Slow Education: an extract from ‘Out of the Classroom and Into the World’

Cath Ed cover

A lecturer in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge once told me that the question she is most often asked is, “How long did it take you to learn Chinese?” Her reply to this unanswerable question was always “I don’t know, because I’m still learning.”

Much the same could be said of music. Like many parents, I would like my children to learn an instrument, but I know there can be no instant gratification here. If they are going to play Bach’s Preludes and Fugues in the future then I am going to have to put up with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star now. Unfortunately, one of the difficulties we face in education is that instant gratification has been institutionalized. The message of countless TV shows is that instant fame is possible as long as you’ve got talent. But that is an institutional lie: what actually matters is graft, and graft takes time.

Planes and poetry

I came across a great example of this when I visited St Paul’s Convent School in Hong Kong. On display in the entrance hall was a cardboard plane. Why? Because students at the school, with a little help from a parent who was in the business, built a plane—a real plane. It took them seven years. It flew. It stayed up. It came down safely. But it took them seven years. Many of the students who worked on the plane had left school before it had its maiden flight, but even so, they knew that they had worked on something special, a project that could not be rushed.

Not many students will have the chance to build a plane, but many are asked to write creatively. Our usual approach, as teachers, is to have a lesson, set some homework and then expect a worthwhile piece of writing to emerge, but that’s not how writing works. Charles Causley, who was both a fantastic poet and a primary schoolteacher, used to give his pupils a year in which to write their poems because that’s how long poetry takes, a fact that was brought home to me when I bumped into a friend who is a published poet on the last day of his holiday and the first day of mine.

“Have you had a good week?” I asked.

“It’s been wonderful,” he replied.

“Have you written any poetry while you’ve been here?”

“Oh yes, it’s been a productive week. I’ve written three lines.”

We all know that learning languages, writing poetry and building planes take time. We know that true learning cannot be rushed, but, usually because of institutional pressures, we feel the need for speed. However, if we are to transform Catholic education, these are the pressures we need to resist. Rome was not built in a day and knowledge cannot be mastered in a day either.

Out of the Classroom and Into the World: How to transform Catholic Education

Fishing for Koi with an Afghan Veteran

Since I’m focusing on Slow Education at the moment, I thought it might be worth reposting this article I wrote for First Things a while back:

Throwing my bags into the car, I waved my wife and children a hasty goodbye and then reversed out of the drive, automatically turning on the radio as I went. I was just in time for Arvo Pärt’s Festina Lente, a curious piece in which the basses play the tune at one speed, the violas at another, and the violins at a third.Continue reading “Fishing for Koi with an Afghan Veteran”

Exciting news about my first children’s novel

I’m really delighted to announce that the wonderful Cranachan is going to be publishing my first children’s novel next year. I’ll write more soon but here’s the press release:

Scottish publisher Cranachan has signed author Roy Peachey to its middle-grade imprint, Pokey Hat, for his debut children’s title, The Race.

The dual narrative, which will be published by Cranachan in early 2021, introduces Lili, a young athlete with her own point to prove, and features Eric ‘Chariots of Fire’ Liddell, the hero of the 1924 Olympics, as they both prepare for the race of their lives.

In 1944 Liddell is getting ready to run his final race in a Japanese prison camp in China, while in present day Lili DeLisle is preparing to race in front of the Queen when she visits the school as part of their anniversary celebrations at her school Sports Day.

United by the country of their birth, and their love of athletics, Eric and Lili face very different challenges. Having returned to China, the country where he was born, Eric finds himself in a war zone. Separated from his family and locked up in a prison camp, his lifelong principles are challenged by the imprisoned children he is trying to help.

Having been adopted from China as a baby, Lili also has issues to work through. When her athletic preparations are thrown into chaos by events outside her control, she too has to decide between family and the race of her life.

Anne Glennie, publisher at Cranachan, acquired The Race in a world rights deal directly from the author. Glennie said: The Race is a fantastic and refreshing addition to our Pokey Hat list, with sport as the central subject, it combines contemporary drama with illuminating historical flashbacks, and explores crucial themes including, adoption, racism, family and friendships. An inspiring tale of perseverance and personal achievement, The Race would make a perfect read for young people in the run up to the 2021 Olympics.”

