Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Month with Charlotte Mason, #15

"One gets the impression that real poetry would be a distraction."--Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room, "Of Food and Education, Part III"

I am coming close to the end of my workshop notes, although we're only halfway through the month. That's all right--there are still more places we can go with this, although at that point in the actual workshop I was running out of time and the listeners were starting to get that spun look on their faces.

What I ended up talking about at the end was one of the really good things I remember from my sixth grade class. That was the year that "they" decided that our curriculum needed a boost of “culchah,” especially Canadian “culchah.” So every couple of weeks that year, the grade sixes had artists and musicians come to visit. Or we visited them. We walked downtown to a big church to hear a pipe organ, and got to see how it worked; the organist (reminiscent of Mr. Pipes) just happened to be one of the best around and a composer as well. We had someone show us Group of Seven paintings, and a commercial artist brought in his own work. A folk musician named Merrick Jarrett sang and danced his limberjack man for us. Besides getting us out of Environmental Studies for the afternoon, this "culchah" program turned out to be a real gift to us. It was one of the "realest" things we ever did in school. How else do you think I've remembered all that for thirty years?

By comparison, I barely remember what we did in science that year, or in math, although I did learn my times tables perfectly due to the fact that the teacher wouldn’t let us go out for recess until we had answered a sufficient number of questions. I remember reading one chapter of The Witch of Blackbird Pond (in a reader), and—oh yes—watching the obligatory “your changing body” film. So: one chapter from a novel, twelve times tables, a health lesson, and a handful of fine arts memories. Would the teacher be surprised to know which of those sixth-grade lessons are still clear, and how much of the rest has been forgotten?

What will our homeschooled children remember of their school years? Likely not the grammar books, and perhaps not even the geography lessons; “who remembers the scraps of knowledge?” Charlotte Mason asked (although she was not speaking particularly of her own methods). Cindy Rollins said once that if she had to choose between overemphasis on “basics” or “poetics,” she’d rather err towards “poetics,” because you can always catch up on grammar but it takes a lifetime to build an appreciation of art and literature.

Now, while the workshoppers are running for a coffee or the vendor hall, we have some time to go in a different direction. Those of you looking for a few more practical ideas, stay tuned.

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