Now, if you’re anything like me, you read my last post and thought to yourself that what Andrew and Matt had to say are such beautiful, lovely concepts. You finished off the dregs of your coffee, or maybe your tea, turned off the screen, and stepped back into your life.
A few hours later, you’re in the thick of it. The laundry pile is teetering off the couch, the doctor called with some bad test results, you’re pretty sure you just stepped in some jam, your eldest is asking you to explain the finer points of the cumulative property (again), and you’re listening to one of your younger children painstakingly sound out one word after another from his reading lesson. You take your cuppa back to the microwave to warm it back up (again), and in that quiet half second that you talk yourself off the ledge of ripping your hair out and send a wordless prayer heavenward- you think to yourself, all those fine words, they are beautiful, and man, oh man, do I want that peaceful, restful way of teaching, but hello?!? real life here.
Am I pretty close?
Here there be dragons.
It was a phrase map-makers used to put on uncharted parts of the map. You’re in uncharted territory, buster!
The thing is, a restful way of teaching shouldn’t feel like dragon-slaying. Dragon sighting, maybe. Exploring, maybe. Wonderous new worlds, definitely. But not dragon-slaying.
Surrrrrrre, you say. Rigggghhht. (And because you are polite friend you are trying to keep the sarcasm out of your voice but it is so hard!- It’s okay, I don’t blame you. I was thinking the same thing in my head during the workshop at one point.)
Mini-odyssey each day. Gettin’ right on that. If only I knew how. I understand what she wrote about the arts being the map, but if you ask me, the symbols on that map are all, well, a bit fuzzy. And strange. Andrew and Matt make it sound so easy….
I’m going to break out some ideas for orienting each day in wonder, contemplation, and inquiry as we engage in practicing getting Home everyday over the next few posts, but today, let’s get into the thick of real life.
I want to say something gently. Whether you were homeschooled, public schooled, unschooled, blue schooled, purple schooled, no schooled, you are still on a journey of education. Yes, you. I don’t care how old you are. You wake up every day and you go about your life, and I guarantee you that you learn something every day. Maybe you learn that coffee warmed in the microwave three times over isn’t quite the invigorating experience you’d like it to be and that the taste leaves something to be desired, but still, your brain, your heart, your soul, they are all still engaged, still exploring, still moving about in the world. You still wonder about things, when you have a quiet moment…when the hustle and bustle of adult life hushes itself enough. Maybe you wonder about why a political party is so popular or how to make a proper souffle or how to balance your bank account better. Me? I wonder how to be a better artist, how differnent techniques look on a canvas, wanting to understand color theory better, how to use my camera better…..are you catching a glimspe of what I mean? Maybe, like me, you have been thrust into the horrible baptism of a medical diagnosis, and for the sake of your children and yourself, you’ve got to understand what all those nebulous words the doctor keeps saying mean. You’re learning how to track multiple accounts and multiple numbers and notes and codes so that you can understand just what it is that the insurance company is denying, this time. New information. New information that is important to you, for whatever reason- whether it is because you were wondering, or because you have to know- you are still taking on new information. You are still learning. Never forget that as you walk beside your students. For that matter, learn right along side them.
Wonder, inquiry, and contemplation are far more simpler than they sound. Children know how to do all three without being taught- have you ever seen a child at the edge of a puddle, watching the little bugs skate across the surface? They are all in. They watch, engrossed. They test theories- what happens if I put this stick here? If I drop a stone what will the water do? What will the bugs do? They are hunkered down, nose and eyes level with the minute scene being played out before them. If you ever need a refresher on how to find your way back to joyful learning, take a toddler for a walk, watch them do it effortlessly, and learn it over again.
One of the biggest reasons we struggle to engage in restful teaching is because whether we realize it or not, we’re holding onto broken tools, and forgetting the way we learn ourselves when no one is watching us, forcing our feet to the fire. Many of us had an anxious educational journey driven by tests or the thought that we just aren’t math people or that grammar is something English teachers use to torture us…Broken systems. Broken tools.
So what do we know?
We aren’t alone. We are all journeying this together, in one way, shape, or form.
And secondly, we can make different choices, no matter where we are starting from.
Andrew says it this way: Principles set you free. Practices enslave. When you begin to bring your heart and mind around to the idea that education is an ever-spiraling upwards pursuit of Truth- the Logos- you are set free. Joy and wonder enter back into the equation.
You yourself instinctively know and have a sense when you are hitting a wall in your learning. Maybe there is too big a gap between what you want to know and what you actually know. You absolutely want to be able to bake this cake for your loved one’s birthday but there are some serious barriers in the middle- like understanding how to whip properly. But this absolutely matters to you. It’s like fire, lit, and you can barely hold the reigns on it. This is important, your heart is telling you. What do you do? You call a friend. You pull out a different cook book, you queque up a YouTube video, you practice, and practice, and practice. And there are flops. And, boy, are there messes. But you keep trying everything you know to do until- it clicks. You know you whipped it up like a pro, and the proof is in the eating of it- your perfect cake, the one you saw in your mind’s eye, the gift you wanted to give to your loved one.
Everything you know to do until– it clicks.
Every tool in your box. Every stray bit of knowledge filed and tucked away.
Principles set you free.
As Andrew pointed out, if a philosophy isn’t practical, it isn’t necessarily true. If you hold to any tool so tightly that you cannot set it down for another tool that would be far more useful toward your ends, it ceases to be a tool. It is a heavy burden instead. Hold on to it long enough, and I bet it’ll take the metaphorical shape of a dragon….and that we’re not on the path anymore.
If joy and wonder don’t feature often in your home and your learning adventures together, you might be holding on to the dragon tail of a broken tool or system.
Now I can hear you saying in your head, but Joy, the laundry. The jam I stepped in. The medical diagnosis. My husband lost his job. I’m working and trying to teach and I just really want some sleep and, and, and… WHAT NOW? What joy? What wonder?
Boy howdy, I’m not sure I can answer that. Heaven knows, I’ve been puzzling that out myself the last three years, especially. I’ve faced all of that and more!
But what I’m learning in the midst of it all is that there is beauty and art and joy and wonder in every single day. We just have to have eyes to see. Ears to hear. It’s there, but we have to keep our hands open. We can’t hold tight to anything that would weigh us down because, dear hearts, we are running towards Home. Nothing to enslave us, His burden, light. These pressures, they are always with us. This pain, this intense, wounding pain from whatever it may be- it still does not define us. Our status as journey-Homewards-people is the only thing that matters, daughters and sons, heirs together with Christ. We keep fine tuning our truth perception. We keep hoping and praying and loving and learning and running the race.
That is the joy and the wonder mixed in with the sorrow and the pain. We can hold on to it and find rest no matter what we face. And we can teach our students and our children how to do it too.
This is the fourth post in the Wonder and Inquiry Series.