Yes, education is a life, but life also educates.
As mother-teachers our job is much bigger than a school administrator. While he oversees curriculums and courses of study and rhythms of the school day, we do that while also overseeing meals, housework, sports, music lessons, outside activities, wardrobes – basically, every little detail.
Good news: this means we have the ability to create paideia.
Paideia is a Greek word and concept that means a system of broad cultural education or simply culture.
Merriam-Webster defines paideia this way:
training of the physical and mental faculties in such a way as to produce a broad enlightened mature outlook harmoniously combined with maximum cultural development.
The Wikipedia article on paideia is brief and includes this definition:
The culture and the youth were “moulded” to the ideal… beautiful and good.” This idea is similar to that of the medieval knights, their culture, and the English concept of the gentleman.
And, incidentally, though Greek and English schools considered themselves the place paideia happened, the Bible makes the parents responsible for it:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction [Gr. ‘paideia’] of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
Paideia ultimately means living a “one-piece,” holistic life. Virtue, excellence, or knowledge isn’t something that happens with schoolwork only or isn’t only a concept you discuss in books. It affects how you live out your real, day-to-day life.
If the knowledge being discussed and learned in school isn’t affecting anyone’s daily life or the habits of the family outside of school hours, there is no paideia happening.
If we don’t act on the knowledge we gain and grow in humility and wisdom and virtue in all areas of life through our learning and discipline, our education is pointless.
So let’s look at three areas of life that our studies should affect, and what that might look like.
Paideia education affects friendships
The Proverbs are full of cautions about who you hang out with. Our friends shape our tastes, affections, and patterns of thinking more than we realize.
We become like those we hang out with. This is true of mothers and children alike.
Finding and cultivating good friendships is worth the time because those friendships will reinforce our interests, force us to think more clearly, and give us opportunity to bounce ideas back and forth – which is how those ideas come alive to us.
This is why I prioritized play days over co-ops as my children grew.
We can do our lessons at home, but friendships are best made not during a class on basketweaving or any other supplemental effort. Why not just let the children play?
It’s free, easy to schedule, and – on top of those two benefits – more valuable for the children than
There is no time during a class to form an actual friendship. Friendships happen outside of class, in the midst of experiencing real life together. For children, that means playing. For moms, that means talking shop while keeping an eye on said children.
Don’t underestimate the value of allowing children free time to enjoy unstructured play with friends.
Paideia education affects worship
How we educate will affect how we worship.
How we worship will affect how we educate.
There is no way they couldn’t. If they are kept separate and self-contained, then the education is not truly education and the worship is not true worship.
In both, we become more full versions of who we were created to be – people to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Therefore who we are affects what we do and what we do affects who we are.
When we are better educated, we pay better attention to the sermon, understand the lyrics we sing more fully, and know our weaknesses and need for salvation.
When we worship, we are reminded of the true meaning and purpose of all else we do. It’s all culminating in that service. All we do is worship to God. That doesn’t make it ok to skip Sunday morning service; it makes Sunday morning service vital, the correct starting point of our week focusing on our true end point: eternal worship.
Children should participate in full worship because they are also fully human.
Paideia education affects housework
From the sublime to the mundane, education touches all of life. There is nothing we do that does not require wisdom.
The week begins with corporate worship and propels us into our mundane weekday task list. Even here, our learning and discipline comes into play.
Education is about forming a whole and complete person. That includes math and good literature and lots of outdoor time – and it also involves how to clean up after yourself and others.
We don’t want to send smart slobs out into the world, and we don’t want them to be clueless about how to do laundry and dishes when they leave our home.
Plus, it’s not our job as mom to do all the work ourselves.
Kids should have chores because they should contribute to the running of a household and because they should have practice in meeting basic human needs: making beds, folding laundry, cooking meals, and vacuuming floors.
Children need chores because they need to learn service.
As we look to the education of our children, it’s our job as mothers to consider the whole picture of their lives, not simply what workbook page is next.