Steps to Wisdom: Piety

Following fear of God, which is the first of Augustine’s “Steps to Wisdom,” is what Augustine calls piety. He says that once we recognize that God is in authority over us and we start to learn his commandments, we ought to realize that “whatever is…written [in Scripture], even though it be hidden, is better and truer that anything we could devise by our own wisdom.”

Just today, my 8th grade class read a similar idea in “Sic et Non,” a work by medieval scholar Peter Abelard, who cautions that when scripture, or even the writings of the church fathers or another credible, time-tested text is difficult to understand, we should “believe that we lack felicity in understanding rather than that they lack felicity in writing.” In other words, even if we don’t quite understand something, we love it because of the source—we persevere, trusting that the Great Books are worthwhile endeavors, and that scripture will always ring true eventually, when we have the ears to hear it.

This is what Augustine, elsewhere, calls ordo amoris, which is Latin for “the order of love.” When our loves are rightly ordered, we love all of creation because God created it, and we love God above all because we rightly fear him and are piously devoted to him.

And students don’t have to be able to tackle Medieval texts to start to develop rightly ordered loves. In fact, one of the best tools for ordering one’s loves is memorization, the main learning tool of the grammar stage. Children’s loves are naturally ordered towards the acts of repetition and routine. And eventually, the material being memorized, rather than the act of memorization itself, becomes the object of affection. We naturally feel affection for the things that are a part of us, and that includes what we’ve engraved onto our hearts and our minds through memorization.

There’s an adage oft-repeated in classical education that says, “you become what you behold.” When we have our students memorize something, it’s because it is something true, or good, or beautiful, and we want our students to behold those things so often that they become a deeply engrained part of their rightly ordered affections.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

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Steps to Wisdom: Fear of God

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:10

The path to wisdom is one that we are very much concerned with in classical Christian education. Because our model is founded in the Christian worldview, we look to scripture, such as the oft-cited verse above, for direction.

St. Augustine, in On Christian Doctrine, writes about the pathway to godly wisdom, and, given that Augustine is one of the founders of classical Christian thought, his thoughts are unsurprisingly very valuable to classical educators. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting about each one of these seven steps Augustine forwards as markers on the path to wisdom.

Rightly taking his cue from scripture, Augustine asserts that a person who would have wisdom must first fear God. We must “seek the knowledge of His will, what He commands us to desire and what to avoid.” When we’re pursuing spiritual wisdom, we have to start with the recognition that God is in authority over us, and we are to obey Him.

In the classical classroom and homeschool, we must start with that recognition: God has created the universe, and there are certain truths that he wants us to learn; as God’s creatures we are obligated to obediently do our best to learn those truths and live them out. Of course, a child at the very beginning of the pathway to wisdom, say a first grader, isn’t going to have a real, true understanding of what it means to “fear God.” But a young child can certainly understand that God is in charge and has put certain adults in authority over him. He can understand that obeying parents and tutors is obeying God. We set our students on the pathway to wisdom when we teach them to live out this first step by obeying the teaching authorities that God has placed over them.

As a tutor, I find this very humbling; it’s a solemn reminder that I have an obligation to be very careful about how I exercise authority in my classroom and to make sure that everything I do is intentional and ultimately points my students to God, the source of the truths I’m asking them to learn.

The hope of this foundational principle, of course, is that over the course of an education, the student will come into his own knowledge of God and will start to recognize that teaching authorities are merely dim reflections of the ultimate, awesome authority of God.

A Scholar’s Daily Schedule: Entertainment

Homeschool moms, you are the primary educators of your children. Give your child entertainment options that reinforce the classical admiration of truth, goodness, and beauty, rather than entertainment options that undo these ends.

Tea should be taken in solitude…for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere. The ones I learned to use so at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodotus, and Lang’s History of English Literature.

–C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

With Granite’s last class day behind us, many Granite families are in full summer-mode. With that in mind, I want to take one last look at Lewis’s scholarly schedule to glean some guidance from him about what kinds of entertainment children should be pursuing. Of course, the proportions of entertainment that children will enjoy during summer days are probably much higher than during the school year, which only makes his advice all the more relevant now.

