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Beauty in the Word – Introduction

Beauty in the Word – Introduction

beauty_in_the_word_covStratford Caldecott’s book Beauty in the Word claims to rethink the foundations of education: a lofty goal, and, if successful, an important book. He aims to “make an effort to understand the elements and assumptions that make a good education possible” (7).

He begins by preaching to the choir:

“The gravest threat our civilization faces is…philosophical. It is the widespread belief that there is no objective truth and no ‘true’ way of considering the world and its history, only a plurality of subjective points of view, each point of view being of equal value and deserving equal respect” (7).

The fundamental flaw in education today is relativism; if there’s no knowable truth, how can we study the world around us with any real enthusiasm or ultimate aim?  With no truth, it’s no wonder education today is overly pragmatic, built to help its students get along better materially in the world, without a care for the student’s soul.  Oh, surely, psychologists and bureaucrats have plenty of concern for the student’s emotional well-being, in a fragmented, methodical way—after all, we certainly don’t need another school shooting perpetrated by a crazed, unbalanced student—but the soul?  The integration of the person as a whole?  The cultivation of wisdom? Education must treat the whole person with deference to a knowable truth; this argument is nothing new to classical or many Christian educators.

Caldecott devotes a significant portion of his introduction to the “Specific Mission of a Catholic School,” and how such schools might be viewed by or useful to unbelievers. Though I agree that the mission of a Catholic or Christian school is in large part to spread the Gospel to unbelievers, what Caldecott has to say about the Incarnation, I believe, is at the heart of any Christian education:

The news of the Incarnation is not some piece of information that, once communicated, can be filed away, and which changes nothing. If true, it changes everything. It reveals the meaning and purpose of life, and this releases the floodgates of human creativity (14).

The Gospel cannot just be an addition to an otherwise secular curriculum. It informs all of human life: how one relates to God, self, others, and the natural world.

Christ frees us not only from sin, but the believer’s intellectual inquiry is also freed by Him. We’re set free to explore our world through science, history, technology, philosophy, or whatever specific gifts or interests God’s given us because we know we can depend on the God who created it all. In His infinite wisdom and with His holy purpose, He set the planets in motion, created the complexity and beauty which surround us, and cares for humanity throughout the progression of history.

This is such freeing knowledge to have as compared to an evolutionary, agnostic, atheistic, or secular mindset which places Chance as the ultimate authority. If we’re all just here through natural selection, there is no place for meaning. There is no significance to our lives or to the lives of anything living that surround us, other than to be a cog in the enormous wheel of evolutionary progress—we’ll just die, and statistically have next-to-zero chance of making any kind of impact on the future of our world.

So for Caldecott, “[Education] is about how we become more human (and therefore more free, in the truest sense of that word)” (11). We shall see in later chapters the kind of education he lays out to accomplish this. I’ll end abruptly here, though Caldecott’s introduction is much richer than the few ideas I’ve commented upon thus-far.

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.


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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

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  • Morning Time Details! E. (12), S. (almost 8), and L. (6). Our Morning Time morphs as the kids grow and change. It usually includes a combination of memory work and reading aloud. We try to cover a WHOLE LOT of things: Shakespeare, Bible, poetry, catechism, hymns, timeline, art study, composer study, and Ambleside selections for nature study, tales, and church history. This term I’m adding Plutarch.
The hard part is figuring out where I want to aim, with the 5-year gap between E. and S., and then L. being a newbie to full-on school. Having moved twice in 2019, I nixed MT and just focused on individual work. That came with costs. Shakespeare, Plutarch, art study, and composer study suffered. Memory work barely happened at all. I was BUSY. We missed out on discussing things together. Now that we’re settled, it’s time to restart MT.
This term I’ve decided to aim Shakespeare and Plutarch at the oldest, while the girls listen in and do handwriting/drawing/fine motor. I won’t ask them for much narration. Our reading schedule for these is AMBITIOUS. Maybe crazy. Then we’ll do all the memory & read aloud stuff that suits everyone. These lessons are SHORT. Then E. will go do his individual work while I read aloud w/ just the girls.
Also, “Morning Time” is a misnomer, considering we break it up throughout the day. It should really be called Morning/Lunch/Nap Time. I need a new name. Circle Time? Except we don’t sit in a circle. Together school? Except we’re together doing school all day. I don’t think English has the word I’m looking for. Maybe Tertulia or Salon?
Our actual coursework is: the Scottish Play, Plutarch is Alexander the Great’s life, our artist is Gustave Courbet, composer is Paganini, Bible memory is Psalm 46, Hymn is Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, read alouds will rotate from Burgess Bird Book, Trial and Triumph, Blue Fairy Book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Vanderbeekers, & picture books. Timeline is from Classical Conversations. Poems are Charge of the Light Brigade, Winter Night by Teasdale, and The Land of Nod.
Whew! It’s gonna be a fun term! What do you guys do for Morning Time?
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#homeschool #charlottemasonirl #homecookedmeals #livingbooks
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