Western heritage without Christianity?

FatherMag asks,

…Today those of us who do not recognize the authority of the Bible may wish to examine our own Western values for a moral code based on individual and collective reason rather than reports of supernatural revelation imported from the Middle East. In order to do that, we must first learn to recognize what parts of our values and moral code have come from Biblical sources. Where should we begin if we would like to embrace and further a Western heritage free of the Judeo-Christian influence?

On the surface, that seems almost an oxymoron.  A Western heritage free of Judeo-Christian influence?  Regardless of what you think of it, Western civilization has been greatly influenced by the spread of Christianity, and it has entered into our value system.  But where do we begin if we want to create a new Western “heritage?”  Do we make it up or do we reach back before the influence of Christianity reached Europe?

According to Frederick Hodges, I gather we reach back to the past.  The West had it together before the wicked Christians came along, stripping children of their rights and reducing them to the chattel of their parents.

OK, so maybe we scrap the past and rewrite it.  Looking back to Greek history I have but one image in my mind.  A little too graphic to relate here, but it was a sign my parents saw in Greece showing the way to a brothel which featured naked boys.  Are these the rights the Christians so brutally took from young children?

Roman society was not much better.  It was based on a curious patriarchy.  The paterfamilia (father of the family) had the power of father over all his children, regardless of age.  What rights did children have?  None, really.  Even all their property rightfully belonged to the paterfamilia.  They, along with the wives of the paterfamilia could be sold into slavery or even killed.  Infanticide was practiced.  An educated woman was considered to lack femininity.  I mention this because those awful Jews did educate their girls until the age of thirteen or so.  And marriages were arranged.

All this was before Christ was even born.  It also leads me to wonder where certain “biblical” ideas of the patriarchy really come from.

For some time, we have worked at unloosing the ties our culture has to Christianity.  I have never really understood it.  It seems to me that we would be able to appreciate the contributions that have been made, much as we appreciate the contributions Greek and Roman civilizations had to Western civilization despite their shortcomings.  Whether you like it or not, it is part of our heritage.

To digest a great book

Tammy of Homeschool Comments on the Fly has an interesting post on the various reading lists out there designed to introduce our children to the wonderful world of literacy.  She raises several good points, but my thoughts stopped right at the top with that link:

100 Books Your Child Should Hear Before Starting School.

It struck me because we are just now listening to The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Henry Ketcham (1901).  In chapter three, we find out:

In those days books were rare and his library was small and select. It consisted at first of three volumes: The Bible, Aesop’s Fables and Pilgrim’s Progress. Some-time in the eighties a prominent magazine published a series of articles written by men of eminence in the various walks of life, under the title of “Books that have helped me.” The most noticeable fact was that each of these eminent men–men who had read hundreds of books–specified not more than three or four books. Lincoln’s first list was of three. They were emphatically books. Day after day he read, pondered and inwardly digested them until they were his own. Better books he could not have found in all the universities of Europe, and we begin to understand where he got his moral vision, his precision of English style, and his shrewd humor.

Today, we do not seem to place as great a value on spending time with a book, pondering it and fully digesting it.  After all, we have a book list which presents a sampling of the history of world literature to tackle if we are to be considered well-read.  Lincoln did have a love of reading and he seemed to devour books when they were available to him.  He certainly read his share of great books, many of which I am sure remain on these book lists today for good reason.

The books he read, however, are perhaps not as important to history as the ones he re-read.

As we assemble our children’s reading lists, I think this may be an important point to remember.  As much value each of those check marks has as the books are read, there is greater value yet in the time allowed to fully digest a truly great book.

[tags]homeschooling, education, reading[/tags]

Attaining an excellent education

Lesson one of my Self-Directed Study in the Principled Approach poses an interesting question.

Can I set aside perfectionism for excellence?

I am actually not a perfectionist by nature, so this is not a question I pondered long when I was working through my study guide. But it is a theme which comes up continually as I read accounts of others who have begun to feel overwhelmed with the task before them in homeschooling their children. We want to do everything right. Everything perfect. After all, these are our children and we want them to want for nothing.

But what does perfect mean? Without fault? The origins of the word are interesting, especially in light of striving for perfection in homeschooling.

perfect (adj.)

c.1225 (implied in perfectiun), from O.Fr. parfit (11c.), from L. perfectus “completed,” pp. of perficere “accomplish, finish, complete,” from per- “completely” + facere “to perform.” Online Etymology Dictionary

It means nothing more than “finished.” Something that most of us will not see for some time in this homeschooling journey. Excellence, on the other hand, is a quality, a state of possessing good qualities in an eminent degree, exalted merit, superiority in virtue. (Webster’s 1828)

Set aside your faults and shortcomings for a moment. It is important to be aware of them, to reflect on them and to seek ways to improve. But focusing on them can also become crippling, leaving your homeschool forever in pursuit of perfection and forever failing to become excellent. Instead, take a moment to examine the other side of your homeschool: its good qualities, its merit and its virtue. How can these be brought to an eminent degree, be exalted and become superior?

Many of those men whom we hold in high esteem in our history books have one line in common in their biographies: “…lacked any formal education.” Their education, achieved in the field and at the hearth, certainly was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The list of what they lacked far exceeded anything I might desire, yet they went on to found a nation, advance science and make their mark on English literature. Their education instilled in them good qualities to an eminent degree. It was, therefore, excellent.