Through repentance one begins to learn the beauty of mathematics, and that process brings order and freedom. J.R.R. Tolkein said, “The essence of education is repentance.” It seems that, among other educational disciplines, the process of learning mathematics is uniquely humbling. One begins, teacher or student, with the humiliation of ignorance - I do not know what to do, nor how to do it. We naturally fight against anything that reveals either what we do not know or what we cannot understand.
Homeschooling is hard. Mothering is hard. Sometimes, life is hard. For some time, I have felt called to reach out to mothers of teens to speak encouragement, breathe life and bolster courage in their hearts, and mine. I searched many quotations looking for the right words and couldn’t find what I was looking for until these words popped into my head one Saturday morning as I watched The Crown with my sick husband. “Once more unto the breach, my friends.” I thought it was a Winston Churchill quote but…it’s Shakespeare!
Wonder is one of the great delights in literature. It is invoked when a reader must struggle to distinguish between the imaginative and reality. One of literature’s wonders is its ability to draw attention to ordinary things with new alluring light. Long walks, small conversations, little annoyances and desires, and hospitality’s eating and drinking are all wonderfully common things in literature. The stuff of everyday life draws our imaginations into the larger tale.
When all the world began truly shutting down and people began turning to baking bread and skyping with their families, I picked up Moby Dick. I’d tried it last summer, as part of a half formed book club which fell apart less than halfway through the novel. I still have a stamped portrait of the whale in the blood-red sea tucked into my copy of the book- given to me by the only other member of the group with any enthusiasm for this novel. It now serves as my bookmark.
It is so nice to sit in the quiet. I started a reflection time in my office, and as soon as I got still and tried to focus my thoughts on the Lord, I began to be distracted by the voices all around me. The walls of my office are apparently thin, as I could detect even subtle nuances to the conversations happening in other offices…and I had to escape. So here I sit in a room that many on our campus don’t even know about, and though I can hear the routine movement of cars outside, the quietness brings peace.
Science education is at a crisis in our world.
When I was manning the Learning Assistance Centre in a public high school, I often helped students who were taking online courses. One day a young man came to see me in the throes of immense frustration with his “distance learning” course. He wasn’t understanding the material and didn’t know what to do about it. He looked at me with pleading eyes and said, “I need a teacher!”
When I teach The Lord of the Rings, some students will inevitably tell me that they do not like fantasy because “it’s not the real world.” It took me a while to realize that, to them, the ‘real world’ is a disenchanted one. This is of no fault of their own. We swim in a disenchanted cultural current. I too was educated and formed to believe the disenchanted idea of the real world. As philosopher Charles Taylor notes in A Secular Age, our modern epoch is an era of disenchantment.
In autumn of 2006, I unknowingly first walked by a future mentor in a hallway in midtown Manhattan. I was seventeen, and I was touring the liberal arts college that would soon become home for four years. The woman who walked past me was a small, dark-haired European professor, and someday she would become a beloved pedagogical mother to me. This friendship bloomed right after undergrad, when I became a teacher at her daughters’ school.
Before building a tower or engaging in battle, one must count the cost. If one lacks the resources or motivation to complete a project, it would be better not to begin. The same is true of arts. Every art has an end which governs its practice. While there is certainly value in amateur attempts, the art exists to achieve the end. The art of poetry aims to create poems; the art of rhetoric, orations; music, harmony. The art which fails to reach its goal has not been mastered.