A shocking alternative

I’ve been thinking a lot about education, lately.  It’s not surprising, considering that at the end of the year, I’ve done about half the school I should’ve done.  Oh well? Yes. Oh well.  There were so many other things that got done.  For instance, there was a a young Christian couple with two boys (22 month old and a 5 week old) who moved in from Colorado on Sunday, but found that the house they were going to rent was uninhabitable. On Craigs List, they found another rental, coincidentally owned by good friends of ours.  Even more of a coincidence, my brother and his wife rent the other half of the house.  They had to move in on Monday, so our friends called us up to ask if we would be available to help.  We skipped school that day, but had a wonderful fellowship time meeting this new couple (and their babies!) and helping them move in.  Oh no, I didn’t mind skipping school for that.  I’ve always liked homeschooling for that reason—the flexible schedule.  But it always worried me, because in my mind, if I had to give up school for the day to cook, or do laundry, or help paint the house or go do something somewhere else, that was a lost day of school. A day that I would have to make up for later.  These days added up, and when I looked at my schedule, I saw that I would have to be doing school all through the summer in order to catch up.

At this point, I am going into hysterics.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love school.  I love to learn.  But I also love summer, and I love to take the time to drink in the beauty of the summer days… to draw, or write, or just think.  School would eat up those delicious parts of the day that I just want to enjoy.

Unfortunately, I have this mindset… Must finish Algebra by the end of the summer.  Must finish General Science by the end of the summer.  Must finish Churchill.  Must finish… finish… finish. Oh, that word is everywhere in my mind, and I feel a great need to pound it out.  What’s the point in finishing? So I can graduate? And do what? Go to college? Maybe. Maybe not.  Even if I didn’t, what does graduation mean—the end of education? Oh good heavens, HELP!

I found that I was stuck in the mindset of: “Must finish.”  Even if I had to take days off during the school year, I “must finish.”  I can just see a tall, dark principle, with “Must Finish” written across his face.  And I sigh, and say to myself: “Even if I have to do the summer… even if I have to rush…”

WAIT! STOP! What was that word? “Rush”?  Everything I say is basically opposed to the rush of life.  I’m not saying I wish everybody was lazy… but if I rush my learning, will I learn? If I don’t do the what I call eat, digest, regurgitate with my school (i.e. read, think about it, and write about it) in order to really know what I’ve learned, what will that signify? I may graduate… but in five years, will I forget all of these beautiful things I’m learning now, just because I was running in the Must Finish program?


Well, I turn to the wisest of creatures on earth, who commonly goes by the name of “Mother.”  Everyone has one, and each Mother tends to have a good deal of wisdom based on experience and knowledge.  They know best, because they’ve seen and observed.  We don’t listen to them, sometimes, because we think that we know better… but of course, we haven’t had the experience.  My Mother is one of those very wise, patient mothers.  She knew my failings.  And she gave me this quote.

“True education is a kind of never ending story—a matter of continual
beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

(Thank you, Mr. Tolkien, I am now transferring you to my sidebar.)

Alright, so I’ve heard this sort of thing before.  But it really hit me this time.  I’m talking about the impact… Like when you get hit in the head with a 90 MPH fastball and you think: “OH!”  I don’t have to rush it.  If I want, I can do math over the summer, just to keep it in my head so I don’t forget, and I could do a little science, but I don’t have to rush it… even if I did it three days a week, what then?  Well, that would be fine.  So what if I don’t graduate when I’m 18? Is it really that big of a deal?  The world might think: “She is so behind.  She has no motivation.”  Well, maybe that’s true, sometimes, but sometimes the world doesn’t really matter.   Maybe I won’t even graduate!  What if I just went on reading, and learning, and writing, and studying?  What if there was no end to it?  Maybe the constraints to have such and such a paper finished by a set time will be gone, but that doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t stop gathering and analyzing information, it doesn’t mean that I stop learning. I will need many fresh starts, and new beginnings… but I will always be learning.  And I’m not talking about life in general, I’m talking about an intellectual education.  That, my friends, should never stop.  Think, write, read, feel.  I’ve been told it’s good for you.

Oh, Tolkien was so right.  There is no need to rush.  In fact, there’s need to soak in, to steep and rest in the information… to digest it, and regurgitate it. (But in a pleasant manner.)

And mother was so right.  Mother usually is.


7 thoughts on “A shocking alternative

  1. One never “finishes” learning. You may complete a stage or level, and that is what graduation is about. It is an official recognition that you have attained a certain degree of work and knowledge. That’s not to say one person is more intelligent with a degree than one without one, but in order to get through four years of college, you must show a baseline of work ethic and ingenuity. A degree signifies that to an an employer and to the world that you can think and act for yourself.

  2. Well written and nicely put, Ruby. I feel sad for those who stop learning.
    Nevertheless, what about Apostle Paul who wanted to “finish the race” set before him. Or Jesus, who said, “It is finished.”

  3. I love it Ruby. And when we do stop learning we are either dull or dead! Something I really appreciate about my 75 year old parents is that they are still learning and are not too proud to admit it. Perhaps that is another one of those qualities of a child that Jesus was speaking of when He talked about the faith of a child. Oh, that I might have the continued curiosity about the Truth of life that I like a child might seek it out with all I am for all the years God gives me. Thanks for sharing and reminding us that SCHOOL isn’t all there is about learning ! Happy summer !

  4. This is your principal speaking. What do you mean, you haven’t finished?!? And you did WHAT–TOOK MONDAY OFF IN THE NAME OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY??? I’ll not have it!! Get back to your cell and get back to work. As a punishment, you’ll only get half your allotment of bread and water. After you first make the bread, because we’re a homeschooling family, and that’s what we’re supposed to do.

    Seriously, though, my dear daughter, you have adequately expressed the tension of education, learning, and completion. The world does have to measure achievement, but the finished work of Christ notwithstanding (hard to compare even our best “filthy rags” to it), we might better not be to overly concerned with achievement for achievement’s sake, and compare education to an artist with his work. Paul Valery, French poet & essayist (get his picture up; he looks like Victor Borge), said this: “An artist never finishes; he merely abandons his work.” Anyone who “graduates” from something has without question left a monumental amount of information untouched; that is why our education is never complete. Even though a graduate degree or a grade is at best an arbitrary and subjective measurement, we do enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when we receive the same. But keep in mind the goal of true education–conforming to the image of, and glorifying the name of Jesus Christ. And the only truly principled Principal is God, who tests the heart and mind (Jer. 11:20). And He already said “it is finished.” I love you, dear daughter. Now back to work.

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