Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Homeschooling :: Rumination and Reflection

All my life I have been a reader. There is nothing more appealing to me than curling up in a comfy chair with a good book and some good food and losing myself in a story. I read quickly and I read often, which means I have read many many books in my lifetime. No one would argue that reading many books is a bad thing, but there is one thing about reading that I've learned since I began homeschooling my children: not everything has to be read quickly. As Sir Francis Bacon put it,
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested... 
 I've always been the swallowing type, regardless of what book I was reading. But I'm really coming to appreciate how much richer my life becomes when I take the time to "chew and digest" those books which call for it.

It started with The Hobbit. I was so very excited to share this book with my son, who was about 6 at the time. We read it together, and enjoyed it. There were questions asked and discussions had and the next thing I knew I was explaining some background history which gave more depth to the story. He was curious to know more. I thought about trying to read The Lord of the Rings with him, but hesitated because I thought perhaps he might be too young. Eventually my eagerness to share the story won out over my hesitation and we began.

The journey was magical. We read the entire trilogy twice through, along with The Silmarillion. We lived and breathed Middle Earth for two years.

Pictures were drawn. In fact several homemade books containing various drawings of characters and scenes were put together. Characters were taken on and impersonated. Favorite chapters were acted out again and again. In-depth conversations were had about characters and their choices; about vice and virtue, love and sacrifice. Connections were made between LoTR and other stories whose influences were felt (like Norse myths and Beowulf).

We memorized poetry by Tolkien simply for the pure pleasure of keeping his beautiful words in our hearts. We copied out those words in our notebooks to have a record of what we loved most.

This was not done with any planning on my part nor with any reference to school, but what I observed as we spent time soaking in this beautiful story has affected the way I now approach the books we read.

The time to reflect and ruminate on the story, the time to think well and deeply about what we take in through our reading, makes for a truly rich and rewarding experience. There is so much to learn and so much to discover and the breadth of content one person can know is truly astonishing. But the fact is that no one person can ever know all that there is to know. So when we learn new things, why not take the time to really understand and really make them our own knowledge, rather than passing facts, floating about unrelated to anything else.

Digging deep and allowing time for the learning to sink in permanently is not always easy to do when there is pressure to cover so much so quickly. It's hard to slow down and meditate on things when we live in a world where information is presented in quick short bursts and where there is always something else vying for our attention. But even though it's hard, the rewards that come from slowing down and digging deep are worth every bit of the effort it takes.

Not all books need to be approached in this way. After all there are still those books which only need be tasted or swallowed, but my goal as we continue on this educational path is to take the time to stop and live awhile with those books that call for such action.


If you'd like to explore these ideas a bit further a good place to start would be with Dr. Christopher Perrin's talks on multum non multa (much not many), and festina lente (make haste slowly) which are well explained in the videos linked.


  1. Your experience with your son is so inspiring and heartening - I admire you and even envy you, though I know I shouldn't envy ;-) As you say, we can't know everything, we can't do everything, and I have done other things to be quite content with, thanks be to God. I just wish more children could have that sweet experience of TIME to soak up the beauty of the language, and good and nourishing stories. Thank you for being the kind of mother who makes this sort of thing happen.

    1. Your words are so encouraging. Thank you.


I really enjoy feedback and discussion, so please don't hesitate to comment!