What is happiness, really?
That’s actually a deep philosophical question expounded upon by great minds for millennia.
Too often, we think happiness is doing what we want, having no laundry to fold, or eating chocolate.
And our kids think happiness is sleeping in, playing computer games, and having no chores.
Guess what? We’re both wrong.
If that’s your idea of happiness, make sure your goal is not to keep your kids happy.
Then again, we can’t say happiness doesn’t matter.
Surely we’ve all had homeschool days with sadness, anger, and frustration.
We don’t want that to be the norm, either.
Don’t give up on happiness, just think bigger about what happiness is and where it comes from.
Let’s be classical in our approach to happiness as well as our approach to education.
Happiness then, is found to be something perfect and self sufficient, being the end to which our actions are directed. – Aristotle
We aren’t actually made happy by entertainment or temporary pleasure. True happiness is found in what is lasting: God’s glory and enjoying that forever. And we can only enjoy God’s glory when our hearts are tuned to love His law more than our own whims – and that state is often called virtue.
He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue. – Aristotle
Virtue doesn’t come easily to us, and neither, therefore, does happiness. Our temptation – ours and our children’s – is that we equate happiness with ease.
Happiness, however, is for the one who has learned to overcome his in-the-moment cravings for something better, something higher.
In our homeschools, we’re helping our children see that and choose that. Goodness, we also as the mothers are learning to do so more and more.
Related: Virtue is the goal of education.
We’re giving the kids practice – and taking practice ourselves – in denying momentary pleasure for the sake of more lasting pleasure, whether that be knowledge, skill, or relationship. All of these grow us in wisdom, which Scripture tells us to value more than gold. And all of these point us to worship and increase our capacity for worship – the more we know and understand God & the world He made, the better worshippers we can be.
St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in ordinate affections or ‘just sentiments’ will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science. Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful. ~ C.S. Lewis
Augustine, Aristotle, Plato, & Lewis in one? Surely we must pay attention.
Our school days are about shaping tastes and growing loves.
And there is no more potent time to do that than in Morning Time.
Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure: where your treasure, there your heart; where your heart, there your happiness. – Augustine
Making Mornings Happy
So why the discourse on happiness and virtue in a planning post? Because principles apply to our practices. We don’t hold principles and beliefs in our heads, then do whatever seems most convenient – that’s hypocrisy.
I need my focus on the why behind what we’re doing so it doesn’t turn into going through the motions – and so that I don’t skip it because I’ve lost my vision. Some hold on to routine after the vision is gone, but I’m more likely to chuck it over entirely (which looks like remaining sitting with my coffee) the moment the vision begins to fade.
So I write to keep it fresh and lively in my own mind.
The longer I homeschool, the more I believe that how you begin the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. So that means our mornings matter most. Whenever your days begin, we face our most crucial moment. Starting is already the hardest part, but on top of that it’s also the most vital part, the most influential part of the day.
Some of my children have different ideas than I do about what a good start looks and feels like.
I like the coffee and pep and rev your engines sort of start. If the morning drags, I feel draggy all day.
But others are slow-starters who need some time and space to ease into their day and not feel jumped on or shoved along.
And yet those same children still want to be done with school by lunch time.
So, we have to find a way to get us all on board, together, on time, in a way that moves us into the school day ready and engaged.
And that means Morning Time.
It is both beginning the plan for the day and a gentle start. It feeds the spirit and its pace is brisk. It brings us together into unity (I almost said harmony but we’re not that accomplished in our singing yet). It ensures we start with prayer. It ensures the most important things are first and done.
So Morning Time, this year, comes before anyone is allowed to see their math pages or start any other work, other than piano practice. I don’t want to tear people away from their work for Morning Time, and I don’t want the sight of math to be done to tank moods before we’ve begun.
To ensure that everyone is grounded, together, and Scripture-soaked first thing, Morning Time will start our days – before math.
Our Morning Time Flow
Our binders and procedure is not very different this year. I abbreviated it a little bit to keep the high schooler happy and the almost-kindergartener engaged the whole time instead of coloring.
In fact, coloring during Morning Time – a change last year – distracted rather than aided attention and dramatically increased the sibling bickering because there is not enough room at the table for everyone to have an open binder, crayons or pencils, and a coloring book or clipboard plus the 3 inches of personal margin they think they need. So we’re back to binders-only, but we’ll keep it brisk and 30-minutes.
The other benefit of keeping it short is that I want to rotate through fewer pieces of memory work more frequently. Instead of keeping old pieces in mind with occasional review, I want to emphasize those old pieces that the youngest has hardly heard.
Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ – C.S. Lewis
Before I share our procedure or what is in our binders, we’ll actually do it for a week or two. There are bound to be adjustments made as I get real-life feedback.
But as I made choices, put pages in protectors, and wrote out our selections, these are the guiding thoughts and overarching vision I’m keeping in mind.
If Morning Time is not – generally speaking – increasing our love of each other, God, and the day’s work – it’s not doing its job. The memory work is only a tool, not a goal.
Always keep the goal in mind, and troubleshoot toward it.