Monday, September 10, 2018

Challenge 4

Previous challenges:

Challenge 1 is here.
Challenge 2 is here.
Challenge 3 is here

Vocabulary words:
1.  Pabulum: "1. Food; aliment; that which feeds.  2. Fuel; that which supplies the means of combustion."
2. Magnanimity: Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects. (Websters 1828 Dictionary)

This week we are reading in volume 6 beginning on the bottom of page 9.  
Volume VI is free online here.    If you want to read the pages without my commentary, this was approximately pages 9-21.  If you prefer, you can print these pages out and highlight, underline, make notes in the margins, write out your disagreements or exclamation points, and also stop every other paragraph or two to jot down a quick narration or list of key points.  Staple the pages together or put them in a peechee folder you keep in your bathroom so you can snatch a minute or two of reading here and there throughout your days.  So let's begin!

Miss Mason explains how seeing a group of children in their own home challenged her notion of children and education.  Previously, what she knew of children came from reading and from her work with a church school and an elementary school.  But she says seeing these children in their natural environment at home showed her more of their character and true nature and she realized, "they were persons of generous impulses and sound judgment, of great intellectual aptitude, of imagination and moral insight."  Their ability to imagine particularly struck Miss Mason as illustrated by the reaction of a 5 y.o. girl who came home devastated by seeing a poor homeless man- in thinking of his condition the child grieved over the thought of "a poor man––no home––nothing to eat––no bed to lie upon..." 

Think about that.  Miss Mason, hunting for an example of the power of a child's imagination, used for her illustration this child's broken heart over a homeless stranger.  That's an interesting choice.   We usually think of examples of imagination in children as having something to do with creative story telling, painting, vast 'pretends' and dressing up and play acting the day away with imaginary friends in a living room that alternately becomes an enchanted forest, a seabed, a castle on a hill or a cottage in the woods.  Yet here Mason is demonstrating the value of imagination for enabling a comfortable, well fed, upper middle class 5 year old child to picture the life circumstances of a poor homeless man so clearly it moves her to tears.  This imagination that we want in our children leads not primarily to creative self expression, or to self anything- but to empathy.

Charlotte Mason continues to explain the impact her exposure to real children in their own home had on her philosophy.  She says had been reading philosophy and 'Education,' and studying 'children in large groups' at her elementary school and a pioneer church high school, and she expected "that Education should regenerate the world."  Through exposure to this family in their natural home setting she learned that all her reading and study of children in large groups was not as helpful to her as she had thought, because  "school children are not so self-revealing as at home."   She realized that there was far more to children than she had previously believed or realized- the biggest difference between them and the adults around them being that the children's "ignorance is illimitable."
I always think of that comment when somebody tells me that a Charlotte Mason education is child-led or too self-centered.  A woman who says that the ignorance of children is limitless is not a woman who designed a child-led education.

She attempted to teach abstract grammar concepts to the 7 and 8 year old children, and was unsuccessful- "their minds rejected the abstract conception just as children reject the notion of writing an "Essay on Happiness." 

Great Gravy.  Here she is in 1924 mocking the hackneyed essay on happiness topic already, and yet I was being asked to write an essay on precisely the same subject in an honours English class fifty years later!   I didn't like it any better than MIss Mason's students!
At any rate, she also made a more positive discovery.  She realized: "that the mind of a child takes or rejects according to its needs."  This observation served as a doorway into a hall of wonders, one discovery leading to another.

