Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    On the Intersection of Personhood and Individuality

    April 29, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]n my post The Use and Misuse of Charlotte Mason’s First Principle, my focus was on the curriculum side. Before us, we have a child, and this child is a person, therefore we offer him a curriculum for persons. We don’t design a curriculum according to his limited tastes, but rather present him with his rich inheritance as a member of humanity. Today, we’re going to talk about the other side of personhood a bit.

    On the Intersection of Personhood and Individuality

    Where does the individuality of the child come into play? Certainly, I can’t be saying that All Children Are The Same The End, right?

    Right.

    While every child gets all the riches, there is the other sides of persons — the part where one is different from another, where no two are exactly alike. This is one of the remarkable facts we can’t avoid as parents. Here we are, delving into the same genetic code time and again, and yet what comes out over and over is amazing variety, and I don’t just mean in how they look. I personality typed my children, for example, and none of them are the same, and the test I used only had 16 options!

    Surely, persons are a great mystery.

    Now, I am far from an expert on this — treading the holy ground of personality — and as an Afterthinker, I prefer to find out what other people think instead. Lucky for us, Laurie Bestvater touched on this subject in her book The Living Page.

    In her book, Bestvater tells the story of her daughter teaching piano — but not just teaching piano in a general sense. The story explains how her daughter helped an individual student tackle an individual problem. Bestvater then goes on to say:

    [S]omehow Sarah knows she is with this student and for now, she is the only student with this problem and approaches respectfully. She doesn’t remind, roll her eyes, let out an exasperated sigh, utter, “how many times have I told you?” or offer candy or stickers to the child in order to get her to stop what can only be described as a constant irritation if you are a piano teacher. She breaks from what is the perceived lesson, the “getting through” the piece, to have the learning moment that the child has shown her she needs.

    This, my friends, is exactly what it means to teach the child as a person in regard to the child’s individuality. This child, right here, right now — what is our goal with this child? It is this question that guides us as every turn: what exactly are we trying to accomplish?

    When we move the focus of our education from the what to the who — from what we’re trying to teach to who this child is becoming — we find the place in which to act.

    Our goal is nothing less than virtue. Once we get that through our heads, a lot changes. The question that logically follows from this goal, then, is “What does virtue look like in this that we are teaching?”

    What does it look like in math? What does it look like in any other subject? What it doesn’t include, is getting the child through the assignment. It does, however, often include getting the assignment through the child — meaning allowing the assignment to bring the child to a place of increased knowledge, understanding, and wisdom — which requires more from us as teachers than most of us have.

    Which is why we pray.

    In the future, I plan to write a post on this idea that prayer is the teacher’s indispensible tool. In the meantime, let’s back up and face one challenge — one child — at a time.

    Might I also suggest taking a deep breath? I hear this also helps.

    To work with a child who is a person as an individual, we sometimes have to pretend like this child is the only child in the world, and go from there. What does this child need?

    Bestvater sums it up by saying:

    There are ways to approach persons that are always respectful, always timeful, always rich relationally.

    There are ways. I think we’re back to prayer again. Let us ask for wisdom.

     

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit

    9 Comments

  • Reply Angie April 29, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Thank you! I need this reminder on a regular basis and especially while teaching phonics/reading to my dyslexic daughter. I appreciate your words of wisdom!

  • Reply Becca April 29, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Sigh. This is the time of year when I just feel like pushing through….the kids tend to feel the same (likely because I’ve set the tone.) Thank you for the encouragement to take a deep breath and look at things differently.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 29, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      It *is* hard, I know. So don’t forget to pray. 🙂

  • Reply susan in st louis April 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Amen! Thank you!

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog April 29, 2015 at 10:42 am

    “This child, right here, right now — what is our goal with this child? It is this question that guides us as every turn: what exactly are we trying to accomplish? When we move the focus of our education from the what to the who — from what we’re trying to teach to who this child is becoming — we find the place in which to act.”

    Ah…yes. This. A good reminder. I think it is so easy to find ourselves trying to get through an assignment…especially when for whatever reason, the lesson seems to be taking much longer than anticipated. Your statement about getting the assignment through the child instead of the child through the assignment…another good reminder. It reminds me of something Sarah Mackenzie said in her book “Teaching from Rest”. When talking about curriculum, she said: “How we interact with our children while using the material matters far more than whether or not we get through it. Instead of focusing on what we need to cover in any given year, it may be helpful to think about what we might uncover. After all, if our eyes are so fixed on the finish line that we miss the experience entirely, what have we really gained for our labors?”

    Great thought provoking post Brandy. Thank you.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 29, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      Ooh! That was a good Sarah quote! I think I need to reread her book someday soon. 🙂

  • Reply Dawn April 29, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Ugh. This one was convicting today, Brandy. I have been allowing my frustrations to mount during math of late which is making the situation worse rather than better, naturally. Very timely post for me. Thank you, as always, for your way with words. “When we move the focus of our education from the what to the who — from what we’re trying to teach to who this child is becoming — we find the place in which to act.” Brilliant.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 29, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Not sure whether I should apologize or say you’re welcome. Let’s just blame Laurie Bestvater. 😉

    Leave a Reply