It was back to school here too, as much as I try to be in denial about it.
How in denial am I about back to school?
This is the only picture I took:
In fairness, my battery died after this.
I was going to muse on the fun of packing up camping gear as you head off to your junior year at college, and maybe, just maybe, I would have taken a picture of Bridget, but maybe not, because I’m not sentimental like that; I tend to be focused on all the things I have to do (because I have postponed them, because I can’t bear to think of summer being over).
But probably not; viz., I didn’t even take a phone picture. Maybe she’ll post one on her IG. I already miss her, so I hope so!
(These little things, above, are Cape gooseberries, also known as ground cherries. They are quite delightful and grow really easily.)
I keep reading others’ updates about getting the kids back or off for the first time to college, and about starting them off at kindergarten, and about getting back to homeschooling.
Every fiber of my being resists all this.
I can’t explain it. To me, the onset of fall is a reminder of all I’ve left undone in the soaking-up-sunshine department… and I’m not good at planning ahead.
I will remind you (because I’m sure I’ve written about it before) that we never started our schooling until well after Labor Day, if we could help it (and sometimes we couldn’t, due to the unreasonableness of the powers that be, and we always had someone subject to those powers). Sometimes our home school didn’t start until near October.
I always thought that in the depths of February we wouldn’t mind having made that choice.
I happened on a book review (this one, about Jacob Neusner, “the most published man in human history,” “arguably one of the most influential voices in American Jewish intellectual life in the past half-century”) the other day, the umpteenth reminder that the most interesting and productive people in the world were misfits as children.
It made me want to come here and tell you this about educating your children, whether in school or at home: How would you feel as the mother or father of a third grader whose teacher said about him, “He prefers not to do as the others are doing, which causes many difficulties”?
But then, how would you feel as the mother or father of the adult (that grown child!) who received the Medal of Pope Benedict XVI, or who lovingly and intelligently raised a family of her own, or who could run a company, or who could engineer something needed? … for example?
I guess I’m trying to say that there is no “one thing you need to know” about the education of the child. There’s no denying that — even if you delegate part or most of the formal education to others! — it takes energy and trustfulness. Not just energy; not just trustfulness.
The young child needs to learn certain things, but somehow, the world itself is set up for him to learn those things, if we mostly stand out of the way, only stepping forward to offer a few key things at opportune times.
The older child needs, among many other things, to read a mountain of books; this necessitates a corresponding amount of reading on our part — even of books we’ve read and studied in the past. Being the mother or father of an older child learning at home is an exercise in changing the whole way we interact with the world, because now we must wrestle with Plutarch and Dickens and Faraday… and very likely a baby or two as well! That is, the mother of such a child finds that it’s real work to homeschool.
But we aren’t programming a machine; we’re guiding a soul, a unique person who will learn if we just give him room. Not only learn, but head off in directions we hardly imagined — that’s when we find out that we can render even shortcomings on our part into freedom for this child who, it must be said, is not precisely a child of ours.
So this is just a pep talk on the subject of any anxiety you might be feeling as you raise your children (or any false sense of security you might have when you put your confidence in a system or process of education). In one sense, there’s no mystery: children have always grown up and learned things, if given half a chance. Of course, that half of a chance consists very much in being left alone to think, and in reading, and in having smart people to talk to and who love them.
In another sense, the mystery is real, and so no one can “fix” it with their one easy solution or their complex method. Parents really are in the closest contact with the one thing no one knows much about, despite having been one: a developing human person. Don’t be surprised if this seems difficult, but don’t be afraid to relax, either, as it seems to be just the way it is supposed to be!
Sometimes, only after actually raising children do you realize what went into it, I guess I’m trying to say.
And that’s when you see that it’s the goal that should determine your choices. That review that got me started here really reminded me that the goal can’t be “to do what the others are doing” or even “to perform well at this level.” It really has to be that we offer the child the environment and the necessary support (that is, love) to “become what he is” in Saint John Paul’s phrase. Sometimes even our failures can be useful, that means — which is surely good news!
Today, as I read the reading in the Office, from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, I thought of how much confidence we have to have in something outside of ourselves when we are faced with such a long-term task as the education of our children. I thought about how we have to be fine with doing our best in God’s sight and not worrying about how it appears to man; far less about how we feel about this (and really any!) project:
People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust. Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not. I will not even pass judgement on myself. True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted: the Lord alone is my judge. There must be no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts. Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-16.)
I have lots of education and homeschooling thoughts.
You can scroll through the “education” category; you can read about teaching a child to read (start at the beginning), to write (the previous posts in that category are linked at the end of this one), to observe.
Don’t forget the Library Project!