As promised, I am beginning a small series regarding what I have gleaned from the Restful Teaching workshop offered by Andrew Kern and Matt Bianco of the Circe Institute. (If you ever have a chance to attend a Circe event, do go! You will not be disappointed.) Be sure to comment with your thoughts each day of the series. Each day is an one entry to win a digital copy of the Restful Teaching series. I will also grant an entry to anyone who shares this series on social media- please tag me. [Disclaimer: This series is not sponsored by The Circe Institute and I am receiving no payment from them. I just was greatly blessed by their time, and I hope you will be too! ] I hope to have these all finished by the end of January, but with our life at the moment, you never know! Thank you for your kind patience.
Restful assessment is only a small part of a holistic education, but without it, we feel a bit lost. It’s the compass that helps us on the map of our educational journey. The next question, of course, is…what map do we use?
To use Andrew’s words- what is the object of our education?
If we do not know where we are headed- the object of our education-we do not where we are going and are aimless, regardless of any curriculum we use, and anxiety builds within us and within our students.
To put it another way- for what or for whom am I doing this?
As Christians, the answer is to recognize Christ when we encounter Him. I love how Andrew puts this: the object of educating our students is to train up our children in the art of truth perception. To recognize Truth- the Logos.
No matter what we learn about, our practicing at little “t” truths, whether they be the mathematical constant of Pi or the fact that an “A” in the English language always makes an “ay” or an “ah” sound every time we see it, all points to the order and constancy present in the Logos.
Even the Greeks were looking for the unifying principle of everything. For Christians, the unifying principle is Christ- the Logos Incarnate.
With that established, we can then look at the paths that will lead us towards this object of education.
How are we heading Home?
Andrew used the examples held within the Odyssey, and Matt used the examples present within Holy Scripture- we must remember. Through out Scripture, the Lord says to us: I remember you. Come, remember Me. (Isn’t the connection to the act of communion just beautiful?) In the Odyssey, there are two groups talking: the sirens and the muses. The sirens say: Come this way. Settle here with us. Don’t go home. The muses say: go Home now (and here’s how)- they often give advice about the next step in the journey. They say: Remember who you are. Remember where you are going. Remember how to get there.
Here is where the rubber meets the road, and this might sound a tiny familiar if you’ve read Charlotte Mason’s work- Andrew says point blank: You don’t teach a child to digest food, you FEED them. (Charlotte encourages us to set a feast before our students.) Therefore, give them the best embodiments of the Logos you can find. And then, teach them [your students] how to look at them.
As Andrew put it another way- “every single lesson is a mini Odyssey. Practice getting Home everyday.”
You’ve noticed I’ve yet to say that the map you should use is a particular method of education: Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf OR a type of curriculum like Sonlight, Oak Meadow, or Christopherus OR that you should use the Common Core guidelines or the Ontario guidelines, etc. That is because, simply put, all of these things are tools towards an education, but not the education itself. They are not the map, in the true sense.
If our education is ordered towards truth perception, as the Circe crew points out, then the curriculum- the map- is the arts (of truth perception)- teaching our students how to look at the best embodiments of the Logos. Again, I will mention here that Circe views the seven arts of truth perception as: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric (also known as the Trivium, and often referred to as the arts of language) and Arithmetic, Geometry, Music/Harmonics, and Astronomy (often referred to as the scientific arts).
To break this down even further, according to Andrew Kern’s definitions in the workshop, Grammar is the art of learning how to read and write. Logic is honing the ability to harmonize text and life. Rhetoric is understanding the art of decision making in community, and Logic and Rhetoric are arts that are often used in relationship together. Arithmetic is the math of multitudes and brings harmony to the sides of the form. (If your brain is hurting- these would include the elementary arts of numeracy, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebraic thinking, and higher mathematical arts like Calculus and Discrete Maths) Geometry is the mathematical art you are thinking of, but to be more specific, it holds the harmony of the multitudes (shapes). Music and/or Harmonics (Andrew and Matt used the terms interchangeably) takes numbers and shapes and harmonizes them in time. Astronomy takes all these other scientific arts and holds the harmony of them in time and space.
Let that sink in for a second, and once your brain stops hurting a bit, can I call your attention to the wonder of these arts as Andrew and Matt explained them? I’ve heard some definitions of the arts a few times, but never in a way that made me see the beauty and the wonder inherent in them. You’ll also notice that they have a hierarchy to them. You can access all of them as a very young student, but it will take time and a lot of looking on the embodiments of them to truly begin to understand the relationships inherent in them. It is a lifelong pursuit, especially as a Christian. We are always, always heading towards Home.
The map is the arts.
The path is how we choose to follow the map. The path is where the different schools of educational thought come in, the different curriculum options, the different guidelines…they are the tools we use to follow the path, but again, they aren’t the path either. They are just tools. This is where our family values and norms come into play- especially our faith. As an Orthodox Christian, I synthesize the arts with what the Church has taught and is teaching me, leaning on the wisdom of the Holy Fathers. I dare to add to Andrew and Matt’s words here- our holistic pursuit of education doesn’t begin and end when we crack the books open. It happens “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Duet. 11:19).
How does this relate back to restful assessment (finding where we are standing) and restful planning (following the map)? Well, let me quote Andrew here: “How do you think you are planning peacefully, but really planning for stress? Buy a textbook.” I’m going to add an addendum and/or paraphrase here: To plan for stress, hold slavishy to a school of educational thought. Buy a curriculum or textbook and use it without consideration. Make sure every single lesson relates back to the Common Core without considering the student and the Truth you are pursuing. Andrew calls using these tools in such a way as “hewing a broken cistern”, from Jeremiah 2. None of these things are the fountain of Living Water, and “everything is meaningless if we are working outside of the question- where is the Lord?”, says Andrew.
I know, I know. OUCH.
And also, how the heck do I do that? (This has been a constant struggle for me to understand with any school of thought- I get what you are saying intellectually, but how does that look practically, in the day to day?) That is where we are headed in the next post: how to orient each day in wonder, contemplation, and inquiry as we pursue our mini-Odyssey each day.
But back to the ouch-factor. Give thanks that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning, and no matter how many times we give into stress or sin or unfortunate decisions, we get to start again, every moment. Restful teaching is both rigorous and peaceful because we know where we are headed, and we know Who we belong to, and we know Who made those arts to teach us about Himself. He holds us in the palm of his Hand. We can be at peace no matter the circumstance.
This post is third in the Wonder and Inquiry Series.