The Horse Barn
My daughter cleans stables on the weekends, and since her brother has gone off to college, I have been going along with her. It’s peaceful work. The stables are beautiful, the horses are award-winning and the work straightforward. We clean stalls, sweep the barn, and feed the creatures. The tack room smells of warm leather, the stables of fresh alfalfa, of horse and life.
I look at the barrows full of manure, raked from freshly cleaned stalls, re-supplied with fresh alfalfa, and think, this is life. Cleaning, feeding, sweeping up the debris from the living. We talk to whatever horses are still stalled, and some time to each other, but generally we work.
My daughter, the gardener that she is, gathers tubs of manure to take home to feed her compost beds. Content in the hard work she’s done and the money well earned, we both get in the car, sweaty and tired, smelling of horse and work and life. Her work ethic has been hard-earned, both in her education and life.
My grandparents had a fourth-grade education, yet they valued the gift of education.
Out of my four grandparents, none of them went past fourth grade in any formal type of school. They were, however, always learning. They were hungry for learning. My Gram died a few years ago, 1-month shy of her one-hundredth birthday, still living in her own home near Medway Airport in Chicago. She died in a home that she’d literally lined with books and music and animals and life. She had magnifying glasses at all her sitting places so she could see to read: books, magazines, and papers. She taught my Momma-less, illiterate Mom to read at age eight, by reading Shakespeare out loud to her and rewarded her with Mother West Wind books from the Five & Dime.
My grandfather watched the stock market daily and took careful notes. He studied the Bible with the same careful tenaciousness that he gave to everything else. He wasn’t’ “educated” by today’s standards, but he could talk to anyone about anything and made friends wherever he went. He was passionately curious about people and how they lived and was a good neighbor to all.
My grandparents relished the gift of education. They believed that learning was a beautiful privilege and one they were hungry for.
Crown & the Growth Mindset
Queen Elizabeth, as portrayed in the mini-series Crown, seeks a tutor at one point. She has all the privileges of royalty and wealth, is the most respected woman in the world, which she travels extensively, and yet she sees a need in her own life. A need filled only by education. She hires a personal tutor to fill the void that money and prestige can’t fill. She is dissatisfied with what she doesn’t know and finds a way to fill the gap that lack of education has left.
Her sister, wealthy dissatisfied jet setter, is portrayed as bored and jealous and goes after a man that won’t “work” for her circumstances. We see a person who believes that the only satisfaction they can expect in life is physical and so she drinks and smokes and philanders to excess. The demands of her life don’t lead her to seek the fulfillment of learning and knowing. Because she hasn’t developed the intellectual discipline that character and education require, she settles.
So what does this have to do with the gift of education?
So often, in the homeschooling world, I hear this idea: character is more important than the book. “Put the book down and focus on character training.” I find this odd because it assumes that character training and education are at odds with each other. Au contrair! There is so much character training to be found by educating one’s self or another!
Let’s face it, the cycle of learning can be difficult. When we first encounter something, especially something challenging, it feels overwhelming. I remember the first time I tried to teach First Form Latin. I didn’t understand the teacher’s manual. I didn’t understand the grammar vocabulary; terms like Declension, Imperfect, Pluperfect, Mood, Conjugation. It felt awkward and tough. Now, years later, I love The Forms. It takes difficult material and lays it out in all its parts- vocabulary, grammar, sayings, culture.
Learning often requires an overview and familiarity before we ever get to mastery. It takes perseverance, hard work, vision and character to grow past overview. Getting to mastery requires all sorts of soft skills, character, and strength! Education IS character building!
Education is not a given
For many people around the world, education is not a given. My grandparents received very little formal education. Kids in the third world often don’t’ have the gift of education. Even royals don’t get the education that they need. Education requires infrastructure, stable government, money, and the character and vision to pursue it. It’s a gift. Educational choice is an even bigger gift.
In my weekly Latin classes, I pray. I pray that we all appreciate the gift of Latin and Education and that we steward that gift well. Latin isn’t going to save the world, but students who learn to appreciate words and the Word that became flesh, are great instruments to lead people to the One who can!
Gratitude for a life full of education –
Homeschooling is such a unique and beautiful gift in this day and age of fast food everything. We have the time and opportunity to train our kid’s character as we school them. It’s a both-and, not an either-or proposition. You can teach math AND character at the same time. In fact, I would say they often go hand in hand. And to have the time and opportunity to train our kids well-their minds as well as their character is a gift.
I often hear that homeschooling should be fun, and I wonder where that idea got started. I’m not saying it should feel like slavery or a grind, but often hard work requires just that- work. Not that you can’t have fun while you work, but often work doesn’t feel necessarily like fun. And even if our kids don’t feel like they are having fun, they should still be educated, and we should not cheat them of the opportunity to have that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from learning and academic accomplishment. We should teach our kids to be grateful for the gift of education, for the opportunity to homeschool. It’s not a right. It is a privilege.
And what’s all this have to do with a horse barn anyway?
That simple gift of work that causes one to sweat a little and feel the good tired that comes from working hard; that’s what education often consists of. Real education – the kind that takes us beyond ourselves and transforms us, requires hard work, like the horse barn; vision, like my grandparents had; and a growth mindset like the Queen.
Gratitude reminds us of the above – that we are being given a great gift by being educated, and we are giving our children a great gift by handing them a personalized education, in the form of homeschooling.