"From this point it was not difficult to go on to the perception that, whether in taking or rejecting, the mind was functioning for its own nourishment; that the mind, in fact, requires sustenance––as does the body, in order that it increase and be strong; but because the mind is not to be measured or weighed but is spiritual, so its sustenance must be spiritual too, must, in fact, be ideas (in the Platonic sense of images)."
 I soon perceived that children were well equipped to deal with ideas, and that explanations, questionings, amplifications, are unnecessary and wearisome. Children have a natural appetite for knowledge which is informed with thought. They bring imagination, judgment, and the various so-called 'faculties' to bear upon a new idea pretty much as the gastric juices act upon a food ration. This was illuminating but rather startling; the whole intellectual apparatus of the teacher, his power of vivid presentation, apt illustration, able summing up, subtle questioning, all these were hindrances and intervened between children and the right nutriment duly served; this, on the other hand, they received with the sort of avidity and simplicity with which a healthy child eats his dinner.The Scottish school of philosophers came to my aid here with what may be called their doctrine of the desires, which, I perceived, stimulate the action of mind and so cater for spiritual (not necessarily religious) sustenance as the appetites do for that of the body and for the continuance of the race. This was helpful; I inferred that one of these, the Desire of Knowledge (Curiosity) was the chief instrument of education; that this desire might be paralysed or made powerless like an unused limb by encouraging other desires to intervene between a child and the knowledge proper for him; the desire for place,––emulation; for prizes,––avarice; for power,––ambition; for praise,––vanity, might each be a stumbling block to him. It seemed to me that we teachers had unconsciously elaborated a system which should secure the discipline of the schools and the eagerness of the scholars,––by means of marks, prizes, and the like,––and yet eliminate that knowledge-hunger, itself the quite sufficient incentive to education.
Take a minute or two to review this in your mind.  If you have a chance, write down as much you can summarizing the above.  Then stop and consider- what does it mean?  If these things be true, then what should education look like?  Are the tools you are using to teach your children an accurate reflction of how you believe children learn?  Are they tools that are compatible with what you are trying to do, or are the tools that do the very opposite of what you mean to do? Mason continues:
Then arose the question,––Cannot people get on with little knowledge? Is it really necessary after all? My child-friends supplied the answer: their insatiable curiosity shewed me that the wide world and its history was barely enough to satisfy a child who had not been made apathetic by spiritual malnutrition. What, then, is knowledge?––was the next question that occurred; a question which the intellectual labour of ages has not settled; but perhaps this is enough to go on with;––that only becomes knowledge to a person which he has assimilated, which his mind has acted upon.Children's aptitude for knowledge and their eagerness for it made for the conclusion that the field of a child's knowledge may not be artificially restricted, that he has a right to and necessity for as much and as varied knowledge as he is able to receive; and that the limitations in his curriculum should depend only upon the age at which he must leave school; in a word, a common curriculum (up to the age of say, fourteen or fifteen) appears to be due to all children.

We have left behind the feudal notion that intellect is a class prerogative, that intelligence is a matter of inheritance and environment; inheritance, no doubt, means much but everyone has a very mixed inheritance; environment makes for satisfaction or uneasiness, but education is of the spirit and is not to be taken in by the eye or effected by the hand; mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated. For this reason we owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books."

Close your eyes and review this section in your mind.  Spend a minute or two writing out as much as you can remember for your own summary.  Question for today:  Have we left behind the feudal notion that intellect is a class prerogative?   Is it possible we really do still believe that the books and thoughts historically called the works of great minds are only for one class of people,  only now we think they not worth the time of ordinary people, but they are only for useless elites who have little to do with real life?  

Is this disparaging of book knowledge really an improvement?
How do we stunt a child's appetite for knowledge? 

"It will be said on the one hand that many schools have their own libraries or the scholars have the free use of a public library and that children do read; and on the other that the literary language of first-rate books offers an impassable barrier to working-men's children. In the first place we all know that desultory reading is delightful and incidentally profitable but is not education whose concern is knowledge. That is, the mind of the desultory reader only rarely makes the act of appropriation which is necessary before the matter we read becomes personal knowledge. We must read in order to know or we do not know by reading."

