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Women raising children stand in a very powerful place as the mediator of reality. We are great at being womb-and-placentas for our babies. We do fairly well at providing a home life that expands their contact with the wider world. We must also be, like a healthy cell wall, a semi-permeable boundary controlling incoming intellectual, spiritual and emotional information. It’s a bit overwhelming!
As she restricts the child’s access to reality, Mom confronts her own attitude toward being impeded, constrained, limited – her own interior freedom models freedom for the child. At the same time, the child’s wonder and enthusiasm can help cultivate her own attraction to the world around her. He encounters the world poetically, and Mom is a critical matrix of support for this poetic stage of his education. This first pre-academic education underlies all later intellectual development and supports later work on the child’s ‘structure’.
Mom is also singularly responsible for the language development by which her child has a different kind of access to reality. When he begins to label, abstract, reduce, control and manipulate the world through the use of words, she’ll be there to help him voice emotional content so that he doesn’t grow detached from the intelligence of the heart as he develops in the use of reason. A truly Catholic education invites students to freely affirm the ‘Catholic proposal’ with a response, a judgment that involves the heart’s wisdom. How important it is, then, to cultivate a heart that responds to beauty, truth and goodness, and not just an intellect that affirms a code of ethics.
There are many different ‘educations’ going on at once, for parents and children. In this discussion, we looked at the classical model (Poetic, Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric stages) with an eye toward staying free, practicing freedom at every stage in appropriate ways. I gave practical suggestions for the kind of spiral growth that results in a greater freedom because it involves action that resolves the tension set up between heart and mind within a growing person. Naturally, I had to give credit to holy leisure for being the key to the kind of encounter with reality that cultivates true freedom!
This is a great talk for home educators.