One Toothache at a Time
I love the idea of scholé (restful and contemplative learning), but I just don’t know if I can pull that off in my homeschool!
If you can relate to this sentiment, congratulations! You are in good company. The Scholé Groups community is filled with homeschoolers who resonate with the desire to bring excellent classical education to their homeschools while cultivating a spirit of rest. But taking on an ideal and translating it into practice can sometimes feel incredibly overwhelming and even impossible.
Even on our most inspired days, we face the task of teaching our children amid the messiness of life. In the chaotic moments perhaps you have thought something along the lines of, My toddlers are crying, I’m doing the best I can just to get lunch into my kids’ bellies…a day of restful learning is just not realistic! Or, when you’ve planned a scholé activity, you may have found yourself wondering, Am I doing scholé right? The kids are enjoying nature studies outside, but are they truly learning to contemplate the wonder of creation? Or, Am I doing enough scholé? How do I know if I’m doing it right?
I recently came across a passage by C.S. Lewis that speaks to the moments in which I find myself afraid that scholé is just plain, old unachievable. As he often does, Lewis offers a refreshing perspective that brings clarity to this topic. He writes:
“I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can. To avert or postpone one particular war by wise policy, or to render one particular campaign shorter by strength and skill or less terrible by mercy to the conquered and the civilians is more useful than all the proposals for universal peace that have been made; just as the dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race” (emphasis added).1
This from a figure who has exhibited tremendous influence over Western Christianity in the last century—a man who has perhaps begun to shift whole lines of thinking. His advice is not, as we might expect, that we should focus with great gusto on reshaping the world. Instead he urges us to faithfully fight the small battles that arise daily.
Lewis’s words remind me of The Parable of the Dishonest Manager in Luke 16. Jesus tells his disciples, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10, ESV). Let us be reminded that our daily efforts are not futile. Our faithfulness moment by moment is what contributes to our faithfulness on a large scale.
As educators, as homeschoolers, as members of homeschooling communities, we have the opportunity to breathe life into our children’s education, one day, one lesson, one moment at a time. This is not to say that cultivating scholé moments is always easy. Sometimes, as we try to recover the tradition of scholé, which has been absent in education for so long, we fumble around in the dark searching for these scholé moments. But even despite this challenge, many of you have already found ways to bring moments of scholé into your daily routines.
Be encouraged! These efforts are significant. When you reflect on your day, don’t let the messiness of life obscure the significance of small deeds. For our days will not be perfect. Our scholé will not be complete. And perhaps you, like I, feel small when you look at the vast scholé ideal. This need not keep us from stopping one “toothache” at a time. It is through these small, tangible acts that our homeschools are becoming more restful. And as we do this in community, we’ll learn from one another.
Here are three daily opportunities for scholé—the curing of daily “toothaches” as it were.
–Admit that we are small. When we enter our day by confessing our own small-ness, we remind ourselves that we don’t have to bear the scholé ideal on our own two shoulders. Instead, we can see that it is through Christ and through the support of one another that we can faithfully pursue scholé, one moment at a time.
–Take 60 seconds to contemplate the wonder of language. Language is easy to take for granted, but it allows us to communicate with one another, to express ourselves to God, and also to guide and teach our children. The more I reflect on this, the more I find myself in wonder at God’s creation of language. Let this wonder flavor your thoughts as you proceed through your day using language to guide your children.
–Express thankfulness. We often say grace at mealtime, but it is easy to rush through this expression of thankfulness when everyone is hungry (hungry + angry—that is, grumpy out of hunger). After your children have a few bites in their tummies, consider asking them to identify something they are thankful for. See where the conversation leads! If the contemplation of thankfulness only lasts 1.5 seconds, that’s OK!
What scholé moments are you pursuing or actualizing in your homeschool?
__________ Lewis, C.S., “Why I Am Not a Pacifist,” in The Weight of Glory And Other Addresses (New York: Harper One, 1980), 79-80.
Scholé Academy. Emily earned her BA in philosophy and English literature from Messiah College and spent a semester studying abroad at the University of Oxford. As a young adult, she delights in pursuing a truly classical education and finds joy in the beauty of great books and thoughtful friends.Emily Price is the eLearning Coordinator at Classical Academic Press and also a lower school writing instructor online at