“Saint Daniel the Stylite Academy”

“Saint Daniel the Stylite Academy”

This First Things column on homeschooling addresses some of the topics Dom and I have been discussing recently, especially the way education is not a series of discrete subjects, but integrated into all aspects of life.

When people think of school, typically they think of a day dominated by a roster of discrete subjects. In English, you do reading, writing, spelling, and grammar. In math, you do numbers. In history, you do what�s been done before.

In our homeschool, though we cover all these necessary subjects, the delineations between subjects are often far from clear. For example, this fall my math-tutor brother gave us a book entitled Famous Mathematicians, a series of little biographies beginning with Euclid and ending with Norbert Wiener in the twentieth century. The nine-year-old asked if he could read it, so twice a week, during our math time, instead of doing regular computational math, I let him read. When he finished the book, he chose one famous mathematician to profile and wrote a little report. As I was describing this exercise for our friends, I kept thinking that we had either done an awful lot of math and given English the short end of the stick, or else had done a lot of English and shafted math. But then I realized that in fact we had done it all. He had learned math concepts, he had learned history, he had practiced reading and writing and spelling and editing�all by reading one book and writing about it. . . .

At home we can do what�s nearly impossible in a school setting: We can weave learning into the fabric of our family life, so that the lines between �learning� and �everything else� have largely ceased to exist. The older children do a daily schedule of what I call sit-down work: math lessons, English and foreign-language exercises, and readings for history and science. The nine-year-old does roughly two hours of sit-down work a day, while the twelve-year-old spends three to four hours. But those hours hardly constitute the sum total of their education.

If you think about it, that’s how infants learn. We don’t sit Bella down for an hour of language acquisition followed by an hour of gross motor skills and an hour of fine motor skills. She simply tumbles through her day and with no apparent effort on our part, she learns and grows and passes from one stage to another. My hope is that for her learning will continue to be as natural a part of life, woven into the very fabric of existence, not something segregated away to “school hours”.

But what I really liked about this piece was the image she begins and ends with of St Daniel the Stylite. I think I like her proposal of Daniel as a patron saint of homeschoolers. Just go read the article to find out why….

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  • Hey Melanie,

    Im sorry to post this comment here. It is OT but I have had trouble emailing you in the past and don’t even have my computer at the moment.

    Cecilia is 14 months and like you I have been looking for and collecting good books for her to read in the future. Sometimes, I confess, I even browse your wish lists for ideas. I have searched a few times for good Lent/Easter books to get her and 1) the selection seems to be a bit slim, 2) some of them seem to be a bit Protestantized (e.g. – I found one where a review said the Last Supper refers to the bread as “symbolic”) and 3) even the Catholic ones seem to be watered down.

    I wondered if you had found any or would recommend any?


    (I hope to get my computer back soon. I got a brand new 24inch IMac in September/October and it died on me earlier this month. They are replacing it but I won’t get it until later this week.)


  • Thanks for posting the link to this quiz.  I had lots of fun with it and it absolutely nailed me.    Before I took it, I thought, I’m rhyming couplets.    Sure enough:

    I am heroic couplets; most precise
    And fond of order. Planned and structured. Nice.
    I know, of course, just what I want; I know,
    As well, what I will do to make it so.
    This doesn’t mean that I attempt to shun
    Excitement, entertainment, pleasure, fun;
    But they must keep their place, like all the rest;
    They might be good, but ordered life is best.