Last time I tried to argue that education not only should, but inevitably must, be about what is most important to us. I want to continue by suggesting that it should not only be about what is important, but authentically so.
That is, once we have identified what is most important, we need to pursue it in a way that is consistent with its nature, rather than simply pulling out a curriculum and following it. To give a rather obvious example, if creativity is a very important value for you, it’s not really enough to go looking for a creativity curriculum!
I think the formula here is that the better you know what is important to you and how to seek it, the less curriculum you will need to buy. That should be right, since the better you know your way to where you are going, the less you need a map. If you are first generation home educating, take heart – you are a brave pioneer, and the next generation will need far fewer maps than you do.
Just as a change to bio-dynamic agriculture involves a complete turn-around from the mindset of having something to spray on for every problem, so the search for authenticity in education involves a radical shift from the approach of plugging the child into a curriculum and switching him on. It is not a matter of learning dead facts, but of actually participating in life, in the family, in the community, in business, in charity, in culture, in all that makes up the grand drama of this world. Don’t let anyone tell you that your children are cut off from real life or from society by not going to school. Nothing could be farther removed from reality or from the proper functioning of a healthy society than a school classroom. Indeed, we owe it to the future to get people out of these killing fields while there is still some reality and society left to remediate them into.
Christians may see a parallel here with the spiritual life, which is not so much about rules and rituals as it is about seeking the face of God, seeking the One who is both accessible and elusive, comprehensible and mysterious, personal and infinite, knowable by the smallest child and baffling to the most powerful intellect. This is the matter-of-fact mystery into which we must try to lead our children.
In a sense, we must hang between heaven and earth, seeking the eternally meaningful and then doing it. The only alternative to this quirky but marvelous way of life is to have ‘religion’ and ‘reality’ in two separate mental and practical categories, never to meet – which is exactly what the world we live in is bent on getting us to do. Indeed, the school system is particularly adept at training young minds to think this way, which is one obvious reason why churches are filled with Christians who wouldn’t know a Christian worldview if they fell over it, and why Christian bookshops are filled with books offering suggestions on how to ‘fit God’ into whatever you do. For shame! We could as well fit a universe into a test tube. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD. (Jer. 23:24)
“For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Doing that consciously, knowingly, intentionally – there is authenticity.