Friday, August 21, 2009

William Penn and Quaker-Pagan Home Schooling

In Some Fruits of Solitude, William Penn wrote:

"It were Happy if we studied Nature more in natural Things; and acted according to Nature; whose rules are few, plain and most reasonable.

Let us begin where she begins, go her Pace, and close always where she ends, and we cannot miss of being good Naturalists.

The Creation would not be longer a Riddle to us: The Heavens, Earth, and Waters, with their respective, various, and numerous Inhabitants: Their Productions, Natures, Seasons, Sympathies and Antipathies; their Use, Benefit and Pleasure, would be better understood by us: And an eternal Wisdom, Power, Majesty, and Goodness, very conspicuous to us, thro' those sensible and passing Forms: The World wearing the Mark of its Maker, whose Stamp is everywhere visible, and the Characters very legible to the Children of Wisdom.

And it would go a great way to caution and direct People in their Use of the World, that they were better studied and known in the Creation of it.

For how could Man find the Confidence to abuse it, while they should see the Great Creator stare them in the Face, in all and every part thereof?"

I am educating my children at home as Pagan Quakers which means that in our household we emphasize our dependence on the natural world and our responsibilities to it. We teach a reverence for biological and cultural diversity, and a practical morality based on the Pagan belief that "Do what you will shall be the whole of the Law excepting that you harm none." We emphasize individual freedom and responsibility within the context of the matrix of life and the context of community. We encourage joyfulness in that which we know and contemplative humility in the face of that which we do not.

Practically, being a Pagan Quaker kid is not about gods and goddesses or magical rituals and divination; it is about a baby toad rescued from the road, fireflies and star light, the smell of good, rich earth after the rain, and the crayfish in the creek in the woods. It is the lessons of a litter of orphaned mice we could not save, a fallen tree, or a dried up creek. It is about a visit to see newborn babies and the need to be gentle around their great-grandmother's increasing frailty. Birth and Death. Pain and Joy. Need and Abundance. Hope and Nostalgia. Mother Earth and all her children are divinely en-souled. Each creature obeys its own calling as we humans must obey our own. Difference does not dissolve relationship. Kinship is not counted by genes. A tree's mute testimony can stand tall beside the wisdom of the ages and a child's tears over a fallen bird mark the pinnacle of civilization.


Lone Star Ma said...


Bright Crow said...

Nice. Thanks.

Bright Crow

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Here's a part I identify with:
>>is about a baby toad rescued from the road, fireflies and star light, the smell of good, rich earth after the rain, and the crayfish in the creek

That reminds me of when my daughter was little and she got me to rescue about 5 little catfish from a big puddle in the dried up riverbed here. I put them in my felt hat and we ran home 5 blocks.

She housed them in her bathtub until we got her a large aquarium. Man, did those "suckers" get big.

My sister and I used to love lighting bugs on summer evenings in Nebraska.

I see why Jesus said we need to become as little children:-)

In the Light,


Hystery said...

In fact, after I wrote this, my husband and children rescued a large number of fish from the last remaining puddle in the dried of creek that runs through our yard. They did not seem nearly as distressed by all the dead fish as I was (Yuck) but were thrilled that among the living were two catfish.

parise said...

thank you for the penn quote. it renews my faith in helping to raise and home school two quaker pagans at a much slower pace than society dictates. as the children get older it seems that the outside pressure to put them in school to "better prepare them for the real world" gets more intense. sometimes i doubt.

Hystery said...

Parise, I'm so glad you stopped by and I really appreciate your comment. When other homeschooling parents talk to me online, I really feel more confident in what I am doing. It is good to know that others are feeling the same worries I feel. There's so much negative pressure on those of us who reject the conventional system.

I can certainly sympathize with your comment. Living in NY with its regulations, paperwork, and standardized testing for homeschoolers, I get really stressed about making sure my kids can keep up lest the state step in and tell me I can't do this anymore.

I'm not an unschooler in the strict sense because my own personality since childhood has been on the regimented side. I've always included more formal lessons in language arts and math for my kids although we have never been good at keeping pace. Some days are just not good at all for that kind of thing so it is often catch as catch can. I've begun using K12 online lessons for them which are fantastic for us. This year it will be math, science, and language arts. Then we have a Highlights for children game and book series the kids get in the mail for geography and social studies. We go to museums and read books together and watch documentaries for history. (Doesn't hurt that they live with two history profs either) and their aunt is a professional in the gallery business so she keeps them busy with art history and projects. One great uncle is a professional artist who sends them treats like oil paints and canvas. Another is a scientist who sends them postcards from his travels around the country as he talks to farmers. When he visits, he takes the kids out to work on projects in the creek. Recently a friend sent them coins from around the world and arranged for his friends and family in Japan and France to send the kids cards. Once a friend of the family heard that the kids were interested in space so they arranged to have NASA send the children a large packet of information.

I wonder what kind of "real world" it is that someone is forced to sit for several hours in a room full of peers exactly one's age. In my real world, a person is surrounded by people of many ages and experiences with whom one must interact using skills of gratitude, hospitality, enthusiasm, courtesy and love.

Taking a walk downtown to the bakery and speaking to the baker and then going to the drugstore to buy Daddy a present seems like a much more authentic interaction with the real world to me than classroom work.

Desiree said...

Your posts are truly inspirational. We are also pagan homeschoolers and I do not know much about Quakers but I do like what I have read. Thank you for this post.

Carrie said...

I have been following your blog for several months now. I am a "new" neo-Pagan, raising 3 young daughters with love and respect for our Earth and themselves. As my oldest is only 4yo, we haven't begun anything formal, but we are following Waldorf and unschooling ideas, as well as our own thoughts on child development and parenting.

Your words are very moving and have pushed me in to the "uncomfortable zone" regarding the version of Christianity that I knew as a young one. I am growing to have respect for people of all beliefs. I consider that "uncomfortable zone" to be a very valuable place for personal learning - thank you!

Thanks for your thoughts.


Hystery said...

It is good to have you here.

Most forms of Christianity keep me in an uncomfortable zone but I'm not sure I always have the positive and healthy attitude about that which you describe. I recall when my family, including my parents, decided that the word "Christian" was inappropriate for us. We felt a sense of great loss to realize that the community to which we had dedicated so much did not share the values we considered Christ-like. And that was the liberal Congregationalists! lol

Hystery said...


Gosh, I'm sorry it has taken me this long to respond to your comment especially since I am so thankful for its kindness.

Hystery said...


Thank you for that corrective information. It is greatly appreciated. I am struggling with my desire to join my meeting and my desire to keep myself clear of association with FUM's policy. Friends' organizational structures remain confusing to me so I appreciate that there are those with knowledge to make my way more clear.

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