Jane Austen, on homeschooling (sort of)

After dragging my literary feet, I have just started Mansfield Park

It’s funny;  I long neglected Jane Austen, because I was afraid she was beyond me, both in femininity and literary prowess…  I was fearful that the much-beloved author would be little appreciated by me, to my shame, not hers.  But, then, earlier this year, I actually started reading her, and whaddya know?  I love her writing.  I have consumed all of her books with unhealthy rapidity — the kind that has me staying up until 2 a.m. to read “just a bit more” knowing that in a very few hours, I will need to awaken for the day and mother and teach four kids, and that operating on four or five hours of sleep isn’t a help to either. 

So, why my hesitation to start Mansfield Park?  Because, once I’ve read it, I’ll be finished with Miss Austen.  There will be no more new, fresh, unread Austen novels for me to read, and that makes me sad.  😦

Here in the beginning of the book, Austen is contrasting the Bertram sisters’ excellent (home-tutored) education to that of their poorly educated cousin, Fanny, who has come to live with them. 

“…and as her cousins found her ignorant of many things with which they had been long familiar, they thought her prodigiously stupid…”

and, a page later:

“…and it is not very wonderful that, with all their promising talents and early information, they should be entirely deficient in the less common acquirements of self-knowledge, generosity, and humility.  In everything but disposition, they were admirably taught.”

This SO makes me think of my own children.  I will certainly attest to the fact that it’s easier to teach them subjects that are advanced beyond their years, and certainly beyond their peers, than it is those “less common acquirements of self-knowledge, generosity, and humility.”  And, SO MANY times, have I had to caution my boys that a lack of knowledge in someone else doesn’t mean that the other person is stupid; it means that they likely haven’t had the opportunity to learn the same things that they have.

In short, it’s easy for a homeschooled kid to grow an inflated view of his/her own intelligence;  kids are quick to equate knowledge with brilliance, when, really, the latter has only a small bit to do with the former. 

The longer I school them, the more I aim for those “less common acquirements” of a gracious character, and the less acutely concerned I am about them operating beyond grade level.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 27, 2008, in Books I'm Reading, Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, Motherhood, Parenting, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I doubt I would have learned these lessons any quicker in a public school setting (my peers in high school weren’t much better than I in these regards), but I did have a lot growing this area to do. I probably still do.

    Very thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing.


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