In part 2 and part 3 of our four-part series ‘Principles at work in the Classical Homeschool,’ I have talked about four principles that can help us increase the harmony within our classical homeschools.
Classical education is a spirit of inquiry.
Classical education is the dialectical process of resolving tensions.
Classical education is a form.
Classical education is communal.
In this post, I share two more principles that helped me find harmony in the midst of learning a couple of the hardest lessons I have had to learn; how to become teachable and a search for a restful rhythm in life.
What is Piety? What does it look like to be pious? And what does it have to do with education?
In part 3 of this series, I shared about the day I realized I could not do life alone. Something else that came out of that realization was, that if I am to do life in community, it cannot be my way all the time, nor should it be. There is something about participating in something greater than myself, something about aligning myself with a tradition that has gone before me and not of my own making that is wise, healing, and nourishing. This is what piety is all about.
Principle: Classical education is pious.
Piety is an extension of our discussion on community. It has a similar feel. Piety is also directly connected with how we relate to authority. For this reason, I think piety might be the most misunderstood of all the principles that give life to the classical tradition.
Our view of authority matters. Many of us have experienced hurt at the hand or words of authority figures in our life. Dealing with these hurts can take years to heal. I do not expect that this little section will offer much, if any, of the healing we need. But, I am here to say that those bad experiences do not necessarily reflect the truth. In many of those experiences we were told we were listening to the real nightingale (Reference to The Nightingale, a fairy tale), when it was only a bedazzled mechanical nightingale. The real nightingale and her song do not disappoint, and she is life.
I think looking at the story of the prodigal son can help us see the false view of piety and authority and also give us a glimpse of what piety is meant to be. Furthermore, I think it points to the temptations or negative responses we tend towards when struggling through this principle.
The younger son saw living under his father’s authority as constricting and sought freedom from it. This action led him to live a life of squandering and ruin.The older brother saw living under his father’s authority the same way, but he stayed, cultivating a heart of self-pity and resentment. Both misunderstood both the Father’s love and the real nature of authority and piety. Luckily, the son return and in that return, we get a glimpse of the Father’s love and the true nature of Christ-like authority. Christ-like authority invites, protects, is generous, and loves. We don’t know if the brothers ever changed their views of their father and authority, but maybe we can find healing in this passage for our own lives if we think about it long enough.
So, how do you know when someone is pious? How do I know if I am pious? What is always present when you observe an individual who you would say is a very pious person?
When I think about who I view as pious, people like Odysseus, Aeneas, The Centaurs from Narnia, Aragon from the Lord of the Rings, they never force their own will onto situation to get honor and glory for themselves. They are always accepting a form that is not their own, they are accepting and living out the will of something bigger than themselves, and they participate in it to the glory of the one they worship or the people they serve.
Being Pius has more to do with denying self and giving glory to another that it does with affirming self. I think this is the exact nature of piety. Piety is about aligning, about faithfulness, and about worship.
Classical Education is Pious because it participates in something bigger than itself and honors the position of the teacher and the student, honors those who have gone before, and has a vision for the future. Furthermore, Classical education is aligned with the ever present truth of reality rather than a contrived false reality.
I like the way JAMES V. SCHALL describes the relationship between teacher and student in his writings on teaching and learning.
“To provoke the student, the potential philosopher, he must first be teachable, eminently teachable. But the teacher must himself know, must know the order of the discipline and its relation to other disciplines. Many confusing and irrelevant things must be cut through, lest the task be loathsome and confused. In the end, both teacher and student must be concerned about the truth, about that which is, about what neither student nor professor made, but each must discover in a community of learning that includes not just themselves, but those who have lived before them. And there must be a vision and an eros, a sense that what is merely human or merely mortal is not enough for us, not that for which we are made. The truth is simply an affirmation of what is, because our place in the chain of being…” – JAMES V. SCHALL, Priest, Author, and Professor of Political Philosophy
In choosing the path of piety, we invite warm friendships, respect, and trust for each other, charity, and communal learning. As teachers, this leads us to think about the nature, purpose, and propriety of everything, not because of constraining conditions, but because of our love. Our love for our children, love for what we are studying, and love for the God, who created it all.
Resources for Learning more About Piety
Conference Talk: Piety, Imitation, & Art: A Circle of Paideia by Ravi Jain
REACHING FOR WORK LIFE BALANCE
Busyness, requirements, expectations, inconsistency, and anxious striving. These things have been and remain to be a constant struggle for me. It was not until recently that I found any relief for this way of living, or not living, depending on how one looks at it. I was at the beach with some friends for a week. We spent the week reading, discussing, eating great food, and watching the circuit of the sun, the movement of the tide, and glory of the night sky. Through this experience, the words constancy and repetition, ebb and flow, work and rest sang through my ears for the next several days. These divine acts seem to be the liturgy and rhythm of creation.
As I considered the nature of liturgy, one of the things that became apparent was its constancy. Liturgy, in church and creation, includes repetition. Not just pointless repetition, but events, words, songs, and experiences that are embodied and constant. My soul delights in experiencing the sunrise every morning.
Rhythm is defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. Like the ocean waves, the circuit of the sun, and the pattern of the stars. Constancy is strength; it is repetition, ebb and flow, work and rest. The same thing over and over again, but powerful and beautiful each time. Life and education are like this as well.
Principle: Classical education is a rhythm.
Education is a rhythm of rigor and rest. Rigor is strength, work, and sustained attention. A long contemplation rather than a quick touch of everything. Restfulness is faithfulness and constancy. In discovering this principle, it freed me from both the tendency and temptation to strive anxiously and control as well as the tendency towards passiveness and neglect.
By practicing this principle of rhythm, I have found a new peace and it has given me the strength to be more constant. Not because I am so great, but because the One, who I am aligning myself, is so great, so constant.
Resources for Learning more About Rhythm & Rest
Article: Rest & Rigor by Andrew Kern
Podcast Episode: Andrew Kern interviewed about Teaching from Rest
In closing, by practicing and thinking about the principles and forms of classical education, it can help us resolve tensions that a moment before seemed unsolvable. When you find yourself experiencing tension, take a moment to ask if there is a different perspective than what you see at the moment. Be open, pray, and above all keep attending, learning, and gazing on Christ.
Summary of Principles & Where they are discussed
- Classical education is a spirit of inquiry. Part 2
- Classical education is the dialectical process of resolving tensions. Part 2
- Classical education is a form. Part 3
- Classical education is communal. Part 3
- Classical education is pious. Part 4
- Classical education is a rhythm. Part 4
Expanding Wisdom, Extending Grace,