Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Logic of Parenting

At the Classical Conversations parents practicum on Saturday, in the middle of the first session, I had a "light bulb" moment. I suddenly realized that I had missed the logic of parenting. I don't mean that parenting defies logic; although, that is also true. I missed the logic of parenting in classical terms. Let me try to explain.

The speaker was reviewing the three stages of classical education: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric and how they build upon each other to develop a well-educated mind.

The grammar stage is when basic facts and vocabulary are learned for later retrival. The speaker likened this stage to a filling the shelves of a grocery store with products. From a Christian perspective, the bible refers to this as knowledge.

The dialectic, often called the logic stage, is when ideas are synthesized and reconciled. This stage would be similar to following a basic recipe or model to learn how the facts fit together. The bible calls this understanding.

The rhetoric stage is the ability to correctly apply and effectively communicate the ideas. This stage was likened to creating a new recipe book. The bible would call this wisdom.

It was as the speaker was explaining why all three stages are necessary that I finally realized why parenting is difficult for me and probably many others. The logic was missing. I was taught the "grammar" of parenting. Basic facts like how to become a parent, what is a toddler, what is a teen, and how to avoid becoming a parent too early but that was about it. I guess it was just assumed that I would avoid becoming a parent too soon and that when I became a mom I would magically know how to handle a whiney toddler, or a challenging teen.

When I gave birth to my first child, I graduated from the grammar stage and moved directly into the the rhetoric stage of parenting. Out of necessity, I had to learn what to do quickly. I gleaned what I could from a book or a friend and then began applying apply it, without the benefit of understanding if what I was doing was the right approach for our family. I became increasingly frustrated, all because I missed the "logic stage" of parenting in my formal education.

I was never given the opportunity to reconcile various competing ideas and understand how parenting (and adulthood) works. Why? Because I was educated in a system where education consisted of academic subjects and other areas were sidelined. I practiced balancing alegbraic equations not creating a balanced home life. My education trained me to manage IBM but not a household.

Home education allows a child to move through all three stages of learning in both academic and non academic subjects, and not miss the vital stage - logic - in any of them. Over the years, my children moved from toddlerhood to learning how to parent a toddler. As young adults learning at home, they are in the "logic stage" of parenting (and adulthood) that I missed because I was educated in an environment where this was not practical.

Their passage through the logic phase has given them a better understanding in a variety of challenging situations; so that when they are parents themselves, the rhetoric stage, they will have the wisdom to know how to parent their own children. They have had the benefit of "practice sessions" for the situations they will face, but where the consequences of their mistakes not too costly. They will have a better understanding of how to potty train, cook dinner, when to call the doctor, and how to resolve basic conflicts. In essence, home education has allowed them to learn live as adults and parent responsibly.

That doesn't mean my children will parent perfectly. No one does. God's grace is available to cover our mistakes. But hopefully they will not be surprised by the challenges and struggles like I was and forced to learn on the job. It is my hope that home education provides them with the logic of parenting that I missed so they can walk in greater understanding and wisdom.

I see signs of that happening already. The other day, my four year old daughter told me that things are going to be a lot different when she's the mommy. I certainly hope so.

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