Monday, October 07, 2013

Use-what-you-choose homeschooling (Part Five--Last one!)

From Part Four:
"A vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books (also here), for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of "those first-born affinities that fit our new existence to existing things." ~~ Charlotte Mason

I started out here reminiscing about how homeschoolers used to depend on in-print curriculum reviews, but that there weren't so many of them that you couldn't make a reasonable choice; especially on a tight budget. And now the sky seems to be the limit.
I also pointed out that if you got stuck choosing, you might find at least temporary help by plugging in to pre-written booklists and schedules.  Which aren't at all bad things, and they're certainly better than (like the Duchess) throwing everything in the bowl and hoping for the best.
But if you feel like you're stuck blindly following recipes; if you want to get more adventurous, if for whatever reason you find yourself in a place where you need to do things differently...maybe you have a child with an unusual learning style, or a spouse with an unpredictable work schedule, or thirteen daughters named
Madeleine, Gwendolyn, Jane and Clothilde,
Caroline, Genevieve, Maude and Mathilde,
Willibald, Guinevere, Joan and Brunhilde,
And the youngest of all was the baby, Gunhilde...what was I saying...oh yes, as Peg Bracken said, then you are "for it."
Choosing and using is not really such a mystery.  You just need to follow sound educational principles and, so to speak, write your own recipe but don't let it send you up on a sky-high mountain of cake batter.  And I warn you that, as soon as you beckon them, hordes of Principles, Systems, and Methods, right, wrong, beautiful, silly, contradictory, and time-wasting ones, will immediately swarm your castle and beg admittance.

But as Charlotte Mason said, it's up to you which ideas you choose to let through the gates.  Invite the good ones in, and drop the portcullis on the rest.

Books, we've talked about, and we can keep on talking about them forever, because they're so central and they're getting so quickly shut out of this culture. Remember what Ray Bradbury said in Fahrenheit 451, that it wasn't really necessary to make books illegal, because most people had already stopped reading, didn't care anyway?  You don't have to bite people's cell phones in half to make your point; reading for knowledge, and going beyond the elementary reading stage (see How to Read a Book), is a little less hard on the orthodontics.  Search for treasures, and don't limit the search to "children's areas."

"Things, e.g.––
          i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
          ii. Material to work in––wood, leather, clay, etc.
          iii. Natural objects in situ––birds, plants, streams, stones, etc,
          iv. Objects of art.
          v. Scientific apparatus, etc."  ~~ Charlotte Mason

In other words, explore the kingdom.  I know, I know, what was a simple list for her seems full of contentious obstacles for some of us:  clay's messy, wood takes tools, streams are wet, and what's with that et cetera at the end?  But, to put it in a better way, we gain something, even maybe something Charlotte didn't have, by having to make a conscious choice to make the natural, messy, and risky available to our children.

And you know how Charlotte Mason finishes off the "Educational Manifesto" from which I drew that last bit about Books and Things?
There is reason to believe that these principles are workable in all schools, Elementary and Secondary; that they tend in the working to simplification, economy, and discipline.
Simplification!  Economy!  Not to mention discipline!  This is not about overwhelming anybody.  It's about making and sticking to some basic, good choices.  The good stuff is all around us. Remember at the beginning of the first post I complained that technology has made things too complicated?  Well, yes, that's true, but if we know where to look and where to say "stop," we can make the most of it.

Illustrations from The Duchess Bakes a Cake, by Virginia Kahl.

1 comment:

Annie Kate said...

Great series! I love the food analogy: enough but not too much. It puts a new spin on overdoing it, doesn't it?