I sit on our front porch, my favorite coffee cup in hand, reading the remaining few chapters of The Bronze Bow, the last book my students are to read this year. It’s raining and almost 3:00 PM and still my boys have not come in for lunch. The grating sound of the drill rings out over the pasture and I see them by the zip line, immersed in their work, unaware of the time. Their food is laying out in the kitchen, welcoming the flies, just as their school books wait on the table for them. A read aloud I have yet to do with Thadd, Latin to go over with JP. A meeting with Addie. They are working on a new fort they are building all on their own, with their cousin Justin’s help. They’ve already set the posts and built the platform and are starting on the frame. It’s good work. Impressive craftsmanship. And they are only fourteen and twelve!
I sigh as I finish a chapter. This book is so good and I have just three chapters left to read. I don’t want it to end. It hasn’t been this way with every book I’ve taught this year, but Elizabeth George Spear is a master of her craft. How she can write! She makes me want to take up my pen again from the long neglect and writer’s block. How I will relish the conversation my students and I will have on Tuesday about this piece of historical fiction.
This year is our third year with Classical Conversations, a Christian homeschool community that meets once a week to learn and interact with other like-minded individuals. It has been my first year directing a Challenge class, which is the upper level of the community, corresponding to Junior High and High School. My class consists of six students: four boys (one of which is my own son) and two girls, aged twelve through fourteen. They have six classes, or strands as they are called, consisting of Latin, Mathematics, Exposition, Science, Reasoning, and Cartography. We meet fifteen weeks in the fall semester and fifteen weeks in the spring. The kids come to class having already completed their work for the week and we meet for an entire day on Tuesday going over each strand and having rich conversations about them. I am a facilitator, among other things, with my main objective as a director being to engage them in the art of the dialectic. I help them to sort out all they are learning and to synthesize the information so that they can be equipped to learn how to think. The content that they learn is varied and difficult: translating Latin, drawing the entire world from memory, learning the art of persuasive writing, thoroughly engaging in the scientific method through a science fair. But the things that we are learning go so much further than mere academics. These children are learning how to listen to one another, how to have respectful conversations, and how to see the work of God in every area of life.
As I come to the end of a very rewarding and challenging year, here are a few take-aways:
- It is possible to learn Latin as a forty year-old.
- Some days are better than other days. Some days the conversations seem forced and trite, while other days, I am blown away by the Spirit-led moments and integrations.
- Prayer is of supreme importance. In prayer we wait in expectation of what God will do in the lives of those He has entrusted us with. I can do nothing on my own, but I am completely dependent upon the Lord.
- Junior-highers are absolutely hilarious and in need of constant correction. Whew! What a class!
- Asking good questions prepares the way for fruitful conversation. I am still learning this art.
- Rest is absolutely necessary. If I do not take the time to stop and to just be and to fill myself up with what is life-giving, I will have nothing of value to offer anyone.
- At the end of the day, what matters most is knowing God. The character of our students is far more valuable than whether or not they can decline a noun or draw the continent of Africa. The spiritual formation of these kids comes as they encounter the Living God for themselves. It is to this end that I strive. And it is a worthy goal.
It has been a good year and I am a bit sad to see the end, just as I am with the book I am reading. But, of course, I must finish both for there are more conversations to share, more topics to discover, more adventures to unfold.