So, we’ve finally finished Desiring the Kingdom. (Actually if you really want to know, I finished it over a month ago because I was chomping at the bit to move on to something else. J) It’s been an interesting journey, to say the least. I had high hopes for this book since I think Smith raises some crucial questions…questions that everyone really ought to consider whether or not they are involved in the field of education. Considering the whole person and how our habits and practices affect our whole person is important. For parents and teachers, considering not only the content but also the method of our instruction and the message that sends to our students is important. Unfortunately, the book fell a little flat for me. I didn’t particularly care for Smith’s writing style, nor did I agree with him in many places, especially on some points of theology. I can’t say that I would recommend the book especially given that there are other resources out there that are more helpful and more encouraging to help us to explore similar ideas. Nevertheless, I can say that I’m glad that I went ahead and finished the whole thing. Here are a few thoughts that I am taking away from this study:
This was the first time that I’ve participated in an online, blog-based book study like this and I appreciated the format – I think especially because this turned out to be a challenging book that was a bit of a slog at points. I appreciated being able to bounce thoughts and ideas off of others who were wrestling with the same points and being able to hear their take on them. It also provided the accountability that I needed to finish to the end – I may not have otherwise. So thanks, ladies, for making this a rewarding experience even though the book itself was a bit disappointing.
I came away from this book with the sense that I need to go back and soak myself in Charlotte Mason for a while. Many of the positive points made in this book echoed her ideas very strongly, only she said them better. J I have the sense that if we want to practice the kind of education that Smith is proposing, following CM principles gives us a good road map for doing so. Time to get back to the roots.
I have found myself considering more seriously the role of practices in formation – the fact that sometimes even the littlest, most benign practices can have a tremendous shaping influence. That our method of education says as much or more as the content of our lessons. We’ve already made some tweaks to the way we do things around here, and I’m sure there will be more to come.
One idea that wasn’t ever mentioned in the book, but that I came to realize as we’ve considered these ideas over the past couple months is that routines give us a framework to hang habit development and character training from. I mentioned here how we made some adjustments to our evening routine and how that has made working on smaller habits like table manners, cleaning up quickly and cheerfully, and so on much more manageable. Chaos is more controlled, and the opportunity to practice these habits are naturally built into the day. I don’t do well with character/habit training treated as a special project or school subject - the opportunity to work on habits really needs to be ingrained in our day if it’s going to have any kind of sustainability around here. I’m playing around with our morning routine now to see how we can make similar adjustments there.
Another idea I’ve found myself thinking about a lot is the idea of counter-formation. If we want our children (or our students or ourselves) to be able to resist being formed by the negative ‘liturgies’ of secular culture, it’s not enough to tell them what not to do or remove their exposure to those things. (Besides – no matter how much we try to shelter our kids, we can’t protect them from everything, and someday they will grow up and it will no longer be our job to shelter them anyhow.) It’s important to fill the gap made by those things with something better – something that will have a “counter-formational” effect. Charlotte Mason talks about replacing bad habits with good ones, and I’m beginning to think that perhaps this principle can apply to ideas and influences as well.
And that’s all folks. J