As for the question of literary form, many circumstances and considerations which it would take too long to describe brought me to perceive that delight in literary form is native to us all until we are 'educated' out of it.It is difficult to explain how I came to a solution of a puzzling problem,––how to secure attention. Much observation of children, various incidents from one's general reading, the recollection of my own childhood and the consideration of my present habits of mind brought me to the recognition of certain laws of the mind, by working in accordance with which the steady attention of children of any age and any class in society is insured, week-in, week out,––attention, not affected by distracting circumstances. It is not a matter of personal magnetism, for hundreds of teachers of very varying quality, working in home schoolrooms and in Elementary and Secondary Schools on this method (in connection with the Parents' Union School) secure it without effort; neither does it rest upon the 'doctrine of interest'; no doubt the scholars are interested, sometimes delighted; but they are interested in a great variety of matters and their attention does not flag in the 'dull parts.'
It actually really does matter what they are reading.  It's not true that it doesn't matter, so long as they are reading.  This is not snobbery, this is valuing the minds of children as precious and worthy of the best. This is how our minds work- what we labour at and think about is what we retain the longest and deepest. 
It is not easy to sum up in a few short sentences those principles upon which the mind naturally acts and which I have tried to bring to bear upon a school curriculum. The fundamental idea is, that children are persons and are therefore moved by the same springs of conduct as their elders. Among these is the Desire of Knowledge, knowledge-hunger being natural to everybody. History, Geography, the thoughts of other people, roughly, the humanities, are proper for us all, and are the objects of the natural desire of knowledge. So too, are Science, for we all live in the world; and Art, for we all require beauty, and are eager to know how to discriminate; social science, Ethics, for we are aware of the need to learn about the conduct of life; and Religion, for, like those men we heard of at the Front, we all 'want God.'

