“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Song of the Sirens

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education
Chapter 1 (Part 2)

As we get to the later part of chapter 1 Caldecott quotes Simone Weil extensively. I am especially drawn to the idea that the 'subjects' are really sacraments. The idea of attention, which Charlotte Mason so deftly covers, is said by Weil and Caldecott to be important because 'waiting on truth' teaches us to 'wait on God'.  When we pray we give our attention to God.

What if we have no attention to give? 

That is a scary thought because I believe that is exactly what modernity is stealing from us. The Internet through our phones and devices is one giant siren call grabbing our attention and stealing it from us. For adults we do this with our eyes open but our children are being trained to be inattentive to everything from those around them, to the task at hand, to the road ahead. The results of texting and driving are just a metaphor for where they are heading.

As Caldecott says,"Sin is a misuse of freedom."

Perhaps the most important quote from the chapter is this:
"In the same way, we make our schools and homes inhospitable to the seed of faith by depriving our children of the experiences, the culture, and the language in which faith may be received and supported and nurtured."

Because we cannot beat the culture at its own game, we are compelled to enliven our children's minds using the liberal arts. We are compelled to tether our children to the things that really matter whenever possible.  Truth, beauty and goodness are our tools.

Every time your children play outside rather than play on the computer counts. It is a rope tying them to the mast against the song of the Sirens. Family meals are another tie that binds.

I would love to hear what you are doing to tether your children against the song of the Sirens.


  1. I think reading aloud is a big thing we do. Family prayers too.

    Even though Desiring the Kingdom was definitely not one of my favorite books, I really appreciated the questions raised because the point that really hit hard for me was that what we do does matter very much. The life of the mind and the life of the body and the life of the soul are inextricably bound together and the health (or lack thereof) of any one of the three will affect each of the others in turn. I think it's very important to use that understanding of the interconnectedness to fight against the Siren's song.

    I just got my copy of Beauty in the Word last week. I'm not very far in but already I'm writing all over and taking lots of notes. I look forward to your coming posts about it!

  2. We read aloud daily---scripture, fiction, non-fiction & poetry. We sing hymns together. We eat most meals as a family. We play outside, build with Legos, cook meals, do chores & pray. I feel very blessed be able to do these things with my children, and this post reminds me of the importance of pressing on. I hope that these seemingly small things have a great impact on my children's lives and allow them to really live and focus on what's important.

  3. Evening meal together with everyone who's at home - harder as they've gotten older with their other commitments but we still do it; Bible reading or occasionally another book aloud after we finish the meal. Now that 2 kids are married we have a family lunch once a month on a Sunday and in between we try and get as many as we can together to have coffee after church. Re: technology - texting has really helped me keep in regular touch with kids not at home. Just a quick note to ask how work is going or like last week my son texted me to say there was a partial eclipse that afternoon.

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  5. Reading and going for walks. I love this blog.

  6. I was up last night trying to work out a new schedule for my fourth grader. It seemed too much, even in my delirious tired state. After reading this post, I think I need to do some serious editing ;) Family meals are routine here, so are free afternoons to play, sew, draw, hike etc. Little to no television most weeks helps as well. My kids are still young so it is easier for us I suppose. What really stuck out to me is "Sin is a misuse of freedom." Oh that one hurts! I am pretty good at providing a good environment for me kids but can easily get sucked into wasting time online. Great post Cindy! So glad you are back.

  7. Great post. Thank you! Just this morning we had a young boy melt down in a class at church because he was "so hungry". When we mentioned this to his mother, she said, "Well, he was watching TV before church and was supposed to get his own breakfast. When I yelled that it was time to go, it was his fault for not eating before then." The little boy is 6 years old. We need more reminders that our young people cannot always turn off the screens and turn their faces away in their own strength. More family meals, more family reading, more play and conversations? Yes, please. Time limits on screens and media? For the children's sake, yes, please.

  8. I like to think that we've really Done Something around here, but I am increasingly not so sure that the most powerful things are the things we've done. I really think they are the things we've not done. It has gotten to where I can easily tell the difference between media-saturated children (those with lots of "screen time") and those without. It is more distinctive, especially in young (under 9) children than whether they were homeschooled (or not), read to (or not), fed homemade bread (or not), or whatever else I can think of that someone somewhere has told me was Important.

    All of that rambling nonsense was to say that I think deliberately keeping our children as screen-free as we possibly could was the best thing we ever did. We still do some of that other stuff, but in the children I encounter, the access to screens seems to make the most difference, at least in regard to how alive they seem, how interested in the world around them -- whether they are Noticers, or not.

  9. We bought a house with a view of the valley and the mountains in the distance, we sit after lunch outside and I read to them for an hour. Currently we are reading Little Britches, Father and I were ranchers, by ralph moody.
    Today was suppose to be my first "official day back" of schooling since we moved......we went blueberry picking with friends.

  10. We also have family worship after dinner. We just read through the bible, we are in Matthew, pray, and sing a hymn or psalm. "Blessed are those that are not offended by me." in Matthew 11 we ask the kids what stuck out.....the answers are always interesting.