Reading
In this part of his scholarly schedule, Lewis gives us what may seem a rather lofty goal for the modern-day student: reading Herodotus for pleasure! But the main point here, I think, is that reading for pleasure should be a regular source of entertainment for the student. Whatever our modern-day perception of Herodotus, Lewis found him “gossipy and formless,” meaning casual and unstructured. Herodotus’s Histories covers the major events of the ancient Greek world, ambling from one episode to the next. (Something like The Story of the World might be the modern-day student’s equivalent.) Something easily read, not overly concerned with plot or artistry, and interesting. Lewis also names some popular novels of his day and says that they served a similar purpose. That purpose is to stimulate the mind and to bring enjoyment to the spirit.

When I was growing up, my brother and I used to read collections of “Calvin and Hobbes” comics together. The medium was a bit fluffy, but the content was entertaining, wholesome, and probably did more to expand my vocabulary than some of the academic books I read. I also read gobs of historical fiction. My brother was attracted to DK-style books with spreads full of interesting facts about the world. Each child is different, but there are enough resources out there to find something your child will pick up for fun. The point is to make reading a source of pleasure, one that your students can draw from even outside of “schoolwork.”

Get Off the Screens
The big takeaway here is that some forms of entertainment are good and aid the scholar, while others are not. Screen time, for instance, has been shown by a plethora of studies to have negative effects on developing brains, from disrupting cognitive and processing abilities to hurting a child’s emotional range and capabilities. Whenever possible, substitute reading for digital media use. Reading almost anything is better for your child’s brain development than screen time. Not only that, but as many classical educators have pointed out, you are much more likely to be forming your child’s loves and affections well with a book than an iPad. A Caldecott or Newberry award-winning children’s book gives your child access to wholesome, useful, thought-provoking content, and limits access to anything else (you can’t click away from a book page to watch videos on YouTube) while a tablet likely gives a child far more access to unwholesome, or at the very least frivolous content.

Games
There are other forms of entertainment that can be useful. Strategy games like chess have been shown to hone important critical thinking and foresight skills. The tangible, academic benefits of such thinking skills are obvious, but they have spiritual significance, too. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes that Satan is “like a good chess player”–“always trying to manoeuvre you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop.” Of course it’s just a metaphor, but it’s an apt one, because the strategic thinking skills your child picks up from such games (joined with a developed affection for truth, goodness, and beauty and a healthy reliance on the Holy Spirit) will help form him in to a person who has the foresight and wit necessary to develop self-regulating and temptation-avoiding strategies for his life. Those are not skills a child will develop from watching 6 episodes of “Adventure Time” in a row.

Gymnastic
Another excellent entertainment option is physical activity. Different from rejuvenating outdoor activities, physical entertainment is interactive and often aerobic. Run around outside, play tag, catch frogs in a creek–send your kids outside and spend time as a family having fun outdoors this summer! Activity is not only physically healthy, but it teaches your children to enjoy and make good use of the bodies God has given them.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates even goes so far as to say that “gymnastic,” that is, formal physical training, ought to be part of the academic curriculum (and not just entertainment) because it develops certain qualities in the soul, such as fortitude and firmness. Find structured activities for your children, too. When I was growing up, I spent literally thousands of hours in the ballet studio. My brother spent similar time at his fencing club (that’s fencing as in swords). The hours I spent developing the physical art of ballet developed my perseverance and determination, and honed a love of beauty and artistry in my soul; the hours I spent playing computer games did not. To whatever extent your kids are physically able, teach them to prioritize physical activity over sedentary entertainment.

Entertainment is Formative
In Plato’s discourses on education, the Socrates of The Republic asks, “Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?” The question is designed to make us think about the consequences of entertainment and to help us realize that entertainment is formative. Socrates goes on to identify mothers and nurses as the main source of formation in children.

Homeschool moms, you are the primary educators of your children, even when “school” is not in session. Don’t allow yourself to be supplanted by a screen. Give your child entertainment options that reinforce the classical admiration of truth, goodness, and beauty, rather than entertainment options that undo these ends. As Socrates notes, the formation of character starts early, and entertainment choices affect character: “The beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.”

In Surprised by Joy Lewis writes of the times of entertainment he most looked forward to as a school boy: “On a Saturday afternoon in winter, when nose and fingers might be pinched enough to give an added relish to the anticipation of tea and fireside, and the whole weekend’s reading lay ahead, I suppose I reached as much happiness as is ever to be reached on earth. And especially if there were some new, long-coveted book awaiting me.” May your children’s entertainment this summer be formative, so that when winter comes, they share Lewis’s desire for the fireside and a good book!