In the nature of things then the unspoken demand of children is for a wide and very varied curriculum; it is necessary that they should have some knowledge of the wide range of interests proper to them as human beings, and for no reasons of convenience or time limitations may we curtail their proper curriculum.Perceiving the range of knowledge to which children as persons are entitled the questions are, how shall they be induced to take that knowledge, and what can the children of the people learn in the short time they are at school? We have discovered a working answer to these two conundrums. I say discovered, and not invented, for there is only one way of learning, and the intelligent persons who can talk well on many subjects and the expert in one learn in the one way, that is, they read to know. What I have found out is, that this method is available for every child, whether in the dilatory and desultory home schoolroom or in the large classes of Elementary Schools.Children no more come into the world without provision for dealing with knowledge than without provision for dealing with food. They bring with them not only that intellectual appetite, the desire of knowledge, but also an enormous, an unlimited power of attention to which the power of retention (memory) seems to be attached, as one digestive process succeeds another, until the final assimilation. "Yes," it will be said, "they are capable of much curiosity and consequent attention but they can only occasionally be beguiled into attending to their lessons." Is not that the fault of the lessons, and must not these be regulated as carefully with regard to the behaviour of mind as the children's meals are with regard to physical considerations? Let us consider this behaviour in a few aspects. The mind concerns itself only with thoughts, imaginations, reasoned arguments; it declines to assimilate the facts unless in combination with its proper pabulum; it, being active, is wearied in the passive attitude of a listener, it is as much bored in the case of a child by the discursive twaddle of the talking teacher as in that of a grown-up by conversational twaddle; it has a natural preference for literary form; given a more or less literary presentation, the curiosity of the mind is enormous and embraces a vast variety of subjects.
How much attention do we pay to our children's physical meals? How many articles do we read about healthy nutrition, when and how to feed babies solid food, what they should eat, the best methods of food preparation and food preservation?  How many of us know which foods are high in potassium or vitamin C, and what to give our children if we want to improve their calcium levels?
Now, how much time do we spend learning about the mind and how the mind works?  Do we give kids multiple choice, true/false tests and word search puzzles as part of their studies because we have studied the subject ourselves and believe that is how we learn, or isn't this rather the default position because that's what we are used to?  The mind concerns itself with thoughts, imaginations, reasoned arguments- it declines to assimilate bare facts unless in combination with the proper food- literary form.  Stories.  Ideas.  
I predicate these things of 'the mind' because they seem true of all persons' minds. Having observed these, and some other points in the behaviour of mind, it remained to apply the conclusions to which I had come to a test curriculum for schools and families. Oral teaching was to a great extent ruled out; a large number of books on many subjects were set for reading in morning school-hours; so much work was set that there was only time for a single reading; all reading was tested by a narration of the whole or a given passage, whether orally or in writing. Children working on these lines know months after that which they have read and are remarkable for their power of concentration (attention); they have little trouble with spelling or composition and become well-informed, intelligent persons. (The small Practising School attached to the House of Education––ages of scholars from six to eighteen––affords opportunities for testing the programmes of work sent out term by term and the examinations set at the end of each term. The work in each Form is easily done in the hours of morning-school. )
This enthusiastic claim often causes much worry and discouragement to busy moms trying to do many things at home without another adult to help. Please take a deep breath.  I quibble a bit with CM here- the programmes we have include work taken home to be read on weekends and for Sunday readings or for family reading on holidays, and one of the Parents' Review articles summing up the work of the PNEU schools plainly says
"Miss Mason chooses a book, in whatever subject, for its literary value as well as for what it contains. All lessons in which the child uses good, well-written books are teaching him form, style and polish in composition and also such books teach him to think—what we ponder over, we remember.
A great deal of time is given to Literary Subjects in the Parents' Union School, and as it is not always possible to read the books in school hours, the father or mother may help much by reading to the children at home.... "
 So give yourself a bit of a break here.  Mason goes on, now addressing a probably criticism which she has probably heard more than once:
But, it will be said, reading or hearing various books read, chapter by chapter, and then narrating or writing what has been read or some part of it,––all this is mere memory work. The value of this criticism may be readily tested; will the critic read before turning off his light a leading article from a newspaper, say, or a chapter from Boswell or Jane Austen, or one of Lamb's Essays; then, will he put himself to sleep by narrating silently what he has read. He will not be satisfied with the result but he will find that in the act of narrating every power of his mind comes into play, that points and bearings which he had not observed are brought out; that the whole is visualized and brought into relief in an extraordinary way; in fact, that scene or argument has become a part of his personal experience; he knows, he has assimilated what he has read. This is not memory work. In order to memorise, we repeat over and over a passage or a series of points or names with the aid of such clues as we can invent; we do memorise a string of facts or words, and the new possession serves its purpose for a time, but it is not assimilated; its purpose being served, we know it no more. This is memory work by means of which examinations are passed with credit. I will not try to explain (or understand!) this power to memorise;––it has its subsidiary use in education, no doubt, but it must not be put in the place of the prime agent which is attention.
