31 Jan 2012

What are your gaps?

On what does Fulness of Living depend? - What is education after all? An answer lies in the phrase - Education is the Science of Relations. What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future - with all above us and all about us - and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.

Charlotte Mason School Education p 186
It may come as a surprise to some of you that I have some rather serious gaps in my education. I have never studied politics, for example. Nor economics. If I am at a dinner party and the conversation turns to one of these topics, then I am going to appear rather dilly.

But wait - there's more. I have never studied European history, American History, Asian History, Geology, Geography, Home Economics, Woodwork, Graphics, Anthropology, Art History or Spanish either.

Until I started homeschooling my daughter, I had read only two of the Newbery winners - A Wheel on the School and A Wrinkle in Time. I have never read Mark Twain, Proust, Tolstoy, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, or Gone with the Wind.

So it may appear that I had a pretty poor education, but I didn't. I studied Ancient Greek and Latin and Classical history and literature with the most amazing Classics Teacher, Mr Keary. Mr 'Kiwibus' loved his subject, and it showed. And in the process we loved the subject too.

I studied Music with Mr Newnham. Hartley, we called him. He was a countertenor, and remains one of Australia's finest singers. He had a special interest in mediaeval music, and our choir sang baroque and renaissance compositions, often accompanied by his incredible countertenor, or equally beautiful bass (yes, truly. What a range.) To have been taught Voice by this man was a great privilege.

I was taught folk music, poetry and Beowulf by Danny Spooner. His repertoire of songs and his passion for folk music was extraordinary. He'd been everywhere, and done everything. Amazing, he was.

I learned other things as well. As well as Homer in Latin and Beowulf in Old English, I read Machiavelli, All The King's Men, Thomas Hardy, Graham Greene, Shakespeare, and lots of other great books and authors. We memorised John Donne, Browning and Coleridge.

When I went to uni I studied maths and psychology and chemistry and physiology and anatomy and biochemistry and genetics. Lots of biochemistry, lots of genetics. I majored in human genetics and the copper deficiency that results in Menkes Disease.

So I had a really good education. With lots and lots of gaps.

Wanna know something else terrible? I've forgotten most of what I did learn at school. I know I read All the King's Men, because it still sits on my shelves, but I can't remember the plot. I studied this book for a whole term, and I can remember almost nothing about it. I can still quote long chunks of Xanadu, but where has The Sunne Rising gone, busie old foole that he is? And don't get me started on maths - and I studied that one in uni, remember?

There you are. Gaps on top of gaps.

It comes as somewhat of a relief, then, to be able to say that I know considerably more today than I did that day that I stood in Wilson Hall with a black academic gown upon my shoulders and my new degree in my hands. It is relieving to me, anyhow.

Since I left uni, I have started to fill in the missing bits. I started to travel. To Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Slowly but surely, the Geography gap started to fill and the map began to draw itself. I became interested in South East Asian Textiles. Hey Presto - a gap that I didn't even know existed was gone. I learned Indonesian, studied French, picked up some phrases in Arabic and Chinese and Bhutanese and Italian. I studied Thai Cooking in Bangkok and Indonesian cooking in Bali.

Since becoming interested in home education I've read extensively on Charlotte Mason and educational philosophies. AO has taught me history in a way that connects it all together in my mind.

As my faith has grown I've read the Bible through. I've studied books and chapters in depth and read commentaries to learn what others believe. I've learned more about what makes me a Reformed Christian, through the history of the Reformation.

I've been able to learn all of this because back at school I was taught how to learn. I was inspired to know more. And you know, this knowledge that I learned as an adult isn't disappearing nearly as quickly because it is useful to me. I use it all the time. I build on it through experiences, and through my every day life.

Charlotte Mason believed that education was a 'Science of Relations' - a series of relationships between pieces of information that are formed by the child himself. When a child - or an adult has an intimate relationship with a piece of information - when it is useful, then it will not be forgotten. And from that foundation, a whole web of interconnecting pieces of information will be built, one on top of the other. When I became interested in Asian textiles, I also learned about the people of the Hill Tribes. I learned about natural dyes. I learned about their culture and traditions. I learned how they lived, what they believed, what they ate. All was - and continues to be - extremely interesting to me.

There will be many gaps in Jemimah's education. No matter what I am able to teach her, no matter how many relationships she forms, there will always be more to know. The important thing for me, is to engender a love of learning in my daughter. To teach her how to learn. To ensure that the initial assumption or idea is sound and that it is a good foundation for building upon.

I hope Jemimah always wants to learn more about what interests her. I want her to continue her education throughout her life, and I want her to love doing so. And I am going to continue to fill those gaps in my own education. I want to know more about textiles, more about education, more about God.

The gaps will never be filled completely. There will always be more to learn. And I, for one, am glad.

What were the gaps in your education? Do you regret them? Are you filling them now? Do tell. It has been quiet around here recently, and I'm missing our conversations.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.

