David recently fell out of a tree and broke his leg. I would undo that event if I could, but since that day, David has repeatedly told us, “It's funny, since I broke my leg I notice things I never noticed before. Like where everybody is standing, and who might be in danger. I always think about where I'm sitting and if someone might run into me or not. I notice how tall trees are and what's underneath them… all kinds of things I never noticed before.”
As he spoke, I remembered the countless times I'd told him “be careful” and wondered why he had not heard me.
Over the years I have tried to explain the Da Vinci road of observation to folks who have asked me about our home school methods. They typically wait for me to shut up and then ask again, “That's nice. I wish I could draw or play an instrument. But what curriculum do you use?”
My final frustrated reply of “We use whatever curriculum works for each student,” satisfies the average questioner. He then assumes I am a thoughtless teacher and if I only knew better I would choose classical education or such-and-such curriculum, or…
Some say “schools were better in the old days; they taught the truth back then.” Others say “teachers are so terrible these days; if only we had better teachers!” Still others decide to homeschool and change both the teacher and the curriculum, but still miss the whole point of education.
I say no matter how adept a teacher may be at seeing and describing it will still always be better for the student to see for himself.
So, how can you learn to see more clearly?
The times I have seen and heard with greatest detail are during stress and hardship. When the body is warm, fed, and comforted, the senses become lethargic. When deprived of comfort, the senses awake, seeking answers to every need.
Pain awakens the body to minute details.
Hunger will make you aware of every odor in the air.
Loneliness tunes the ear to hear so that the common sound of a bird comforts like it never will when you are surrounded by friends.
The terror of a moment fraught with jeopardy will slow down time and stimulate your mind to process details it normally disregards.
The instruction of affliction is the awakening of the senses. Fear. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. When you are afraid you are paying attention.
I do not recommend taking a hammer to your thumb in order to accelerate your senses; even I would find you lacking in that sense which is called “common.” However, should you find yourself in hardship, then by all means, take the opportunity to exercise your senses and learn something. When you're lonely, poor, hurting, or hungry, you have everything you need to become wise.