Educational Philosophy

Order as an Educational Environment

May 27, 2008

As I have been considering my methods for school next year, I have realized that our necessary cornerstone must be order. At first, I believed this to be true because of Baby O.’s anticipated arrival. After all, we are beginning school early this year (July) for the purpose of getting ahead before the baby gets us behind.

Order as an Educational Environment

Because I have C-sections, I can say with relative certainty that, God willing, Baby O. will arrive during the official first week of public school. To stay on the government’s schedule will simply not do for this year. Not with my three to six weeks of recovery causing quite the interruption.

But about the idea of order, or orderliness: I think the whole idea of yet another newborn caused me to consider order the rock on which we stand. Being prepared, having a routine — these are the things that have gotten me through the adjustment periods each time.

And after we adjust, we relax.

But only a bit.

When chaos seeps into our house, even in small quantities, I can feel it. I feel it in my desire to be elsewhere — to escape the situation by leaving. I see it in the children’s restlessness. They don’t know what to do next, and they quickly deteriorate into doing something they ought not.

So instinctively, I have sought out order.

This is not to say that our home is perfect. Far from it! Beds are not always made, rooms are not always clean, and so on. However, there is still order in our day, beginning with the fact that we rise at the same time every week day. We eat breakfast at the same time. And the routine goes on from there. We do our chores, we begin our studies. There is a set time for play, for Baby Q.’s feeding, for lunch, and for nap. There is a time for everything, which means that most everything we need to do is accomplished without trying to figure it out each day.

These things do not enslave us. They are, rather, our way of life. We all take comfort in this fact. We relax in them, rather than in spite of them.

As I was reading through chapter five of Poetic Knowledge last night, I was surprised to find that order was emphasized. After all, when I think of the poetic, I think not necessarily of chaos, but definitely a certain lack of restraints. For instance, in my children, I would think not of my self-regimented oldest child, but rather my flighty, forgetful, sparkly second born.

To me, a bit of scatter-brain means the child is predisposed to the poetic.

But James Taylor would say that is all nonsense, I think.

In chapter five, he focuses on a school that existed in France in the 1940s that was, he explains, poetic in the medieval sense. The headmaster, André Charlier, had a habit of writing letters to the leaders among his students, whom he referred to as “captains.” In Charlier’s letters, we get a glimpse of a man who infuses his school with a gentle order.

This order is pervasive. It, like all things poetic, encompasses the whole. So the orderliness would mean not just a clean room, but a respect for authority and ease in discipline, as well as an appropriate manner of speaking and also spiritual order — an understanding of one’s place in Creation.

One of the things that struck me was that order on the outside (like the clean room) was reflective of order on the inside of the soul. Because the child was a whole person, all different avenues were seen as flowing together.

Order also promoted the common good within the school. Charlier wrote:

[Y]ou must be essentially creatures of a certain order. This order is necessary for every living soul in the house. Everything that you will do, even in the smallest of details, will do as much as anything to win the creation of this order.

He explains so beautifully that, “It is necessary to create conditions of life so that the soul can bloom.”

There it is! I thought. The key! The key!

This is why we instinctively avoid harsh structures that weighs us down like a millstone around the neck, while simultaneously shunning chaos and wild abandon. It is that quest for the “conditions of life” in which the soul can bloom.

So the order in our home should be fitting for the souls within its walls, I think. The work can be planned and performed with great joy, for, like a field of flowers, the souls are blooming all around. Order can be our delight. In it, the souls both old and new might revel and grow.

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