Winter 2018

Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits by Gretchen Rubin

One day, I was sitting in the home of an elderly English gentleman named Malcolm, and he set a cup of hot tea in front of me.

A long-time anglophile, the spring of my nineteenth year found me studying in England, taking in the castles, the rain, the history … but not the tea. In fact, I couldn’t stomach the tea. It was bitter, with an equally bitter aftertaste. This time I drank it, trying so hard to be a good guest that I drained the cup. So he poured me more. In fact, whenever he saw me again (he and his wife were my “adopted parents,” so I saw them often), he would offer tea. And I had to accept.

For three months I studied in England, drinking tea, eating crumpets, looking out the window at buildings that were older than my country. By the time I came home, I was hooked. I saw in a cup of hot tea not just a drink that could settle a meal. I saw a respite from a hectic day, the chance to sit and gaze out of a window. I had acquired a taste, and the process of acquiring that taste made my enjoyment of it much richer than if I had been born liking it.

Many “good tastes” are acquired this way. In classical Christian education, we encourage our kids to develop a palate for the true, the good, and the beautiful. But acquiring taste is not just for students. Sometimes we forget that the true, the good, and the beautiful are acquired tastes for us as parents, too. God has given us a rich world to live in, and when we close ourselves or our children off from it, we become impoverished, begging for handouts in the forms of sermons and sound bites but never gaining knowledge for ourselves.

Drinking tea went from a chore to a respite. The same process can apply to learning. Learn a little Latin, pick up the protractor, or read the great books, instead of just telling the kids to do so. We have all grown into many of our tastes. One of these days, you’ll find that reading a Charles Dickens novel or gazing at the stars and knowing their patterns is a desirable—even refreshing— activity. You’ll thirst for these experiences, because you’ve made it a priority to acquire a taste for them. Without even realizing it your children might begin to thirst more for them, too. ACCS_graphic_sm1

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