Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chapter by Chapter - Educating the Wholehearted Child Ch. 4

Teaching Models. . .Learning at Home, Naturally

This chapter focuses on giving your child(ren) a designer education via the literature approach - picking and choosing the best resources and methods that fit your own families needs.

"The Home-Centered Learning method, which is rooted deeply in the Living Books and Life Experiences method credited to Charlotte Mason, will liberate learning in your home and free you to become the teacher God designed you to be and the parent your children need." pg. 57

This is a leap that is hard for many families to take. When I started hsing, my approach was somewhat haphazard, thus I quickly opted to try the traditional textbook approach mainly because *I* needed the security of having it all laid out for me. That only lasted maybe 2 months before I came to the conclusion that I was quite capable of pulling together the best resources for my children and our family and that I didn't have to stick to the "standard" school of thought when it came to education. Homeschooling gives us all a wonderful freedom to get to know our children, their interests, their needs - and we'd be remiss to take a particular path just because it was comfortable for *us*!

The chapter continues by delving into the numerous approaches to homeschooling by summarizing the method and it's strengths - though the CM method receives the loudest accolade hands-down!

I immensely appreciate the contribution and ideas that CM delivers to education - the value of the child as a person, the respect for the parent, etc. And while I feel I'm continually moving in the right direction, it is still difficult to fully recondition my own mind-set to that which is so unfamiliar in our times and so contrary to the "norms" of today's society. If you're a product of ps, you know what I mean.

I think it was John Taylor Gatto's book "Dumbing Us Down" that talked about what the schools really teach us and what the unspoken agenda reveals. A must read. Didn't you learn to be subordinate in school? To talk only when spoken to? To not disrupt the schedule or lesson with your own ideas or train of thought? To do the same thing everyone else was doing? To follow the leader? Hmmm....something to think about.

Contrary to such. . .

"For this reason we owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books." Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, 1925

". . In the nature of things then the unspoken demand of children is for a wide and very varied curriculum. . .Children no more come into the world without provisions for dealing with knowledge than without provision for dealing with food. They bring with them not only that intellectual appetite, the desire of knowledge, but also an enormous, and unlimited power of attention to which the power of retention (memory) seems to be attached, as one digestive process succeeds another, until the final assimilation." Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, 1925

CM was way ahead of her time (and ours). IMHO, the world doesn't give kids that much credit anymore and certainly in some educational settings children are not viewed as born persons, but as vessels to be filled and drilled with facts and bits of information that can be later recited as a means of validation to their intellect and being. Are we intelligent if no one affirms our knowledge? Are we worthy if no one notices or appreciates what we have to offer? Isn't validation from others like oxygen to our very being at times? It's kind of sad how society works on that level in many ways, but I can't help but ponder the peculiar questions that come to mind.

Moving on. . .

"Charlotte Mason encourage what she called "masterly inactivity" as a teaching methodology. She believed that adults do not really teach children anything, and may even hamper their natural desire to learn by making them dependent upon textbooks and teachers to tell them what to think." pg. 63

Ouch! Now there's a line to share with dh when he questions whether or not your doing enough. LOL!

"It is not merely that the child is to be [someday] the possessor of a marked and distinctive individuality, and that therefore he is to be honored for his possibilities in that direction; but it is that he already is [now] the possessor of such an individuality, and that he is worthy of honor for that which he has and is at the present time." H. Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training, 1890

Does this bring to mind the ole' familiar question - "What are you going to be when you grow up?" hee, hee - kind of funny isn't it? Doesn't that question unwittingly imply that as a full person - you are "yet to be"? That your contribution, your value, is not yet truly recognized?

Okay now this statement got my goat a bit. . .

"Home education should not be relegated to a 'temporary' location in your home. The not-so-subtle message to your children is that what they are studying must not be that important if it must be done quickly between meals on the kitchen counter or dining room table. However, when an entire room or area is 'permanently' dedicated to home education, it speaks volumes to your children that their learning is so important you want to give them a special place for it" pg. 73

Now, now - they are stepping my toes here. We make due with what we have, as I know many families do. In fact, we value home education so much that it has taken over our entire home, not just a nook or cranny. Sit at the kitchen table and I'll give you a spontaneous visual lesson on the whiteboard, walk through the hall and you see the world (map that is), journey to my room you'll find my "teacher's lounge", visit the bathroom. . well you get the idea. Not too subtle a message for the kids - I hope! Anywho, that bit of sarcasm aside, I just thought this statement needlessly heaped guilt where none need be heaped!! Education is not a "place" -even in the home.

Well, enough of my rambling. I hope these highlights are enough to convince you what a great resource this is! If you read only through the quotes and scripture in the sidebar sections, you'd still find immense value and richness that will open your eyes to "educating the wholehearted child".

I could go on, but then you wouldn't have to read it yourself! :-)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chapter by Chapter - Educating the Wholehearted Child Ch. 3

Education. . .Strengthening Your Child's Mind

"Your child is not just a soulless brain that needs to be filled up with facts by a teacher, but a person in relationship with you and God, who has eternal value, dignity, and purpose because he or she is made in the image of God." pg. 43

When I started homeschooling and began to use materials that included God's hand in creation, science, history, etc. It really opened my eyes to how dry, void and empty my own education had been without these concepts at the core of all that I learned. I am learning so much along with my kids and feel all the richer
for it.

