Homeschooling has a lot of competition these days!
What do traditionally schooled students have to look forward to each day, can you remember? Beautiful young teacher, eyes full of love, makeup-shining face, greeting us with a smile as we enter the door? The feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves, part of a society of friends dedicated to the cause of learning? Does this sound like a stretch? It is my best memory of being schooled as a child of the 70’s and 80’s.
What can homeschool offer to compete with this?
Irrespective of the “why” of our homeschooling, homeschooling as a continuous feast can offer something of this nature if it is to satisfy hungry fledgelings.
First, we might want to try to offer something better than warmed-up leftovers from our own school education, served by our frazzled selves in a bathrobe. We can winsomely welcome our children into each day’s spread. Is it too much to come to the table as delighted guide, instead of drill-master? Or to treat our weekly deep-dive into Words of Delight as a profession, wearing uniform and showing up beautifully rested?
Second, we might want to begin our day with God’s Word if we hope to survive our entrance into learning. The Bible says that Thanksgiving is the gate through which the righteous may enter….And we will enter and give thanks, paying our vows to the Lord (Psalm 118).
In our homeschool, this looks like a daily repetition of the Psalm of the era, depending on God’s leading. Beginning antiphonally, moving on to recitation by heart, we repeat the same passage or Psalm at each meal, starting at the beginning with hand motions, until it becomes an “apple of gold in a setting of silver,” part of the lamp-lit furnishings of heart and soul.
Over the years, Psalm 34, Psalm 113, Psalm 46, Psalm 133, parts of Psalm 118, and Psalm 91, have become familiar friends in the rooms of our hearts. The Psalm becomes an old favorite, fresh every time we say it. It becomes the Word of God we’ve bonded together around, an act of worship and praise.
Finally, we welcome our children into something bigger than ourselves, a society of friends. The Bible says that “he who is merry of heart hath a continuous feast.” When we read, the books as well as the authors who penned them become a merry company of friends, and we who read and listen become part of the society of the learned. This provides a child with a life-long membership into “the race that knows Joseph,” in the words of Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables.
Practically speaking, this means that after we recite our Scripture, after we eat our food, we can at least try to sit down and read together. In Wind in the Willows, as Mole gets to know his new-found friend, Ratty, he is in awe to see the spread that Ratty unpacks out of his picnic basket on that first row down the river…..
‘Hold hard a minute, then!’ said the Rat. He…..reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket.—The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
‘Shove that under your feet,’ he observed to the Mole……
‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.
‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly;
‘O stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstacies: ‘This is too much!’
‘Do you really think so?’ enquired the Rat seriously. ‘It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!’
I like to think of reading to my children as a kind of picnic basket I unpack for them, with poetry, story, novel, history, nursery rhyme, fable or fairy tale cheek by jowl with learned lore. A feast they receive and inwardly digest, from which we move with “a merry heart” to the rest of our day.
Then I think I’ve earned a bit of the right to bring out the drill, the reading lesson, the copywork, the math workbook, spelling lesson, penmanship, etc. Earning our way to exploration in learning, providing something bigger than ourselves: beginning as we mean to go on.
But we might not want to expect homeschool to provide this continuous feast if we do not make a little space for this.
As a bit of a caveat, I’d like to admit this is a seasonal rhythm for me. I read aloud more in the summer than I do in the winter, and starting about September life becomes a bit of an endurance race for me. Letting someone else read aloud, encouraging my older readers to read to themselves, and buying a monthly membership in Audible.com is the way to go for the continuous feast for me in the winter months. If this is the case for my readers, I encourage us all to hang on! It will get better anon 🙂
Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, Therefore let us keep the Feast, Alleluia.