Guest Post from First Sonlight Scholarship Winner

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Sonlight is still celebrating its 20th Anniversary. And while Luke is away, I--the Amazing Autoblot™--get to share a guest post from Sonlight's first ever Scholarship winner with you!
Luke is really jealous that he can't be the one to introduce Erika to you.

He told me.

Automatic Blogging Robot

Erika Kidd

Erika Kidd, 2000 Scholarship Winner

Erika Kidd likes to say that Sonlight helped her meet her husband. A homeschool graduate and first ever Sonlight scholarship winner, she used the first year of her scholarship to attend Augustine College where she met her husband of nine years. She graduated with an M.A. in Philosophy and is currently teaching and writing her dissertation with the goal of receiving her Ph.D. in 2013.

She enjoys gardening, cooking, entertaining, reading novels and poetry (T. S. Eliot and Scott Cairns are favorites), traveling and sitting on her front porch with her husband.


Erika Kidd
August 13, 2010

The irony of enjoying my bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich at the very kitchen table on which a mere half hour ago my homeschooling friends and I had dissected two fetal pigs was, I confess, uncomfortable. But such are the liabilities of an approach to education in which school and home bleed into each other (not, thank goodness, literally in this case). I find myself wondering more than a decade later what the point of that exercise was. Having sworn off cutting open creatures, I am now pursuing the pleasures of philosophy for my vocation. Neverthless I am grateful for my entire home school experience. My gratitude stems not simply from my sense that my broad home education in science, math, history, languages and the arts helped me to become "well-rounded" (though I hope they have). Rather I am particularly and especially grateful for the attempts of my parents through homeschooling to inculcate in me the virtue and practice of attention.

My sense of the importance of attention has been developed by Simone Weil's tantalizingly titled essay "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God." I can't here summarize the whole thing, but I encourage you to spend a quarter hour with it. Weil maintains that as school studies develop attention, they exercise the soul for love of God. She writes that prayer is perfect attention; it is "the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God."1 This attention is not to be confused with "warmth of heart," but is a focus of the soul on God and on what is real and true. School studies develop a lower form of attention, and every academic endeavor has the potential to be a training in attention: watching and observing, waiting for what is good and true to show itself.

Attention is not a matter of will power, of slavishly "buckling down." Instead, the intellect is led by desire. Therefore attention, though it requires discipline, is motivated by a love of the good, the beautiful and the true. One pays attention and learns not out of fear, but because one has caught a glimpse of some beauty. And these beauties cannot be wrenched out of their concealment but only approached through patient love.

Homeschooling parents have unique opportunities for nurturing the virtue of attention in their children. The flexibility afforded by the home school day allows for children, under appropriate guidance, to follow their intellectual desire where it leads; they have the freedom to lose themselves in a physics problem, to check out a stack of books on Gothic architecture, or to spend the afternoon working out the fingering on a Bach fugue. Ideally students realize that school isn't just a task to be completed, but a rich opportunity continually to learn. All this takes place under the tutelage of enthusiastic parents who can serve as guides and encouragers, drawing their children into the pleasures of reading and discovering as well as helping their children press forward into tasks neither pleasant nor easy (by which I mean—you already know!—dissections).

Every homeschooling struggle and joy I experienced at the kitchen table was training in the virtue and practice of attention. This training, Weil maintains, was also a training in learning to love God. As one draws closer to truth, Weil writes, one comes to see more fully "the unique, eternal and living Truth, the very Truth that once in a human voice declared: 'I am the Truth.'" She continues, venturing a thought in which I, now both teacher and student, find great encouragement: "Every school exercise, thought of in this way, is like a sacrament."2

1Simone Weil, "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God" in The Simone Weil Reader, ed. George Panichas, (New York: Dorset Press, 1981), 44.
2Weil, 50.

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