19 September 2010

Part 2 A: What is essential? (Because it's going to take quite a few parts).

In all things charity, right? Please read that before you read this. Purty please.

In the referenced post, I talked about a quote that has been helping me lately. "In necessarriis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibiis, charitas," and I'll continue using that framework here.

What is the point of saying "in the essentials, unity?" Well, in a theological sense, it is how the church says who is 'okay' and who is stepping outside the bounds of 'okay' - and in an education sense, we can do that as well. Inside the bounds of okay, we can talk about what paths are better generally, and better for each family, but the first step is to cull, if you will, down to what is allowed. And yes, there are things, educationally, that are not allowed.

Okay, with that framework in mind, here we go.

In necessarriis, unitas:

What are the essentials of educating our kids?

Well, the first is that we want to educate them intentionally. That may sound obvious, but there are those that want to/do take a very non-intentional path to educating their children. There are two biggest categories of these folks:

1 - Unschoolers. This is a homeschooling movement that believes that when a child is ready to learn something, he or she will come to you and you will teach it to them. Also, they would rightly point out that children learn a lot more things just by 'soaking them up' than we give them credit for doing. But, the conclusion from these observations goes awry. Rather than intentionally teaching one's child to read, the child will learn it the same way he or she learned to walk/talk - just by mimicking,trying and failing, etc. If a child is not interested in the periodic chart, well, oh well.
Why schooling is essential? Well, because if you have a child like my middle child, he would choose to never, ever learn anything academic, and if I let him make those decisions while he is yet undeveloped and unreliable, that is doing him a criminal disservice. It's like letting a child decide what he or she should eat. Some will choose a balanced meal of a green veggie, a fresh fruit, some carbs and some protein, but others would go with pop tarts. At every turn.

2 - The apathetic schooling parents. The second is the much more common of these two categories - These folks have often times never thought about school. They have not said, "huh - wonder what I want Bobby to know? Wonder what is the best path to that?" They have not thought about it and decided against schooling, like the unschoolers, they just haven't thought about it at all.

How does the traditional Anglican confession go? "things done and things left undone." This is a thing left undone, folks. You have a little person. You are responsible for requiring him to eat green things, keeping him clean, taking him to the doctor when he runs a temp of 103 for four days, strapping him in his seat belt, training him not to hit, and making sure he has read, comprehended and written an essay or two about Lord of the Flies by the time he leaves your house.

These apathetic parents tend to think that the first five categories - nourishment, general well-being, health, safety, character are absolutely in their purview. But the sixth - education - is somehow someone else's job.

It ain't.

It is just as much your job as the feeding of the little person is your job.

Let's all say that together - you have just as much a responsibility to educate to the best of your ability as you do to feed to the best of your ability.

So, if you are not actively educating - By being very, very involved in the picking of the school and monitoring of the job the school is doing or by homeschooling - either out of conviction or out of apathy- then that is not 'okay' -

The second essential thing - other than intentionality - is striving for the good. Nazis very, very intentionally educated their children. As do Mormon cults these days (Think the compound on Big Love). Intentionality can be evil. So, you have to be striving for the good. You cannot intentionally teach your daughters that marriage to The Prophet at 13 years of age is the way to go - just like you cannot instill racism and still be okay.

So, basically, if you are intentionally educating your children within a value system that is okay, then you are okay. And yes, I realize that that is a really vague principle, but this post is not about value systems, it's about education, and my point is that education is not acceptable if it's done apathetically with evil purposes in mind - ie racist, child-polygamist, terrorist, etc.

Those are the essentials. The things about which I'm comfortable saying "you are NOT acceptable" if you are not doing them.

Which leaves a hell of a lot up to liberty. Which is good. Saint Paul tells us over and over again in the NT that if we want to rely on rules it is because we won't grow up. We want to stay children. We want rules. Grown ups are able to say "huh - that's an interesting difference..."

So, within the intentional good, people, the rest should be left up to liberty.

But that doesn't mean we don't recommend. And instruct. And persuade. Because there is always the better. What do you want for Susie? The mediocre? The fine? or the better?

(I'd like to add caution here. Don't go after the best. It will be a never ending quest. We are standing on the shoulders of giants - our kids will hopefully have better educations than we got, and their kids better than what we are giving our kids. So, get over doing it perfectly, the best way, and just figure out a good way - a better way. This something I have to preach to myself about once an hour.)

So, that leaves open a WHOLE HOST of education options: Public, Private, Parochial, Communal, Home, as well as philosophies - German/American, Classical, Unit Study, Charlotte Mason, etc.

And some are better than others.

So, now our job is do decide what is the better.

In more than one post. Because I'm positive you're tired of reading, and I have a whole host of things to accomplish today, not the least of which is educating these urchins around here.

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