I imagine that most of my readers know me personally and therefore know where my boys go to school, but since this is in fact the Internet, I do not mention this place by name. You know, just to be safe. However, I am struck as I read through Richard Foster’s chapter on the discipline of study how closely Foster’s ideas align with the educational philosophy of their little school.
The principal task of study is a perception into the reality of a given situation, encounter, book, etc. We can go through a major crisis, for example, without any perception of the real nature of the tragic situation. But if we carefully observe and reflect upon what occurred, we can learn a great deal.
Their school encourages careful observation and intentional reflection. Analytical questions are part of their everyday life, and there is little to no rote memorization. They are there to learn in a joyful environment, where wonder and awe at God’s creation are prevalent, where great stories are treasured, and where first-hand experiences and lively discussions leave no room for technology (by design there are no computers or televisions in the lower grades). They participate in Socratic seminar which teaches students to interact with one another, delving deep into books. As Foster says, “when we gather for discussion, debate and Socratic dialogue insights emerge that would never have come without this exchange. We interact with the author, we interact with each other, and new creative ideas are born.” I am privileged to sometimes facilitate seminar at their school and am blown away by the students’ insights.
Their school also has an abbreviated way of talking about Paul’s admonition to train our minds to think on worthwhile subjects. Paul said “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8 NASB). So what should you let yourself dwell on? Only things that are THRPLGEW: True, Honorable, Right, Pure, Lovely, Good Repute, Excellent, Worthy of praise. Pretty simple, but not always easy.
Foster also quotes a beautiful Dostoevsky excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov:
Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you begin to comprehend it better every day.
This is how I want my boys to study the world around them, and this is how I want to study. It’s a discipline, though, to be sure. Our high tech world and constant distractions are hardly conducive to careful observation and reflection. Like all these spiritual disciplines, we must be intentional.
I hope you’ll read Foster’s whole chapter on study because it is well worth your time. It has me inspired to study the Book of Isaiah in a more thoughtful and deliberate way in the coming months. If I’m disciplined about it, maybe that will lead to a new blog series.