Monday, September 1, 2014

Homeschooling :: Wherein I Begin to Think About Philosophy

Last time I talked about how one click of the mouse changed the course of our educational journey. After I read that thread and followed links and listened to a whole bunch of lectures I began to want to know more about educational philosophy. I felt like I needed a solid understanding of the big picture if I wanted to apply what I was learning to our real-life learning at home.

It's rather difficult to describe this stage in my journey. In fact it's not even over yet. I suspect it will never end, really. I have spent the majority of my free time during the past couple years reading books and listening to talks about education. Slowly I have been able to begin forming a picture of sorts that portrays the things I want for my children and the way to go about getting there. The following is an attempt to put that picture into words (I've also written about it here):

As Christians our purpose in educating our children must include the intent for them to learn to recognize and to perceive and to love the Beautiful Person of Jesus Christ.  Beauty, Goodness and Truth are inseparable, objective realities that can be found to some degree in everything if we can just perceive them.  Our students need to be taught to discern these things in order to be able to behold Christ, who is all in all.  Human reason needs to be founded in Christ in order to reach its full potential.  Without a foundation in Christ much is lost and one's full potential cannot be realized. 

 The primary goal of education in our home, therefore, is to pursue and cultivate virtue.  It is not collecting a wealth of facts and remembering them, but rather disciplining the body and the mind so that one can act based on what one knows to be objectively true.  David Hicks, in his book Norms and Nobility states that “[e]ducation does not mean teaching people what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.”

 The content of the curriculum we use must enable our children to fulfill all the roles that life might give them, whether it is the role of parent, employer, employee, teacher, friend, etc.  They need to be able to fill each of these roles as a Christian.  The delight that we can take in our studies is delight in Christ Himself because the things studied all point to Him. This is why the trivium and the quadrivium are such powerful tools for education - because they each pour light on part of the mind of God so that we can "know" Him better. Our relationship can be deepened with each new idea and with the mastery of new concepts. If we aim for anything less than the deepening and evolution of this relationship then we don't get very far because the Holy Spirit, as the giver of knowledge, ought not to be separated from the knowledge that He has given.

On the practical side, this means that we will strive for a significant focus on language; both our own native English, as well as the ancient Latin and Greek languages, and we'll probably even throw some modern languages in there as well.  There will also be a strong focus on mathematics and the third focus will be on the perception of truth.  We want our children to be surrounded by beautiful things: good literature, beautiful art, beautiful music; and they should have the opportunity to experience these things through their senses. The goal is not to pump them full of information, but rather to teach them to contemplate and meditate on what they are learning.  They need to exercise the mind through memorizing and recalling facts to such an extent that the memorized content becomes a part of them and they are able to use that knowledge to create and express things in their own voices.

All of these things will help to form the persons our children will become as they mature and will ultimately shape their lives so that they can go beyond just getting a job and being successful by worldly standards. They can go on to become godly, Christ-like people whose lives shine as examples of holiness and be lights in an ever darkening world.   

There comes a point of course, where all the philosophy in the world still won't translate into results unless one begins to act on it. Nevertheless, I feel that it's very important to articulate one's goal, because the "why" ultimately informs the "how" and makes a great difference when it comes to the practical details of living one's philosophy.

I offer below a list of books, audio, and videos that I have found most helpful, with stars by my favorites. If anyone has something that they think I ought to add to my list do let me know!

Norms and Nobility*
Beauty for Truth's Sake*
Beauty in the Word**
The Abolition of Man 
The Living Page**
Leisure the Basis of Culture*
Poetic Knowledge
The Seven Laws of Teaching
The Art of Teaching
Free-Range Learning
Project Based Homeschooling

Mimetic Teaching and the Cultivation of Virtue *
Assessment that Blesses
Eight Essential Principles of Classical Education
Multum non Multa 
Repetitio Mater Memoriae
Teaching from a State of Rest*

I also participated in an online study of Charlotte Mason's Twenty Principles, which was incredibly helpful for me as I tried to put words to my impressions. I have already written a bit about some reactions I've had to Charlotte Mason in most of the posts on this page. 


  1. Thank you for the list of books and lectures, I look forward to diving into some of them. I've enjoyed both of your posts on your homeschool journey. (Hopped over from Schole Sisters) :)

    1. Glad you'v enjoyed the posts so far. It's fun to be able to share these things with people who are actually interested. I only know a handful of people in real life who care about these things. :)


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