Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflections on education

This week is the first week of school for kids in our area.  On facebook, I see "first day of school" pictures flood my news feed.  It's an exciting time of the year - full of new possibilities.

My kids, however, are not doing school this week (ha!).  We've actually been schooling for about 7 weeks already, but this week the girls are gone visiting grandparents.

This is the longest they've been away from me (and Jared).  They've been gone since Friday and won't be back until tomorrow (Thursday).  I miss them terribly.  The house feels empty.  I kind of feel like I don't know what I should be doing with myself.

I've gotten some things done:  rest, which is what has been prescribed by my mom and my mother-in-law, before the baby comes; preparation of freezer meals before the baby comes; a little bit of cleaning (I haven't really been motivated to "nest" yet...I wonder if I will be with only a few weeks left).

But mostly I'm resting and taking advantage of the quiet, which is allowing me time to do plenty of reading and thinking and reflecting.

Anyway, back to school.  What I've been reading about and thinking about the most right now has to do with all these precious kiddos starting the new school year, as well as my own endeavor at educating my children.

In addition to reading, I've watched some wonderful, insightful videos over at the Circe Institute website.  If you're not familiar, it's a site dedicated to educating parents and teachers about classical education - what it is and how to implement it.  By the way, Charlotte Mason's methods are very much in line with classical education (from what I've gathered, but I am no expert).

Right now I'm working my way through the video series "Teaching from a State of Rest" - a lecture given by the Circe Institute president, Andrew Kern.  You can find the videos here - you'll have to scroll down.

Even if you're not a homeschooler, I highly, highly recommend any of his videos or podcasts, especially if you're a Christian.

Anyway, I thought I would share a few of my notes and reflections about this particular video series because it has really convicted me about my children's education, and just raising them in general.

Kern says,
"We are created to be priests, to offer up the creation to God, and thereby bless it.  We live in a broken and fallen world which is under a curse, and the only hope it has of being delivered from that curse is the goodness and grace of God.  And He has chosen, in His humility, to use us...those who believe in and claim the name of Christ, to bring His blessing...that water of life, to the world."
This is the purpose of education, he says - to take possession of the world and bless it, instead of letting the world possess us.  That's what happened to Adam way back in Genesis.  God gave him dominion over the world, but by partaking of the one tree God forbid, Adam let the world possess him.

When we think of education in this light, it makes us rethink how we teach, what we teach, why we teach, and how we assess what we teach.  It also makes us rethink who our boss is - the world and its standards?  Or God?

Kern references 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (but invites those who are concerned with the education of their children to study chapters 1-3):
"Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness', and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'"
Maybe some of us think that this has nothing to do with modern education because our spiritual life is a totally separate thing.  Here's a quote that struck me, taken from the book When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper:
"'...we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.'" (p.101)
This is actually a quotation from Charlotte Mason, but I didn't write down from which of her volumes it came.

If we are Christians, then we do not believe or claim that there is such a thing as a "Christian" or "religious" education.  Because, Miss Mason points out, that would be implying the possibility of a secular education, apart from a "religious" education.  But, if we believe that all education comes from God, then there is just education - no secular, no religious, just education.

So there is a true education - true knowledge - that comes from above.
"...that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  (Colossians 2:2,3) 
And God
"desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) 
Education is, at its essence, a spiritual thing.  It is about the pursuit of the truth - the cultivation of wisdom and virtue in our children.  Because we are, and our children are, created in the image of God and "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." (Romans 8:29)

Kern points out that modern education is only concerned with the practical, however.  Our culture does not believe in children because we do not believe in humans.  We don't believe in humans because we don't believe in Christ, who is the model human.  He came to the earth to show us what it really means to be human; what true human nature really is.  True human nature is embodied in the person of Christ.  But, because society does not believe in Christ, we do not believe in true human nature, therefore we do not cultivate it in our children.

We are too concerned with the practical outcomes of education, not the pursuit of truth.  We are too concerned with memorizing the facts and information that we are taught, so that we can get good test scores, so that we can compete with the rest of the world.  We are too concerned with success measured by the world's standards - a good job, money, an ability to live comfortably, respect from those around us.

We are not just too concerned, we are too worried about it all.
"'But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.  Do not fear, little flock, for it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.'" (Luke 12:31-32)
Continuing in 1 Corinthians 3:
"Therefore let no one boast in men.  For all things are yours:  whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come - all are yours.  And you are Christ's and Christ is God's." (v.21-23)
In Christ, everything is ours.  So there's no need to worry about the world's standards of success.

But, as parents, we need to be educated ourselves.  If we really believe that education should be the pursuit of truth and the cultivation of true human nature in our children, then we must be aware of how to do that.

Summarizing Charlotte Mason's words in Home Education, page 42, we cannot rely on prayer alone to ensure that our children will grow up to be honest, good, virtuous human beings.  We must be intelligent and find out ways of actively bringing those characteristics about in our children.  We must be aware of the best ways to present that which is good, true, and beautiful to our children.

We cannot just trust the system.


  1. This is such a great post, Angela. Thanks for linking to Kern's talks. I think I saw a long time ago that Sarah from Amongst Lovely Things linked to them but I totally forgot about them! These are all great thoughts! I have to admit, though. We are on day 3 of homeschooling and I feel like I'm DROWNING.

    I listened to a *certain* podsast recently (that shall remain nameless) that I normally LOVE, LOVE, LOVE but this one actually made me doubt my ability to teach! The guest talked about how if you're struggling or your child is struggling either put them in school or get outside help! I'm sure in some cases that's good advice, but I'm not sure how I feel about it being told to the masses. I kind of feel like if we're led to homeschool, that the Lord will provide for us. Obviously, the Lord also gives wisdom and I'm not saying one should *never* get outside help, but again, I don't think that should be our default. I'm really struggling right now and those were NOT the words I needed to hear!

    Your post, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. ;o) So. Thank you.

    And thank you for letting me vent. ;)

    1. I'm glad it helped, Catie :) Although I can't take credit, of course. You should really check out the podcasts (and articles) on the Circe know, because you have a lot of extra time and all ;)

  2. A great post for me to read right before we start lessons next week. Good stuff!
    And, thanks to you, I am ready to tackle another year of "Natty Math". :)