Education is about love.

The Association of Classical and Christian Schools has a good article by Louis Markos in their latest edition of Classis.

Here are some selected quotes with my comments.

I encouraged them [his children] to interact in a direct and spontaneous manner with the stories I read to them and the environment around them. I wanted them to know, not so much through study as through participation, how they fit into the world and how the world fit into them. “The world is full of magic,” I taught them, “—you just have to have eyes to see it and ears to hear it.”

This is what we want to do with our very youngest students and in nature studies. Don’t read “magic” as magic, but rather as mystery. The world holds together because God holds it together, and this is mysterious to us. The “magic” of science engenders curiosity.

Here is another good quote. It is especially relevant to science, especially grammar school science, and even more so to our pre-grammar school.

“It is exactly this experience that Mason desires for her pupils, an experience that can be expressed in numerous words, all of which combine the physical, emotional, and spiritual, and all of which produce that all-important humility that lies at the root of education: astonishment, wonder, awe, terror, fear. The child, Mason and Wordsworth both insist, has the ability to take in such experiences, even if he cannot immediately understand them. And it is right for parents and teachers to allow him to have that experience without incessantly demanding that it be broken down, analyzed, and categorized under scientific-sociological headings.”

Because the world ultimately exists by the Word and power of God, there is mystery in it. Not all of it can be boiled down into facts. The whole is greater than its parts. There are things we know about it that we cannot prove with science. Stories have meanings that are beyond the written words on the page. When we immediately break down and categorize, we cut our children off from this more holistic knowledge. Far better than an “abc” book for a three year old is a great storybook. The former desiccates the fertile soil of the child’s mind by presenting raw bits and pieces of facts while the other waters and implants it with a love for knowing, for stories, for the wonder of human relations, and for words. Cultivate a love for stories, books, and words, and the kindergarten or grade one child will readily receive his phonograms as if they were keys to treasure.

So, before we teach letters and words, we must engender the wonder of a story, of a book, of communicating through words spoken and written. A child must learn to love the awe, sadness, and joy of the world she enters into when a book is opened and read for her before she learns her letters. A child must learn to love these same emotions as he gazes at the world before we teach the analysis of science. Before we teach the facts of science, we must engender a wonder for and curiosity about nature. This is first the job of parents for the pre-school aged child. Familial love and a parent’s example are a necessary and powerful combination that inculcate values and loves in a young child.

Let us, therefore, as educators not put road blocks in the way of apprehension/synthesis. Let us stop comparing our children/students to others and insisting that they not “fall behind” in the three “r’s.” True education is not a race or a contest; it is a love affair.

What we do with our young children has a great effect on their love for learning.

Many parents of young children, when they interview for admission, are quick to talk about how intelligent their child is. Some go so far as to confuse disobedience with intelligence or precociousness. I care less about intelligence than other things. I want to know how well their child obeys. I want to know if good books are celebrated in their home for the love of learning, the wonder, morality, and curiosity they inspire.

Here is the link to the article by Markos: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/628235e71075ff6f1fa8e7ddc/files/16_September_Classis_Online.pdf

More to read: here is an article from Classical Academic Press about fostering love in the education of our youngest children.

 

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Words are swords.

This morning we read Proverbs 12:18 in Convocation.

In this proverb, Solomon likens words to swords. Speaking thoughtless, mean words is like thrusting about with a sword. A reckless, sword wielding man is a dangerous, friendless man. Unfortunately schools are notorious for being hurtful places when it comes to words.

Contrasting the dangerous swordsman with a righteousness man, Solomon tells us that the words of a righteous man are salubrious.

Christ is the prototype of the righteous man who heals with His words. Luke tells of Jesus’ words to the paralytic let through the roof of the crowded house. “And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’ … he said to the man who was paralyzed—‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’” (http://www.esvbible.org/Luke+5)

Here, our Savior and our example uses His words to heal not only the paralytic’s physical condition, but also his soul.

As Christians, we are God’s witnesses. Our words should bring healing and not destruction. We can all remember mean words spoken to us or mean words we have spoken, yet as we are recreated in God’s image through the power of Christ’s resurrection and the work of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into healers, for as the proverb says, “the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Our first witness as parents is to our family. Mothers and fathers, do your words heal your children? The neighborhood, the soccer field, the playground can be tough places. Your children need your healing words. Fathers, do you cut your wife down or build her up? Daughters learn their self-worth mostly from their fathers. Your words are powerful and necessary. As sinners, we are all born broken and in need of healing. Are you present enough to make a difference in the lives of your children?

At school, we talk and teach about the healing words of Christ. We expect our students to be instruments of healing in the lives of others. We expect our playground to be a place where our children learn the healthful power of words.

Contentment

During Convocation this week we read Ecclesiastes 6:9, “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (ESV) I must confess that when I first read this verse years ago, I did not understand it. Like many good things, I had to read the verse several times and think deeply before it would yield its meaning. The “sight of the eyes” is what we can see in front of us. It is what God has given to us. The “wandering of the appetite” is wishing for something we do not have, something God has not provided.

Solomon tells us that wishing for something other than what God has given is vanity. I encouraged our children to be content with God’s provision. When we entertain a “wandering appetite,” we are telling God that what He has provided is not good enough. We are telling the world that our God is not great. Sometimes we sit down to dinner and complain about the food mom has made, wishing for something else. Our teenagers might wish for different parents, a different car, or a different body, but there is great contentment, joy, and lifelong satisfaction that comes from contentment with what God has given that we cannot change. The ancient wisdom of Solomon is good for us today. People who are not distracted by discontent have the mental resources and confidence to do great things with what God has given, making a difference in the world.

Walking Miracles

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe that people have souls and those who do not. An ancient example of this dichotomy is Socrates who believed the soul is immortal and Lucretius who believed that people are just a collection of atoms and nothing more.

Socrates: “Is not what we call death a freeing and separation of the soul from the body?” Phaedo.

Lucretius: “Must we not grant that mind and soul consist of a corporeal nature?” On the Nature of Things Book III

If we do not have souls, then we certainly are pure material as Lucretius says. Among the materialists are those who believe that if we collect enough data about a person, we can always know what the best decision would be in each moment. “Dataists further believe that given enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing system could understand humans much better than we understand ourselves. Once that happens, humans will lose their authority, and humanist practices such as democratic elections will become as obsolete as rain dances and flint knives.” (Financial Times) In this world, science and technology reign supreme. Picture a digital assistant who is always there to recommend the best decision. With enough computing power and enough data, we could always know the right thing to do, and we could know the future. It would be like having an electronic conscience. But this world would be a tyranny of our own creation.

As a Christian headmaster, I believe that human beings and their actions are more than just a collection of data and atoms. It is the grace of God in the soul of a human being that enables great acts of sacrifice and giving. It is the grace of God that breaks through into our everyday lives to give us the power to do the right thing. It is the grace of God that helps our children do the good, hard thing. It is the grace of God that makes us into something the data cannot predict. As a soul and a body joined together, human beings are walking miracles. As Christians we are walking miracles even more, for Paul in Romans 6:13b-14 says, “…but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” We are not people who do what we want, and because we are not enslaved to our wants, we are truly free, and we are not predictable!

During teacher prayer this morning, I reminded our teachers of these things and that God is in our classrooms, the Holy Spirit is in the hearts of God’s children, and that God does wonderful and miraculous things. We need to live like it, teach like it, and talk like it.