I have always loved to learn. And I have always loved to teach. The two have always gone hand in hand for me. I can remember coming home from school as a child and setting up my chalkboard on my easel and “teaching” what I had learned that day.
And though it may shock most of my acquaintances, grades never mattered to me. I know people probably roll their eyes when they hear me say that, but it’s true. What motivated me more than a red 100% on the top of my papers was simply knowing. I love learning for learning’s sake.
And so, it probably does not come as a shock that my most difficult assignment in all of my schooling was a paper that was assigned to me in a graduate education class. The professor was the stern, overbearing type. I don’t think she viewed herself in that light at all, but she was intimidating. She questioned every answer given in class, continually playing The Devil’s Advocate, to the point that it was terrifying to speak up. In retrospect, I am certain that she felt that she was simply challenging us, pushing us to be the best students and teachers (all of us in the class were already practicing educators) we could be, but it was a bit over the edge.
Anyhow, back to the assignment. The professor asserted that students would never listen to us as teachers unless we had a why. We had to know why an education mattered. Sounds simple enough, right? Then, we had to design a curriculum that would answer the why. Nothing extraneous. If it did not directly answer the why, then it should not be there.
I think it was supposed to be an inspiring, thought-provoking assignment. And while I certainly did think, I found myself more discouraged than inspired. Suddenly, I was viewing education through a very utilitarian lens. Everything that had ever enchanted me about learning became useless. I couldn’t make the very subjects that made my heart flutter fit into a checklist of attributes that answered the great question why.
That was in 2010. Fast forward 5 years to the fall of 2015. In that span of 5 years, I gave birth to two sons, resigned from my public school teaching position, and entered the world of – dare I say it – homeschooling. 2010 me would have never believed what 2015 me was up to. But, my firstborn would be on track to enter pre-k in the fall of 2016, and I was not thrilled with the idea of him being gone all day, every day. I was still unsure of what my solution would be when I found out about a new homeschool group starting up in my area, a Classical Conversations community. My children were too young to start the actual program, but could be part of the nursery. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see what it was all about without committing upfront. Little did I know what God had in store for me…
Over the course of that first year, I was amazed to discover classical education. Here I was, a two-time graduate of a university known for its teacher preparation program and had never even heard of these principles. I had only learned about the modern educational theorists and learning styles. How could I hold two degrees in education and know so little of the history of education? I had been told of course, that the pendulum of fads swings back and forth, and that over the course of my career, I would have to learn many of the new trends. But I’m not talking about “the next new thing.” I am talking about tried and true educational theories. How did I know nothing of Charlotte Mason? How had I never even heard of classical education?
Of course, being the avid reader and constant learner that I am, I began voraciously reading all the homeschool books I could get my hands on. But, my unequaled “lightbulb” moment occurred while reading a daily devotion put out by Don Schwager.
“God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love and not love. We can love the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love the light of God’s truth, goodness, and mercy. If our love is guided by truth, goodness, and that which is truly beautiful, then we will choose for God and love Him above all else. What we love shows what we prefer.”
All the reading I had been doing and all the podcasts I had been listening to were swirling around in my head. The echoes of “goodness, truth, and beauty,” – principles of Charlotte Mason education, and the refrain “To know God and to make Him known,” – the motto of Classical Conversations…
It all came crashing to a screeching halt that morning. And I finally understood why that one assignment had always challenged me and had always haunted me. I had made an “A” on that paper, but I had never been truly satisfied with what I had written. But on that brisk fall morning, as I read my daily devotion and watched my boys play under a brilliant blue sky, I sat back and basked in the moment that I had finally found my why.