Thursday, June 12, 2008

Space, and Shelter

Today Kieron mentioned that the gas flame on the stove is blue, and so are some of the flames in our fireplace. He wondered why that was, and I couldn't tell him. I said that this was one of the things we might be studying next year, and he said, "Good!" with real satisfaction.

I'm mentioning this because I want it to stay in mind as I think about next year.

Here's one thing -- I had been dreading the necessity to begin the more abstract physical-science concepts suitable for his middle school years. The years up till now, it has been nature study and library books on science topics, and occasional lab experiments and projects. And what was I dreading, really? It was handing him something he had not asked for. With that "Good!" I realized that he is ready for that more abstract type of thinking, in fact, that he wants to know these things. I had been caught in the trap of "what he SHOULD do" and forgot to look at where he was and the reasons for focusing on certain things at certain ages.... a reason beyond the convenient packaging of information into grade-level boxes. I am feeling better about exploring a bit of the theory of matter and motion with him, now, because it's not just a "to do" but has significance and an energy of its own.

(It also reminded me of the Waldorf interest in matching topics to the developmental stage -- for example, one school's version of the seventh grade curriculum runs as follows:

End of Middle Ages, Joan of Arc; Age of Exploration, The Renaissance; European and world geography; physics (mechanics), physiology, inorganic chemistry, and nutrition; composition, grammar, spelling, literature; arithmetic and algebra..)

I think one of my mental stumbling-blocks as I do this planning detail work is that it is all so linear/sequential, so cut and dried, so collective and yet numerous. I am trying to prepare for a situation that isn't here yet, not respond to something that is already in process. That's really not how I normally prefer to approach things. I like the "big picture" but it's hard for me to make a map and plan a journey ahead of time. I'm better at packing my compass and going from there a stage at a time.

The page number and topic plans don't stick in my mind the way things like my study on Habits do. It would be great to approach the subjects for next year the way I do a book I read for my own learning and interest. Maybe that is a good approach.

However, I know I have to do some framing, at least, in order not to just drift through the year. Last year went quite smoothly because of the framing ..... however, where we did bog down it was because it became too mechanical, too un-organic, too much "let's get through this." I'd rather try to avoid doing that more than I can help, while still having the benefits of an overview. Too much to ask.... a bridge from where we are out into where we want to be?

The other thing I have been thinking recently is about space. Kevin said in the car the other day: It takes guts to leave a silence. I thought that was very true, and am slowly seeing while I reread Charlotte Mason's books the roominess and the restraint she suggests both have something to do with space and silence.

It's easy to fill space and time with noise and activity. But more difficult to discern what is needful, and what is too much, too soon, too fast. So I am reminding myself to slow down and dwell on things rather than hurry past them.

It's fine to have a collection of resources and ideas ready. This is very helpful when I run dry of ideas, which I do during the year if I haven't built up a stock. But at the very basic level, I need simplicity and lack of clutter. I don't need to feel that the plans are like dry, paper-winged bats harassing us. They should be more like eagles' wings. Again, too much to ask for all the time? But maybe sometimes, at least.

I realize this again every year -- Non Multa Sed Multum.

Flaubert said, according to this blog:

How learned one would be, if one knew well only five or six books! (Comme l'on serait savant si l'on connaissait bien seulment cinq à six livres!)

This article on St Francis de Sales said

Our task, therefore, is not so much to do many and great things, but to do things well. "Non multa sed multum." Our concern must be with quality not number. "Our advancement is not made by the quantity of our exercises of piety but by the perfection with which we perform them." This is an obvious truth of which devout souls of every age must be reminded.

I have been thinking about this and about the name of my blog. It comes from Psalm 31 where the Psalmist says:

you have set my feet in a broad place.

and later

In the shelter of your presence you hide them
It struck me that this balance of spaciousness and shelter is the same thing that CM is often trying to express -- oddly, it doesn't seem to be a balance between opposites, so much as difference aspects of the same thing.

Not easy to put into words I guess! I just read that there is a connection between two words "theory" and "contemplation" -- that the Latin word "contemplatio" relates to the Greek word "theoria" -- meaning a consideration, things looked at -- "to see" combined with "a view". That is close to what I am trying to say.

Theory 1592, "conception, mental scheme," from L.L. theoria (Jerome), from Gk. theoria "contemplation, speculation, a looking at, things looked at," from theorein "to consider, speculate, look at," from theoros "spectator," from thea "a view" + horan "to see." Sense of "principles or methods of a science or art (rather than its practice)" is first recorded 1613.
If you have space, you can take a deep breath, look around you and see the view, you can study something and really think about what it means and how it works together with everything else. So I want to think about space and silence this year -- not emptiness and idleness. The plans should be like CM's habits so we can free up that part of ourselves in order to go beyond it.

I know it won't always look that way! But it's something I wanted to write out while I'm thinking about it.

The last word of St. Thomas is not communication but silence. And it is not death which takes the pen out of his hand. His tongue is stilled by the superabundance of life in the mystery of God. He is silent, not because he has nothing further to say; he is silent because he has been allowed a glimpse into the inexpressible depths of that mystery which is not reached by any human thought or speech. The Silence of St Thomas, Josef Pieper

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa

Thinking about these things, I can see better how to plan -- how to approach the ideas in the school-books the way Charlotte Mason recommended, as relationships between things and ourselves.

I think maybe St Teresa of Avila and St Benedict can be our homeschool's patron saints this year? (Last year was St Francis de Sales and St Brendan the Navigator). I'll have to think about that!

1 comment:

Chari said...

Oh, HOW did I miss this post.......I really enjoyed it.......and I KNEW those were Ireland photos.........I want to see MORE Ireland photos!

Love, Me