I am a relative newcomer to smart phone technology. Last Summer, I got only my second Android device. When I did, I was surprised to discover just how much Google knew about me. Not the kind of stuff you would find in their search engine. It was more personal than that. Suddenly, I would wake up to notifications on my phone telling me where I was going that day and giving me estimated drive times. It started suggesting internet articles I might be interested in, and I was. Google could not only read my mind when I started typing things into its search engine, it also could predict my itinerary. What I hadn’t realized was that, even though I did not have the Google app on it, my previous Android phone had been recording my every move the whole time. Now, with the app already installed on my new phone, all it took was for me to sign in and all that data was transformed into a pre-cog story of my life. Meanwhile, on Facebook, I’ve been getting similar notifications telling me that I have memories to look back on of things I’ve posted on this date in past years. And though these memories don’t presume to predict the future, they might as well, because they reveal what a creature of habit I am!
Now, on its own, the fact that history repeats itself is not alarming. There is much to be said for seasons, traditions, and the rhythms of life. But the Ghost of Years Gone By may at times provoke an uneasiness about our likely future if we do not change our ways while at the same time casting doubt on our ability to do so.
There are natural times for us to ponder our paths, but none more apt than the beginning of a new year. As I reflect on this last year, I am struck by a realization: I’ve had a conversion experience. This is an exotic thought for me because I previously thought of conversion as mainly a spiritual/religious experience; and I became a Christian nearly 35 years ago. But as I think about my most recent conversion, I realize I’ve had many conversions of varied significance throughout my life. Even more intriguing is how they’ve come about.
In this case, my family was faced with a decision. With our son ready to start kindergarten, where should we send him to school? We had all options on the table: homeschool, charter school, public school, and private school. As we weighed our local options, two choices became viable for us, but the one that stood out was a certain charter school in our city. We were excited about both their approach to academics and their emphasis on family, community, and character. Alas, enrollment for new students was determined by lottery, and we were not so lucky. The day that door closed, we knew we had become a homeschool family. It was a rare moment of clarity for my wife and I.
So I threw myself into the process of learning how to homeschool. When it came to deciding which approach to take–traditional, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, unschooling–I found myself resonating with the classical approach to education. The more I discovered about each model of learning the more convinced I became that classical education is a better way. In fact, I would champion a classical approach to education for any students anywhere, whether in public schools, private schools, or at home. Without going into detail, classical education simply takes into account the truth that a student is a soul. And when you get that premise right, sound practitioning tends to follow.
Now, when I tout classical learning as an ideal, I do not mean to say it is the only sound, valid, or good way to teach/learn. In many cases it is not practical. For instance, it would be difficult, maybe frustrating or futile, to switch from a traditional or STEM education late in one’s educational journey. For some students or families (such as ours) it may make more sense to blend a classical approach with other approaches. And there are myriad circumstances and individual student needs that would require pursuing other options. But given the chance, I would counsel anyone to at least consider classical first.
Given my strong opinion about classical education, I now realize that my beliefs about it have led me down a path of pursuing it. I’m constantly trying to learn more about it, exposing myself to leading thinkers in the field. I’m thinking more deeply about how to integrate a classical way of learning into our family life. I am a classical education convert. It is not something I decided to become. What I did decide was to find out what I could about how to teach my kids at home. And that pursuit lead me to a fuller understanding of various philosophies, which led to a deepening conviction of the merits of one philosophy over the others. This conviction is leading me to order our homeschool endeavors (and dollars) around the tenets of this philosophy. This new disposition is shaping the way I think not only about my kids’ education but it is also causing me to reevaluate my own. I’m looking for ways to make up for what I lacked in my own education. And I’m grateful for the chance to learn again, even as I teach my kids.
It may be noted that this conversion did not happen in a vacuum. A hundred other conversions led up to it, and it will lead to still more. Every experience shapes our souls and makes us ready for how we will receive the next. It is our journey toward truth and maturity.
So, as I reflect on what God may have in store for me and my family in the year to come, I am grateful to look back on a year of real personal growth, which came as a result of the pursuit of truth. Whether that pursuit comes out of necessity or curiosity, it always yields fruit.
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
– Paul the Apostle (Romans 12:2)
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