Acquiring Good Taste–Practical Steps

pretty tea cup

by Dr. Lindsey Scholl, Logic School Coordinator

In the last blog post, we discussed the importance of acquiring a taste for the true, the good, and the beautiful for ourselves and not just for our children.  This is important not just because we want to be good models for our children, but because we ourselves are individual children of God; having a healthy intellectual life should therefore be our joyful pursuit, whether we have children or not.

All of this sounds nice in theory, but how do we practice it?  As Yogi Berra has said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”  There are many ways to approach a godly life of intellect.  For this post,  I offer what I consider to be three foundational practices that will aid us in practice and not just in theory.

The first step to acquiring a taste for what is true, good, beautiful, and possibly daunting is attitude.  We must prayerfully adjust our attitudes from “I can’t do it and I don’t want to do it” to “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”   None of us should attempt to read intimidating books, tackle foreign languages, or learn trigonometry in our own power.  We are believers in Christ.  We have emptied ourselves of our own power and we have been filled by Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden!

Sometimes I think that a believer who tries to do something in her own power is in a worse state than a non-believer who attempts the same.  We have already signed over our rights to Christ.  Therefore, whatever small strength we may have had is gone, subsumed into the magnificent, unstoppable power of God.   Bible verses pile all over each other to prove this point, but here is one: 1 Cor. 6:19 states that you are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God with your body (and your mind).

Your attitude and my attitude should be the attitude of Christ Jesus, and Jesus had the unruffled confidence, the steady assurance, the joyful yet impressive work ethic of a conqueror.  As Romans 8:37 says, “we have become more than conquerors through Christ.”

A real-life inspiration for what we can accomplish through God’s help is Cheryl Lowe.  If you are a TCS parent you may recognize that name, since it’s written across the bottom of your Latin books and many other pieces of curriculum.  Cheryl Lowe was a public school teacher who became a homeschool mom, who became dissatisfied with the Latin options for kids.  So she wrote her own curriculum.  Then she founded a publishing press.  Then she founded a school.  Cheryl Lowe has the attitude of a conqueror.

The first step to a healthy intellectual life, then, is to modify your attitude into one of dependence on God, yet utter confidence that he will strengthen you for every good work.  Academically, this good work may be simply pronouncing an unfamiliar term, it may be reading an ancient classic in translation, or it may be it may be learning calculus.  God’s strength is enough for all of the above, and plenty more.

The second step is awareness of the situation in which God has placed you.  When you have young ones running around the home, it is highly unlikely that you’re going to tackle a 900-page book with success.  We have to be realistic.  To start a major intellectual project when you have twenty minutes a week to carry it out might lead to frustration.

You have the option of carrying that “with Christ I can do this” attitude into what your child is learning and learn along with them.  Recite things with them.  Get stronger academically with them.  If while going through the process you can say you have learned a large portion of what your child has learned, then you’ve just received something more valuable than a college education.  If you have a student in the upper grades, read their literature books along with them.  If you have a student in the lower grades, and they’re researching, for example, the state of Ohio, find adult parallels to what they’re learning.  That way, you will become an expert on Ohio–a rare find in Texas–and also be able to supplement your child’s learning.

Your intellectual growth does not have to be a different project than your child’s.  The chances are great that you will not have time to study the constellations if your student is studying the parts of a plant.  It is okay, even desirable, to merge your subject of study with what your student is studying.

The third step of practicality is to learn with your inclinations, but stretch your inclinations.  Not all of us are Lord of the Ring fans, and not all of us are math wizards.  Learn in the areas that interest you, but be willing to stretch that circle bit by bit into other areas.  Is it possible for you to develop a taste for Ernest Hemingway when all you have read is C.S. Lewis?  Yes.  Is it possible for you to take interest in the working of a cell when what you really want to be doing is eating humus and exercising?  Of course.  I may never be a mathematician, but how wonderful it would be if I could learn enough math to apply it to the subjects that are close to my heart?

I mentioned earlier that drinking tea is a respite for me now, whereas at one point in my life it was a chore.  The same applies to learning.  One of these days, you might find that a Jane Austen novel or gazing at the stars and knowing their patterns is a desirable experience that refreshes you.  You’ll be drawn toward those experiences, you’ll thirst for them, because you’ve made it a priority to acquire a taste for them.

Note: A great resource to start you on your lifelong journey of education is The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, by Susan Wise Bauer. This books offers suggestions on how to read various literary genres.