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Being Still at Christmas

Written on December 20th, 2013

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As we enter into the Christmas holidays, I’ve been thinking about the benefits of taking a break. The traditional school year has a number of these built into its calendar (March break and Summer break, as well as the Christmas holiday) and while recently I’ve read some educators propose that such absences from the school are detrimental to education, I think that they might, in fact, be very beneficial to a child’s learning.

To really know something, I think our experience of it needs to be diverse. I’m a huge fan of what the OACS created in its DIGS model. The idea that we haven’t known something until we’ve Delighted, Investigated, Given Thanks, and been Still (what Doug Blomberg later called, “Pause”) has shaped my own approach to learning. All four are directed at understanding the world in relation to God, but I think the last is especially potent as we head into the holiday season.

Stillness might also be the aspect of knowing that we’re most confused and uncomfortable with wherever we find ourselves this year. We live in an age where what psychologist’s used to label as manic seems now to be the new ideal. A fast-talking, multitasking, go-go-go approach is just what one needs to succeed in today’s world.

But, as any person who suffers from a form of manic distraction will attest, a lack of stimulus in this state always results in boredom. This is quite distinct from the idea of stillness, which is so central to the Christian faith. After all, when we think of the example of Christ, who frequently when out into the desert—probably the quintessential biome of quiet and un-distraction—I’ve never thought of him as being bored, have you?

I think it’s also significant that recent studies in psychology around memory are finding the importance of rest to remembering. As more and more information flies past our eyes (whether in the classroom, or in life in general …) the rush to find the answer can have a detrimental effect on our memory. Regardless of the efforts we bring to bear, without a pause to consider, it seems we can’t learn much.

So, what is it that our children have the chance to learn during this holiday break? I think that they have a chance to follow their passions and honour their own pacing. I think they can experience some of the things they’ve heard about in that classroom in their neighbourhood without distraction. And, most importantly I think, they have the chance to be still.