It often seems that the world lacks value for heart of the child. Everything is rush, rush, rush, do more, be better, success is material, popularity is a milestone, money is the key. It saddens me. I can't figure out if I'm just getting older and thus my perspective has changed or if it was this way even when I was young. Does it seem like more and more people live vicariously through the successes/stature of their children and feel like more or less of a parent accordingly?

I thought this chapter reiterated the importance of a child knowing "how" to learn. The Clarkson's focus on developing this ability via these seven mental muscles: habits, appetites, language, creativity, curiosity, reason, wisdom.

habits - of attention, excellence, orderliness, truthfulness, self-control, diligence

appetites - for literature, living books, art, music

language - print rich environment, limited TV

creativity - provide tools, free time, imagination, guidance, model

curiosity - a thirst for knowledge

reason - dialogue, problem solving, opinion formation, thinking

wisdom - discernment, understanding, prayer, stewardship

I find myself weak in the training of habits. In fact I probably unwittingly nurture to the contrary by giving in, not expecting obedience the first time, failing to follow through and I could go on, but why self-deprecate? lol! It takes unwavering diligence and perseverance to "train" your children in the manner the Clarkson describe and I'll admit I sometimes (okay often) feel I fall short here.

As I was reading last night, I contained my irritation that arose from my husbands constant channel surfing. He didn't watch anything for more than a minute or two. I wondered to myself, if this was a good example of how we actual train ourselves to be inattentive and unfocused? These days we have video games, 50-60 channels, internet, ipods, cell phones, etc. It's a constant busyness - a world infracted by an epidemic of multitasking :-) What ever happened to good ole down time? or as my father would have called it - peace and quiet!

Anywho, this quote was certainly food for thought:

"A love of reading is an acquired taste, not an instinctive preference. The habit of reading is formed in childhood; and a child's taste in reading is formed in the right direction or wrong one while he is under the influence of his parents; and they are directly responsible for the shaping and cultivating of that taste."
H. Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training, 1890

Well how's that for laying a burden at your feet? I remember my older sister was an avid reader and my parents would literally nag her for reading - saying she "always had her nose in a book", like it was a bad thing. Lucky me, I wasn't an avid reader then :-) but as an adult when I think back to the message that sent
- their attitudes and behavior fostered a disdain for books, not a love. Don't worry though - she kept reading! I think it was her escape by then. I wish my parents would have know and been able to pass on what a blessing and adventure reading could be - I might have journeyed to Orchard Valley with Jenny Wren or to the barn with Wilbur and Charlotte long before I was "this many" years old. lol!

I have to agree with Trumbull's quote and propose further - that not only in literature, but in many other aspects of life, we either cultivate a love and interest for something - OR we, by lack thereof, leave it dormant in the imagination where it may never be ignited.

"We have never been so rich in books. But there has never been a generation when there is so much twaddle in print for children." Charlotte Mason, Home Education, 1935

Oh, don't you think Ms. Mason would just fall out of her chair at what's available today? Hmmm. . .enough said.

"Don't be stingy on your library - have as many books at home as you possibly can. Leave them at strategic reading spots throughout the house." pg. 48

Noble idea and one I encourage, but honestly some kids need something a little less subtle - don't they?

"There is definitely a link between vocabulary and intelligence.The best ways to increase your child's vocabulary is to read good books aloud. " sidebar pg. 49

I concur! Between reading good literature to my children and taking in the wisdom-filled posts I encounter , my own vocabulary has expanded.

Well in the closing remarks the lesson was brought home - our children are apt to do as we 'do", rather than do as we "say". Likewise we set the pace for learning. . .

Do your children see you reading for pleasure? Do they see you choosing television programs that are beyond mediocre? Do they see you using your creativity? Do they see you seeking God's wisdom?

"One of the extra benefits of home educating is that it restores to the whole family the excitement and pleasure of learning - fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons all learning and growing together. . .God never meant for learning to become a burden, either for children or for parents. He meant it to be a natural, enjoyable part of family life." pg. 55

Are you finding joy in the journey?

And finally, (yes, I'm almost done!)

"The child must think, get at the reason-why of things for himself, every day of his life, and more each day than the day before. Children and parents both are given to invert this educational process. The child asks 'Why?' and the parents answers, rather proud of this evidence of thought in his child. There is some slight show of speculation even in the wondering of 'Why?' but it is the slightest and most superficial effort the thinking brain produces. Let the parent ask "Why?" and the child produce the answer, if he can. After he has turned the matter over and over in his mind, there is no harm in telling him - and he will remember it - the reason why. Every walk should offer some knotty problem for the children to think out - "Why does that leaf float on the water, and this pebble sink?" and so on.  Charlotte Mason, Home Education, 1935

A gentle reminder that we should not be too quick to provide what our kids can or should seek, think about and learn on their own accord.

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