Wednesdays with Words: Teacher not Curriculum

I am going to, once again, attempt to join an online book club. To join a book club reading Norms and Nobility.


This time, though I’m reading with a group on the AO Forum led by Karen Glass.  The schedule is rather slow: one section – maybe two – per week – over the course of the next year. A long sustained schedule might break me, but I really really want to read it this time. The last time I tried, with Cindy Rollins, I got through just Chapter 1, but I say that book “de-deweyfied” my education major philosophy.  Likely more would be better.

My hope is that most of my Wednesdays with Words for the next year will be from Norms, so I hope you will be patient with me.

This week, we read the Preface to the 1990 Edition.

This isn’t so much a preface as an explanation of the reason for the book, a peek into why and what he has written, and some self-critique after more experience.

The first time I read this, I underlined the statement that I’m highlighting today, but I didn’t think on it too seriously:

So, I do believe – and I think Hicks believes – that the course of study is incredibly important and the way it’s put together matters.  Having a course of study that leads its students to act rightly – “… the end of education is not thinking; it is acting.” Hicks says on page vi – is of utmost importance, and a curriculum that ignores the norms of living, that ignores acting rightly, is not a curriculum that I can in good consscience place in front of my children.

But it matters, too, that I, the teacher, am a student.

A quote I love from Carolyn Weber’s Surprised by Oxford is:

“As I aimed to become a teacher, God made me a student. My spirit as a questioner does not affront Him; rather, it reflects Him, and honors Him, and pulls me toward Him.” 

I use that quote with my signature on education forums, but do I always believe it or practice it?
This is my goal for this reading of Norms. To Attend! to the call to be a student; to observe in Wonder, to do the Work of learning and questioning and seeking, to grow in Wisdom, to Worship God, and *Revel* in His creation, leading, instruction.  Huh. My Rule of Six. Funny.
One of the goals I put together for our 2017 Academic Year is to preread seriously and prepare for the coming week with the work I’m expecting of M-girl – Commonplace, Book of Centuries, Mapwork, all of it. But as the instructor, I need to do more – scaffold lessons, ask questions, seek more deeply.  My friend Celeste at Joyous Lessons has been inspiring me on Instagram this fall, and I’ve talked with Jason about changing these habits of mine.
I need to change the teacher.  
Will it happen all at once? Unlikely. The habit of years is hard to break. Does it need to change? Yes. And so I am going to make a concerted effort.
This quote from Hicks only reaffirms the direction I was already thinking. Modeling a love for learning, the processes of learning, the joy of learning for my children is not the goal.  It’s a side benefit. 

Actually loving learning, the process of learning, the joy of learning for myself is the goal. 

If you aim at earth you’ll lose it, but if you aim at a heaven, you get earth thrown in, eh?



  1. I'm interested in what you think about N&N. I've read it and found it challenging (and honestly, much of it probably went over my head) but edifying.

    But the latest article by Hicks in CIRCE made me want to never read him again. I honestly almost threw the magazine on the floor. But I didn't because, as a whole, I LOVE it. 😉

    Have you read it yet? Thoughts?

    1. What a fabulously true yet depressing article. His diagnosis seems spot on and the challenge is certainly challenging. That being said, ideas ebb and flow, it's time to push back on the side of eternity, nature, telos, and norms. I think his diagnosis is right, some prescriptive would have helped. In our own families we must work to establish them.

  2. I am also tentatively joining the AO book club. I have already read all of Part I and been processing it, so I'm hoping that will help me keep up. But I also get intimidated in really huge forums, so we'll see…Anyway, your quote about the teacher is definitely one of my "blues."

    1. Wow! I'm always impressed when someone reads N&N … I have a friend who powered through it this fall because she's thinking about homeschooling. More respect to her!

      What do you mean by "blues" … Kern's highlighting system, your own self-discouragement? Curious 🙂

  3. I'm so glad you're in for N&N too. I too have wanted to read it for years, but was a little too scared of it to tackle in on my own. I read the preface this weekend and excited to jump in. My biggest takeaway from the Preface already was similar to yours – that the teacher must first be a student. I've been wrestling a little bit with my homeschool motivation this past year, feeling kind of like it's all a big slog and like I'm on a slope to burning out, and stumbling across that idea of change needing to be first with the teacher and the teacher needing to first be a student was a big *aha*. I've let my own personal growth and self-education (book discussions and such) really slide this year too. I think I really need to re-evaluate my schedule and make sure that I'm allowing time for those things to avoid falling back into that slog in the new year.

    Ha. There I go. And the discussion doesn't even open until tomorrow. 😛 I'm a little excited, can you tell? 😀

    1. I hope it isn't a problem to post this today? I'm saving other parts for tomorrow … Hope I'm not breaking forum rules on the first go …

    2. Nah, you're fine. It's your blog and you can write what you want to. 😛 I think posting ahead of time is mostly a (unspoken) no-no with the more literary discussions for which no one wants spoilers, which doesn't really apply here. I just haven't had time to blog anything about this yet, so it's all just been rattling around in my head waiting for the conversation to start….and you just happened to start it. And your thoughts dovetailed mine. So, there it is. 😀

  4. I am joining the discussion group on AO as well! I am pretty excited about it. I haven't received my copy yet, so I haven't started. I love all the quotes in your post today. One of the things I love about homeschooling is that it has reopened the door to my own education. I now learn enthusiastically (most of the time) alongside my children and it is quite an experience.

    1. Ack! Blogger changed the way to approve comments and I lost track of this one! So sorry 🙂

      I keep contemplating the idea of self education after reading that. Enjoyng the discussion already and looking forward to continuing.

  5. I only just received my copy of N & N so haven't read the intro yet. Did trawl through a good amount of the forum comments but like Meghan, I find it rather overwhelming. I take so long to formulate my thinking that everyone else is way past where I am by the time I'm ready to write. I'll read the book and play catch up when I can.

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