Education and The Ordering of the Affections

I have been homeschooling my now 16 year old son from birth. Our homeschooling has involved a lot of reading out loud. Interestingly, although I’m not a nature and sciency kind of person, some of my favorite things to read to my son over these years has been the nature stories. We’ve read many books by naturalists who share their stories of being there, and I’ve enjoyed “being there” with them as I’ve read the stories to my son. I’ve enjoyed reading our school literature selections, as well as our “free reads”. Over the years I’ve judged good writers, such as C.S. Lewis, by how good it feels (literally!) to read their sentences out loud.

As the years have passed, and my son has become an independent learner, I have increased my piano studio and have had far less time to be with him during his school hours. The thing I miss the most is reading out loud to him. In scheduling his days this year, I have reserved one hour before I start my piano teaching day (and some days that means 7 a.m.) to read to him. (And whenever I have a block of cancellations during the day, you might find me running home, rather than staying at the studio, as I ought, to practice my cello and clarinet, and saying, “I’m here! Can I read whatever you’re reading right now to you?”) For that precious “morning hour with Mom”, this year I have chosen to read books such as Plutarch’s Life of Alexander (just a bit each morning), Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves, C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man, and when I can steal it from his after-Mom schedule and squeeze it in before I dash to the studio on Fridays, Seven Men Who Rule from the Grave, which is a book not about politicians or business-leaders, but philosophers whose influence is still very evident today. I also do some Grammar, Latin, or Diagramming with him as a part of that hour. Do you really think that those 3 things are not like the others? You have not spent enough time with James, then. The study of language, which involves logic and the need for clear communication, generates a lot of discussion with us.  It’s a bonus for me when I can steal away and read History and Literature and Economics with him, as well, because those “subjects” are full of ideas well worth contemplating and discussing.

Truth be told (as one should), it is perhaps the discussion of ideas and the connections James and I make with them, and then with each other, that I miss even more than the reading out loud of the beautiful words. Sometimes I feel anxious about all the things that I’ve left undone or completely missed in the education of James Dewey Pelham. But then I sit with him and read C.S. Lewis or Thomas Sowell, or simply work on analyzing a sentence or translate some Latin, and I realize what a mature and honest thinker has been raised in our home. Sometimes I think I have harmed him with my concern about the wrong things, that I’ve not focused on filling his heart with ideas rather than his head with facts, and then I listen to this young man who picks up quickly on a logical or economic fallacy or grammatical error because he cares. He cares about Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Ordo amoris – somehow, in spite of his anxious mother, through the years his affections have been properly ordered. His conscience has been trained. He is not a Man without a chest.

From James’ “Commonplace” book

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