In his popular talk, The Eight Principles of Classical Pedagogy, Dr. Perrin discusses eight principles that speak to how children learn and therefore how teachers should teach. By moving with the grain of how a student learns, the whole process of learning and teaching becomes more restful because we are working with, rather than against, the nature of learning and teaching. The eight principles serve as a guide for learning how we should teach, but also as a tool for assessing our Scholé Groups and ourselves as directors. We can compare what we are currently doing against the principles. As we notice where we are, we can then make a plan to get to where we want to be.
Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This is especially true for leaders. We set the tone for our groups and people. The beliefs and habits we hold affect our businesses, schools, and homeschools. I believe the eight principles of classical pedagogy offer guidance that can help us examine those beliefs and habits and discover where we can grow. As we grow, so will the homes, schools, and communities that we lead.
Festina Lente | Make Haste Slowly
The old Latin motto Festina Lente, “make haste slowly,” has a great lesson for us. The more work we have to do, the more frequently we have to drop our head upon our desk and wait a little for heavenly aid and love, and then press on with new strength. One hour baptized in the love of the Holy Ghost is worth ten battling against wind and tide without the heavenly life.” — A.B. Simpson, Days of Heaven Upon Earth: A Year Book of Scripture Texts & Living Truths
As classical educators and leaders, we have a tremendous work to do. It can be easy to see the vision and ideal of all that classical education could be and set out on a sprint. While this mindset is helpful for digging in and getting the work done, we often do not notice the circumstances of our lives or the lives of those we lead. Festina Lente is an invitation to pray, to ask for the Lord’s anointing on our work, to be mindful of the reality we live in, and to grow at the pace that honors that reality and allows scholé to flourish in our midst.
Multum Non-Multa | Much Not Many
In the Scholé Groups Director’s Handbook, we outline four essential elements of a Scholé Group. They are community, curriculum, pedagogy/principles, and practices. To grow as a Scholé Group, we must attend to all of these elements. Each group should reflect on these elements and ask how they are doing and make a plan for improving each element in their group. However, as Wendell Berry says, ‘A poem cannot be about everything.’ A year cannot be about everything. Multum non multa is an invitation to intentionally choose the few things you and your community will cultivate and do well, rather than attempting to do everything only halfway. Once your group has a basic structure in place, choose one element to focus on refining each year. You will be amazed at the energy that develops around this practice as the community comes together to achieve a common goal. Multum non multa returns us often to the basics, and each return yields greater depth and mastery. The sentiment is echoed in Christ’s words to Martha and embodies the idea of multum non multa. “She has discovered the one thing needful, and I will not take it from her.”
Repetitio Mater Memoriae | Repetition Is the Mother of Memory
We are doing a big and brave thing, my friends. We are studying and attempting to implement a kind of education that is ancient, beautiful, complex, but simple. Most of us are newly acquainted with this tradition, yet, we have the task of bringing it to life for our students and our children. How do we do that? I think there are some answers for us in the principle of repetitio mater memoriae, repetition is the mother of memory. The idea of memory is more than just memorizing a poem or a Bible verse. Memory is about knowing things by heart. Memory is about creating a storehouse of things we can draw on when most needed. I believe we already do this in life and parenting. How many of you have a phrase you say to your children so much that your children may complete the saying before you even finish it? Those statements are powerful. They come from a lesson we have learned that we want to pass down to our kids. Every time we use that statement in context with our children the emphasis is brought to the lesson yet again. For example, one such statement I say to myself whenever I am making changes for Paideia Fellowship is “Education is agrarian in nature.” When I first started Paideia Fellowship, Andrew Kern spoke those words to me, and I thought about them for a long time. The idea that education is like the work of farming or gardening gave me a form for thinking about our entire school. In a way, the idea has become a living metaphor for how we make decisions at Paideia. It was in the repetition of it that it really took root in me and my community. What are the mantras and statements of classical teaching and homeschool leadership? What are the phrases we can repeat to ourselves over and over again that communicate some greater truth and create a path our lives and minds can walk down each time we face a given situation?
