About five years ago, as my oldest child was entering the third grade, I was at a loss to teach him how to write. I didn’t know anything about writing, and it seemed like such a difficult, subjective thing to teach and evaluate. I had been dabbling in what I thought was classical education and enjoying it, so I started researching how to teach writing classically. I stumbled upon the idea of the progymnasmata, and realized I had a lot to learn. This began a deep dive into classical education that led me eventually to Classical Academic Press, the Scholé Sisters, and the Circe Institute. Since I still had two very little ones at the time, learning and study was slow going for a few years without much real progress.
Fast forward three years. I began to feel like it was time to really do some more study on classical ed and what it looks like beyond the grammar years. But how could I do that while also homeschooling my kids, being a part of a church, keeping up with all their schedules, keeping a home, and all the rest?
No homeschooling mom “has” the time to make this kind of study a priority. It has to be borrowed, made, and asked for. For me, it’s like time in God’s word or time spent exercising. We moms desperately need those things to stay healthy spiritually and physically, and we don’t have the time. If we recognize our deep need for it, we find a way.
After years of struggling to read and learn, I’m in a “growth spurt” season when it comes to classical ed right now. I have a hunger inside that beckons to be fed. That hunger developed from taking small forced bites at first, because I knew I needed it. I needed it for my my own sake, to be intellectually healthy and challenged. To move past the mushy-mommy-brain phase that babies and toddlers induce, and reclaim my brain. I also needed it for my children’s sake. If I truly wanted to give them the kind of education I was gaining a vision for, I needed to be equipped, transformed, and grown into a different kind of teacher. I wanted that. I wanted to be that kind of a teacher.
For me, it meant intentionally forming a habit, slowly, and starting small. At first, I made myself read for 15 minutes after the kids went to bed before I allowed myself to do anything else. It was often the last thing I wanted to do, but it was important. It’s like anything else in life you know is good for you. In my flesh, I’d rather indulge in a Netflix show or read an easy novel. My forced fifteen minutes often turned into a delighted half hour or longer. Then I’d reward myself with Netflix or dark chocolate.
The desire to learn grew, and I started this school year with the goal of finishing ClassicalU Level 1 by May. I went through the classes and made a plan, and I started an Evernote file for each class to keep notes, resources, links or downloads that come with the class. Sometimes I would watch a lecture while I made dinner. My husband and I have a long-standing routine that the kitchen during the dinner prep hour is my sanctuary. He is on duty, and entertains the kids while I get some much-needed quiet time to myself. This was a good time for me to put on a lighter talk or lesson, having my Evernote file open to take notes as needed while I chopped and stirred. But some of the more challenging classes I reserved for a quiet Sunday afternoon or evening after the kids had gone to bed. I admit that sitting down for an hour and a half lecture was often the very last thing I wanted to do, but once I’d done it, I was always so glad!
I have had to get creative to make time. I’ve listened to podcasts, audiobooks, and lectures while:
- washing dishes and staring out the window (a marble mortar makes a great amplifier for an iPhone, by the way)
- cooking dinner
- driving my kids 20-30 minutes to practices, field trips, the zoo, birthday parties
- putting my make-up on in the mornings
- pulling weeds
- scrubbing bathrooms, sweeping floors, vacuuming (this may result in hearing loss, due to the volume level required to hear over the vacuum!)
The benefit of this, for me, has been manifold.
- As a disciple: Digging deeply into the nature of human beings and what it means to be educated has been truly a spiritual awakening for me, has deepened my love for Christ, and has given me new depths of understanding of how He is the source of all Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. I cannot adequately put into words how learning about classical education and scholé has transformed my spiritual walk and given me so much life and joy!
- As a wife: It’s given me so many things to talk to my husband about. We’ve debated topics ranging from philosophical ideas like defining wisdom and virtue to educational priorities and spiritual formation for our kids. All kinds of theological implications have come up as a result of this study. I almost always narrate what I’ve learned from classes and lectures to him. Instead of the daily minutiae of small victories and challenges at home that I used to offer him at the end of the day, I bring life and ideas to our conversations because of the study I’ve done. I’ve seen him grow in admiration and confidence in what I’m doing with the kids as a result, and that is very affirming!
- As an example to my kids: When they see me in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and watching a discussion video on ClassicalU with Dr. Perrin, they see me being a student. I’m able to tell them, “Just like Dr. Perrin is teaching you Latin, he’s teaching me to be a better teacher.” To which they responded, “Wow, he must know everything!”
- As a facilitator of my kids’ education: Before this study, I felt like I could make pretty good choices about which curriculum to use. Now, I feel confident enough to set our own goals and make significant changes to curriculum to fit our goals. At this point, I even want to design our own course of study. ClassicalU courses have been so helpful for me in this. Listening to Joshua Gibbs on Teaching the Great Books, Wes Callihan on How to Teach History, and Robyn Burlew in Essentials of Effective Teaching, has given me so many wonderful ideas, and such freedom to set our own goals and priorities. I would never have gained the confidence to do that without these classes.
When I first began to study, I really felt like my brain was atrophied. I literally could not understand some of the things I read and heard. I felt so simple-minded and intimidated by the hard things I wanted to read. But when we recognize we are spiritually or physically weak, we don’t just give up and say, “Well, I’m too weak to make myself strong again. I’ll just stay weak.” No! We take baby steps and build up our strength with small challenges at first: a short walk two times a week, ten minutes of Bible reading a day. Over time, I built up stamina and endurance, and even a hunger and desire for more. I’m so surprised now to go back to books I picked up two years ago that were a riddle to me then, and they speak volumes to me now. I know many moms feel like this is impossible for them; their intellectual powers are just too far gone into the nursery rhymes of toddler-land. It may seem impossible, but we are created to love the Lord our God with all our minds! I encourage you to pick up that book, turn on a podcast, enroll in that class. Feed yourself as a disciple, wife, mother, educator. You’ll be so glad you did.
Megan Preedy is wife to Paul, mom to four kids, and director of Derby Scholé Community near Wichita, KS. After nearly a decade of missionary work in Asia, she now focuses on giving her kids a classical, scholé education while still craving adventurous travel and lots of good food from around the world.