Tuesday, July 07, 2009


What is the role of compulsion in our home, in our unschooling?

I vacillate, I dither, on this topic.

On the one hand, I have certain expectations. Mass, prayers, we all pitch in and do chores, some Maths, Religion reading, Latin, other activities, writing, reading, and so on, as they come up. A positive attitude. No mean-ness.

On the other hand, I like the idea of interest driven learning, of learning what interests one ~ as I see that this learning sticks, I like the idea of making everything count - hence, our Michael Jackson CD is part of our table and educational strewing.

Because a freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of knowledge of any kind. Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

This quote, from Plato, has a ring of truth. Anthony remembers far more of the ancient language Arkadian and of ancient history ( his current loves, learning acquired without compulsion) than he does from his weekly French class.

And yet, and yet, when I asked Anthony to do some work as a follow up to recent visits and outings ( to the Sydney Aquarium and the Sydney Museum), well, Anthony became interested while completing the work, especially interested in the original source material, and he shared his interest with me.

My compulsion of activity and of acqusition of knowledge in a schooly way did not preclude an interest in the topic and did not exclude any learning. If my asking him to do some research and writing, and his easy compliance in between reading and rpgs and computer games, can be called compulsion, that is.

Com*pul"sion\, n. [L. compulsio. See Compel.] The act of compelling, or the state of being compelled; the act of driving or urging by force or by physical or moral constraint; subjection to force.

I don't drive or urge by force or moral constraint...I usually ask and someone complies. If not, we talk. Or I give in. Or I say suck it up and do it anyway!

I push myself. I compel myself to do things, things that I feel are good but that my lazy nature doesn't want to do. Phone calls for work today. A workout I dread last Friday and Saturday.

Can my kids develop that same personal sense of compulsion? To do what is right, what should be done, even if it is hard or not what you want..for now. What is my role in this, in my vocation as a parent?

I continue to sometimes compel and sometimes be laissez-faire..and to dither on this whole topic.
Do not think I am sitting here to pass the time away telling you that religious life is poetry. It is the roughest kind of prose. - Justina Reilly, IHM Quote from the blog A Nun's Life
Sometimes, life is sheer poetry. Invigorating, rhythmic, free, full of awe, connected.
Sometimes life is prose. Or worse, plain unedited prose. Dry. No hooks. No superlatives. No haunting dreams or phrases.
How do I help my kids live through those times of uncompromising plain verse? With faith and prayer and the sacraments, for sure. By example, definitely. By loving and living the high moments, the sonnets.
And by preparation of will and self discipline... through the liturgical year, in times of penance.. through the sacrament of reconciliation... through the natural practice of virtues necessary in family life...and through the occasional compulsion, expectation, have-to?


Cay Gibson said...

I love the quotes you find, Leonie.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Stephanie said...

"and through the occasional compulsion, expectation, have-to?"

Yeah. Just exactly like that. I vacillate and dither on this point as well, and I think that I was raised with too much compulsion. A very little outer compulsion felt to me like an enormous amount of inner compulsion, and altogether it is as if I grew up in a back brace.

Now I do not have a backbone nearly as strong as the ones my children got from our years of "benign neglect" (our wry phrase for our determination to have compulsion be occasional).

Don't you think that's how God does it with us? I do. The will necessary for the creation of a habit which is necessary for the formation of the soul - that will has to have a chance to stand up on its own, right? (Good post - again - Leonie. Thanks.)

Leonie said...

Stephanie, I think you make a great point when you talk about the will being given a chance to stand up on its own. Charlotte Mason said a very similar thing - that we need to give chiuldren the opportunity to exercise their will, their formed conscience, to choose what is right.

I sometimes think I am on the right track here..and other times, I worry that I am doing my children a disservice by notbeing a more forceful parent, by not doing more formal schoolwork. They do some; they learn a lot on their own; are they learning self discipline?

Sarah said...

Hmmmm... I've been pondering this myself lately. Continuing to think on it, and will chime in on your thread at 4Real. :)