Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Notes from Midwest Homeschool Conference IV

Dr. Perrin's final lecture was about putting the levitas into learning.  Balancing the heavy "gravitas" with a light spirit.

I was so sad that people came to this discussion and walked out approximately 10 minutes in ... perhaps the title was misleading, "The Lighter Side of Classical Education: How to Relax, Enjoy and Laugh and Still Be a Parent Educator."  The description published by the conference says,

In this seminar, Chris seeks to work out the maxim give[n] to us by G.K. Chesteron: A man should take his mission but not himself seriously. Dr. Perrin will encourage parents to see and cultivate the joy, humor, laughter and peace that should chharacterize our teaching and relationship with our student-children and home-schooling colleagues.  First, Christ admonishes us to repent of the misplaced gravitas that elevates ourselves over a humble interest and investment in the lives of our children.  Second, Christ will call forth examples of the ways in which we can walk lightly as we engage in a most serious enterprise.  Finally, Chris will close by exegeting another complimentary maxim by Chesterton: Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.
Good stuff, eh?  Wish I were half as eloquent :)

He started out reminding us from the earlier lectures, that education is the formation of the soul.  It is an important business, however because it is important does not mean it can't be joyful.

Serious learning, and that desire for learning homeschoolers wish to instill, often begins with a moment of ecstasy.  We, and our students, need a glimpse, a vision of something beautiful and great ... and that glimpse propels us forward.  This bit of joy brings light and life to learning.

This joy, however, is easy to lose.  Rest is important.  Learning in a state of rest, because the work never ends. We are called upon to maintain our joy through rest relaxation and light.

The discursive life is compared with the reflective, contemplative life. In the discursive life, we are running to and fro, while the contemplative allows us to rest and think.  Do we philosophize? Ideas can become permanent with reflection.  He recommends Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture.  Now I really need to read it ...

Learning should fit into simposia ... with a meal, drinks, talking, discussion, literature, musing together.

Muse is defined as 'inspired.'  When we are entertained, we're "held" we lose sense of time and place and we're captivated.  Learning should be like this where it is festive, celebratory, leisurely.  He explains that leisure is not the absence of work rather a different kind of work.  Beauty, goodness, and truth are captivating and bring joy.

Again, we're helping our students see.  Educating is a balance between the Greek "scholae" and Latin "ludus" ... leisure and play.  When our students embody what they're learning about, when they play it, it has become theirs.

What is a human for? Are we mere workers? or are we image bearers and celebrants? Augustine says about education that we should teach to love what is lovely, teach to order loves and passions (or Austen's forming the "taste").

Pursuing friendships will lead to encouragement and burden bearing ... and pursue these friendships with our children.  This requires one on one time.  (There is a difference between pursuing friendship and being "best friends" with our children)  Part of that friendship is mentoring and modelling a love for learning.  What is our inspiration becomes theirs.  Enjoying feasting and festival ... both in ideas and knowledge and in food and drink ... help us learn more.  The Proverbs 31 woman can laugh at the days to come.

Don't forget studies from Him and mimic His mind.  Can you laugh? Is there laughter in your home? If not: are you trusting God's goodness?

Be light.  Your children are not about you, you are about your children.  Pride pushes a virtue into a vice.  Children belong to the creator, we are stewards ... both as a parent and a brother or sister to the children.

How does this look in practice?  Some ideas are:

  • Nature walks - get outside (Psalm 19)
  • Reading for enjoyment
  • Silliness ... join in the play
  • Celebratory meals ... dinners, rejoicing over successes, praise the goodness of God
  • Discussions 
  • Poetry and song
  • Memorization yields contemplation (structure brings freedom! This is my current theme of thought)
  • study beauty throughout the community (connect beauty and truth)
  • Tea time together
  • Family traditions
  • Worship (family devotions and Lord's Day)
  • Serving others
Do you have any other thoughts about how to practice "levitas" in education?


  1. This sounds great, Dawn! It's also very relevant to the Poetic Knowledge tangents.

    This is the side of things I really need to be more intentional about. I need to take a deep breath and laugh with the children and "at the times to come."

    Tea, hm, hm. :)

  2. Sounds like you got a crash course on Leisure and Poetic Knowledge.

    My only suggestion is "don't rush." You have a long time to teach them, and you won't come to close to teaching them everything you think they need to know before leaving home, so just relax and do what you're doing well instead of trying to do too much and doing a shoddy job of it.

  3. Oops. Forgot to subscribe.

  4. Kelly, that is something I fight with myself about ... are we doing too much? Are we doing too little? Do I push too hard? There is so much good, how do I choose what is best?

    Thanks for your encouragement.


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