Last month was Carter’s 16th birthday, so I took him to Best Buy like I promised and bought him an invisibility cloak. We picked it out together. It was $700, which is quite a bit for our family, but we agreed that it would be a birthday and Christmas present combined. For the whole last year, he had been dying to get one.
Laurus/Arseny/Ustin/Amvrosy was born on May 8 in 1440. I post this review today in honor of his birthday and in honor of St. Arsenius, from whom he derived his name.
Russia is to me a foreign country and the Middle Ages are an alien time. Consequently, to read a novel by a Russian author about medieval Russia pretty well guarantees that my understanding will be stretched.
At the 2015 CiRCE summer conference in Charleston, Andrew Kern very helpfully talked about the difference between the purpose of education and the blessing of education—and our confusion between the two. The purposes of education are manifold: to know God and His creation; to respond in wonder to the things God has made; to develop the gifts He has given us in service to others; because it is part of the creation mandate from Genesis 1, etc.
Writing about a writer is like painting a portrait of person when she’s standing right next to you. While you are deciding what color her shirt should be and whether or not to emphasize the cheekbones, she is there, expressing her thoughts on everything from dinner plans to Shakespeare. You end up thinking to yourself: “Why am I painting a portrait? It’d be better if people just met her.” But a portrait can be more accessible than a person. For a quick and easy acquaintance, it is easier to read an article about a writer than to read her books.
Parents often tell me, “My son is very smart.” They tell me this as though being smart were a great asset, a quality which ought to help them do well in school. However, “My son is very smart” means about as much to a classical teacher as, “My son is very handsome.” I teach virtue. Being smart will probably not be a hindrance to the child who is determined to learn virtue, but neither will it be much of a help.
Often, when a conversation leads me to explain why I love teaching, I find myself saying something about the ways that my education shaped me, about the shaping power I believe education possesses, about the wondrous opportunity the classroom provides for shaping the lives of students. Only recently did a wry comment from my husband prompt me to probe the metaphor I’ve hitherto used so glibly: “Doesn’t say much about what shape they end up in,” he said.
I have at times attempted to define classical education by referring to the liberality of the liberal arts. Maybe I aimed too high, but surely a word that denotes generosity and freedom is favorable. That word liberal, however, is so misused today that it brings confusion not clarity. No, I’m not speaking of the political spectrum. This isn’t about a liberal bent in social issues.
If an elementary school student is a voracious reader, he will often set his eyes on books which are part of school curriculum from forthcoming years. His teachers or parents will say to a 3rd or 4th grader, “Oh, don’t read that book yet. You’ll read it in 5th grade.” But often enough, this is unfortunate advice.
What follows is the final exam I have given my freshman Medieval lit students after we finished reading The Divine Comedy
Part One: The Problem. Imagine, for a moment, that you have a friend at this school whom you have known since second grade. Let us call this friend Mark. In elementary school, you played with toys together. Then you learned to ride bicycles together. You were in boy scouts together. However, during sophomore year, Mark has begun to struggle, while you have not.