Monday, February 23, 2015

The Meaning of Schole

Let's continue the discussion of relaxed homeschooling in the framework of the Catholic Faith.  I would first of all suggest that home education should, by nature, be relaxed.  What do I mean by this?  I don't mean that one's approach to home-centered learning should be lazy or lacking a method.  My basic premise is simply that homeschooling and mothering can be used interchangeably.  Homeschooling mothers are doing the job they have done since their babies were born, or even from the womb.  As the child grows in every way and changes developmentally, the job of the mother evolves and adjusts.  As home educators, we are not intended by God to be just like classroom teachers or to turn our homes into mini-replicas of public schools, or even private ones.

I really don't like to use the word school at all, but prefer to call our system of structured learning, "lesson time".  My daughter Beezy, however, likes to "do school", and I haven't been able to convince her not to call it that.  I found a wonderful substitution for both.  Have you heard of schole?  This Greek word has an accent mark above the "e", and it reflects an ancient meaning of education.

Josef Pieper’s seminal work, Leisure, the Basis of Culture opens with this:
The Greek word for leisure (schol√©) is the origin of Latin scola, English school. The name for the institutions of education and learning mean “leisure.”
Schole is restful learning! It isn't about work and productivity, as in the modern idea of school, but rather refers to philosophy, contemplation, and the search for truth.  The Charlotte Mason (CM) approach of feeding the mind with living ideas reflects the classical understanding of schole.  The student, which basically means any human being, is nurtured and becomes lost in this food of the mind/spirit.  We forget ourselves in the captivating stories we read, in the beauty of music, or in the intoxicating fragrance of a flower.  A frog at the edge of a pond is fascinating, and complete stillness is required to observe it.  The eloquence of the Psalms fills us with awe, as does the mystery of Mona Lisa's smile.  The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet brings us to tears.  The goodness of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross envelops us as we receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.  In schole, we are transported to behold with our very souls the nature of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

School, we can conclude, was never intended to be about check lists, profit, or productivity.  It wasn't about cramming the mind full of dates and facts to be forgotten after the test.  It was a very different thing from jobs training.  A relaxed, Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooler will endeavor to return education to the realm of the liberal arts.  Charlotte Mason believed that education should serve to form the character of the child and to equip him with critical thinking skills and the ability to learn.  Whatever job or vocation was chosen, the man or woman would do it better because of this "gentle art of learning".  He or she would, most importantly, be a better person.

If your homeschooling experience is not one of leisure, relaxed CM home education might be the answer.  It's difficult to undo the effects of our many years of what is now called "traditional" schooling, which in reality is a modernist invention, and to think of education in an entirely different way.  At first it might seem easier to follow the typical protocol of subjects, textbooks, scope, and sequence.  It may feel safer to use a curriculum designed by someone else, by a company who chooses the books, methods, and schedules for you, a company made up of people who don't know your child.  The notion that you will at least have tangible "results"  and "cover" all subjects can be consoling.

I'm not saying that a "school-at-home" type of choice is inherently wrong.  It might work well for your particular children, and some curriculum packages are based on living books and classic literature.  And certainly there are excellent and truly traditional Catholic educational companies.  I have also heard reports that homeschooling mothers are able to use portions of curriculum packages in a relaxed way.  The concern is that choosing a one-size-fits-all program, which the government schools are increasingly doing with the adoption of Common Core, could be a form of sloth; if you are indeed taking the easy way out and not considering the needs of each unique child.  A faith-driven choice will not be one born of fear. 

We may sit and wonder how God came to be, and how he created the whole wide world out of nothing.  We may suddenly have a poem or the tune of a song appear mysteriously in our minds.  We may marvel that a hawk has landed in our own backyard and watch it do nothing but perch on a branch for an entire hour.  This would be called "daydreaming", a pastime highly discouraged in today's schools.  But this is religion, art, and science; mathematics, philosophy, and theology.  This is embracing the gift of abundant life.  This is schole.

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