Throughout history, there have been many uses for the word grammar. Let me review them for you so we are all on the same page. First, and traditionally, it has always been the first art of the Liberal arts, meaning letters. The Modern use of the word grammar has come to mean English grammar, as in the parts of speech, syntax, punctuation, etc. Next, the word grammar has been applied to the discussion of the first stage of learning a subject, the first stage of the lesson (Aristotle), and the first stage of development (Sayers). I would like to propose a fourth application.
The core goal of Christian classical education is to cultivate virtuous and wise men and women. Since we know that man is body, soul, and spirit we also know that each part of man needs attention if the man or woman is to produce fruit, also called, wisdom and virtue. The Word of God tells us that if we abide in Christ, the vine, we will produce much fruit. The difficulty with this, at least for my kids and me, is that abiding might be one of the hardest things we seek to do, if we seek to do it at all. This sanctification walk is a process of learning how to abide. There is nothing more important than abiding in Christ. Even still I constantly desire other things than abiding. I constantly have to repent. I constantly am not abiding. How will I ever become virtuous if I reject abiding?
First I think it might be helpful to ask where does abiding begin? May I suggest a place we begin is coming to terms with the reality that God is, in fact, our provider? Consider the following verse from Psalm 131 “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.” A child in this state is aware of the provision of his mother and has “ceased from fretting.” They are satisfied. As I look back on my own sanctification, I notice I have never been able to rest as long as I am fretting about this or that. Whether it be bills, the house, the kids, my marriage, my weight, the to-do list, who likes me, who doesn’t like me, etc. The only times I have ever experienced a release from this fretting has been when I choose to believe that God is my provider. He is Jehovah Jireh. I can go no further until I go there. There are certain areas I never remember struggling with believing that God is the provider, this is curious to me. I wondered why, and then it came to me. My ability to easily, or not so easily, accept God as provider had a strong connection to how my parents provided for me. None of our parents were perfect, and none of us are perfect. So make no mistake, there will be areas we will not provide for our children adequately. So release the guilt now, there is only one perfect parent, and none of us are Him.
There seems to me to be a common thread of need and provision. This time in a child’s life seems to highlight a child’s need for provision. I do not think this is an accident. I think God may have designed this time in a child’s life this way to be the most receptive to the idea of Him as provider. Why else would he say we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of God? We need to be acutely aware of our need for God and God as the one who provides, all that we need.
So now my question to myself is how can I get out of the way with my own agenda and participate in this divine community?
This is where the tradition comes in. Living books, timeless classics, good, true, and beautiful music and art, time in nature, all of it being an education in wonder is what we as parents can do to steward the moments. Charlotte Mason’s writings about narration are perfect. That entire process completely imitates this higher process of God teaching our children. We read a life-giving poem, story, or passage to our child and then allow them to narrate back to us. At this young age, they naturally pick up on the particulars. Since we are not the ones telling them, we are giving room for the Holy Spirit to move. Yes, it is true they have to be attentive. In fact, narration helps to train the habit of attention. The book, The Liberal Arts tradition by Jain and Clark, is another great resource to go to for insight and inspiration. They talk about a musical education. By musical, they do not mean only music. They mean all the aspects of culture that produce a sense of wonder in a child. This idea is not new. It is rooted in the tradition. Both Charlotte Mason are moving from participation with the tradition and high realities that require us to participate rather than control. More than ever I see how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the classical tradition.
There is a richness of truth awaiting us in the presence of our God, the provider. All that is required is that we attend. Let us attend. Let us help them to attend.
Expanding wisdom, extending grace,