Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Month with Charlotte Mason, #26

So we were talking about the timeless aspects of what we currently call a Charlotte Mason education, but which has a history pre-dating Charlotte Mason herself. Can we get hold of the soul or spirit of this kind of education so that we can discern where to stay faithful to what CM wrote, and use what she used, and where we re-invent?

In one of Cindy's latest study posts on Norms and Nobility, she writes:
"The rest of Chapter 3, Part II may well be the heart of the chapter, the point being that we are not raising (teaching) children, we are raising adults. This is where the transformational power of ideas comes in. If we change our thinking in this one small area, we completely change our educational philosophy."
And maybe that's it.

Because when I started thinking through this post, I came up with a few basic CM ideas like these: training in the habit of observation, the habit of attention, the habit of books; emphasizing the value of the natural world (not worshipping it, but as the creation of the Heavenly Father); expecting that children can and should do small jobs perfectly and then work up, emphasizing quality over quantity. And the emphasis on facts not being presented "without their informing ideas."

I also thought about the PNEU programmes' structure, listing books and subjects rather broadly and generally, rather than trying to make sure that every hero and every concept are accounted for and categorized. There is an avoidance of time-wasting activities that no self-respecting child would choose to do without coercion and that do not advance the child's knowledge or abilities. And on the teacher's part, there is an avoidance of too much patronizing explanation.

Which brings us back to what Cindy said. We are raising young people, and while they definitely need time in their lives to be children, without being rushed, pressured, and burdened with knowledge they're not ready for (NOTE: non-family-friendly news content in that link), they also need the opportunity to grow, to be provided with mind-food according to their needs and appetites as human beings. I like seeing the little bitty plants and seeds go into the garden in spring, but I'm expecting that by the end of the summer, barring disaster and rabbits, we'll have tomatoes and beans.

In one sense we may see an afternoon's nature outing as a chance to let children to be children, to relax a bit but get moving at the same time; to drop the need for 'tween attitudes at least long enough to get interested in a newt or a garter snake; to have fun playing in the way children used to play before coaches and computers started telling them the next move. And as Charlotte Mason says, there are places in children's play where adults may not intrude. But at the same time, by giving our children that opportunity to see, to be curious, to compare and record, to tell back, to paint robins and violets with real art materials, to show us their discoveries; by giving them some space and time to play; and by not giving them a worksheet to be filled out on each detail of their afternoon, then we are treating them more as adults, as our equals in intelligence, as partners in discovery, as sharers in this journey.

1 comment:

Katie said...

I wish there was a 'like' button on blogs. I don't always have time to make a comment, but I have really been enjoying your 'Month with Charlotte Mason" posts, Mama Squirrel.