I like James Smith's book Desiring the Kingdom and am enjoying the book discussion especially, but I admit to being a bit puzzled overall about how to fit it into my "corpus" of books about education.
Some books fit onto my small shelf of pivotal educational books easily. I think of Poetic Knowledge, Norms and Nobility, Beauty in the Word, Charlotte Mason's books, Implementing Ignatian Education in the Home, John Holt's books.
This one hasn't, so much, not yet. The part I am reading now is more a call to churches to take a closer look at their emphasis (and in a way, I can't help noticing, a call to churches to become more like the Catholic Church in its ideal form -- more embedded in history, more liturgical, more deeply ceremonial, more culturally awesome, more sacramental, more truly relational in the Trinitarian life, more truly philosophical, etc).
But the book doesn't seem to have a close connection (yet) to what I am doing in my homeschool -- how I get up every morning, pray, drink my coffee, start the fire, plan my day, and get lessons ready to teach my kids. It is written to those who are in charge of steering Christian society, or so it seems to me, and I am by no means one of those.
However, this is not a criticism, just an acknowledgement of perplexity. It is not the first time this has happened. I've read other books that people were enthused about and I didn't get. I've bought curricula that people raved about that sat on my shelf or flopped when I tried it out. And sometimes, something that sat on my shelf suddenly makes sense and I can use it. I had Latina Christiana for many years, wanting to like it and use it. And now I m using it. I couldn't understand lapbooks and now I get them (in my own way).
But what I am really trying to say is that someone on a classical yahoo group I am on linked to a follow-up thread to the old classic Circe thread that I read after I got sick last October. And in turn, this led me to another resource -- a video talk by Jenny Rallens called The Liturgical Classroom. I haven't finished listening to it yet, but it sounds like it connects the ideas from Desiring the Kingdom to daily life in the schoolroom and what you do with your kids. Which has been the missing piece for me. So maybe I will end up "getting" Desiring the Kingdom even if I am a little lost right now.
One thing I have gotten out of Rallens' talk so far (about 10 minutes in -- I have a short auditory attention span) that connects well to Smith's book is the idea that HOW teaching is done is of key importance. If we want to help our kids order their affections properly, then it's like a whole new realm that we enter. Sometimes I try to put myself in the hearts of people listening to Jesus. How would He sound to a desperate sinner who saw no way out of the mass effect of his sins (like the thief on the cross?) How would He sound to someone who crossed the Ts all his life in the comfortable certainty that this was the tribute he owed to God, and then found how much stranger and more immense the call was than he had thought?
Teaching gives us the chance to enter that very realm every day.... the realm where everything is momentous and unexpected, and all our skills and intuitions and understanding are required. The Kingdom of God, more amazing and terrifying than anything I would ever desire for myself. My plans, aspirations, principles etc do give me a road-map and reality check but they don't give me a bubble-car to insulate myself in.
What I really want, God, is a bubble-car, a comfort-zone I can carry around with me, but I accept that You don't want to form me into a bubble shape but into a truer icon of You. I will have to remember that when I pray for the day in the morning that I am praying for You to work however You see best, whatever that implies in this particular day, and that my main call is to respond rather than to control or cope or withdraw.