“In his popular talk, The Eight Principles of Classical Pedagogy, Dr. Perrin discusses eight principles that speak to how children learn and therefore how teachers should teach. By moving with the grain of how a student learns, the whole process of learning and teaching becomes more restful because we are working with, rather than against, the nature of learning and teaching. The eight principles serve as a guide for learning how we should teach, but also as a tool for assessing our Scholé Groups and ourselves as directors. We can compare what we are currently doing against the principles. As we notice where we are, we can then make a plan to get to where we want to be.
Festina Lente | Make Haste Slowly
The old Latin motto Festina Lente, “make haste slowly,” has a great lesson for us. The more work we have to do, the more frequently we have to drop our head upon our desk and wait a little for heavenly aid and love, and then press on with new strength. One hour baptized in the love of the Holy Ghost is worth ten battling against wind and tide without the heavenly life.” — A.B. Simpson, Days of Heaven Upon Earth: A Year Book of Scripture Texts & Living Truths
As classical educators and leaders, we have a tremendous work to do. It can be easy to see the vision and ideal of all that classical education could be and set out on a sprint. While this mindset helps dig in and get the work done, we often do not notice the circumstances of our lives or the lives of those we lead. Festina Lente is an invitation to pray, to ask for the Lord’s anointing on our work, to be mindful of the reality we live in, and to grow at the pace that honors that reality and allows scholé to flourish in our midst.
Multum Non-Multa | Much Not Many
Every great leader is acutely aware of their shortcomings and how much they fall short. They can see all the places they need to grow. However, if we burden ourselves with the belief that we have to “fix” everything now to be called a good leader, we will create a leadership practice that renders us ineffective. Instead, choose the depth of “multum” over the breadth of “multa” Assess what area you want to focus on developing in your teaching practice and school leadership. Then choose that one thing and go deep. Let it be your primary growth focus for the year. Wendell Berry says, ‘A poem cannot be about everything.’ A year cannot be about everything. Multum non multa is an invitation to intentionally choose the few things you and your community will cultivate and do well, rather than attempting to do everything only halfway. You will be amazed at the energy that develops around this practice. Multum non multa returns us to the basics, and each return yields greater depth and mastery. The sentiment is echoed in Christ’s words to Martha and embodies the idea of multum non multa. “She has discovered the one thing needful, and I will not take it from her.”
Repetitio Mater Memoriae | Repetition Is the Mother of Memory
We are doing a big and brave thing, my friends. We are studying and attempting to implement a kind of education that is ancient, beautiful, complex, but simple. Most of us are newly acquainted with this tradition, yet, we have the task of bringing it to life for our students and our children. How do we do that? I think there are some answers for us in the principle of repetitio mater memoriae, repetition is the mother of memory. The idea of memory is more than just memorizing a poem or a Bible verse. Memory is about knowing things by heart. Memory is about creating a storehouse of things we can draw on when most needed. I believe we already do this in life and parenting. How many of you have a phrase you say to your children so much that your children may complete the saying before you even finish it? Those statements are powerful. They come from a lesson we have learned that we want to pass down to our kids. Every time we use that statement in context with our children, the emphasis is brought to the lesson yet again. For example, one such statement I say to myself whenever I am making changes for Paideia Academics is, “Education is agrarian in nature.” When I first started Paideia Academics, Andrew Kern spoke those words to me, and I thought about them for a long time. The idea that education is like the work of farming or gardening gave me a form for thinking about our entire school. In a way, the idea has become a living metaphor for how we make decisions at Paideia. It was in the repetition of it that it really took root in my community and me. What are the mantras and statements of classical teaching and leadership? What are the phrases we can repeat to ourselves over and over again that communicate some greater truth and create a path our lives and minds can walk down each time we face a given situation?
Songs and Chants
Songs and chants come into the curriculum because we are trying to cause our students to remember something honestly. Songs and chants, in its essence, is a way of doing repetitio mater memoriae, multum non multa, and festina lente. The Middle Ages are full of chants, mantras, and the like. One helpful study for a homeschool leader would be to study these mantras, look them up, understand where they are coming from, and then commit them to memory. These may even become the mantras mentioned above. Write them on your wall, say them out loud, and repeat them as much as possible. After all, we become what we behold. We behold with more than just our eyes. Singing, chanting, speaking, and listening are powerful ways of beholding, of holding things, ideas, and truths.
One of the things I hear from classical educators all the time is, “I didn’t receive a classical education. How can I do this?” This is a legitimate question and one I can relate to. What I have learned as I wrestled through this question and grown as a teacher and leader is that teaching something causes me to learn it the most deeply. This is great news. Because embodied education is an invitation to embody what we are trying to teach in an artifact of some kind. If you are a student first, you are off to a powerful start in leading your students and children to wisdom and virtue. Embrace the student’s journey as your own. Maybe you are not studying the same books as your students. But if you are studying, wrestling with ideas, and growing as a person and a leader, it will be visible. You will also have inside information about what it feels like to learn. This, my friend, is the foundation needed to become a master coach. You become the artifact that your students behold.
Wonder and Curiosity
In lesson eight, Dr. Perrin tells about Josef Pieper and his thoughts on wonder. He says, “Theoria can only exist to the extent that man has not become blind to the wondrous – the wonderful fact that something exists.” as classical educators and leaders, we have all sorts of theoretical things we study and listen to. All the principles and beautiful ideas. It can often feel like we are never learning anything practical. Wonder is the thing that ties theory to life. It puts shoes on philosophy and principles. David Hicks, in his seminal work, Norms & Nobility, talks about the classical spirit of inquiry and the central thing that makes classical education what it is. Wonder makes things real.
For the student, the educational virtues spring from the seven liberal arts. By practicing the skills taught within each art, these skills become virtues. In a way, everything we do and think about as classical educators centers around this task of cultivating virtue in our students. It is not only central to our task; it is our task. What can we learn from this concerning cultivating ourselves as leaders and teachers? Well, what are the virtues of leadership and teaching? How do we cultivate those virtues in ourselves? Sometimes we are so busy thinking about the activity of the student and the things the students need to become that we forget what we need to be. Charlotte Mason says education is an atmosphere, discipline, and a life. The virtues or skills of a teacher are stewarding the atmosphere, giving space and structure for discipline, and embodying life. Like a gardener stewards the land, so a teacher stewards the atmosphere of the classroom.
Schole and Contemplation
Schole and contemplation, or restful learning, is a deep and transformative end to our work as students and teachers. It is powerful for students and creates a depth of experience that not much else can parallel. The idea of restful learning invites us as teachers and leaders to slow down and sit with an idea for a long time. My favorite way to do this is by asking what your metaphor for education is. This is the question I ask on the first day of almost every teacher training I do. We go around the room, and everyone shares their metaphor. If you are a director or administrator, this is very helpful because it gives you so much insight into where your teachers’ heads are at concerning what teaching is all about. It is also their foundation for what they believe the teacher’s role is and what they see as the student’s role. It will be equally insightful for you as you think about and become aware of your own assumptions and beliefs about education. Another way to use the metaphor example is to present a metaphor you would like to contemplate. For example, a garden and a gardener. You could sit and contemplate the idea. Ask: How is the garden like education? Who is the gardener? Who is the student in this metaphor? What are we growing? Who is doing the growing? Exercises like this are invaluable because they reveal what we really think about things. The most significant determiner of success as a leader is self-awareness, to become self-aware, we must slow down. How can you practice scholé and contemplation to grow as a leader this year?