In case you missed it, this is pretty much what I have not so subtly been asking you to do during these challenges, and in this very post- stop,  narrate. Go over what you have read.  If you've been doing this, did you notice the way your mind worked and reworked the material? Did new ideas, questions or points you had previously missed come to mind?  Are you getting a better idea of the big picture through these small exercises in narration? 
Long ago, (says Miss Mason) I was in the habit of hearing this axiom quoted by a philosophical old friend: "The mind can know nothing save what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put to the mind by itself." I have failed to trace the saying to its source, but a conviction of its importance has been growing upon me during the last forty years. It tacitly prohibits questioning from without; (this does not, of course, affect the Socratic use of questioning for purposes of moral conviction); and it is necessary to intellectual certainty, to the act of knowing. For example, to secure a conversation or an incident, we 'go over it in our minds'; that is, the mind puts itself through the process of self-questioning which I have indicated. This is what happens in the narrating of a passage read: each new consecutive incident or statement arrives because the mind asks itself,––"What next?" For this reason it is important that only one reading should be allowed; efforts to memorise weaken the power of attention, the proper activity of the mind; if it is desirable to ask questions in order to emphasize certain points, these should be asked after and not before, or during, the act of narration.Our more advanced psychologists come to our support here; they, too, predicate "instead of a congerie of faculties, a single subjective activity, attention;" and again, there is "one common factor in all psychics activity, that is attention." (I again quote from the article on Psychology in the Encyclopedia Britannica.) My personal addition is that attention is unfailing, prompt and steady when matter is presented suitable to a child's intellectual requirements, if the presentation be made with the conciseness, directness, and simplicity proper to literature.
You should review this in your mind before reading what I have to say about two observations of my own.:-D
1.   Mason previously referenced Platonic images to explain what she meant by ideas, and here she admits the value of 'Socratic questioning for purposes of moral conviction.'  Hmmm. Those who have ears to hear...
2. You may ask your children questions and draw their attention to points you want them to see- keep this moderate.  Overmuch talking dilutes the attention and the value of what you have to say.  And make sure it comes *after* the children have narrated- narrating focuses the attention on the meaning, the ideas. Rote memory and fill in the blank type stuff redirects the attention from the things that matter, from the ideas and the meaning. 
Another point should be borne in mind; the intellect requires a moral impulse, and we all stir our minds into action the better if there is an implied 'must' in the background; for children in class the 'must' acts through the certainty that they will be required to narrate or write from what they have read with no opportunity of 'looking 'up,' or other devices of the idle. Children find the act of narrating so pleasurable in itself that urgency on the part of the teacher is seldom necessary.
What is *your* moral impulse, implied 'must' in the background? 
Here is a complete chain of the educational philosophy I have endeavoured to work out, which has, at least, the merit that it is successful in practice. Some few hints I have, as I have said, adopted and applied, but I hope I have succeeded in methodising the whole and making education what it should be, a system of applied philosophy; I have, however, carefully abstained from the use of philosophical terms.
This is, briefly, how it works:–– 
*A child is a Person with the spiritual requirements and capabilities of a person.*Knowledge 'nourishes' the mind as food nourishes the body.
*A child requires knowledge as much as he requires food.
*He is furnished with the desire for Knowledge, i.e., Curiosity; with the power to apprehend Knowledge, that is, attention; with powers of mind to deal with Knowledge without aid from without––such as imagination, reflection, judgment; with innate interest in all Knowledge that he needs as a human being; with power to retain and communicate such Knowledge; and to assimilate all that is necessary to him.
*He requires that in most cases Knowledge be communicated to him in literary form; and reproduces such Knowledge touched by his own personality; thus his reproduction becomes original. 
*The natural provision for the appropriation and assimilation of Knowledge is adequate and no stimulus is required; but some moral control is necessary to secure the act of attention; a child receives this in the certainty that he will be required to recount what he has read.  
*Children have a right to the best we possess; therefore their lesson books should be, as far as possible, our best books. 
*They weary of talk, and questions bore them, so that they should be allowed to use their books for themselves; they will ask for such help as they wish for.*They require a great variety of knowledge,––about religion, the humanities, science, art; therefore, they should have a wide curriculum, with a definite amount of reading set for each short period of study.*The teacher affords direction, sympathy in studies, a vivifying word here and there, help in the making of experiments, etc., as well as the usual teaching in languages, experimental science and mathematics. 
*Pursued under these conditions, "Studies serve for delight," and the consciousness of daily progress is exhilarating to both teacher and children.

