education and intrinsic constraints

we’ve kept at it with school this summer. it’s more relaxed and several days can go by without doing much formally school-related, but i love how even a bit of school can keep a happier and smoother rhythm to our days.

in the past few weeks there has also been an uptick in the amount of education reading i’ve been doing. homeschooling is still the best fit for us at the moment. i also truly enjoy doing it and seeing how it is fostering my relationship with my boys, but regardless of the form of education we choose, i think i’ll always be an education information junkie. i love reading on why we educate, ways we can educate, problems in education, and how different styles appeal to different people. and when i start reading about education, it always seems to lead me to finding more articles about motherhood and calling and what it means for me to be a mother at home who has chosen to school her kids.

here is some of what i’ve been reading recently:

1. Konstantin Kakaes: Why your kids can’t add without a calculator. for a combination of reasons, we’ve chosen not to use any technology with the kids’ schooling, yet. leonard sax’s book Boys Adrift has a great chapter on the misuse of technology in the classroom. this article is a good complement to it, targeting math specifically:

The fight between those who seek a way around hard work, and those who realize that earned fluency is the only road to understanding, goes back millennia and became particularly acrimonious in the United States in the last half-century in the so-called math wars…What is new to this fight is the totalizing power of technology. A 2007 congressionally mandated study by the National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance found that 16 of the best reading and mathematics learning software packages did not have a measurable effect on test scores. But despite this finding, the onslaught of technology in education has continued.

2. Michele Kerr: The Miracle and the Moment. kerr is a high school humanities teacher who describes a beautiful moment in her classroom where her kids truly experience poetry, but then she goes on to explain the disconnect policy makers have when they fail to realize that the standards they are implementing are often turning kids away from true learning.

3. and the best for last – Kate Harris: Constraint and Consent, Career and Motherhood. harris discusses what it means to “willfully and intentionally consent” to life as women and mothers. harris believes the true issue for women is not how to “have it all” or how to have balance, but how to deal with the reality of life’s “intrinsic constraints.” this is such great stuff. please go read the whole thing, but here is a bit for you:

I spend little time, actually, on the notion of “having it all” because the nose wiping and grocery shopping and writing-during-naptime reality of my days provide a constant, tangible reminder that I do not, for the most part, need more choices about how to allocate or spend my time, I simply need help choosing what to pick.

On any given ordinary, unsexy day I may have a million options about how to manage, divide, or share my time and attentions between work and kids, or kids and friends, or kids and husband, or countless variations on this theme. Still, what I need help thinking about is how to make choices that will serve me well over time, and allow for honest and faithful stewardship of all the skills, longings and commitments that give shape, weight, and meaning to my life. Fortunately for Christians, more than any other group of people, we have a theology sufficient to help women take up these questions of constraint and to do so in the coherent context of holistic, lifelong vocation.

In the doctrine of the Incarnation we see a God who constrained himself in flesh, in history, in time and place, and was made man.  He consented to this as an act of will – not effort, mind you- to demonstrate that His love is unbounded, but also to highlight the bounds of what it is to be human.  By taking on bone and blood He gave our human constraints dignity and purpose, and He also tells us something fundamentally true about our circumstance.  We are not – in this life at least – infinite beings.  We cannot do, or have, or accomplish, all that we want by our own humble means. Yet even as we yield to constraint, in the upside-down-ness of the Christian gospel – the weak will be strong, the mourning will be comforted, the hungry will be satisfied–we again encounter the counterintuitive truth that our will is not nearly so capable in its effort as in its consent.


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