Thursday, February 25, 2021


Education theorists talk about the recognition, strategic, and affective networks of the brain. The recognition network is how you process information, including your receptive skills. The strategic network is how you respond to information and express what you have learned. The third is the affective network, which has to do with how you personally engage with what you’re learning.

What are the most important things you can think of in a Charlotte Mason education? “Living ideas?” We get some of these seeds of inspiration from books or from oral teaching, but they are also a part of our everyday explorations. So for that, we access the recognition network. “Narration?” Probably the strategic network. “Children are born persons.” What does it mean for us to remember that grownups are born persons too? We listen to each other; we acknowledge that we have different points of view; but we try to work together to achieve shared goals and build community. You could say that that requires all three of our neural networks.

“Masterly inactivity?” This relates closely to “born persons,” by allowing learners to make their own connections and take responsibility for their own learning. One of my education textbooks says that the affective network determines “whether or not an individual finds what is being taught to be important, interesting, and worthy of attention or action.” In other words, “does he care?”

What about “Education is the science of relations?” The relationships we build with the world, and with others are also building us; and we don’t stop building just because our children no longer need us to do math with them. Again, I think, all the networks.

One of the things that  researchers are getting better at all the time is admitting how complex our brains are when it comes to learning. Back in the era when doctors started doing lobotomies, they thought it was a genius idea because they had perfectly mapped out (they thought) how the different parts of the brain were supposed to work and what they were supposed to do, and they didn’t see how one little change could affect the other functions. But we now know that it’s very hard to draw a permanent you-are-here map of what connects with what. Things change around, and functions are shared. The limbic system of the brain used to be associated with emotions, but neuroscientists now see it as more of a very complex communications center, and it’s responsible for a great deal of learning and memory. What that means for us is that if we engage with information in a way that stimulates us emotionally, for instance through a story, we are more likely to retain it.

Excerpt from Ideas Freely Sown: The Matter and Method of Charlotte Mason, by Anne E. White (to be published soon)

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