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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Thoughts from Charlotte Mason

    August 25, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]’ve really been enjoying Home Education by Charlotte Mason. I’ve been reading it slowly, grabbing it when I have time to focus. Here are some of my favorite passages so far, interspersed with a bit of commentary.

    The fat child can easily be produced: but the bright eye, the open regard, the springing step; the tones, clear as a bell; the agile, graceful movements that characterise the well-brought-up child, are the result, not of bodily well-being only, but of ‘mind and soul according well,’ of a quick, trained intelligence, and of a moral nature habituated to ‘the joy of self-control.’

    I have heard many homeschooling families say that “all of life is school.” Though there be lessons,  learning never stops. The family is in constant mind of each child’s body, mind, and soul. This is the harder path, I think, and yet the most rewarding.

     

    If education is to secure the step-by-step progress of the individual and the race, it must mean something over and above the daily plodding at small tasks which goes by the name.

    I love to learn. I picked this quote out because, when I read it, I thought, Please, may my child never consider learning a “daily plodding!” I want the learning of my child to be so intertwined with the idea of growth, that learning is always a pleasing occupation, and never a burden.

     

    …A mother whose final question is, ‘What will people say? what will people think? how will it look?’ and the children grow up with habits of seeming, and not of being; they are content to appear well-dressed, well-mannered, and well-intentioned to outsiders, with very little effort after beauty, order, and goodness at home, and in each other’s eyes.

    Miss Mason takes advantage of every opportunity to deter mothers from parading their children before the world. Education must be genuine, and never for show. I think  the overwhelming opposition some homeschoolers face leads to  temptation to show off a child’s “tricks.” I have been tempted to drill my son in front of skeptics to make the point that he does not need to go to preschool. But this quote humbled me, and remindeds me that we don’t choose this path for the sake of appearance. Putting my child on display in any way may communicate otherwise to him, something I absolutely want to avoid.

     

    [A] life full of healthy interests and activities is amongst the surest preventives of secret vice.

    I recently read something similar at In a Shoe: “Bored children are trouble waiting to happen.” Boredom in early childhood leads to little bits of trouble, but if it carries on into early adulthood, it can become a foothold for the Devil himself. Small towns are famous for this. The youth do not understand the joys of learning or creativity, and instead they roam the countryside throwing parties where Bacchus himself would be perfectly comfortable. I never found those things tempting, and I think it’s because I had too many other things to be interested in for anything like that to catch my fancy.

     

    [T]he highest intellectual gifts depend for their value upon the measure in which their owner has cultivated the habit of attention.

    In a world plagued by ADD/ADHD, I find it interesting that Mason described attention as a habit to be cultivated. Perhaps every child has some sort of deficit of attention that must be remedied over time. I don’t want to go so far as to say that ADD/ADHD doesn’t exist, but I do think that the huge numbers of school children and adults being diagnosed with such things probably speaks to the need for habits formed (or not formed) early in life.

     

    On the whole, the children who grow up amongst their elders and are not provided with what are called children’s books at all, fare the better on what they are able to glean for themselves from the literature of grown-up people.

    This quote made me brave enough to read E. The Hobbit this summer. Well, I was mainly reading it to Si, but I didn’t wait until after everyone was asleep to pull it out, and I didn’t worry that E. wouldn’t understand it or would be bored. I wasn’t sure how much he caught, though he did laugh at the funny names, and giggle with glee at the mere mention of the word “adventure.” But he surprised me the other day. After glancing at a drawing that resembled an arrow, he told me the whole story of how the brave man used the arrow to shoot down the dragon, Smaug, and how Smaug fell down upon the whole town and everyone was happy that the dragon was gone. Apparently, he is capable of taking in more than I give him credit for.

     

    The clash and sparkle of our equals now and then stirs us up to health; but for everyday life, the mixed society of elders, juniors, and equals, which we get in a family, gives at the same time the most repose and the most room for individual development.

    And here it is, the beauty of homeschooling. Instead of my child knowing only other children exactly like himself in stature and ability and age, we are blessed to have a huge extended family within a small geographic area. So not only does E. learn at home with his father and me and his younger sister, but he also has a standing Friday night swim party at Great Gran’s house, many playdates with his aunt and cousins at a nearby park, and visits to Granddad and Granmama, too.

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