As I near the end of my homeschooling career, it has dawned on me that I am not really nearing the end of anything at all. In some ways my own education began when I started homeschooling my children and I hope that it will continue until I reach the end of this earthly stay. Being a stranger and an alien on this planet, there has been a lot to learn and I have not even scratched the surface as my education is teaching me.
This idea was driven home to me this month as I read Laurie Bestvater’s book The Living Page subtitled Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason. I had at first dismissed this book as something not pertinent to my time of life — like Sing, Spell, Read and Write or Singapore Math. My childrens’ days full of daily journals, nature notebooks, narrations, and Books of the Centuries are nearing an end. But when at a meeting of our local Charlotte Mason group, I held the book in my hands and turned the pages and I realized that this book was idea for me in this particular time of life. In fact, in many ways, this book offers an antidote to the wear and tear done by our technological lives. It is a great reminder that what we know about education is for our lives and not just for our children.
I suppose I was worried that the book would make me feel guilty. We had, after all, failed at keeping a Book of the Centuries. My children had not made a Book of Firsts or a Bible Notebook, but as I read the book I began to see the very thing I so often promote: the idea that we are working on something for the long haul–the very long haul–an entire lifetime. If I start something with a twelve-year-old, something educational in the truest sense of the word, then he has his entire life to complete it. No, not to complete it: to enjoy it. Even at fifty-something I can begin my own Book of the Centuries, just as last year I finally started my own nature notebook.
So notebooks and paper aside, The Living Page is inspirational. Chapter 5, R.S.V.P. The Shape of Life, is clearly a manifesto on the meaning of being educated. It has confirmed my own assertion that the older I get the more I trust the philosophy of Charlotte Mason.
“The question is not, how much does the youth know when he has finished his education, but how much does he care?”
– Charlotte Mason, School Education
Indeed, how much do I care? Isn’t the great crisis of middle age apathy?
Laurie Bestvater also reminds me of how much fruit right thinking can produce even when we stumble in our efforts. After pointing out her daughter’s adult insight into teaching piano, Laurie reminds us that “It did this mother’s heart proud to hear it but that is not why I retell this story. I tell it because even my shambling efforts in the direction Mason was pointing were somehow enough for some deep sense of the proper use of time and relationship to take root in the next generation.”
And that is all part of educating from a place of rest. Rest means putting time and place in their proper spheres. The ideas in The Living Page can help us build relationships between where we live, how we live, and even how long we live. Education, someone has said, is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. Herein is rest.