Earlier this year, my heart found its home.
Dramatic? Perhaps. Experientially true? Yes and Amen.
This most satisfying homecoming began with Augustine, as all important things really ought. His charge to rightly order our affections beautifully complemented what I previously learned about Christian affections under the tutelage of Thomas Chalmers (18th c. Scotsman) and Jonathan Edwards (17th c. American). If the Spirit of the living God was primarily in the business of re-ordering my own loves, what could be weightier than a teacher tasked with facilitating the same in her student? This connection was, and continues to be, breath-taking: becoming the instrument (however flawed and cracked) by which a child learns to cast off foolishness and put on virtue and wisdom is precisely the point of teaching. What could be nobler?
To add to beauty to this wonder, I then read of education as the unfolding of a man’s soul and education as becoming fully alive. In a series of cataclysmic moments, my confusion about educational fruit vs. root disappeared. Math facts for the sake of superior test results is a worthless endeavor. But math facts meant to awaken my child to the beauty and order of our Creator is fruit worth cultivating. Framing the memorization of times table as a means of growing in grace and humility helps place education in its proper place of a sacrifice-worthy endeavor.
Mercifully, that I was pursuing truth, beauty and goodness alongside my children became as reflexive as if I were responding “why, yes, of course I would like my tea served hot. Is there any other way?”
Is there another way?
Indeed, it was precisely the confusion of this other way that had frustrated – at both the philosophical and practical levels – our prior four years of home education.
Now, I had been around a number of homeschoolers for years who self-identified as classical educators. But all their methods and motivations were so varied (dare I say inconsistent?), and more significantly, no one seemed to be able to nail down a definition of their educational pursuit.
In the meantime, we had plodded along, but a driving vision (an essential element during the dreary winters of Minnesota) seemed elusive. We wanted to create an education defined by excellence, one rich in literature, within an atmosphere of discipleship; but the philosophical web was not fully woven. My husband will tell you that I am (repeatedly) willing to die on the Hill of Precise Language. Consequently, my inability to give words (and therefore grant life) to our home education mission and methods was a never-ending source of frustration.
Defining terms & granting life
Why the obsession with principles, one might wonder? Think of it this way: describing your favorite portrait in the gallery as merely “a pretty woman in the torn gown” tells no one anything. Describing it as “the soon-to-be-beheaded daughter of a French nobleman, whose haunted eyes plead for mercy” tells a story not easily forgotten. I needed our story for home education to be so substantial and rich linguistically that it would serve my own heart as well as anyone inquiring about our decision to home educate.
Providentially, the works of classical educators like Dr. Christopher Perrin and Andrew Kern appeared on my radar several months ago, which led me to Sarah Mackenzie, followed by heavy doses of Doug Wilson, and an introduction to Joseph Peiper – all of whom have helped usher me down this road of immeasurable worth, one that stretches for miles (and years) to come.
The cathedral had been sketched, and we were irresistibly beckoned. Our entrance has been nothing short of transformative.
Part 2 of this series: The transformation of our rhythms & routines