Oscar Wilde


  1. I adore countertenors! My favourite voice sound ~ & that was one of my gaps. My musical knowledge was almost zero until Star came along. My math knowledge is still almost zero~ but I use almost none of it. What I use I retain. [I have a confession...*sssh* Star was doing her pre~term math testing this morning & the sight of all those figures & numbers made me so physically ill I had to walk away. Star is still laughing!] I have a degree in English lit but there are hordes of classics I have never read. I minored in art & drama but there are artists I've never heard of, plays I've neither read nor seen performed. My historical knowledge is hysterical. I have esoteric knowledge & huge gaps in the mundane. Does it matter? Nope. I know how to find out what I want to know ~ & so does my ditzy Star. That is more than some kids leave school with.

  2. I have far too many gaps to list here. Your blog page isn't long enough. I didn't receive a very liberal education as a student. Some of them (the gaps) I have filled in and continue to, others I'm not so fussed about.

    I'm happy in my own skin and where the Lord has me and is using me. However, I wanted more for my children, hence my own version of a liberal education. ;)

  3. Ah, gaps...yep I've got plenty! :) Maths is one, not surprisingly! I am actually learning algebra along side my 13 year old and almost enjoying it, but I doubt this gap will ever be properly filled. I hold a degree in education, with majors in History and Geography, and yet guess what - I have trouble locating some countries on the globe. I'm getting better though, thanks to home schooling. So there you go. I've forgotten quite a lot of what I studied at school too, although I notice that my brain still recalls German words and phrases, usually when I'm trying to learn Spanish or French! :) Funny that. Mel x

  4. Jeanne

    so thought provoking, the best post I've ever read on the subject of gaps!!

    well my strengths are in the Arts; history, literature, English (I'm sure no news to you;) my gaps are in the sciences, fortunately for our children my husband's strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa.

    Yesterday I was talking to dh about what makes a person educated. My definition is the ability to think and to reason. So if you have those abilities then a gap will be tackled when needed.

  5. This is an amazing post. I love it! I'm going to print it out and put it in my encouragement file for when I'm feeling anxious about those gaps.

  6. The more you talked, the more I realized how many gaps I have. Around you, I would have to just sit and listen on most topics. :) I had a very poor public school education in a small high school, and even though I went to a state university, I still didn't learn much or have any of those passionate, life-changing professors. But, homeschooling has been a blessing for me, as well. My goal has been to create a love for learning and give them to tools to learn everything they want to know and everything I don't know, so this post was encouraging!

  7. My strengths are definitely in Maths and science. It really showed within our homeschooling too. Tom and Amelia were both ahead in there maths books after six months of homeschooling.

    My gaps are definitely in the arts but I must say I have seen them improve through blogging and homeschooling. Spelling was always a big gap but that has really changed.

  8. So true! Love this post. I am with you on all of it. Love the picture. :) And I think your girl Jemimah with be perfectly educated!

  9. I know almost nothing about math and little more about any form of science. But even in those, I've learned more both formally (an accounting class at community college to help me in my job) and informally (helping the kids). I find that much of what I learned in these areas was so boring in school that it took years to sink in and for my brain to make sense of it!

    Other cultures, history, politics, geography, art, classical music--those are easy to me. I love them. But what I know about China would fit on a matchbook cover and on two such covers for Japan or Korea. Vietnam exists only in terms of the war and American defense policy.

    Literature I do "ok" with, but I would struggle to name any non-American or British authors.

    But, that makes me want to go on learning (that an the dire hope that it will somehow stave off Alzheimers like my poor grandmother had). Filling those gaps is interesting and challenging in the best sense of that word.

  10. This is truly a great post Jeanne!
    I love homeschooling because the countless gaps in my education are being filled as I learn alongside rebekah:)

  11. This post truly speaks to homeschooling mamas! As we worry about educating our children and fitting in "everything" before they reach age 18, we forget our own gaps, and we forget that we can fill gaps our entire lives....and what a joy it is to do so.

    My biggest gaps are in Science, but I'm developing an interest in various "science" topics and I am certainly learning alongside my children. In fact, I learn quite a bit FROM my children.

    Wonderful post.

  12. Your posts and the comments were so interesting to read. I guess we all, hs moms, ponder on similar topics. Lately I've been thinking about gaps too, and I thought that if I look at education like this, it appears to me as a mammoth the girls, myself, or anyone will never tame. I stopped worrying and instead focus on those things we did not know and are learning, and being selective and prioritize that which we want to tackle, versus aiming helplessly at anything others, society, or an external force compels us to learn.

    I picture myself at a book sale, I go for tons of books just because they are 40 cents or a dollar at the most, if they were all pricey, I'll simply choose quality over quantity. And that one thing worth learning at that time of your life, those ideas, will multiply and cover many other gaps than the one intended.


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