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On education and setting the table.

We are about ready for #StephensAcademy 2020-2021. Even though we’ve done this for over a decade now, every year is a bit different with different ages and challenges and opportunities. This year, we will gather around our “morning time” table with a high schooler, middle schooler, elementary schooler, and preschooler. How do we do that?, people ask.

At the center of this room stands a table that NP and I bought used to furnish our first apartment. A lot of meals have been eaten around that table. It’s been a gathering place for years and years.

It seems fitting to have our old kitchen table in the schoolroom now, because education is a lot less like an assembly line and a lot more like spreading a feast. No one asks me how we possibly provide food for a family of six. The bigger the family, the more prep might be involved, it might take more time, some might need things cut up smaller or dietary needs taken into consideration. Not everyone likes the same foods to the same extent. But a family gathers around a table and shares the meal. Each one eats as much as his or her appetite demands, teenagers eating more than toddlers.

And so it is with education. Yes, each student has his or her own readings and math and specific needs. But much of our learning (our favorite parts, in fact) is together. Three year old TE will join us for the feast, at least for a few minutes a day. She will hear Scripture and poetry and music and she will begin to form habits and tastes for what is true and beautiful. We will read books that challenge and stretch us all; nine year old BW will digest less than his older siblings, but his mind is taking in what he needs and is ready for. Each will carry this mind-and-soul-filling nutrition into other parts of their learning and make their own connections that will cause their minds and hearts to grow just as their bodies grow at individual rates even when we share the same food.

What does preschool look like for T? It looks like play. And books. And beauty. What does high school look like for AG? Her course of study this year is rigorous and rich, reading books I didn’t even encounter in college. But we can still all sit at the table together to look at art and read poetry and listen to great music.

Family meals are important to us. And so is sharing this rich feast every day. My mouth is watering in anticipation, because it’s going to be good.


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