No one questions the whole idea of homeschooling more than a homeschool mom in February. February is a notoriously hard month for homeschool moms. It’s the month most of us want to throw in the towel, quit, hide under a pile of fun books, and send our children to boarding school. In Switzerland.
Though I have little interest in standardized personality tests, it has always tickled my fancy that I am the same Meyers-Briggs type as Luke Skywalker. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that when I was a child, the Bible and Star Wars were the two texts that most informed my vision of the world, and while other children may have preferred the vest of Han Solo or the cloak of Darth Vader, I intuited my kinship with Luke at an early age. Now, as an adult at the beginning of my first year of teaching, I once again see myself in Luke.
This article is part two in a series of reflections on what The Confessions of Saint Augustine has to say to modern educators.
In a culture obsessed with efficiency, performance, and competition, we often overlook one of life’s simple pleasures--a pleasure that children experience readily until grown-ups teach it out of them. Lewis explains this pleasure in one of the greatest sermons of the 20th century:
A dialogue with a parent, regarding the practice of confessing sins at Morning Prayer (the form of which is taken from the Book of Common Prayer).
It’s early. Sunlight pours into the riparian valley on which the campus of the classical Christian school sits. The Rhetoric School begins to gather at the doors of the auditorium for their ten-minute liturgy of prayer to start the day. Outside, a parent sees the Headmaster and shares concerns.
In a room full of thirteen-year-olds, I shared that my daughter and I had recently finished reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and that it had now become my favorite book in the series. (Full disclosure: every time I finish a Narnia book again, that book runs the risk of becoming my favorite book in the series...)
“This was my first time to read the book …”, I began to share, only to be interrupted.
Probatos itaque semper lege, et si quando ad alios deverti libuerit, ad priores redi.
One should always read sound literature, Seneca advises, and when one begins feeling the urge to pass on to new reading material, return to the books or authors already read.
Ex iis quae mihi scribis et ex iis quae audio bonam spem de te concipio: non discurris nec locorum mutationibus inquietaris. Aegri animi ista iactatio est: primum argumentum compositae mentis existimo posse consistere et secum morari.
This is the opening of Seneca’s second letter to Lucilius, and it moves quickly to an argument for the selective reading of a few books over a less attentive gloss of several authors.
In That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis tells the story of Mark Studdock, a servile man who ironically comes to realize his true freedom in the limitation of a jail cell. However unpleasant it may be, we have it on good authority that “being at close quarters with death” can actually be good medicine for the soul, especially for the Christian soul. Like Boethius and greater men before him, Mark Studdock receives a great blessing in his incarceration (as he comes to see later on). But how can jail time confer a blessing?
I typically expect to be a little depressed in January. It is my least favorite month of the year and misplaced Christmas-season expectations often leave me feeling empty, cranky, and ashamed. It is possible after a cheerful glass of mulled wine I may have jokingly expressed to my family that “Christmas in THIS house would not happen without me. I am Christmas. Just lay me in that manager.” This terrible confession is true.
In one of the most well-known passages of City of God, Augustine describes the ordo amoris, or order of loves. In his characteristic style of inserting brilliant theological observation within historical description, Augustine exposes the superstructure of his theology. In the midst of classical culture, he identified the central problem of humanity not in externals as the Manichaeans nor ignorance as the Pelagians, but in the fallen human will. More than the intellect alone, Augustine understood that we are pulled—compelled—by love.