Today is the end to a beginning. It is the kind of end where a senior in high school closes a certain book for the last time.
For several minutes I just watched this cursor flash. What do I think? Initially the thought is freedom, but no. Freedom ends where knowledge ends. Like I said it is the end to a beginning.
Seven years ago my mother made the best educational decision she ever has on behalf of her children. It actually began with the choice to home school.
I remember the UPS truck rolling into the drive way while the summer cicadas buzzed and the forests still played the role of babysitter for all of us. School rolled in on trucks and in cardboard boxes. They were filled with erasers and pencils, spiral bound notebooks and hard covered paperbacks, protractors for the older kids and clay for the younger kids (like me). The UPS driver would stifle a shocked smile and ask if I could carry my parcel as I staggered up the driveway with a box bigger than I was…such was my anticipation.
I remember my first math lesson. I remember what I learned. I remember the seat I sat in and the color of the sheet, yet somehow in the mind of a six year old I thought sitting in front of book day by day would be better this. Let’s just say it got old quick and the torture of watching birds fly free lured me.
Years passed and of course grades. My lessons of science had gone from experiments with cornstarch and water to memorizing flash cards and reading pages of history with type 10 font. By fourth grade I had met my greatest bully–those white blank cards slapped me in the face as if shouting “stupid!” I cried.
I laugh now because at the time I believed in my mind that I would never be capable of memorizing and now…today…I reflect on all the cards, papers, speeches and poems that I have stored away in the greatest filing cabinet ever designed, the mind.
This is where the story begins. It began with the greatest decision my mother ever blessed us with. We started Classical Conversations.
How did Classical Conversations influence me?
It is a single simple question with a multitude of complex answers. However, one reason stands out above all others, and it goes back to the flashcard bully. Seven years later I no longer lay on the ground blankly allowing that menace to stare me down. Classical Conversations fostered a love for learning. For two years I drilled and drilled. I drilled some more and re-drilled. I recited, listened, used hand motions and drilled again. I drilled until I knew no matter what subject, topic, or idea came my way I would know what I was talking about. As trivial as it seems, drilling changed my life. My mother’s choice changed my life.
The power of the mind is a real thing. It can be used to assist or destroy. Mother always said “when you say you can’t you are saying you won’t.” When in fourth grade I told myself I can’t, I was really saying I won’t. I drilled in my mind that I couldn’t memorize, but the truth is I wasn’t memorizing.
The first step to an education is indeed learning the grammar. How can someone have a conversation if he or she does not know what she is talking about? Knowing the facts sets the whole cycle in motion.
And now I reflect: Buried in the compartments of my mind are the 240 timeline cards of the world, the 434 vital facts of six foundational subjects, the 50 catechisms of science, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, Calvin Coolidge’s “Have faith in Massachusetts speech” and Martin Luther’s speech “I have a Dream.” The list goes on.
Going forward I know my years with Classical Conversations are over. I know it is the end but it is more a beginning.
In my discussion with many, graduation seems a burden lifted from books, desks, paper and pens. For me graduation is a reflection on UPS trucks, first math lessons, and even flashcards.
It is a time when we pause and see the mind stretched. It is a momentary breath in a vast abyss of knowledge. It is when we see with new eyes and say “hello world!”