Monday, November 11, 2013

The Heart of Education

While I'm still sick, I've been reading a lot more online, and last night I chanced upon The Thread, as it's been called by people I know, also titled "How Does One Provide a Classical Education?"   (HT:  Crossing the Brandywine:  These Are a Few of My Favorite Things, where you can also find some other links to great, inspirational articles.)

Too bad I didn't find it until it was already late, because I stayed up way later than I should have, reading.  Even then I only skimmed lots of it because it's an immense thread, probably equivalent to a short book, and if you follow all the links you will have enough reading and listening for the whole winter, I think.

Though Chari and I are very different and our homeschools look very different, I think what we both have always had in common in our homeschooling, and one of the reasons we are such good friends, is exactly at the heart of what this thread brings out.  

Both of us tried to give ourselves this kind of education when we were growing up, even though the public school system of the 70's was by no means compatible with it.    Both of us, as we embarked on the homeschooling venture, found ourselves discarding things that didn't fit our half-understood vision and doing more of the things that seemed to "work" with our children, though "what worked" wasn't entirely clear except when it happened.

Chari has told me about her years of "Tree Schooling" where she and her young children would go outside and simply pick up one book after another and LIVE through them.  Her children were late readers, but when I met them they were some of the most thoughtful and intellectually engaged youngsters I had ever met.   Their eyes would glow as they talked in great detail about some book that they obviously comprehended better than many a college student (I am allowed to brag about Chari's kids : )). 

My grown kids, when they talk about their homeschooled years, often refer in one way or another to the "Poetic Knowledge" element of our homeschooling years.   They don't necessarily use that language, but they are talking about something I remember too --- a kind of mystery and wonder at the heart of things that pierced into them and which they carry with them now.

I am not writing about this to brag in the least, at least not about my set of youngsters : ).   Chari and I both struggled hard during those years, and made our share of missteps.   I actually sort of think this comes with that territory.   When you venture off the smooth track, sometimes you get a bit scratched and maybe sometimes lost for a little bit.   We were looking for something that is hard to pin down --- in fact, I think it's safe to say that when you pin it down entirely, you have lost it.

Part of the sheer magnificence of this kind of literary learning is that it is magnificent.  It is immense.  You can spend your life in one part and never exhaust its treasure trove.  The flip side of that is that you are going to be in over your head.  You will be humbled and confused sometimes.   But that's not bad.   That's what makes life more than just going through the hoops and doing what's expected.  And children, Chesterton points out, are more suited to this kind of humbling and mystery than adults are, because adults have often lost their wonder and delight in the face of the huge and mysterious.  Adults don't want things to be huge and mysterious and unexpected, because they have grown tired and fearful.  But this kind of education, embarked on with your children, can refresh some of your weariness and restore some of the lost delight.  

I know that when one reads things like that one immediately feels a bit lost and like one doesn't know where to start.   That is how I felt anyway part of the time I was reading The Thread.  But I think this is why Andrew Kern, when he commented, said that it matters less WHAT you are reading than HOW.    There is an approach of the heart -- I think most of us sense it is there, but it gets cluttered by fear.  That, I think, is why he said it is so important to teach from a place of rest, to slow down, to just look for a different kind of thing.    And I would say to remember to "look" is a very big step.  


I probably will write more about this some other time, because it's been on my mind a lot recently, even before I read The Thread.  But now, I have to turn to other things.   Have a good homeschooling day!


  1. The Thread has been very helpful to me over the last year or two as I've struggled to understand the nature of teaching and learning and loving. And I've become convinced that unless we operate from rest, we will spin our wheels and even head out in the wrong direction. I'd love to read more on this from you.

  2. Willa
    I always love these posts when you share and reflect on yours and Chari's hsing years:) We're hsing this term from a state of rest, so lovely, so refreshing. Not sure if you've caught Cindy Rollins (Ordo Amoris) series on Morning Time? (Prob been too sick) anyhow she inspired me to resurrect our 'Gathering Time' such a lovely way to begin the day, sets the tone. Praying and reading together. And then this term we're having a massive focus on literature, our Leaping into Literature. Simply, Faith (via reading), maths, reading and writing. We're discovering so many books and having some wonderful discussions on some previously introduced topics. Love it! and I'll have to discuss with my olders what they remember most about their hsing years but I suspect it was our reading years.

    1. I caught some of Morning Time posts over at Ordo Amoris.....and then got too busy to keep up. I only have one child at home for hsing......maybe I should do it. Yes. Maybe I should. So we can make our own Tree Schooling memories. I did drag him out there a couple of times in early fall. Maybe if I simplify even more, I might actually accomplish something with him...instead of nothing.

      Thanks for the inadvertent inspiration, Erin!

      You are so blessed to have littles and yet another keep doing the fun part of homeschooling......reading to little ones.

      I have loved reading your picture book reviews...and your Seven Takes. Yes. I read a lot of your blog.....even if you rarely hear from me......I do it via email, usually on my phone. And my phone rarely will post my comments on your blog for some reason. Just about all blogs......

  3. Thanks for sharing! The 'favorite things' post is great and had a few things I hadn't read by favorite authors. I'm not sure if I've made it through the thread but I've read a good chunk as I was 'discovering' Circe and Kern. So many thoughts. Still working on applying- which auntie Leila and Cindy are so great for!

  4. Sarah, Erin, and Amanda......thanks for reading and leaving comments!

    Willa, thank you for this post. I am just getting around to reading it on my quick lunch break from fall cleaning. I so appreciate the reminders about my past homeschooling experiences.......great memories. I have loved being able to discuss and share with you throughout these 14 years. You have been such a blessing to my homeschooling experience.

    This post was so helpful to my current thoughts and situation. Thank you for writing them. God bless both of us as we finish up our homeschooling adventure.


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