The Beginning of Knowledge

It’s the end of August, and that means just one thing for a teacher: course prep.

I’m doubly blessed—that’s the word, right?—to be preparing both for homeschooling and for my graduate theology classes. A friend asked me if I was ready for the new homeschool year. No, of course I’m not. But it always starts anyway.

Homeschooling is actually the most fun right now. That’s right, before the year has started. All is promise. All is potential. All is sweetness and light. The curricula I have picked line up in shining rows; the books practically glisten. Visions of docile and happy children working industriously intrude into my mind, despite my intimate knowledge of what it all really looks like. (“Mom, Joseph looked at me funny while I was trying to read!” “Mom, can I just tell you my essay rather than write it out?” “Mom, why do I have to do math? I’ll never use it!” Ignore him, no, and … oh, just do it.)

In fact, I do enjoy homeschooling, or we wouldn’t do it. I love having the kids around and giving them the chance to interact with each other in longer snatches than a few stressful hours before school and before bed. And nothing beats the thrill of seeing a young mind open up with the space and quiet to explore the really exciting things.

But there is no denying that the beginning of the year is always the most exciting. What really stinks is February. By then, the snow seems to be up to the deck railing, the books have grown stale, and I can see all the flaws in the curricula I so lovingly handled six months before. February is a great time for field trips and snow days. (Yeah, I know homeschoolers can’t actually have snow days. We make them up. The homeschool police haven’t arrested us for it yet.) February is not a beginning. February is a stuck-in-the-middle month. It lacks the freshness and potential of a beginning.

Despite all that, however, Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The wisdom we seek in study always has a beginning, and I don’t mean August. The beginning is the step taken into the depths: “Put out into the deep!” as Pope Saint John Paul II always exhorted us. When we “fear the Lord,” we trust that He is God and we are not. We put out into the depths of His loving wisdom. We trust that He really is running the show. We are, in other words, humble. Only the fool thinks he doesn’t need to be instructed. The wise person knows how little he knows.

The beauty of this is that we can reclaim the freshness of the beginning of knowledge any time. Every day is a new start, pulsing with the potential that is as infinite as the triune God. Every hour can be the beginning of wisdom. We can start again … and again … and again. Even in February.

In any case, this year February will be just fine. You see, there’s this new curriculum we’re going to use…

Angela Franks teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

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