The Hardest Part is Thinking

Riding a bicycle is easy once you overcome the learning stage. Same with writing a blog. There is nothing to it. It’s not even hard to find something to write about. After a little practice you can put pen to paper with the best of them. Now, I do make a distinction between writing documentation and exposing vulnerability and creativity but, for the purposes of this discussion, the simple act of putting words on a page is a matter of determination and practice. To make it better, do a little reading and increase your vocabulary. Then, not only can you write, you can write big, impressive words. Put enough big, impressive words together in a string and you might be invited to teach at a university or write a speech for a politician!

That stuff is easy. The hard part is thinking. It appears to me that political speech writers don’t do much thinking. Heck, anybody can write without thinking. Just look at my blog! But it is the thinking that gets us where we want to go.

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Today I’m working to wrap up my little series on our home school philosophy. As with everything on the blog, this is more “how-we” than “how-to”. I could be totally wrong about what I’m doing….and so what if I am? My children will be negatively impacted…as will my own future as my children are my future. If you read this baloney and take it as gospel, well…you’re on your own. I offer no warranty. Does anything work? Does anything have meaning? Is there a RIGHT way to do anything? Yes. Certainly. But where the rubber meets the road the only thing I have is Faith. And faith, according to the Bible, is itself evidence of the existence of God. Outside of that? We build on success and learn from the mistakes of the past. That requires thinking. Really, you’re on your own here.

With that in mind, the ultimate lesson for my home schooled children is this: nobody has all the answers. In fact, it is quite possible that nobody knows anything, least of all me. If you want to really know something you have to do more than read about it, write about it and listen to stories about it. As focused as we are on experiencing things, experience isn’t enough. You have to think. You can’t outsource thinking. It is something you have to do on your own. You can leverage your reading and experience to help you think more fully on a subject but you are unlikely to find any real answers from books. Just more possibilities……more opinions…more problems. There is no 10-step program for all the answers the the problems the world can present you with. You just have to think (and pray) your way through each obstacle.

This is certainly true on the farm. How much fence should I build today? I dunno. Build enough fence that the cows get plenty to eat and they put enough pressure to push nutrients and seeds into the soil….but not too much…and not too little. And it changes by season. And by year. And by weather pattern. And by solar aspect. And by slope. And by forage species. And by fertility. The saying goes, “They eye of the master fattens the calf” but, obviously, it’s the master’s ability to think more than his ability to see that makes the difference. How many chickens will we sell this coming year? How many layers? How many hogs? What breed of hogs? On and on…questions with no right answers. We just think our way through and do the best we can.

To help along the way, we study from others who have asked these questions before us. “The Classics” are classics because they are still relevant. We read them, in part, because people still read them. The unending flood of published books shows that writing is easier than thinking but books that endure through time are those that encourage the reader to think…to consider…to change…to grow. Why does Homer beg the muse to sing of the wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles? Because he brought COUNTLESS ills upon the Achaeans! And for what? Because he couldn’t keep a girl he stole while fighting a war he didn’t want to fight. There are still elements of that story we can relate to and learn from…things we can think about today…things that may impact us tomorrow. That said, if history tells us anything it is that nobody learns from history…because we just read for entertainment. We don’t think. Go ahead. Ask the muse to sing of the desire of Victoria’s grandson Freddy to support his empire by building a navy and brought countless ills upon the Europeans. I know that’s not quite right…but it’s as close to a real reason for WWI as I have ever seen.

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As with other subjects, I spend a lot of time reading the classics of agriculture (from John Taylor of Caroline and Miss Coulton to Allan Savory and Joel Salatin) and study what others have done. I try ideas out. I think on the results. I make a revised plan and try it again. Each year I work to improve, never finding THE ANSWER. There is no one answer to farming but I know your answers will be better than mine. Your kids will build on the knowledge you share and will do better still. We build on the work of the past…never really arriving, always moving along. There is no farming destination…just a forked path. The journey is the destination…and a thoughtless journey is a miserable place to be.

Keep this in mind as you raise your own children. Give them time to think…to question…to wonder. So many kids are so busy with school and homework that they aren’t allowed to think. Go back and read that again. Then they spend the evening with scouts or karate or just in front of the TV. Just let your kids get bored. Boredom is a problem kids can solve on their own…sometimes with disastrous consequences. But, like I said earlier, I offer no guarantees. Maybe the best thing for kids is just to keep them busy and out of trouble. But I fear for a society that discovers the convenience of this as they will soon apply the same philosophy to the adult population.

Whatever path you choose, I can’t tell you which way to go. I strongly suggest you read, study and discuss things with others. Rely on young minds for crazy new ideas. Rely on experienced minds for stability. But at the end of the day, the most important work you can do is to think. And it is hard work. That is why so few attempt it.