"Our beloved Chairman Mao had started the Cultural Revolution in May. Every day since then on the radio we heard about the need to end the evil and the pernicious influences of the ' Four Olds' : old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Chairman Mao told us we would never succeed at building a strong socialist country until we destroyed the "Four Olds" and established the "Four News." The names of many shops still stank of old culture, so the signs had to be smashed to make way for the coming of new ideas."
This is taken from a memoir by Ji Li Jiang about her childhood in China 1964. This is how we do history in our homeschool. I simply cannot do textbooks. Funny how someone's story of having lived through an experience seems to always hold better with my children. That story speaks with much more authority over a topic than any textbook can, and I search for authority.
Wow. I read about those "Four Olds" and I got chills. I reread it to my daughters and it sparked a wonderful conversation. Old ideas? Old culture? Old customs? Old habits?
That happened in China not so long ago.
We asked the question, what were some of the four olds in our own home?
I looked at my book shelf lined with unabridged books. Unabridged as in "old" books, the way they were originally written. I think those are Four Olds, old ideas? Old language?
I asked my girls what they thought the most important of our old books was...and we figured it out.
We thought about the old Valley Forge American flag on our mantel. We thought about what that flags represents...an old idea. We thought about how much we love that flag.
In Williamsburg we can hear the national anthem played at Camp Peary every morning...an old song and an old custom to greet the new day by raising the old flag with the old song.
Ok are you ready for the first picture I took?
We sometimes hear the sounds of the training that goes on at the base, our lifeguards in the summer can distinguish the boom of thunder versus the boom of a Camp Peary exercise. The sound of what protecting the old idea of "liberty" looks like.
In Williamsburg we have the old all around us in what is known as the Historic Triangle. Colonial Williamsburg keeps the trades alive, hiring apprentices to learn with their hands, the old ways of doing things.
As I was reading about China's Cultural Revolution and the erasing of the past, I got an eerie feeling that if we do not value and protect and see the beauty of our own olds, the same things could happen right here in our own country.
I thought about this when a friend lamented the other day on social media that the public schools do not teach cursive handwriting. That highschoolers do not know how to "sign" their name. Wait! Where would we be as a nation if John Hancock didn't have that LARGE John Hancock?!!?!? I teach my girls cursive because I want them to be able to read the old original founding documents. Copies of them, of course, but SHOULD they so desire it that they could go to our nation's capitol and read the original themselves!
An old way of writing...and that the school felt it necessary not to teach the old. It makes me nervous.
When I was a cadet at the US Coast Guard Academy, as a freshman we cringed at having to learn celestial navigation. Why oh why do we need to learn this OLD way if we have a NEW way? I could only wrap my head around the way of the sea. I could only wrap my head around this idea that all of this knowledge is passed down and that even radars and equipment on a ship can break, but the stars stay for us. The old stars.
So we have this book and I have been thinking about old ways. I have been thinking about how lovely it is that my husband taught himself guitar and that he can play, for us, for our enjoyment, you know, an old form of leisure. I think about read alouds or how my daughter has been obsessed recently with baking because of the Great British Bake Off, and that there are old recipes from around Europe often featured on the show. It is nice to have things, like bread and desserts, made the old way by hand.
What if we tried to keep the Old Ways alive in our homes? What if we thought about the way things are passed down...a collective memory....
What if we lived marriage the Old Way? What would the Marriage Prep class look like if the teachers, or our Church leadership, went with the Old Way and just said,
"Children are the absolute best gift of your marriage. Do not frustrate what is most natural. Enjoy your creative love. See your love four, five, six times and don't look back."
My dear friend Mary Clare had an idea recently that we could make a study of Norman Rockwell paintings. He always seemed to capture home life just right. His paintings were realistic and honest and that made things beautiful. They are Old fashioned...and I'm all about it.
And I'm not sure how to keep the Old Ways, how to have the most discerning eye toward such things, and then the girls and I thought of something very old that we do every Sunday, a particular Feast we share in, a Thanksgiving.
We thought about how that is the best Old, because it is the Old that makes all things New.
I think that if we keep well that one Old, all the other Old Ways will be safe.
I'm curious if anyone would mind sharing if they have appreciated an "Old" recently that they may not have before?