Today has been a hard day. My son told me he wanted to go to public school and not in a silly way either. He was solemnly passionate about it. In fact, he could not focus at all today because of his wandering thoughts imagining walking the halls of a “real school” filled with tons of people. I asked why he wanted to go. He said first that he felt like he was here at the house too much. Second, he wanted more time with his friends, and third –with a stutter –he said he wanted to try to make good grades “you know like the A-B Honor Roll”.
Should I send my son to public school? Should I be willing to consider it? Is the nauseous feeling a sign I am operating out of fear. If so does that mean I need to consider this? What if he really does need more time away from the house? What if, what if, what if…. These are the thoughts that have been racing through my head today.
I wanted to be brave enough to consider it. While I do not believe that attending public school is a fruitful option for him, I knew I had to ask the question if for no other reason than I was afraid. Fear is a great big fluorescent sign that says “There is something you need to repent of.” It could be a lie about reality or some other false perspective or sin.
So I began considering it, and the result was not what I expected. What I am about to share was a battle between first things and second things. The second things were the particulars of where and how we did school. The first things were something else, and I was not going to be able to discern with any level of clarity until I allowed the Lord to deal with those first things. Only then could I go back to the issues in the second things with confidence, clarity, and love.
As I began considering the option of public school I realized that one of the reasons I was resisting was because I had a fear that God might direct me to send him to public school. I knew in my heart I wouldn’t want to do that, and I also would not want to disobey God. So as long as I did not hear God’s voice I would not have to be accountable to it. At the core, I believed the lie that I could plan a better “best” for Josiah than God could because God may plan things that are harmful to Josiah. What!?!?! How could I think that? Second, I was afraid that if he went he wouldn’t be successful. I have not raised him to thrive in industrial and analytical environments, and we have completed our studies in a different order than the modern school has and in a VERY different way than the modern school has. However, as I reflected a bit longer, I realized I was afraid I have not done a good enough job. I was afraid he would be behind because of my failures. In addition, by asserting this it was if I was saying “God, I do not believe you will equip Josiah where you call him.” Man, I have a control problem, and it is time to let go. Josiah is not mine. He is God’s. I am a steward and should be filled with joy to follow in the will of my master. I was operating as the wicked steward, burying coins in the dirt because of fear. It is time to release Josiah. So I said it, “God where ever you want Josiah that is where I will send him.” It was scary, but in the end I know that is the only path that will lead Josiah to wholeness. I do not know the particulars of where it will lead him, and that is okay, those are second things. I know I will have to revisit this often and release control time and time again and that is okay too.
Later on I was checking Facebook, and I came across an article, The Mind is a Fire: An Interview with David Hicks by CiRCE. It was then the Hallelujah chorus sang. Once again I was reminded, and my heart settled why the Christian classical tradition is the best thing for Josiah, and he needs to stay right in the center of it. I cannot lie I was SO relieved. Notice however the order things happened. I believe with all my heart, if I had not done business with the Lord regarding those first things then I would have remained distracted and the one thing needful that this article spoke of, I would have missed. Read what he said, it’s a long quote, but I think it is worth including all of it here.
“Do you know Paul Johnson’s essay on Karl Marx? I don’t have it in front of me, but as I recall it illustrates his general critique of the intellectual’s preference for big, sweeping, theoretical solutions that “save souls” by the millions, not one at a time, in the belief that we humans merely reflect our socio-economic conditions. Change those conditions and you change us. Your hated statistics are his proof text. I suppose this would make me an anti-intellectual.
A “rigorous” education is for me one that saves souls one at a time and pulls that soul out of his socio-economic context, whatever that is, and gives him an “out of body” experience, so to speak. It frees him from his passions or at least puts him at odds with them, makes him aware of the assumptions underlying the arguments swirling around him, causes him to recognize and detest cant and mediocrity, and establishes in him an insatiable hunger for whatever is good and true and beautiful. It gives him a star to follow, whatever the crowd is doing. Makes him a Magus. And how is this rigor attained? I’m not sure, as I once was, that there is only one answer to that question, but I still believe that an education broadly termed classical is one way of attaining it. That is, through the close reading of timeless literature and sacred texts, through the close study of history and the instructive lives of the saints and scoundrels who have made history, and through the close observation of nature whether through the lens of an artist, a scientist, or a mathematician.
How does one make a close reading, a close study, a close observation? The Magister knows — or ought to know — and shows the way. Many teachers, alas, have no idea because they themselves were never taught. And that returns us to your first question.
Remember T.S. Eliot on the importance of the Christian church in Chorus VI of “The Rock” (1934):
Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft. She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”
Once again, my resolve is strengthened. The Christian Classical tradition is right where we are meant to be. Not because he will be the smartest or know all this stuff that other people do not know. NO! It is because this tradition is the only tradition I am aware of that has the same goal for my children that Jesus Christ has for my children –to become like Him, to be fully alive.
So no, Josiah will not be going to public school, and we are still homeschooling him, but then again today was never about that. It seems to me that God used the suffering I experienced related to the public school issue to get at the real heart issue that was distracting me from the one thing needful. Praise God He allowed me to attend.
After all that, I have been able to look at the particulars without as much distraction, and we realized that Josiah does need more meaningful work. I am praying for an opportunity for him, maybe working on a farm with someone? I also think it might be good to have one more time a week where he is working on academics with some other students. I am not sure exactly what it will look like, and that is okay. All will be revealed at the right time, and I look forward to discovering it. To God be the glory.
Expanding wisdom, extending grace,