Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Conversation Charism

Atypical Homeschool post on The Value of Expression:
For all of the talking that I’ve done, what I’m really trying to encourage you to do is to provide your children with avenues of expression. Talk to them as though they were another person. Debate and discuss issues with them. Allow them to disagree with you on those issues. Assume that they things they say to you are serious and legitimate and important from their perspective. Your children will benefit from this far more than any instruction/training you will provide them with.
The Bookworm on Family Charisms:

One aspect of blogging I particularly enjoy is the insight into how families develop their own special gifts - what you might call their family charism. This may be a common love of a particular subject, a shared hobby or talent, a special character given to a homeschool by the family's circumstances or location, or a style of homeschooling with which both the family as a whole and the individual children bloom and flourish. Families that develop their own charism play to their strengths. The enthusiasm that shines through in these blogs often inspires me to add a dash of their special ingredient to our own lives -
I have been thinking about these posts and how the simple art of the conversation has developed as a mainstay of the unschooling "curriculum" in our home. Sort of funny, because we are a family of introverts and a large part of our conversation is the silences in between the conversation! One teenage son admits to being drained by conversation and I quite often feel the same way, especially with an at-home husband plus seven children of all ages and intellectual levels and interests. But I don't think this is contradictory -- something doesn't have to be continual in order to be deeply meaningful in one's life.

Conversation is a uniquely powerful way to share understanding. Think of how the talkers have to fit their communication to their audience, to make clear their thoughts so that others can understand it, to listen and attend. Conversations are natural practicums of the art of "dialectic", the give and take of thought.

What do we generally converse about? All sorts of things. Probably amusing things are closest to the top. Often poetry and philosophy and religion and football. These things are what our family has naturally gravitated towards when left in freedom. We are Celtics on both sides -- Irish on my husband's, Scottish on mine as well as a bit of Dutch and Danish. Poetry and pondering are close to the surface, with the laughter and a bit of competitive fire.

I am using the terms Poetry and Philosophy broadly. Some of my boys would tell you they don't even LIKE poetry. Maybe Story would be a better word. But I know they are poets when they write stories or act them out, when they come with eyes flashing to tell me of some unjust act told in the pages of a book or played out on the football field, when they comment on some real life event with all the vividness of an epic, when they get deeply fascinated with the beauty and diversity of some aspect of nature or of a math or physics idea.

These same things give me an insight into their understanding of Philosophy, which is the love of wisdom and is many times, according to thinkers like John Senior and James Taylor (not to mention Albert Einstein) embedded in the tradition of Poetry. All the big poetic questions are related to the philosophical and religious ones: What is our place in the universe? How do we best live? What are the implications of our actions? Why and how do we come to be?

Talking gives us a chance to pull this in without heaviness and with humanity. You must not imagine us standing around discursively all the time, looking for opportunities to expound. The conversations are more like the mortar that binds the building blocks of our lives and relationships. Through our words, we make connections and forge relationships.

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