What do you think of when you hear the word ‘wisdom’? Do we want our children to grow up in wisdom? Do we want them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, even if that means they will be wiser than we are? I hope the answer to these questions is yes.
My son felt as though he was behind in math at one point, so we decided—regrettably—to allow him to complete only the even problems in his Saxon book. We thought this would help him to progress through the lessons quicker, allowing him to finish one book so he could move on to the next with the rest of his Classical Conversations classmates.
We created further problems for him because we misunderstood wisdom. We thought wisdom was simply receiving information one time, practicing it a handful of times (as with the even problems), and moving on. Had we been correct, our willingness to allow him to skip problems in math would have had no repercussions. We were wrong.
If we had been correct, in fact, this fallacious theory would be true everywhere. We could read the Bible one time and understand all it has to say. We could examine a math concept one time, practice it another, and understand it. We could perform a biology or chemistry lab experiment one time, review the concept behind it, and understand it. We could read one of Shakespeare’s plays one time and understand all it has to say.
For better or for worse, wisdom does not work this way. First, wisdom is the result of knowledge and understanding. We must develop knowledge of the subject we are studying and knowledge is developed through the art of grammar, the memorization of facts and vocabulary related to the subject. We must then develop understanding of the subject we are studying. Understanding is developed through the art of dialectic, the processing of the facts and vocabulary related to the subject itself and in relationship to other subjects. Then, and only then, can we begin to approach wisdom.
Second, wisdom comes through the fear of the Lord and through having asked Him for it. God gives us wisdom; we must not forget this crucial step. As parents, we must be in prayer, asking God to bestow wisdom on our children. However, we must also teach them to ask God for wisdom.
As a result of my misunderstanding wisdom and treating the path to wisdom as a checklist, my son never really gained the understanding and confidence in math he so desperately needed. Fortunately, God is good and Mandala Fellowship is here to help him along. With Mandala Fellowship, he will spend a year soaking in mathematics, wrestling with numbers and concepts that I had allowed him to skip right over.
These are my thoughts when parents express dismay at having their child—who may be coming to Classical Conversations from a different homeschool curriculum, Christian school, or public school—redo certain levels of math or science, or reread certain books. I want them to understand it is okay. Completing biology or algebra, or reading Shakespeare or Homer are not one-time checklist accomplishments on the way to wisdom. These children will get to wrestle with familiar concepts at a whole new depth and understanding than their peers will.
When I read the entire Bible the first time, I was amazed. When I read through it the second time, I was amazed. When I read it through the third, fourth, and fifth times, I was shocked. Every time, it got better and better. Every time, I grew wiser and wiser. Every time, I knew God more and more deeply. We all acknowledge that the Bible is a far greater and more important book than anything else we might come across, be it Shakespeare, Homer, Apologia science, or Saxon math. What if, however, we learn from the Bible as we do, not because it is different and the only book we are supposed to learn from in that way, but because it is setting an example for us—it is teaching us through modeling how we are to learn always?
When I tutored Challenge III two years ago, the students were required to memorize the presidents in week two of the first semester. My son, who had never been through Foundations, crammed the night before our community day and successfully recited the presidents—although he faltered a time or two. His classmates, at least those who had been through Foundations, recited the presidents flawlessly without even thinking about it, much like you recite the alphabet or John 3:16. One of them was even able to recite the presidents in one breath!
Those children had wrestled with that information in such a way that they had obtained automaticity, and the information they know as a result of that is woven into the warp and woof of their minds—it has become wisdom for them. My son on the other hand, one week later, could no longer recite the presidents. He had crammed and dumped for the sake of the “test.” Math and science, Shakespeare and Homer, these are things I want my children to remember forever, to work into their lives so as to become wisdom for them. Rather than be dismayed at the repetition of these things, we should be overjoyed that our children will have the opportunity to wrestle with them one more time, and we should pray that, through this process, God will bestow wisdom upon them.