Everyday Scholé: Festina Lente

Think about your usual homeschool day... is it filled with checklists, workbooks, timers, and arguing kids? I know my days sometimes feel like that. But, today, let's take a look at another kind of day - a 'make haste slowly' homeschool day. Imagine a calm, leisure-filled homeschool day, reading with your children, reciting Latin, working hard on some mathematics problems, and giving them a few hours of free time to explore their interests.

Which day sounds better to you?

I think we would all pick the second day! But how do we get there?

By taking a mastery approach and focusing on what's important.

Today, along with my friends Sara from Classically Homeschooling and Chelli from The Planted Trees, we're taking a look at the first of the eight education virtues Dr. Christopher Perrin discusses in his video series  about Classical education - Festina Lente ("Make haste slowly').

Homeschooling is a marathon, not a race

A deep and thoughtful look at the educational virtue 'Festina Lente' and how that looks in our homeschool. Mastery-based learning is an education pursuit worth considering.

I've once heard it said that homeschooling is a marathon, not a race.

If you've ever made the mistake of trying to combine too many programs or cover too many subjects each year then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Those mistakes make homeschooling feel like some kind of quick sprint that leaves you and your children worn out.

But we must change our view of homeschooling and let go of that feeling of having to do it all. We CAN do it all - we just can't do it all in one year!

So how do we apply this principle? How can we 'make haste slowly'?

Look at the big picture

During my first year of homeschooling, I had TJ's whole educational plan all mapped out (in preschool!). Yes, I had a curriculum plan that covered every year - all the way to the end of high school.

While I laugh at that now (and I certainly haven't stuck to that original plan!) there is something to be said for looking at the big picture.

If we want to have a vision for our homeschool and our children, we have to know where we are going. So mapping out a course of study can actually be a good idea.

Now, I'm not saying you need to choose all the curriculum you're going to use from now through high school (you probably wouldn't stick to your list anyway!). What I am saying is that you need to have a plan. And the best way to make that plan is by beginning with the end in mind.

Begin with the end in mind

Where do you want your child to be when they finish high school? What subjects do you want them to master? Make a list!

Now, decide how you're going to get there. How many years will you need to cover each subject thoroughly? Can things be broken down into manageable steps each year? What things will you need to cover each year?

Notice that I haven't told you to choose curriculum. We have the wrong idea about curriculum. A curriculum is a chosen course of study - it's NOT a textbook. Textbooks and workbooks (what we usually refer to as curriculum) are just TOOLS to create your curriculum.

Let's take Latin as an example. By the time TJ graduates, I would like her to be able to read a Latin text and be able to translate it. So, instead of choosing curriculum first, I decide what we need to do each year to reach that goal. We need to focus on the basic skills of grammar and vocabulary first before we can move on to translation.

Master basic skills first, slowly

Before your child is ready to translate a Latin text he needs to learn the vocabulary and grammar of the language. This is true of any subject.

For math - a child must learn to add before they can learn to multiply.

For writing - a child must learn to spell before he can write an essay.

Focus on the basics - especially in the younger years.

Mastery is an icky word in today's educational circles. It brings up images of rote learning and recitation. But I don't think that's a bad thing!

Mastering a subject takes intentional time for reflection and deliberation. It takes time and work, often very hard work. But it also teaches us diligence - a very important moral virtue.

How this looks in practical application

The confidence you feel when you know you are focusing on the important things is worth the effort and hard work needed to apply the principles of 'Festina Lente'. A Classical education, which may seem out of reach, is certainly attainable when you plan out your journey.

In the early years ('Grammar' stage) focus on mastering the basics - math facts, handwriting and basic writing skills, and lots of reading.

When that foundation is firm you can begin to add more building blocks - English grammar, Latin, more in-depth writing, higher level math. While you are working on those mastery skills you'll notice that your children slowly gain independence and enter that 'pert' stage Dorothy Sayers discusses. That's when you can add in heavier Latin work and Logic studies.

Teenagers are prepared for more independence, essay writing, Latin translation, and Rhetoric. You'll spend more time in deep discussions and readings at this stage as well.

Each of those stages builds on the one before, creating a solid liberal arts education. No matter your child's chosen vocation a well-rounded liberal education will serve them well.

The best part about this laser focus is that it provides time for interest-led learning. Instead of cramming days full of textbooks and workbooks, you've created a course of study that focuses on the most important things and leaves plenty of time for individual pursuits.

Dive Deeper into Festina Lente

'Festina Lente' is an educational virtue that will serve your homeschool well. Is it easy? No. It takes hard work, but it is certainly worth the effort.

If you want to learn more about 'Festina Lente' take an hour to watch Dr. Christopher Perrin discuss the principles behind this foundational aspect of Classical education.


Are you 'making haste slowly' or running a sprint to the finish line?

Speed is often considered a virtue in today's society but there is nothing inherently good about doing everything quickly. Slowing down and 'smelling the roses' is often the better way. This is also true in regards to education. Taking time to slow down, focusing on the important things, and taking the time to dive deeply into a subject is a much more fulfilling education.

For more about the educational virtue of 'Festina Lente', hop on over to The Planted Trees or Classically Homeschooling and read about how they apply this principle in their homeschools:

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.