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

A Masterpiece

This is my deepest desire for you. That you would not allow your worship to be contained to the four walls of a church building, but that in every talent, gifting, and pursuit, you would glorify and honor your creator, your life a living sacrifice.

The following is the commencement address given to the Granite Classical class of 2017 by Mrs. Bethany Pautrat.


To Mrs. Morton, The Granite Board, tutors, parents, family, friends, and graduates. It is an incredible honor to have the privilege of being here with the Granite Class of 2017. Thank you for the opportunity.

As I started to prepare for this moment, I began to recollect and reminisce about the beginning of the year when we first met and started to get to know one another. I knew some of you by name or by a “hi” or a wave in the hallway. But the first day of classes, which oddly seems like yesterday and so far away at the same time, was truly our first introduction.

We started with basic first day formalities such as names and expectations, and we chatted about what we did over the summer. There was some expected senior thesis moaning. There was also quick jokes, laughter, grammatical corrections, snarky looks, and brilliant exchange of words. Two hours flew by, and you all ran out of the door to lunch with a, “See you next week Mrs. Pautrat!”

As I sat at my desk, I did not ponder my excitement at your dreams for thesis, at the study of the postmodern world, of my dreams of discussion of art and culture, or of reading and analyzing Orwell, Lewis, and Keller to name a few. No, my first thought was this: I am in serious trouble. They are quick-witted, well-spoken, opinionated students who think they are are smarter than me. And I’m a bit concerned they may be right.

It has been an absolute joy to be kept on my toes this school year by such a tremendous group of young people. I want to take this one last time to speak to you and to impart a few things I have learned on the way.

When I was graduating from high school somewhere in a strange place called the 90s, it appeared that I had it all together. I loved Jesus, I had been on a few mission trips, I had a 3.8 unweighted GPA, AP credits, college scholarships, honors program offers, and finally, the perfect pointe shoes. Appearance can be deceiving. You see, I was actually unsure of God’s calling, a perfectionist who wanted a 4 in front of that decimal point and full scholarships, and I was highly insecure in my identity.

As I have delved into the the depths of God, I have come away with truth and healing in three key areas.

1. Fear Will Paralyze Your Pursuit of Destiny.
I cannot tell you how many opportunities I passed by because I was scared of rejection. I was terrified of what people thought about me, how they would respond to that poem I wrote, to the idea that was aflame inside of me, or to a testimony I wanted to give. As a pastor I once heard said, I was living by the praise of men and dying by their criticism. Seniors, give your fear to your Father. Trust Him with your pursuits and with your desires. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” His love is perfect and can be relied on to demolish fear. You are children of God, conduits of His Glory, and deeply loved. Brennan Manning summed it up best when he said, “Define yourself radically as one beloved of God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion.” Know who you are in the heart of your Father and as the scripture teaches, fear not, for He is with you.

2. Listen to Winston Churchill: Failure is not Fatal.
I took every failure as an indicator that I was a terrible student, creator, artist, writer, friend, or even Christian. I allowed failure to stop me in my tracks, boss me around, and tell me that I was worthless and would not amount to anything. I was missing a tremendous opportunity to grow and learn. I wish I had heeded the words of Thomas Edison. He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Don’t give up on the ideas; they are seeds that God has planted in your heart. Feel the sting; take a deep breath. You can get up again, and if you never experience failure the victory will never be quite as sweet. You have to have the ability to throw cowardice out the window if you want to be be victorious. There is something about being able to overcome. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” You will fail and it may not feel wonderful, but your strength and your sustenance comes from your heavenly Father. So climb that mountain, scrape your knee, and get back up. In the words of Helen Keller, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

3. Hope is an Anchor
I was the queen of pessimism and worry. I always thought of the worst case scenario when I heard about something terrible on the news. There are things happening in our world that through earthly eyes seem unprecedented. The unhinged political scene in the United States alone is enough to make you feel hopeless, not to mention radical Islam, terrorism, and droves of people turning away from the light and accepting evil as truth. The world appears to be shaking. But we have something the world does not have. We have hope. We have Biblical hope: confident expectation or joyful expectation. When I look at you, seniors, and I see who you are and who God has created you to be, I am filled with hope. You are light bearers and are going into the world ready to impact the lost and the dying with the greatest Hope there is–the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Psalm 147:11 says, “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” C.S. Lewis so aptly describes our deliverance in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” Jesus has come. He has the victory.

I Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.” Face the the future with an expectation of the victory won by Jesus. To quote Brennan Manning once more, “We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt.”

I want to leave you with this. In the 1980s, there was a famous movie called “Chariots of Fire.” It is the story of the life of missionary and champion runner Eric Liddell. There’s a famous scene where Liddell is being reprimanded by his sister for not putting God first as a missionary to China (which he later pursued and gave his life for) and for taking a season to pursue competitive running. Liddell responds, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” This is my deepest desire for you. That you would not allow your worship to be contained to the four walls of a church building, but that in every talent, gifting, and pursuit, you would glorify and honor your creator, your life a living sacrifice. There’s worship song that so beautifully illustrates how God wants to use to your life. It says:

Pick me up like a paintbrush
Dip it in the colors of my life.
Paint your picture, Father
And fashion a heart that is fully yours
Take your fingers, God,
Master potter come form the clay
Tell your story
As you mold me
Fashion a heart that is fully yours
And write your name in the clay
And sign your name on the picture. (Julie Meyer)

God wants to make a masterpiece of your life, with colors and shapes which he has sovereignly ordained for you.

So.

Bekah: Help people to feel better and stronger in their bodies as you train them to be healthy, and feel his pleasure.

Caleb: Save the world from computer viruses, create, get a patent, and feel his pleasure.

Gabriel: Write the shorts stories, plan the famous novel, get published, and feel his pleasure.

Reagan: Create innovative robotic solutions to help make the world a better place, and feel his pleasure.

Susanna: Design, create, solve difficult problems with great thinking and beauty, and feel his pleasure.

One more time: Awake Narnia.

Love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”
Think: “and with all your mind,”
Speak: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love. Think. Speak. Take all that has been planted deep inside, and go change the world for the sake of the Gospel. I cannot wait to see what you do!


Bethany Pautrat teaches history and Omnibus at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Dear Graduates

You have been shown what truth, goodness, and beauty are, and you know how to discover and enjoy them for yourself. Keep doing so, recognizing that all that is true, good, and beautiful ultimately stem from the One who authored all truth, embodies all goodness, and radiates all beauty.

The following is the letter I wrote to my graduating senior students, accompanying a copy of G.K. Chesterton’s poem, “The Ballad of the White Horse.”


You are now at the end of your classical education at Granite. You have learned how to seek out and absorb knowledge, how to think rigorously and logically, and how to express arguments with wisdom and truth. But you are not done with your classical education, or at least you ought not to be.

The education you have received here at Granite has been designed to transform you into a lifelong learner. You have been given the tools and skills you need to learn for yourself. You have been shown what truth, goodness, and beauty are, and you know how to discover and enjoy them for yourself. Keep doing so, recognizing that all that is true, good, and beautiful ultimately stem from the One who authored all truth, embodies all goodness, and radiates all beauty. The difference between the education you have been receiving and your lifelong education to come is that from this point on, it is up to you to continue to pursue wisdom and truth rigorously and regularly. It is up to you to meditate on the beautiful and the good. The world you are launching into will not do much to guide you toward these, as your parents and tutors have.

In fact, you will find that the world into which you are launching frequently does not think rigorously, often rejects the true, generally fails to do or even desire the good, and regularly disdains the beautiful. You might not find this out right away—the world after high school is exciting and full of new adventures.

But eventually, I think you will find that you are indeed living in the world that Chesterton describes at the end of “The Ballad of the White Horse.” It is a world in which “dead words” have done their best to sap the world of truth and goodness and beauty. Chesterton likens the modern invasion of flawed ideology to the foreign invaders King Alfred once fought off in England:

Yea, this shall be the sign of them
The sign of the dying fire;
And Man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them,
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to Nothing,
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed,
Too blind to be abhorred…

When is great talk of trend and tide,
And wisdom and destiny,
Hail that undying heathen
That is sadder than the sea.

