Honestly, who wants to read about work in the middle of summer? Summer is for reading in the hammock, sipping sweet tea under a ceiling fan, and feeling the juice of a homegrown tomato running down your chin. However, when I read that Albert Einstein once posited that there were three rules of work, I had to pause to consider his position. As I pondered, I realized that the genius was right and that these rules for work might well be rules for homeschooling, too. The rules are elementary and surprisingly easy to remember: out of clutter find simplicity, from discord find harmony, and in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
The first rule, “Out of clutter, find simplicity,” appeals to those who find themselves overwhelmed with the “stuff” of life. Maybe the “stuff” is a cache of curriculum that would rival a well stocked bookstore; maybe it is the accumulation of more manipulatives and hands-on science supplies than a junior high classroom holds. Perhaps it is a schedule packed with too many good “enrichment” opportunities. As homeschoolers we can spread ourselves too thin in the pursuit of the best education for our children, forgetting to keep the main objective the primary focus. As we go through the yearly task of organizing our school books and supplies, we should consider what is of foundational importance to us and “keep” only what advances our pursuit of those goals. Even beyond that consideration, we should strive toward simplicity in our methods, not burying the goal in busyness. As classical Christian educators we have a few prioritized objectives: recover the lost tools of learning as we raise thinkers who know God and are committed to making Him known throughout their lives. Out of the clutter, whether that is in our classroom or our calendar, let us find that which is simple and foundational to why we chose to homeschool.
The second rule, “From discord, find harmony,” resonates with those who are committed to integrated education. Just as notes in right relation to one another provide harmony musically, facts from seemingly disparate disciplines blend into true understanding of the universe in great classical education. Parents discouraged by trying to survey the plethora of subjects/courses available to their students should, instead, pursue mastery of a Christian worldview. The unifying principle behind those disciplines is that all subjects flow from God and help us to know Him in His fullness. Truly understanding the themes of literature opens our eyes to the cycles of history and enhances our appreciation of art and our grasp of science—and the God who created it all. Taken separately, the subjects appear disjointed and discordant; properly related they are a harmonious whole, truly both beautiful and good.
The third rule, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” encourages those who find the homeschooling path difficult at times. The truth is, most educational advancements come after times of wrestling with hard tasks. A stressed muscle gains strength; a stretched student gains knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. When an impasse has been reached, both the teacher and the student must fully engage to overcome the stalemate. The teacher is pressed to find new ways to explain and enlighten. The student is forced to engage and expand his way of thinking. Like a caterpillar struggling to escape the sheltering cocoon, the student must press ahead to achieve new growth and realize his potential. While we may find it hard to revel in times of difficulty, seeing such times as opportunities may make them more bearable.
Einstein’s “Three Rules of Work” seem simple, coming from a man who also gave us the Theory of Relativity! However, if we move to cut the clutter, find the harmony, and embrace the opportunities, the simplest ideas can have profound effects.