Friday, November 28, 2014

Education is a discipline: shopping with mother, and the end of the series

(All posts in this month's Education is a Discipline series)

Charlotte Mason defined "Education is a discipline":  "By Education is a discipline, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body."

Purposefully. Intentionally. The opposite of automatically, thoughtlessly--which sounds like a paradox if you're talking about habits, letting your feet take the path they have always walked on. But it's the formation of the habits themselves that needs to be definite and thoughtful. There's nothing wrong with a habit if it serves a purpose. I've used this CM quote before:  "Shall we live this aimless, drifting life, or shall we take upon us the responsibility of our lives, and will as we go?" (Ourselves Book II)  
And also this one:  "Before she goes 'shopping,' she must use her reason, and that rapidly, to lay down the principles on which she is to choose her dress,--it is to be pretty, becoming, suitable for the occasions on which it is to be worn, in harmony with what else is worn with it. Now, she goes to the shop; is able to describe definitely what she wants...judgment is prompt to decide upon the grounds already laid down by reason and what is more, the will steps in to make the decision final, not allowing so much as a twinge of after-regret for that 'sweet thing' which she did not buy." (Formation of Character)
These could be restated from the adult's point of view: Shall we allow our students/children to take upon themselves the responsibility of their lives, and will as they go?  Will we allow them to learn to use their reason, to choose, to know definitely what they want, to make decisions without regret?
So let's talk about shopping. A couple of days ago, Mr. Fixit and Lydia went to a thrift store which was having a half-price sale, so it was quite busy. In whatever other respects my girls' education may have failed, they are at least good clothes-choosers. Lydia came home with a lovely pair of two-tone pumps, which she actually needed to go with a dress, and she bought a couple of other things. She told me that in the change room next to her there was quite a lot of drama going on between a girl about her own age and a mother. The mother didn't like what the girl was choosing, the girl didn't like what the mother was suggesting. The mother kept bringing skinny jeans and trendy clothes, the girl wanted more casual sweaters. The mother said, "You're too fat to get into these anyway. You should lay off the Christmas cookies." (Lydia says the girl did not appear to be overweight.)
Obviously, none of us want to act like that, for quite a few reasons. But particularly in the teaching of Will, that mom gets an F.

Remember the House of Education student who got the comment from Miss Mason, "You have come here to learn to live?" You can interpret that in different ways, but in this context I think she meant living with purpose. Having a sense of who you are, what you're doing, and why you're doing it. 
What's the "real world," anyway, and who's to say who is or isn't living in it? Is education just what a teacher tells you to memorize, and information just what comes at you over whatever gadget you carry around? Do we have to rebel so hard, trying to get whatever knowledge is out there, that we frighten ourselves? Or do we allow the hard work of learning to turn us into computers wearing tennis shoes? -- Dewey's Treehouse, 2010
Teaching discipline does not mean making them scrub the latrine with a toothbrush.

It does not mean parents always telling our children what to wear.  It does not mean teachers laying down meaningless assignments (especially under the rationale that hard work builds character).

This is what I think it means: teaching I am, I can, I ought, I will.

And this is also what I think it means:
 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:13-15, ESV)


Unknown said...

Wow. That mom makes me cringe - so nasty!

We've been saying this little poem that somebody wrote (can't remember where I got it :( ) as our school motto each day after our devotions:

I AM a child of God
I Ought to do His will
I CAN do what He tells me
and by His grace I WILL

I've been wondering whether we should keep saying it each day and I think we will - wasn't sure if it would become I don't know how to express it, but wasn't sure whether we should... but after reading this, we will continue :) Do you have suggestion as to how to teach it beyond reciting our motto? I was thinking we could talk about one of the lines per day...
Lisa V in BC

Mama Squirrel said...

Lisa, I have been thinking about your question since you posted it, and I guess I would say that the whole of education is teaching it. It goes beyond teaching the words; it's in what we read, the discussions we have, the way we live our lives.