Songs and Chants
Songs and chants come into the curriculum because we are trying to cause our students to honestly remember something. Songs and chants in its essence is a way of doing repetitio mater memoriae, multum non multa, and festina lente. The Middle Ages are full of chants, mantras, and the like. One helpful study for a homeschool leader would be to study these mantras, look them up, understand where they are coming from, and then commit them to memory. These may even become the mantras mentioned above. Write them on your wall, say them out loud, repeat them as much as possible. After all, we become what we behold. We behold with more than just our eyes. Singing, chanting, speaking, and listening is powerful ways of beholding, of holding things, ideas, and truths.
One of the things I hear from mothers and classical educators all the time is “I didn’t receive a classical education. How can I do this?” This is a legitimate question and one I can relate to. What I have learned as I wrestled through this question and grown as a teacher and leader is that teaching something causes me to learn it the most deeply. This is great news. Because embodied education is an invitation to embody what we are trying to teach in an artifact of some kind. If you are a student first, you are off to a powerful start in leading your students and children to wisdom and virtue. Embrace the student’s journey as your own. Maybe you are not studying the same books as your students. But if you are studying, wrestling with ideas, and growing as a person and a leader it will be visible. You will also have inside information about what it feels like to learn. This, my friend, is the foundation need to coach well. You become the artifact that your students behold.
Wonder and Curiosity
In lesson eight, Dr. Perrin tells about Josef Pieper and his thoughts on wonder. He says “Theoria can only exist to the extent that man has not become blind to the wondrous – the wonderful fact that something exists.” as classical educators and leaders, we have all sorts of theoretical things we study and listen to. All the principles and beautiful ideas. It can often feel like we are never learning anything practical. Wonder is the thing that ties theory to life. It puts shoes on philosophy and principles. David Hicks in his seminal work, Norms & Nobility talks about the classical spirit of inquiry and the central thing that makes classical education what it is. Wonder makes things real.
For the student, the educational virtues spring from the seven liberal arts. By practicing the skills taught within each art, these skills become virtues. In a way, everything we do and think about as classical educators centers around this task of cultivating virtue in our students. It is not only central to our task, it is our task. What can we learn from this concerning cultivating ourselves as leaders and teachers? Well, what are the virtues of leadership and teaching? How do we cultivate those virtues in ourselves? Sometimes we are so busy thinking about the activity of the student and the things the students need to become, we forget what we need to be. Charlotte Mason says education is an atmosphere, discipline, and a life. The virtues or skills of a teacher are stewarding the atmosphere, giving space and structure for discipline, and embodying life. Like a gardener stewards the land, so a teacher stewards the atmosphere of the classroom.
Schole and Contemplation
Schole and contemplation, or restful learning, is deep and transformative end to the work we do as students and teachers. It is powerful for students and creates a depth of experience that not much else can parallel. The idea of restful learning invites us as teachers and leaders to slow down and sit with an idea for a long time. My favorite way to do this by asking the question, What is your metaphor for education? This is the question I ask on the first day of almost every teacher training I do. We go around the room, and everyone shares their metaphor. If you are a director, this is very helpful because it gives you so much insight into where your teachers heads are at concerning what teaching is all about. It is also their foundation for what they believe the teacher’s role is and what they see as the student’s role. It will be equally insightful for you as you think about and become aware of your own assumptions and beliefs about education. Another way to use the metaphor example is to present a metaphor you would like to contemplate. For example, a garden and a gardener. You could sit and contemplate the idea. Ask: How is the garden like education? Who is the gardener? Who is the student in this metaphor? What are we growing? Who is doing the growing? Exercises like this are invaluable because they reveal what we really think about things. The most significant determiner of success as a leader is self-awareness, in order to become self-aware, we must slow down. How can you practice scholé and contemplation to grow as a leader this year?
Join the Discussion!
Come on over to the Scholé Groups Directors Forum to talk with other home educators about Using the Eight Principles of Classical Pedagogy to Grow as a Leader. We’ll see you there! If you have not registered for the conversation at Classical U Forum yet, it’s a simple (and FREE!) process. You’ll find other classical educators discussing a wide variety of topics, plus a dedicated set of forums for Scholé Groups. We’d love to have you join in!