Sunday, April 6, 2014

All the things I wanted to say, Part Two

by Anne White

More on the subject of Charlotte Mason and the upper years of school...

One hesitation at this point might be that if you've followed Charlotte Mason methods with your family through elementary school, you may also feel, or feel like you're being told, that all that time travelling was fun ,but that now it's time to come back down to earth; time to get down to a more serious view of education. Sometimes people will say this simply because they're not really aware of how challenging some of Charlotte Mason's upper level books and assignments were.

But for others, it is a problem more of philosophy and educational models. We may feel we're being told that the seemingly simple, subjective, mythos or poetic viewpoint is something we should outgrow; that as our children's minds stretch towards adulthood, we have to cut all that out of their schooling and replace it with a big, heavy dose of logos, of reason, of efficiency, of "life is real and life is earnest."  (I think of the mythos and logos as kind of like Ernie and Bert on Sesame Street.  Bert is all "be sensible, behave yourself," and Ernie is all about imagination.)  

David Hicks in his book on classical education, Norms and Nobility, says that "where distrust of connotative language...that is, language that is subjective and emotional, words like 'truth' or 'beauty' or 'home'...invades the modern school, there is a methodological tendency to exclude myth and to encourage detached analysis at the expense of the imaginative mind." Hicks says that the "mythos" side of our consciousness is our imaginative, spiritual effort to make our world intelligible; it gives meaning to human feelings, gives them significance and beauty, and allows us to communicate and share those experiences and ideas with each other. The upper years are about new ways of thinking, the Way of the Will, the great conversations. There is a lot of important stuff happening there beyond the book list, just as there is more to the TARDIS than the control room.

And the other problem with thinking that Charlotte Mason is good for young children, but not practical for older ones, is that we start to expect that when they reach a certain age, they just won't have time for all those books, all the fancy or fun stuff, because they're going to be so busy doing hours of math and science or maybe Latin and Logic, because when you get to that age, you start to focus so much of what you're doing on the next step, whatever lies beyond, like college. The lifetime of learning is going to have to wait until after high school, or maybe until after university. But by that time the key to the TARDIS may have been lost.

In much of today's education, there is the danger of too much specialization too soon; we need to enjoy generalizing (in its positive sense), provide the generous curriculum, while there is still time. In fact, time itself is one of the gifts that we can give our older students: Laurie Bestvater (in The Living Page) quotes from a book by Quentin James Schultze, Habits of the high-tech heart, where he warns that we need to "slow down enough to discover moral wisdom."

The logical, reasonable, "normal" view of education tends to focus on limits--much like looking at the outside, police call box view of a TARDIS. A couple of years ago I opened up a box of some school stuff I had saved from the years when our oldest was about eight through eleven, the first few years we really followed CM, and even I was a little bit shocked at how much I seemed to have expected of almost seems impossible that we were getting that much done in a term, even with a preschooler and a new baby. But I don't remember those school times as being especially hard or unhappy; the truth is that in our daily round of school, my daughter and I (and later her sisters) took those books, and the other parts of a CM education, a bit at a time, day by day, lesson by lesson, term by term; and it worked. We learned to trust the process, to believe in the unknown universes, the places in time and space to which this "travelling phone booth" could take us.. And while I'm speaking here mostly about our own experiences in the elementary years, the same thing can apply to the middle school and high school years.

More in Part Three.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. Inspiring.
    Thanks from my heart for writing this.
    I enjoyed it double dose, for we are a Dr. Who family here. :)