The Spiritual Education of Little JJ

31 10 2006

It was an open forum question posed to unschoolers; my response is among many to read at this link. (Something else Scott could mine for K-dad?)

“Just wondering how all of you go about facilitating your children finding their own path. FYI, I am writing this with a LOOONNG background (ie-all my life) of growing up with literal interpretation of the Bible, ask-Jesus-into-your-heart or you-will-go-to-hell fundamentalist Christianity. I am confused in my own heart . . .but am trying/seeking to practice a more liberal, less confining form of Christianity. . .”

JJ’s response, Dec 13 2005:
I’m thinking that apart from any doctrine or religion, the Sunday culture reflects how spirituality can shape individuals and communities . . .and maybe even unschooling paths? Growing up, I’d spend summers with my grandmother in a tiny town (still in the South but like another world to me) where spirituality was built right into the rhythm of life.

I absorbed it but not as a native – it was more like some exotic culture I was visiting, or an internship (is internship meant to be internalizing something and making it part of you? – never noticed that before)

It wasn’t just the regularly scheduled service every Sunday morning, but the big dinner with family at home and then putting it all away, doing the dishes and sitting around stuffed like post-Thanksgiving dinner, or else driving up the mountain for a family buffet at the one tourist place, and taking most of the afternoon to get home.

(To this day I hate mountain roads, especially after eating! What were they THINKING??)

We never did other church, like Wednesday evening suppers, and the pastor never came to our house. We weren’t “churchy” — and yet we were part of a social fabric that was very spiritual, not material. All through town and all through the week were church bells and funeral processions, personal visits to “those less fortunate,” who needed work or clothing or a sack of groceries, daily meditations in the big chair by the picture window, reading and playing LOTS of solitaire in increasingly creative ways, just to somehow pass the time quietly because nothing was open and everyone stayed home and tended to their own lives.

(Needless to say this was prior to the home computer. I finally got a transistor radio and thought music would be my teen escape, turns out the only AM station I could get was Read the rest of this entry »

UnSchool Gospel for Christian Dads

31 10 2006

At his invitation, I’ve been offering a little “unschooling” perspective to Scott Somerville’s new mission to creatively engage Christian dads in home education. My teen daughter is a comparative religion un-scholar. She read Bart Ehrman’s “Lost Scriptures” last spring and was so intrigued to learn of the early Infancy Gospel of Thomas that I’ve been seriously thinking of broaching it with Scott for “dad education.”

Sort of “Patrician, teach thyself?”

(That’s a pun, poor but sincere.)

My offbeat idea is that Christian dads could enlighten themselves with this material to offset the rigid left-brain control tendency of paternalism (in all religious dogma), the scary-absolute definitions about what “should” and shouldn’t happen, what children “should” be, do, and believe, what they should be taught, about sin and punishment, always failing each other and falling short of Christ’s perfection, and the meanings of Christ’s example for marriage and family and rearing of children.

This Infancy Gospel describes the early learning of the human Jesus as a boy in terms that sound more like a spontaneous, singular journey of self-discovery than daily school lessons delivering a canned curriculum built on a set of absolute and measurable standards, codes, high-stakes tests and trials by fire. His devoted parents and teachers are unable to deliver what he ultimately must discover for himself through imperfect childish experimentation, even some spectacular boyish mischief.

I’m not suggesting the message is that boys will be boys! 🙂

These parables offer more than that, by integrating Magic School Bus with Divine Miracle — humans take chances, get messy, and make mistakes traveling toward enlightenment.

So I’m suggesting this as a useful frame that might mean something to these particular dads — the Infancy Gospel of Thomas sounds like Unschooling for Schooled and Churched Dads, valuable perspective that could really help evangelical dads who do accept ancient teachings as divine rules for their own family life today, dads who obediently struggle every day in every way to make their children conform to the image of Jesus and thereby save their souls.

If from authority that they already accept and believe, they discover their own children between the ages of 5 and 12 are uncannily like the boy Jesus portrayed in these ancient stories, then they could understand unschooling as Christ-like, a sanctioned part of learning absolutely integral to human maturing. It might even help convict Christian dads that their children are perfectly on track to eventual godly goals in the very act of not accepting authority and school lessons dutifully?
The Whole Bible:
“. . . the young Christ displays all the precociousness, cleverness, and even destructiveness of the child-gods in pagan mythology. In the early passages of the story, Jesus shows a disturbing tendency to kill off his playmates when they displease him. He eventually learns to channel his divine abilities in more constructive ways and realizes his calling . . .”