A Threesome of Lessons Learned from Circe Institute Conference 2013

Last week I drove down to Baltimore to attend the Circe Institute Conference, an annual gathering for classical educators interested in joining the dialogue about what it means to educate creatures Imago Dei (made in the image of God). This year’s theme was “A Contemplation of Judgment”, in which the idea of assessment of students featured heavily. Is there a better way to assess progress than letter grades? How can a quantitative standard measure qualitative concepts? What absolute standard will we use to measure the children in our care–is it meaningful to compare the performance of students in the class?

Good questions. And the very Andrew Kern who I quote in my blog title heads Circe Institute. Good questions get us somewhere.

Today I will list three threes:

  • three things I learned from the Circe conference
  • three things I aim to do this year
  • three things I learned from Andrew Kern himself

Three things I learned from Circe, either from the lectures or from the recordings from 2012, which I listened to on the drive along the east coast both ways:

  • Three things I learned at Circe:
  1. The ultimate goal of education is Christian character.
  2. A tutor can be a true mentor (and heaven knows we need them).
  3. The soul needs poesy; the imaginative arts are vital to the health of the soul.
  • Three things I aim to do this year:
    1. To become a true mentor: to invest in the personal lives of my students and their families, to see character issues as even more important than content or skills. I want to contemplate the standards in Phil 4:8, the Beatitudes, and 1 Cor 13 (and others that may resonate with me) and find a way to make them the main thing.  This is a paradigm shift for me. I considered the content and skills the most important thing and missed many opportunities to work with my students and children on character. I want to partner with the parents on this.
    2. To train my own children to discern the true, good, and beautiful through practice, chiefly through the humane arts. (Heb 5:14. It says ‘good and evil’ but I think the trinity ‘true-good-beautiful’ applies here)  That means a robust Morning Time (from a Circe 2012 lecture) that includes Bible, Shakespeare, poetry, sight-singing, and Professor Carol’s History of Arts in Western Civilization course. When children are fed a nourishing diet, they will ultimately reject junk food. So with the soul.
    3. To work against multitasking; to order my days aright so I get to everything in its time; to attend to my many responsibilities an hour at a time, regularly, rather than in big urgent chunks as projects. That’s my character issue!

My three key words this year are mentor, character, poesy.  (I define the latter as Sidney does: all imaginative works of art, not just poetry. I haven’t read Taylor’s Poetic Knowledge yet but I picked it up and I am headed that way.)

  • Three things I learned from Andrew Kern, who is a “type”, a model to me of a wise and gracious teacher:
    1. All meaningful endeavors begin with Psalm 51, from a heart that says, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This attitude has two parts: acknowledgement of God as the source of my power and wisdom, and the recognition that I just am not all I need to be. God will supply. It is when I think I am competent that I lack His surprising wisdom in the classroom. I absolutely love the moments when I speak in class from a greater wisdom than I possess.
    2. All meaningful endeavor requires the assistance of faithful assistants. We are so much more in community than we are alone.
    3. All meaningful endeavors are ultimately about developing character. Nothing matters more than gaining wisdom.

    Circe Institute Conference 2013 fed my soul. It strengthens me for the work of this new school year. Free lectures are available here: http://www.circeinstitute.org/audio

About lettersfromheartscontent

Mother of six, homeschool teacher, tutor with Classical Conversations, wife to a forester and educator. I tend a perennial garden with a riot of blossoms, ride my bicycle in and out of the watershed, play ocarina and a boom-chick accompaniment when my kids feel like playing contradance music. I love being home, but I love an open road and adventure, too. Classical Conversations' Writers Circle carries my article on some aspect of classical education once a month.
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One Response to A Threesome of Lessons Learned from Circe Institute Conference 2013

  1. Pingback: Education and Character: Learning to See Clearly, part 2 | Two Heads are Better Than One

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