It was Seneca who said that a wise philosopher doesn’t just study in their particular school of thought, but surveys widely, taking and absorbing ideas from any and all thinkers. He would say he read like a spy in the enemy’s camp, and that he’d quote even a bad author if the line was good.
This is why Seneca discusses the ideas of Epicurus so much in his famous Stoic letters (a must read–here’s the edition we carry at The Painted Porch). Even though the Epicureans and the Stoics were rivals, Seneca was intimately familiar with their precepts, borrowing the ones he liked, clarifying his own thinking where he disagreed with theirs.
As it happens, this is a great model for us to follow as parents. There are all sorts of things that Montessori gets right…and stuff that might not work for your family. The idea of “Taking Children Seriously” as we talked about recently, is interesting and valuable just as a kind of mantra, even if that’s all you take. There is Aware Parenting. There are cool strategies developed by homeschooling parents and unschooling parents and tiger parents…and something to be said about the parents who just drop their kids off at public school and never think about it further than that. There are awesome little hacks and ideas from influencers on TikTok and Instagram…as well as terrible ideas that you should do the exact opposite of.
In a sense, The Daily Dad (another book you should read!) is built along the approach that Seneca outlined. It’s a survey course of different thinkers, different ideas, different insights. Some apply to you, some don’t. The point isn’t to lock you into a certain methodology but to cultivate a mindset–a process by which we are constantly challenged, our minds opened and enlarged. We are flexible and learning, creative and humble.
And hopefully, as a result, we’ll raise kids who are all those things too.