The reader will say with truth,––"I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles"; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not 'more or less,' but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated.
To which practices?  She tells us herself-  those she has just indicated.  If you have time, this is a good place to stop and go over the material in your own mind, thinking about it and trying to organize it. If you were going to tell somebody else what you had been reading, how you would you explain it? 
I suppose the difficulties are of the sort that Lister had to contend with; every surgeon knew that his instruments and appurtenances should be kept clean, but the saving of millions of lives has resulted from the adoption of the great surgeon's antiseptic treatment; that is from the substitution of exact principles scrupulously applied for the rather casual 'more or less' methods of earlier days.Whether the way I have sketched out is the right and the only way remains to be tested still more widely than in the thousands of cases in which it has been successful; but assuredly education is slack and uncertain for the lack of sound principles exactly applied.  

The moment has come for a decision; we have placed our faith in 'civilisation,' have been proud of our progress; and of the pangs that the War has brought us, perhaps none is keener than that caused by the utter breakdown of the civilisation which we have held to be synonymous with education. We know better now, and are thrown back on our healthy human instincts and the Divine sanctions. The educable part of a person is his mind. The training of the senses and muscles is, strictly speaking, training and not education. The mind, like the body, requires quantity, variety and regularity in the sustenance offered to it. Like the body, the mind has its appetite, the desire for knowledge. Again, like the body, the mind is able to receive and assimilate by its powers of attention and reflection. Like the body, again, the mind rejects insipid, dry, and unsavoury food, that is to say, its pabulum should be presented in a literary form. The mind is restricted to pabulum of one kind: it is nourished upon ideas and absorbs facts only as these are connected with the living ideas upon which they hang. Children educated upon some such lines as these respond in a surprising way, developing capacity, character, countenance, initiative and a sense of responsibility. They are, in fact, even as children, good and thoughtful citizens.

I have in this volume attempted to show the principles and methods upon which education of this sort is being successfully carried out, and have added chapters which illustrate the history of a movement the aim of which is, in the phrase of Comenius,––"All knowledge for all men." As well as these I have been permitted to use the criticisms of various teachers and Directors of education and others upon the practical working of the scheme.It is a matter of rejoicing that the way is open to give to all classes a basis of common thought and common knowledge, including a common store of literary and historic allusions, a possession which has a curious power of cementing bodies of men, and, in the next place, it is an enormous gain that we are within sight of giving to the working-classes, notwithstanding their limited opportunities, that stability of mind and magnanimity of character which are the proper outcome and the unfailing test of A LIBERAL EDUCATION.I shall confine myself in this volume to the amplification and illustration of some of the points I have endeavoured to make in this introductory statement."

Stability of mind.
Magnanimity of character. 


If you listened to my possibly annoying interruptions and suggestions, you have already narrated this long passage.  Well done!!  If not, or if you just want some ideas for alternative types of narration to use with your own older students,  consider the following:

1. Spend just three minutes narrating- grab a paper and pen or use the comments below or grab a child or a spouse nearby and spend 3 minutes writing or telling as much as you can remember as fast as you can, either orally or in writing.  This is not the only way to narrate, but it is one of my favourites, especially for busy students who may otherwise be reluctant to narrate.

2. This is another one of my favourite narration questions- Does this remind you of anything else?  Tell me about it.

3. Here's another good option for older students- if you were going to write a quiz about the material from one of these challenge posts, what are five questions you would ask? 

Papaya Tree, Philippines
Challenges for this week:

~SING!  What is the subject each day that leaves you and/or your students feeling most frazzled, fractious, and irksome, or just brain-weary?  This week, conclude that subject each day by singing a folk song or a hymn.   

~Subscribe to Heather Bunting's Children of the Open Air youtube channel.  Listen to this one:
Try this: Three days a week, sing a folk song together.  On the fourth day at the same time you usually sing a folk song, watch the next Children of the Open Air video together. On the fifth day, watch it again, or practice without the video, or sing the folk song together- whichever you prefer.  This is only a suggestion of one way to do this. You are not more or less of a homeschool mom  if you choose a different folk song, a different schedule, or you need to defer solfa lessons until a more opportune time.

~Nature Study: AO Recommends the use of the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock as a resource and reference for parents.  We also have a recommended line up to help parents go through the book and topics in an organized way. You can see that here.  You do not *have* to follow it. We offer this just as a helpful framework for those who want it.  The line-up for the 2018-2019 school year is:

     summer/fall: Trees/shrubs/vines
     winter: Stars/sky
     spring: Amphibians
(That's why I chose pictures I've taken of the local trees for this post.)

Look out the windows of your home.  Look for a tree you can see easily and comfortably.  Loosely  tie a bright coloured ribbon around one of the branches, preferably one that you can see from the window.  Throughout this winter try to look out the window at that particularly branch at least twice a month (once a week is better) and notice in changes.
Read this post on the easiest and best way to approach a nature journal (short answer: Just do it!)
             - Challenge: Draw something in your nature journal this week.  Anything at all.

