“The best thing you can do for your fellow next to rousing his conscience, is —
not to give him things to think about –
but to wake things up that are in him;
or say, to make him think things for himself.”
– George MacDonald
even Daily Rungs
Our choices add up.
Habits into hours, decisions into days, lists into a life.
The way in which we live our moments, our choices for the gift of the next 24 hours, are rungs on a ladder. The rungs take us somewhere. These moments are rungs scaling each and everyday… making a life.
How do we know everyday what is a worthwhile investment of our time and what will burn up, straw at the end of time? How do we cultivate not simply well-trained minds, but nurture holistic, well-lived lives? How do we work everyday towards raising up children, who are not merely academic automatons, but exuberant, soul-healthy, worshipers of God, committed to meaningful, eternal Kingdom work? How do we set our ladders against the right wall, and make the opportunity of today count for eternity?
Simply put, how do we make our way through a day?
Everyday, we endeavor to scale seven rungs. These seven rungs are our scaffolding for each day, “scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time” (Annie Dillard). Scaffolding to work on sections of time… and portions of hearts. Everyday, we wake, grab the first rung, and begin our way through the day.
First Rung ~ Listening: a way of the Spirit (Scripture reading, prayer and memorization)
We awake. And listen. Days well lived have a time of listening to Him who spoke the Universe and all there is into being. “Oh, that my people would listen to me” (Psalm 81:13). Soulful days of good things are days attuned to hearing Him, for “whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster” (Proverbs 1:33). Everyday, we gather around the farm table to listen, opening our day with individual, quiet Scripture reading, and then closing each meal with the reading of His Word. We commit the Lover of our soul’s Words to heart through daily memorization of Scripture together as a family. And we listen and dialogue with Him through rhythmic and endless prayer. To know our way through a day, one begins by listening: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
Second Rung ~Love: a way of sacrificing (that which is at the the heart of everything we do)
Without love, there is, simply and wholly, nothing. Without love, the ladder is on the wrong wall. Thus, love is the greatest rung of all, the foundation of everyday and of a life well lived…and only possible after we have listened to the Spirit, and the story of Christ.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 Jn. 3:16). This love rung is about laying down our lives, our agendas, our egos, and offering ourselves up “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Ro. 12:1).
If we, with our children, only grab hold of this rung daily, laying down time for Jesus and for others, we’ve scaled the one rung that ultimately matters. Love for Jesus and for those made by His hand is the one needful thing of each day.
Third Rung ~ Labor: a way of serving (farm work, household chores, creativity, ministries, volunteer work)
For our days to add up to something of merit, for our lives to be truly great, the third rung is non-negotiable: we simply must be a servant. The labor rung is about true greatness: we must teach our children every day how to be a servant. Everyday we must live servant lives. “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mt. 23:11).
Thus, each day embraces labor. Work unto others. Work onto the Kingdom. Work unto God. We do not shirk dirt and filth and sweat, for Jesus didn’t when He came to serve humanity. An everyday education means days of dirty fingernails, stench in nostrils, sore backs: we endeavor to go the extra mile. And, as God’s act of creation was his work, so our creations—stitches, brushstrokes, kneading, ink scratchings—are also our labor to serve others. Everyday education, holistic, well-lived days, include labor and creative acts, a way of serving.
Fourth Rung ~ Loveliness: a way of seeing (Poetry, Nature, Music and Art)
The essence of our days and our children’s education is about how we see, think and perceive the world around us. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely… think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). In a world of hurt, we want eyes to see what is lovely…so that our awe of God’s breathtaking handiwork might be a medicine to the broken around us. So our way through a day includes setting chords of the classics in the stereo each morning to accompany the day’s dance, then morning moments spent reading lyrical lines of poetry, and appreciating the rich hues of brushstrokes and imagination. Afternoons include time in the orchard climbing trees, walks down to the woods to pick spring flowers. Thinking on the lovely is a way to give us eyes to see beauty…and to catch a glimpse of the face of God Himself, Beauty embodied.
Fifth Rung ~ Literature: a way of seeking (discovery through great books)
As Roland Barthes suggests, “Literature is the question minus the answer,” so we read and question and seek answers. “Reading maketh a man full,” as Francis Bacon surmised: one full of rich words and questions.
John Wesley implores, “Read the most useful books, and that regularly and constantly. Steadily spend all the morning in this employ, or, at least, five hours in four-and-twenty… If you need no book but the Bible, you are got above St. Paul. He wanted others too. ‘Bring the books,” says he, “but especially the parchments.’ ”
Like the Apostle Paul, we too bring out the books daily, not “twaddle” but full-bodied books of satisfying, filling words. As Wesley appeals, we steadily spend our morning in this employ. And yet in our seeking and reading, we also take heed: “My son, beware… Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). We daily seek and discover and fill through great literature…and yet, we remind ourselves that there is more to a well-lived day than solely parchment and ink.
Sixth Rung ~ Language: a way of speaking (narrations, Latin/Greek, grammar, writing)
The words we read percolate down. So we steep in thought…and then we pour out, speaking our own word thoughts. As Samuel Johnson expressed, “Language is the dress of thought.” Daily rungs include a way of speaking our thoughts, through verbal or written narrations, compositions, or in the words of a second language. Literature may be about pouring questions into young minds. Language is about young minds exploring and speaking answers.
We join the psalmist: “My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1). With tongue and pens, we daily attempt to speak and express good themes of learning and life to our King.
Seventh Rung ~ Logic: a way of scaffolding (ideas, reasoning, science, mathematics, discussing)
Our seventh rung is about building on what we already know, to go higher up and deeper in. We scaffold. Ideas, reasoning, discussions, mathematical equations, scientific experiments, extrapolations and analysis move us from what we know now, to new understandings. Each day includes logic: “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).
As the sun sets in the west, we ring the farm table, and pause to reflect on the shadow of the seven daily rungs.
Hands to ears, we ask of the first rung: Did we listen to our Lord today? Hands over hearts, we question the second rung: Did we love Jesus by loving others?
Then, holding fingers high, we mark off the five remaining rungs:
Labor: Whom did we serve today?
Loveliness: What did we see today?
Literature: What did we seek and discover in good books today?
Language: How did use we speak, written and orally, today?
Logic: How did we scaffold into new ideas and understanding today?
Hands reach out to lace fingers together.
It is time, in the twilight, to enter into the day’s rest. From morning until evening we have worked (Ps. 104:22-23) and now it is time to sit, Sabbath moments after the seven daily rungs. A day well-lived has moments to simply linger, to be still and know that He is God.
In the quiet coming down, we crown the day with laughter, taking our daily heart medicine of joy. Chuckle-worthy incidents that sprinkled the day. Antics of high-spirited children. And then there are the days it’s best just to heave a sigh, give thanks, and laugh with relief. We may have slipped off a rung or two. The ladder may have wobbled, precariously at times, throughout the day. But from each of the seven daily rungs in a holistic homeschooling education— listening, loving, laboring, looking on loveliness, learning literature, language and logic— we’ve kept our eyes on our reward. The Lord Himself.
Who is the Way through everyday.
The compiling of our Seven Daily Rungs had its genesis in Real Learning Elizabeth Foss’ post Revisiting the Rule of Six and Melissa Wiley’s Rule of Six — thank you, abundantly wise women, for encouraging intentional reflection on our everydays.
Reposted from the archives
Related: Pros and Cons to Homeschooling