all are in the use of them?  For most of us, we learned that skill from a place of leisure and rest.  Rest and leisure, however, is not the absence of work.  It is simply approaching it from a direction other than what most of us have been taught.  Work and leisure can go hand in hand.

Children have a voracious appetite for knowing and experiencing. It is the strong, real world that interests them so much, where so much of the unexpected can happen and there is wonderful mystery all around them.  If we aren't careful - WE are the ones to squelch that God-given instinct in them.   When we focus on "mastering skills" instead of directing them toward wisdom and knowledge, we are doing them a great dis-service.  This is not to say that mastering skills is not important, and that rest and leisure can mean any kind of laziness - quite the opposite! Teaching from rest will take diligence, patience, attention, and a lot of hard work!  We MUST value academic work because to nurture the intellect is to be fully human, but we must not elevate it beyond its place.  In our homeschool we will still study Latin, the Bible, great works of literature, great composers and ancient art.  We will be diligent in our studies of math, grammar, science, writing, history and the world around us.  But we will be careful to pursue relationships, to dance in the rain, to bake together, to care for the elderly, to build a fort, to pay the bills, to do the laundry, and to love God and each other deeply.  If we simply offer up our very best and do it without fretting or being anxious, then God will bless that ten thousand fold.

There is something to be said of simply slowing down.  To dive deeper into the subjects at hand.  There is so much to be gained from true deep knowledge of a subject, rather than plowing through as much information as possible.  I remember at our very first class, Dr. Perrin gave the analogy of eating a pie - maybe a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.  We look forward to tasting the pie all day, we eagerly place that first bite into our mouth and then savor the mixing flavors of pumpkin and cinnamon, and we linger over the delicious sweet creaminess of each bite, and that perfect crispy pie crust just leaves you wanting more - right? Now compare that to a pie eating contest - where the goal is to simply shove as much pie into your mouth as quickly as you can and see how many pies you can get through, and you don't ever really taste it.   I have to admit I am guilty of taking a pie eating contest approach to my classical homeschooling.  There is so much good out there to be taught,  but if we don't take the time to slow down and restfully teach and learn...... then our education is a mile wide but only an inch deep.  Which would you rather have? I would rather savor, ponder, revel and linger over that which is true and good and beautiful.

I had the opportunity this summer to attend the huge homeschool convention in Orlando, FL.  I attended absolutely every Charlotte Mason seminar that I possibly could.   I feverishly took notes and was so inspired to bring more of the CM style of education into our little homeschool.  I have always been a big believer in her methods, but after studying schole´ this summer, I am even more so.  The educational movement of Charlotte Mason goes firmly hand in hand with a restful classical approach to learning.  She was a brilliant educator from the late 1800's who believed the child is a person and we must educate the whole person, not just the mind.  A Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words,

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life".   

By atmosphere, CM meant the surroundings that make up a child's life.  A child absorbs a lot from her  home environment. The ideas that rule your life as a parent make up one third of your child's education.

By discipline, CM meant the discipline of good habits, specifically habits of character.  Cultivating good habits in your child's life make up another one third of her education.

Life applies to academics. CM believed we should give children "living" thoughts and ideas, not simply dry facts or textbooks.  All of her methods on teaching the various school subjects center around that concept.

As homeschooling moms, we can make the mistake of thinking that the success of our homeschool might lay in choosing the perfect curriculum, reading only the best books, never straying from the schedule or staying a year ahead in math. It becomes so easy to make it all about us.  God loves to do incredible things in the lives of our children.  It is not up to us to worry if we are doing enough, or doing too much,  we are only to be a willing vessel to be used by Him.  We are simply to show up, to be diligently ready and prepared, and not to be anxious and afraid that we are really going to mess this up.  Because guess what? God uses the mess ups just as well as he uses our successes.

I am hoping that this is the beginning of a series of blog posts which will be a journal of sorts into our journey of living out a more schole´ homeschool lifestyle.   Teaching from rest is a reminder that I am not in control, nor should I be.  I need to simply trust, and lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct my paths.


Anonymous said...

What a great post! I don't homeschool my children (I work full time outside of the home) but when I was a SAHM I really did consider it. Still find it really interesting to read about and to get ideas for the other learning we do at home outside of school. Looking forward to more posts!