Peachey added: “I am really delighted to be joining Clan Cranachan and am excited at the prospect of introducing readers to Lili, a dynamic young athlete with a love of running. As the Olympics approach, it’s also a great time to look again at the life of Eric Liddell, an inspiring athlete whose life became even more remarkable after he retired from the sport.”

About Roy Peachey

Roy lives with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, two cats, one rabbit, one tortoise, and a few fish. When he isn’t spending time with his family, writing books, or looking after the menagerie, Roy is a teacher and charity worker.

Peachey’s first novel for adults, Between Darkness and Light, the story of a translator with the Chinese Labour Corps during World War I, was published in 2019 by Eyrie Press. He is also the author of three non-fiction books: Out of the Classroom and Into the World50 Books for Life; and Did Jesus Go To School?


The Catechism on Divine Pedagogy

52 God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.

53 The divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously “by deeds and words which are intrinsically bound up with each other” and shed light on each another. It involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons repeatedly speaks of this divine pedagogy using the image of God and man becoming accustomed to one another: The Word of God dwelt in man and became the Son of man in order to accustom man to perceive God and to accustom God to dwell in man, according to the Father’s pleasure. (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,20,2:PG 7/1,944; cf. 3,17,1; 4,12,4; 4,21,3.)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Teaching us gradually – an extract from one of my books


In The Creed in Slow Motion, Ronald Knox points out that “if it was an astonishing thing that our Lord should die, equally it was an astonishing thing that he should stay dead”.[1] We take it for granted that he stayed dead for three days but it is certainly not an event that could possibly have been anticipated, which is why Knox writes that every “second during which he stayed dead, on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday morning was a kind of miracle; a much more remarkable miracle really than his Resurrection”.[2] He gives various reasons why Jesus was buried for three days, but his final explanation is that “Our Lord wanted [the disciples] to learn to wait; waiting is good for all of us”.[3] Those three days matter. They were part of God’s plan. God knows that we need time to take in his lessons, which takes us back to Jesus at the age of twelve and takes us back to St Aelred’s commentary on Luke’s account as well. St Aelred points out that in the Temple Jesus “began to unfold the secrets of heaven to those who were learned in the scriptures, for therein lies the priceless treasure of the promise of God’s mercy. But he did not open that treasure house to them all at once, but gradually”.[4] We might want our children to become saints immediately but it doesn’t work like that. There is a process to be gone through. There are temptations and trials to be faced, and temptations and trials to be overcome. We know full well that our children have to grow up physically, but we sometimes forget that spiritual maturity takes time to develop too. And because it takes us time to get where God wants us to be, he adapts his teaching to suit our needs: “At first He listened to them and asked them questions, and then He addressed them openly,” St Aelred tells us. He teaches us gradually.

[1] Ronald Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2009), 100.

[2] Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion, 101.

[3] Knox, The Creed in Slow Motion, 103.

[4] St Aelred, On Jesus at Twelve Years Old, 30.

Hilda van Stockum on parenting and education


“I think we ought to start a nursery school on Saturdays.” [said Joan.]

“How?” asked Peter.

“We could use Timmy’s yard and play games with them. And we could educate them too. I’ve got a very interesting book. It says a lot about discipline. I don’t think Mother has ever read it,” Joan added reflectively.

“Why don’t you lend her the book then?” asked Peter.

“Because I’d hate to,” Joan said immediately. “I don’t want her to educate us out of a book! I want her to use her own ideas.”


The Mitchells: Five for Victory, p.141

The dignity of old men

One of the pleasures of lockdown is the opportunity to play family board games. We dug out a very old box containing the Catholic Family Bible Game, which contained questions like the following:

According to Proverbs, “The glory of young men is their strength, and the dignity of old men is _________________.” (a) weakness  (b) grey hair  (c) experienceContinue reading “The dignity of old men”

Poetry, nature and freedom

I wrote about nature journalling the other day, but how is that possible if you are confined to the house? The great, but horribly neglected, poet, Norman Nicholson has an answer for us because he was confined to his room in Millom after being struck down with tuberculosis. Lying there on the edge of the Lake District, he had no access to the lakes or fells, but was forced to observe from inside.Continue reading “Poetry, nature and freedom”