Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ecclesiastes 3 Homeschooling?

Our traditional "first day of school" visit to the lake

One of the delightful and challenging things about unschooling is that it is different from family to family, season to season.    Maybe it could be called the Eccleasiastes 3 method of education?    One that strives to develop a more acute sense of the fittingness of things in their due times and seasons?  

That "sense" is a kind of listening, which I have trouble with.   Too often, I either dull it with self-indulgence or blunt it by trying to ignore it for some arbittrary "should" that doesn't reflect reality.  

To explain what I mean perhaps I could use food comparisons?   Today I looked in my refrigerator and found:   purple cabbage, almond slivers, canned artichoke hearts, black olives, an English cucumber, and some spiced grilled mahi-mahi left over from last Friday.   I did some chopping, added some rice vinegar and a bit of salad dressing, and I had a nice salad for lunch, the kind Aidan loves to share with me.     It might not suit everyone, but it tasted good to me, it used ingredients ready to hand,  and contained a nice balance of nutrition.   And it was delightful to sit in the late summer sun by the window and eat, home from the lakeside and castlebuilding with my three remaining boys at home. 

Strange color combo but tasted pretty good

Instead, I could have eaten a Big Mac, or followed some difficult and exotic diet plan that involved buying all sorts of expensive ingredients and going to a lot of trouble to stick to the plan.  

Either of which might be fine in certain circumstances, but I'm trying to follow the analogy.  I'm trying to demonstrate to myself that it doesn't take huge amounts of planning or money or work to have a healthy learning environment.  And an informal learning environment, aka unschooling, is not synonymous with fast junk food, with sprawling around doing whatever's easiest.

Care and spontaneity can exist side by side; in fact, they are quite complementary.    In this way it is something like writing a story, again.  You probably need to take some care to build your imaginary world and hone your literary tools beforehand -- how much and what kind of care might depend upon the individual writer -- but when you sit down to write, it can't be completely dry and mechanical, because that won't work. 

Another comparison that comes to mind is what the spiritual writers have said about mental prayer.   You have what they call "remote preparation", meaning that there should never be a time that you are completely apart from prayer, that in some ways your whole life should be a preparation for prayer; but still, when you settle down in your prayer closet (or rocking chair with your nursing baby, or wherever you have your time apart with God) it is not enough to just pray by rote.   The prayer is supposed to change you; you inevitably set out on a journey, a sort of quest, when you pray.   Some days are good, some you fight just to move, but it never is quite like the plan.

I don't acknowledge this enough, which is why I'm writing it down.    Today we started school, which basically means that we had our first Morning Time.  It was at 1 pm, so it was more like Afternoon Time, but we did it!  And it went fairly well.   It was nice to get back into that tradition.     And we have been doing a couple of other things, informally, which I'll mention some other time.  But I wanted to get the Golden Mean balance between intentionality and creativity out there, first, because again, it's something I need to remind myself of, again and again.


  1. I used to get excited with the planning, Willa, but, now, I'm funding that living our learning in a spontaneous way, is even more exciting. I keep feeling amazed at how God guides us in ways that are interrelated and appropriate for the moment.

    Maybe, if we take care to be prayerful and always open to God's will, then everything falls into place spontaneously? I can't quite believe that, since giving up on my own planning, God has taken care of the things I was trying to improve and we, now, find ourselves effortlessly enjoying a type of routine and activities to which we, previously, struggled to aspire.

    I love the way your posts get me thinking, Willa. I probably go off on a tangent (my fuzzy brain seems to skip around a topic a lot!) but it's so good to have something to ponder:)

  2. Willa, I haven't stopped and said hello in a long time!

    I tagged you for a homeschooling meme. I hope you feel like joining in. The details on my blog.

    God bless!


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!