Wednesdays with Words: Meaningful and Ordered Universe

I have been reading Karen Glass’ book Consider This for quite a while now. I always seem to find exactly ideas at exactly the right time.

Brandy, of course, has been blogging through The Liberal Arts Tradition and she’s in the middle of what I found to be the most difficult section on the Quadrivium. I haven’t been commenting much, but I have been thinking about each post – they’ve been so very good.

In my 10 years of observing Classical and CM homeschoolers and home educators of other educational philosophies, we spend a lot of time talking about books and grammar and writing and Latin. And we stress about those and worry about those … but we are very conversant with them and love them. Many of us want to homeschool because we love history or books or writing or the Trivium.

Rarely, I read about those who homeschool because they love science. There are many homeschoolers who homeschool because of math, but out of fear not out of love. We are (rightly) afraid of Common Core math. We are afraid of Evolution. We think children must be STEM prepared. But never do people talk about their deep love of the beauty of mathematics.

So many homeschoolers do these beautiful things with the Trivium Liberal Arts and toss in some science and choose a math curriculum (or cycle through six) … oh, and don’t forget the piano lessons.
Glass talks about the beauty of the Quadrivium and the importance of appreciating it for itself:

The studies of the quadrivium should [progress toward that greater synthetic understanding of the world, which leads to wisdom] in their way–work together to provide a sharper, more precise understanding of the universe and the relationships in it. The connections between astronomy, geometry, music, and arithmetic are rarely appreciated or apprehended today, and probably never outside of purposeful study in the classical model, that is, synthetically. We have allowed utilitarian thinking to rob us of the awe and wonder afforded by mathematical relationships, which are impossible except in a meaningful and ordered universe. (Consider This, page 85)

Math has become completely utilitarian in our schools. Why learn math? to balance your checkbook, figure out how much paint you need for a room, for your employment some day.  I see that meme, “Another day and I still didn’t use Algebra.” (ugh.) We haven’t been able to capture the beauty, the elegance, the relationships in math as a general rule.  And I think that often extends to the other Quadrivium Arts. We don’t consider geometry beautiful. We only see the twinkling of the stars or the waxing and waning of the moon without seeing the deeper purposes and astronomical beauty of their dance across the night sky. For music, we hear the emotional side of a piece, we can be “moved” or “like it,” but most of us don’t comprehend the intricacies of the harmonies or the relationships between rhythm and notes.

I don’t really see or hear any of these things myself. I’m just as uneducated in the Quadrivium Arts.

I love how Glass offers us an alternative in Wonder and awe.  Starting to ask these questions. How is math beautiful? How does Algebra point us to what is true? What is a musical idea? What do the different musical forms mean? Why do certain stars appear at certain times of the year? Look at what the Lord has wrought for us!

Let’s let Wonder and awe allow us to reclaim the inheritance and love the Quadrivium as we haven’t before.

I’m going to participate in Write 31 Days starting tomorrow. I’m writing about Surviving Sports Seasons Sanely.  I hope it will be helpful – even to those of you who don’t do sports but have children in other activities. Because of Write 31 Days, I’m going to change up WwW slightly. Each Wednesday, I’ll publish a post with my blue square and a linky, but I won’t be adding content myself.  I hope you’ll still link in for the sake of those who enjoy clicking around and commenting.  I’ll be trying to do some of that as well.  I appreciate your participation more than you know! I do look forward to Wednesdays 🙂



  1. I absolutely love to the linking of math and musical education. Such a rich word. The podcast you shared at my place is all about this too! I haven't read the Glass book yet…mostly because I have no ties to the Classical Christian tradition. But maybe I should give it a go anyways?

    1. Well, the Quadrivium are arithmetic (numbers), geometry (numbers in space), music (numbers in time), and astronomy (numbers in space and time) … which I find both beautiful and daunting. The Glass book and The Liberal Arts Tradition have both helped and piled more ideas on.

      I think you should give Glass a go. You would love love love the chapter on "synthetic" instruction. It will open whole new worlds!

  2. This is all soooo over my head, but I love it just the same! Or I guess I should say I wish I knew more so that I could love it. I haven't read either book and have been wanting to, but not sure which one to start with.

    1. Start with Consider This. When you do The Liberal Arts Tradition, don't get bogged down in not understanding. Power through, read Brandy, try the book again. It isn't the easiest book, but if you apprehend the big picture, it'll help the next time.

      When I read The Abolition of Man by Lewis, it took me 4 reads of the first essay to think I was starting to understand.

      Finally, ask a lot of questions and seek out the answers. That will grow your understanding the fastest.

      Best to you!

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