Saturday, July 10, 2010

Simplicity in Homeschooling?

Can there be what you might call a "Little Way" of homeschooling; particularly of homeschooling high school? 

I'm just wondering.  With my first 3 high schoolers, I did a "Little Way" by default, you might say.   Aidan was very sick at the time, I was pregnant with Paddy who was also very sick, and I had to homeschool around the corners of our lives.   This was a hidden blessing because it allowed me to keep high ideals while being very realistic indeed about what I could actually do. 

Now, with increased freedom comes increased responsibility.   I no longer have the constraints I did back then, so I can't justify simplicity by sheer poverty of capacity.  Theoretically, I CAN do more.

I have been wondering, though, if there was some intrinsic virtue in that default simplicity.    I did not just start wondering this.   It has been a question on my mind for a long time.

One doesn't want to settle for mediocrity.  That isn't what the Little Way is about.

That isn't what simplicity is about as I've been defining it in my blog.  It's about "Less is More" and letting go what isn't needed in that particular time.   It's a road TO excellence conceived more broadly, not AWAY from excellence.   In other words, with material simplicity, you give up a lesser kind of distinctiveness (having all the goods, etc) for a greater kind of distinctiveness (not being dependent on stuff, letting go of tangled attachments, emptying yourself to be filled, making room for what really is important).   I wonder if there is an analogy to education there. 

I am not looking for ease and comfort (at least, my better self is not!) but more as Dietrich von Hildebrand says, the "Unum Necesssarium", the one needful thing.   Is there such a thing with education?

Chiara Lubich writes:

"Whoever makes unity the goal of life has struck the center of God's heart."
There has to be a unifying principle, something that brings together all the disparate elements under one heading.   If there was I suppose it would be the "philosophical habit of mind" that Cardinal Newman talks about, but that is an ultimate outcome and doesn't always seem very visible in the glacier-slow progress of homeschool subjects.  Secondarily, of course, it would be about fitting a student to succeed in the world.  How does one work towards that in the day-to-day scholarly endeavors of one's life?

And work towards that without confusing unity with a monolith?  They are not the same thing.   Unity is an organizing principle, a monolith is something rigid and single, excluding all else.   

It seems that every year I revisit this and am no closer to having a firm answer in mind than I was the first year we started.   Perhaps it is not necessary to have an answer per se and that is where I am going wrong!  I think I shall leave it there for now, as a Big Question for which I am in quest of the answer.    

One thing I have learned along the way is to be somewhat distrustful of those who claim to have The Answer especially if it comes down to a matter of buying something that they are marketing!  (which brings to mind something Cindy has recently written) .   The real educators point to something past their wares! 

Another thing I have learned is that there is a season to think through these things (usually, summer for me) and there is a season to put the thoughts away and just keep going bit by bit.   After all, there is a lot that can be done "around the edges", as I said before.   Our best years (considered in retrospect) probably were those "around the edges" ones where I kept my ideals while I still did whatever could be done in those 24-hour time frames.    So perhaps there is something real there that I can build on.

  • Education isn't a commodity or possession that you can "bank" on or buy or sell; though of course, sometimes a product or method will be a helpful resource.
  • Education at the foundational level isn't a scarce resource.  There are a lot of simple ways that it can be furthered.   A lot of problems come from over-complicating and over-systematizing.  

1 comment:

  1. A thought provoking post! I wrote about it in my blog instead of trying to fit it into the comment box.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!