~Level up in your reading standards- Read this post. Pick a meatier book to read than you usually choose.  Assign yourself a set number of pages you commit to reading each day. Don't set yourself up for failure. Make it realistic, doable.  Tell yourself you must read that many pages a day in that book before you can watch a K-drama, a Netflix movie, read your favourite elbow chair for the mind book, or fritter time away on facebook.  This is an aspirational goal and we take it seriously, but we don't get legalistic about it, either. Life circumstances matter.  Do not berate yourself for failure. Do not call yourself a loser and drown yourself in a carton of ice-cream and a youtube binge.  Just pay attention to the habits you are building.  If the weekend comes and you didn't meet a single day's goal, then you know you should revise your target page down, make an effort toward some progress forward over the weekend, and try again.  Do not decide to start this tomorrow.  Make some progress today. 

Here's a little gift: Free printable bookmarks with quotes from Miss Mason on 'reading to know'vs desultory reading. Print them and write your name and contact information on the back and leave them in a Charlotte Mason book at the local library. Maybe you could be the start of a friendly, encouraging support group.  Don't want to use your printer for color printing? Just write some info on a sticky note and put it in the library book.  You can also post to the FB or forum looking for other moms in your area.  

Having others in real life for mutual support and encouragement in our homeschooling and mothering journey is something most of us long for.  But make sure it is encouraging and not discouraging.    This is a helpful read on what to look for in your CM community- and we can apply this inwardly, as well, and consider how to *be* that support and encouragement to others.    Here's an excerpt:
"... I should not like to apply your word “unpermissible” to what you have considered it well to do in your school. Miss Mason would not have used the word herself, but in her work with those with whom she came most into contact here she always took any debated point back to the principle at issue, and made us decide whether or not a certain practice could bear the final test of the principle. No doubt able and thoughtful teachers will always interpret Miss Mason’s writings in their own way; but this should not prevent close cooperation between those who are immediately concerned in carrying out a trust which has been left to them, and those who are endeavouring to carry out Miss Mason’s Method in wider fields of action from their reading of her books.

Bamboo, which is technically not a tree

Additional reading suggestions and digging deeper for those who can:

Be sure to read Karen Glass' excellent article on what a Charlotte Mason teacher does. It will inspire you.  After reading, try narrating it to yourself, or use one of the three methods above.  

Kopok tree, Philippines

The neuroscience of reading great literature- this is a good explanation about why it matters so much that the children read living books rather than twaddle.  

This is not because we are pretentious or elitist, unless it is pretentious or elitist to say that children should have a diet rich with delicious, attractive, nourishing fruits and vegetables and rather sparing of cotton candy, jawbreakers and McDonald's Happy Meals.  More about what sorts of books Mason recommended for moral instruction, and also what sort of books she pointedly did *not* recommend.

Flame Tree, Philippines

Here's a good forum post on not being elitist.  Remember that you need to be signed in to the forum for that link to work.  Joining the forum and navigating it is  a challenge and a learning curve, but if you can do it, it's worth it. Consider it part of an ongoing challenge from week to week.    

Mango tree, Philippines

Digging Deeper Still:

I linked this above, but if you want to know more about Charlotte Mason and Comenius, you need to start here and read Karen Glass's series about those connections. 

Unconvinced about nature study?  Here's a short topical collection of Miss Mason and others on why we study botany.

A very thoughtful forum discussion on this section of volume VI

Enobling the masses, and a liberal education for all, a forum post (you need to be signed in to the forum for the link to work for you)

More discussion on a liberal education for all

When you are ready to choose a nature study notebook, this thread in the forum might help you pick one. But first be sure you did some sketching using what you have, even if it was just a 3 ring binder or a ragged index card stuck in the back of your purse because you jotted down an old shopping list on it once.

More help from the forum on the study of trees.  Also here.

Not strictly Charlotte Mason, but there are corollaries:

How American education became an education that is really not for all, and consequently makes us wary of seeming to be 'elite' because we read Shakespeare.


Mortimer Adler on what is a liberal education

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