You are launching into a world that has largely lost the fire of truth and reason. It is a world that has forgotten where it came from. It is a world that attempts to make the light of the gospel dark. It is a world that is enslaved to many forces—consumerism, technology, pursuit of pleasure—without any kind of fealty to morality or virtue; it blindly follows the latest ideological trends without much critical analysis or careful thinking.

My prayer for you is that—when you reach the point in your young adult life when you fully realize the extent to which our modern culture daily attempts to rob us of access to and deep consideration of the true, the good, and the beautiful—that Providence would simultaneously guide you to deep wells of wisdom and virtue, and that you would draw from those wells eagerly.

In part, this is why I’m giving you “The Ballad of the White Horse.” It is a thing of great beauty, and a deeply true poem. You can read it in a few hours, and contemplate it for many more. But I’m also giving you this particular poem because in it Chesterton so aptly grasps the problems with the modern world and so fittingly points us to hope in the midst of it.

Chesterton says that the next invasion—that of the modern world and its flawed ideologies—will not be fought with swords, but with words. Each of you, no matter what field you are going into, is going to have opportunities to speak God’s truth to a deeply broken and hurting world. You have been prepared for this—you are eloquent speakers and you know how to defend your worldview with winsomeness and grace. Do so, and do so boldly, clinging to God’s truth and defending the gospel with everything in you.

And when you need hope, or inspiration, or reassurance, turn to the stalwart defenders of wisdom and virtue who have gone before you. Turn to the Biblical authors, to Plato, Augustine, Dante, and even to modern authors who grasp and articulate truth. Chesterton and many, many others are there, waiting to help you.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

A Scholar’s Daily Schedule: Rejuvenation

For Lewis, the natural world provides a key component to the scholarly life: an opportunity for the rejuvenation of the mind and spirit.

“By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the out-door world…The only friend to walk with is one…who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared. The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four.” –C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

In my last post, I noted that the foundation of Lewis’s proposed scholarly schedule is extended periods of contemplative, individual study.

But Lewis indicates that academic contemplation alone is not enough for the scholar. Lewis also insists that the daily routine involve a walk–and a very long one by today’s standards: two hours! He furthermore insists that this walk, in most cases, be a solitary one, because walking with another person turns the experience into a social affair, which upends the purpose of the walk. The daily walk, according to Lewis, is a time for reveling in the beauty of nature and for refreshing the mind with quiet stimulation, rather than with boisterous or forced conversation.

For Lewis, the natural world provides a key component to the scholarly life: an opportunity for the rejuvenation of the mind and spirit. Our brains of course need a break after long periods of learning and absorbing. But the physical body needs a change too–physical movement increases oxygen flow to the brain, which helps us think better, and our eyes tire after long periods of reading. Allowing the mind and eyes to relax, and getting the body moving at about mid-day will help make that afternoon study time much more productive.

I think it’s worth noting that Lewis finds the natural world particularly suited to this kind of refreshment. A break to watch cartoons or to play a game on a screen will not have the same effect because these activities are simply modern day replacements for the kind of bombardment that Lewis specifically wants to avoid. A walk taken while listening to music or to a podcast via earbuds also provides more bombardment than true mental rejuvenation. Even an activity like playing tag with the siblings outside doesn’t accomplish exactly the purpose of the solitary nature walk. Outdoor games certainly have their place in home education and family culture, but they aren’t what Lewis is talking about here because they don’t allow the mind to subconsciously digest what the student has been learning during study time against the quiet backdrop of the natural world.

2016-07-18 09.08.35
Addison’s Walk, at Magdalen College, Oxford. Lewis took many walks here when he taught at Magdalen.

Deep Work author Cal Newport is in agreement with Lewis about the usefulness of walking for the scholar. In his book, Newport recalls that the days on which he walked to work were his most productive, because he used that walking time to digest and think over the mathematical proofs he had been working on the day before. Because the student is outside, there is no burden to continue to absorb and learn new information, so the mind is free to mull over what it has already taken in. Paired with light physical activity, a period of quiet, solitary contemplation can provide real rejuvenation.

True rejuvenation from scholarly activity means giving the mind time to debrief, and letting the body move. Now that spring is here in full, Lewis’s suggestion to do this against the backdrop of nature is one that we stand a good chance of following, in one form or another! Of course, you might not be able to spare two full hours at a time, but even fifteen or twenty minutes climbing a tree, biking around the neighborhood, or walking the dog could have the desired effect, if that time is solitary rather than interactive. (In other words, look for opportunities to give your students these little rejuvenating moments to enjoy away from their siblings.)

