Saturday, January 29, 2005

What is education?

As I read and contemplate what my vision is for myself and my family, one of the questions that I felt that I needed to answer was "What is education?". Our society has such a broad spectrum of personal definitions of this question but what is it for me? As a mother and an Orthodox Christian how do I go about defining this term and applying it to my life and vision? defines it as:

  1. To develop the innate capacities of, especially by schooling or instruction. See Synonyms are teach.
  2. To provide with knowledge or training in a particular area or for a particular purpose: decided to educate herself in foreign languages; entered a seminary to be educated for the priesthood.

In St. Theophan's "The Path to Salvation" he devotes an entire chapter to St. John Chysostoms thoughts on education. (Chapter 9 Lessons By Our Holy Father John Chrysostom on Education) He emphasizes "educating our children's hearts in virtue and piety". Numerous times throughout the 26 page chapter he quotes Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

I found another noteworthy quote from this section of book that I feel should not be ignored.

“If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all this is nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches; if you want to make your child rich teach him this.”

Note the word “art” in this quote. I found that very interesting.

In the The Handmaiden, Fall 2001, I quote Kathleen Lewis:

“Jonathan and I came into marriage at 22 years old, knowing few life skills. It has taken us 12 years to get even the basics learned, and the lack of knowing them caused conflict in our early years. We hope to give our children the skills necessary to run an efficient home.” She goes on to write out a very thorough list of goals for their family home school education. I like it:

q Cooking, meal planning

q Cleaning a home properly

q Car maintenance

q Home repair

q Laundry

q Money management

q Sewing, handiwork

q The three R’s

q Time management

q Organizing their tasks

q Setting goals

q Parenting skills

q Art

q Church History

q Lives of the Saints

q Church Feasts and Troparia

q The order of services

q Memorizing the Psalms

q Love and devotion to God’s word

q Heart of service to others

q Works of mercy

q Daily exercise (prostrations)

q Yard work, gardening

q Animal car

q Appreciation of beauty

q Classical music

This is a pretty extensive list and as I have chosen to send my children to public school I might feel defeated in thinking that I could even touch a small portion of this list. But I feel strongly that if I can accomplish what it is that I endeavor to do that my vision will lead me to use my time that I do have with my children very wisely. The times before school and after school and into the evening can be very wonderful and loving teaching moments. Learning about organization, cleaning, meal preparation, memorization, the Saints, etc. And the number of days throughout the year that they do not go to public school is numerous! Summers are full of lessons in gardening and canning, home maintenance and fishing.

“Orthodoxy spread by example” (and the love for God –added by me), writes Alvin C. Currier in his self-published, lyrical book, Karelia. “It always arrived being lived out and practiced by a person. It never came as a concept or an idea.”

An article from the Orthodox Family Life called Reinforcing Religious Education in Family Life says:

“Religious instruction was not something understood as an optional addition to a secular education—as it is today in our society. Rather the entire process of education itself was seen as something intrinsically divine because it dealt with all dimensions of life in an integral way: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ Proverbs 1:7”

So what is MY definition of education for MY family?

Ephesians 6:4 which says “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Coupling this with teaching my children skills for life and the “art of detachment”.

I need to add a side note of this and how I plan on handling “adding” to my children public education. Alana brought up the question: “What is my role now that they are all in school? Is it still worth it to the family to have me at home?” I answered her briefly in a “comment” reply but feel this is a very important question and needs addressing as I try and determine my vision for my family. While my children are in public school my hope is that they will begin a cooperative education next year in where parents are required to put in 80 hours a year to help out. These are mostly worked in the classroom but there are other ways to help. When you have a classroom full of students whose parents really do care about their education and want to be involved I think it really changes the atmosphere. I will be very involved in their secular education. When they are at school and I am at home my hope is to become very diligent in my prayers FOR them. My hope is that my prayers offered up FOR them more often and more consistently will help to make the road they travel more bearable. Some may say, “why aren’t you praying for them now?” but my only reply would be that I am but it’s far more difficult to do the amount of prayers that I really wish I could do when there are yet two very young and active little boys in the home. I try to do my best and I try to whisper the Jesus Prayer throughout the entire day but I would love to be able to pray the entire Akathist to the Nurturer of Children EVERYDAY. Can I do that now? No it would be unrealistic of me to even try. Bits and pieces here and there float up to our Awesome God, but oh how I wish for more. “In time” is what I’ve heard from others who’ve been where I am now.

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