03 June 2008

Our own backyard

For the past five years, I have been trying to sort through the endless homeschooling choices. I thank God He blessed me with this time because homeschooling for me is a new frontier. Plenty of people have ventured out onto the vast prairie and thrived in this environment. At this stage, I'm only learning what to pack.

From the outset, we knew if we had kids we would homeschool. Now, here we are, rushing head-long into homeschooling my son in Kindergarten this fall. While I was pregnant with my son, I bought the book, The Well Trained Mind, by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Those familiar with homeschooling know this text well since it is considered a primer, if not a gospel, to the classical approach to homeschooling. I devoured the book the summer before my son was born and had a good idea of a piece of underlying philosophy I planned to use for homeschooling.

The first curriculum choice we made, probably due to us both being engineers, was our math program. An entire year was required for me to familiarize myself with all the options, the various approaches, the pro and cons, along with the critiques and praises. Without the gift of time, I probably would've thrown a far more popular and standard text in front of my son. Still, there are no guarantees that this program will suit my son's learning style, but at least I had time to consider how I anticipated this curriculum would meld with my son's personality and plan accordingly.

During this time, I read some other standard homeschool books, like Laura Berquist's excellent, Designing Your Own Classic Curriculum - A Guide to Catholic Home Education, and began to get a clearer picture of what I wanted for my children, my goals, my strengths and my limitations, along with a sprinkling of other variables I may or may not have control over.

For myself, I purchased Susan Wise Bauer's "other" book, The Well-Educated Mind. Since I had decided that I wanted to provide a classical curriculum, following the Trivium, for my children, I figured I should train myself in it. Despite all the years I have spent in school, I lack a good foundation and literature is my Achilles heel. Wise Bauer's book offers a list of classics, history, autobiography, poems, etc., that are "must reads." Suffice it to say, I've read few of the books on her list. Actually, I was surprised to find that I had read more than I thought I had!

A friend loaned me her, A Thomas Jefferson Education, by Oliver Van DeMille, which I am currently reading. At first, I was pretty excited by the thoughts of the author because I could identify strongly with the regret of having missed out on such a rich education. But something about this book just didn't sit right with me. I've only had a smattering of what I would call "good education." Only one or two classes with great teachers. But, the times I've really risen to the challenge, don't align with the same things that motivated the author to seek out his "Thomas Jefferson Education."

Then I looked into the author and found out that he is a Mormon. Not that that's a bad thing, but the more I thought about it, the more it really became clear that it is a different set of beliefs, experiences and ultimately, goals. The Jefferson model focuses on the classics to the detriment of everything else. It focuses on the classics without looking at anything else.

The emphasis of the Jefferson education is to create leaders. My goal is to create saints. The ends dictate the means in some cases, and this is one of them.

While Laura Berquist's book comes very close to my ideal, I still think someone needs to write a book called, The Jesuit Education or even, The Catholic Church Educational Approach. Clearly, Wise Bauer's Protestant-secular perspective lacks the richness of the Catholic Church.

Reading Thomas Woods', "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization," provides insight on how influential, critical, and forward-thinking these priest-scientists-scholars of the Catholic Church really were.

"Father Nicholas Steno, a Catholic priest, is identified as the father of geology. The father of Egyptology is Father Athanasius Kircher. The first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body was yet another priest. Father Roger Boscovich is often credited as the father of modern atomic theory. Jesuits so dominated the study of earthquakes that seismology became known as 'the Jesuit science'.

And that is far from all. Even though some 35 craters on the moon are named for Jesuit scientists and mathematicians, the Church's contributions to astronomy are all but unknown to the average educated American...

One can scarcely find a significant endeavor in the advancement of civilization during the early Middle Ages in which the monks did not play a major role. As one study described it, the monks gave "the whole of Europe... a network of model factories, centers for breeding livestock, centers of scholarship, spiritual fervor, the art of living.. readiness for social action... without any doubt Saint Benedict was the father of Europe. The Benedictines, his children, were the fathers of European civilization."

I love the Jesuits and appreciate their rigorous academics -- this is the education I want for my children. For them to experience a classical curriculum and strive to be the best that they can be down whatever path God leads them. I want them to be well-versed in the classics, but also have learned poetry, art, music and science. I want them to be schooled in the virtues, and also be able to be apologists.

Please, God, after all these plans, don't let my kids have Franciscan sensibilities.

"The idea of 'rights' comes from Western civilization... not from John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, as many might assume - but from the canon law of the Catholic Church."
Thomas Woods, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

[quote clipped from Ma Beck's Ward Web blog - a great blog on hiatus. Yes, Ma, I did get A LOT out of your blog and miss your insights and sense of humor]


Anonymous said...

lol. As I was reading this I was thinking..umm I think my homeschooling approach would be considered more 'Franciscan'.
I read Laura Berquist too-and loads of other books including "For The Children's Sake" -by someone.

One thin I have realised is just how much I am learning with the children.
The other thing I learned-the hard way- is pace yourself and don't try and do too much too soon.

swissmiss said...

LOL!! I knew your approach was more Franciscan. Actually, at this stage, I'm pretty Franciscan too. Maybe I'll move to Benedictine then Jesuit by high school...if I survive that long!

One thing that is surprising me is that despite my desire for rigor, order and discipline, I'm able to roll with things and not stress about wanting to get X amount of things done in X amount of time. We'll see how it goes in the Fall when things really kick into gear. I might just be a pile of mush shuddering in the corner!

One of the good things about teaching my kids a classical curriculum is that I learn it right along side them! I've already learned some history and will learn more about bible history when I start the religion instruction this Fall.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Oooooo, I gotta get that Woods book. My dad would love it. I've been meaning to get ahold of that one for a while. I'm going to Amazon right now.

I think the thing that keeps me interested in homeschooling...the NUMBER ONE thing...is my selfish desire to learn along with them! The way I figure it, they are learning about 25%+ more than I learned in school and I am learning about 50% MORE than I learned in school. THEIR kids will be geniuses, I tell you (not that that's the goal, I'm just sayin')!