This won’t be possible every day, but whenever weather permits, and whenever it’s logistically realistic to give your students (especially logic stage and older) time to themselves outdoors following a long period of study, take advantage of that opportunity for your student to be rejuvenated.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

A Scholar’s Daily Schedule: Study

Overcoming the temptation of distraction requires discipline and perseverance. These are not easy skills to develop, but they are worthwhile.

In Surprised by Joy, Lewis shares what he believes to be the ideal schedule for the student. He derives this pattern from the “routine” which he was accustomed to at an in-home boarding school where he was, in essence, homeschooled, along with a handful of other boys. He says this daily routine “has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a ‘normal’ day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of [this] pattern.” Here’s the ideal scholarly schedule, according to Lewis:

I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better…At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road [for a walk]…The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude…for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably…At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading.

Other than meals, Lewis’s day consists of four basic activities, each of them distinct from the others: school work, walking (which he specifies must be done alone), reading for pleasure, and then finally conversation. Each of these four components represents a vital part of the scholarly life: study, rejuvenation, entertainment, and social interaction. In my next few posts, I’d like to cover each of these topics in turn, considering how Lewis’s habits can be helpful to the homeschooler.

The foundation of the school day, of course, must be study. What strikes me the most about this passage (other than the seemingly magical arrival of lunch and tea) is the extended periods of continuous study: reading or writing for five hours in the morning, and then another two-hour block of school work in the late afternoon.

Lewis was at about the logic stage when he first followed this schedule at his boarding school. It’s impressive to me that a student so young could work for such extended periods of time without taking a significant break. In many ways, I think modern day home educators have a much more difficult battle to fight for their students’ attention spans than Lewis’s teachers probably did. Extended periods of serious study are increasingly difficult to achieve for the modern-day student who is constantly bombarded by a fast-paced world that demands attention (and offers distractions) at every turn. Scholars like Cal Newport, author of Deep Work have written extensively about this problem. In his book, Newport notes that the average modern day brain is so unaccustomed to boredom that it does not know how to not be distracted:

If every moment of potential boredom in your life–say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a restaurant until a friend arrives–is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where…it’s not ready for deep work–even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration.

This means that extended periods of deep concentration will be difficult for the modern student, especially for older ones who have been pulled fully in to the technological culture.

But even in our fractured modern day, students can learn the habit of continuous, uninterrupted study. It grows easier with practice, as the brain re-learns the discipline of concentration. Set up a technology-free/Internet-free zone where your students must spend some amount of their study time. Set a timer and ask your student to read for the duration. Or, for an older student, set a reading goal (“Try to read the next canto of Dante’s Inferno without taking a break.”) Gently increase your student’s goals for extended periods of study over time.

Lewis’s schedule is also a one designed to put the learner in a place of contemplation whenever possible. Lewis’s approach to study seems to frame it as a primarily contemplative act. It is not primarily a social act, or a source of entertainment. There is a time and place for sociability (after dinner) and a time and place for entertainment (reading for pleasure during tea). The rest of the time, the student is to be studying in solitude. Depending on your student’s age, abilities, and learning styles, you may need to supervise and interact with your student during long blocks of study, but even so, Lewis’s perspective is helpful. We should strive to make contemplation the primary goal. Find places in your home for your students (especially your older students) to sequester themselves for deep contemplative work and build a routine in which they stay put for a set period of time, even if that time is relatively short to begin with.

Overcoming the temptation of distraction or the impulse to find distraction when we feel bored or tired of the same activity requires discipline and perseverance. These are not easy skills to develop, but they are worthwhile. If your young student can persevere through twenty pages in a chapter book now, she will have the fortitude necessary to persevere through Dante later. If your logic or rhetoric stage student can persevere through an extended writing or reading task now, he will be able to organize himself for the much more monumental task of his senior thesis later. A mind that can focus on a scholarly task for an extended length can accomplish far more than most in our modern day. Imagine what your child will be able to accomplish if, by adulthood, she has been practicing the discipline of contemplative study for all of her school age years.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.