Escaping the Enchanted Ground

On remembering why we're doing this in the first place

It has been about a decade since my husband and I pulled our seven year old son from the private school he was attending to homeschool him. Five years later, we placed him in the classical, Christian school he still attends.

Reading books like C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man and Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture moved us to make such decisions.

We were stirred by such passages as: “The task is to train in the pupil those responses which are in themselves appropriate whether anyone is making them or not, and in making which the very nature of man consists (Lewis),” and “The greatest menace to our capacity for contemplation is the incessant fabrication of tawdry empty stimuli which kill the receptivity of the soul (Pieper).” Our burning vision became to nurture our son to be fully and truly human, the Imago Dei, with a soul alive and receptive to truth, beauty, and goodness.

Now as we enter the last stage of this journey, I find myself reflecting on all the anfractuous twists and turns we have taken — and the perils and pitfalls we have avoided — to stay on the straight and narrow path of an authentic classical, Christian education.

But we dare not congratulate ourselves yet. For like a noose around our necks, certain pressures hang, threatening to choke the life we have so carefully cultivated: The PSAT, his GPA, resume building for the college admissions process. Indeed, the need for watchfulness increases as the temptation to succumb to the relentless voices of our modern educational system clamor more and more for our attention.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Hopeful must travel through the Enchanted Ground before their dangerous journey concludes and they are welcomed to the Celestial City. Drowsy and dull from breathing the deadly enchanted air, they are tempted to lie down and sleep instead of persevering.

“By no means,” determines Christian wisely. “Lest sleeping we never awake more.”

To keep themselves from falling asleep, they decide to discourse with one another and Hopeful begins by rehearsing how he came, “at first to look after the good of my soul.”

How too can we stay alert and awake as we breathe the air of worldly educational enchantment, an enchantment which seeks to dethrone all genuine classical and Christian values under the tyranny of the functional and the utilitarian?

Like Christian and Hopeful, my husband and I must dialogue with each other as parents, with our son, and with other fellow believers in classical, Christian education. Christian and Hopeful recognize the importance of community and fellowship. Without the sharpening influence — and collective wisdom — of their fellow sojourners they surely would have faltered and fallen”

Nemo misi per amicitiam cognoscitur,” as Augustine so profoundly states.

I have been around the classical, Christian movement long enough to know that the motivations of many families are multitudinous.

When Hopeful and Christian begin their discourse, Hopeful first rehearses his spiritual awakening. We too, must regularly rehearse how we came to look after the good of our son’s soul. What ideas awakened us from our stupor in the first place and caused us to perceive the reality of what it means to be human and made in the image of God?

Recently, I reread Lewis and Pieper’s books and in rereading, I was reminded of our original vision. My passion to persevere was renewed. I remembered that wisdom and virtue cannot be measured like an SAT score or a GPA. They come dressed in the humble garb of a carpenter from Nazareth not in the self-righteous robes of so-called academic success. They are not commodities to be bought and bargained for on the educational market; they are “without money and without price.”

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