Saturday, May 15, 2010

Self Education

At our local CM meeting this month we discussed Self Education, which Charlotte Mason wrote about in the first chapter of Vol. 6.

For the sake of brevity, really, I will try, I will highlight a few of my favorite quotes and say just a few things:

The gist of it, I believe, is that Children have a natural desire to learn, and both teacher and child can have an easy and enjoyable go of it, if and when the proper methods are used and the child is seen in his/her true light. Period. So simple.

Charlotte knew this. She saw it working in the lives of the children and teachers in her school for many years as well as families who implemented her methods through the Parents' Review. She wanted to bring it to light, share it with others involved in educating children, this method of hers.

In humility, she beautifully wrote...

One discovers a thing because it is there, and no sane person takes credit to himself for such discovery. On the contrary, he recognizes with King Arthur,––"These jewels, whereupon I chanced Divinely, are for public use." For many years we have had access to a sort of Aladdin's cave which I long to throw open 'for public use.'

She longs... did you catch that? It was her passion, which is why it is good to read her words directly. There is a difference.

In speaking of these jewels, her educational philosophy and methods, she says...

Like the quality of mercy, it is not strained; certainly it is twice blessed, it blesses him that gives and him that takes,* and a sort of radiancy of look distinguishes both scholar and teacher engaged in this manner of education; but there are no startling results to challenge attention. [*Portia, from The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I]

Twice blessed - mother and children in our case.

Have you seen that radiancy of look in your child? Your CM homeschooling friend? Oh I have. I saw it at the meeting when a mother was sharing about her experience reading King Lear with her children - a sort of glow with eyes all alighted.

In speaking of the advantages of her methods she says...
Let me try to indicate some of the advantages of the theory I am urging––It fits all ages, even the seven ages of man! It satisfies brilliant children and discovers intelligence in the dull. It secures attention, interest, concentration, without effort on the part of teacher or taught.
Children, I think, all children, so taught express themselves in forcible and fluent English and use a copious vocabulary. An unusual degree of nervous stability is attained; also, intellectual occupation seems to make for chastity in thought and life. Parents become interested in the schoolroom work, and find their children 'delightful companions.' Children shew delight in books (other than story books) and manifest a genuine love of knowledge. Teachers are relieved from much of the labour of corrections. Children taught according to this method do exceptionally well at any school. It is unnecessary to stimulate these young scholars by marks, prizes, etc.
After all, it is not a quack medicine I am writing about...

Love that sense of humor :)

Expanding on the idea of chastity in thought and life, she also writes:

The children I am speaking of are much occupied with things as well as with books ... He practises various handicrafts that he may know the feel of wood, clay, leather, and the joy of handling tools, that is, that he may establish a due relation with materials. But, always, it is the book, the knowledge, the clay, the bird or blossom, he thinks of, not his own place or his own progress.

This chastity in thought and life - it made me wonder if that doesn't apply to me. What might I be doing if I hadn't been turned on to this method? What would I be doing if this love for nature hadn't been revived, if these living books weren't on the bookshelf? Might I be watching TV, listening to talk radio, getting cranked up on everything that is wrong in the world today? Might that spill over onto my husband, my children and friends? These thoughts turn me deeply to the grace of God in my life.

To sum it up, CM talks about the difference between fitting every child into an educational box vs. her method which allows for ease and individuality. I imagine any teacher in the public school system today would feel somewhat like Christian looking up at the cross and losing his burden if they were to be allowed such a freedom to educate. She writes...

In urging a method of self-education for children in lieu of the vicarious education which prevails, I should like to dwell on the enormous relief to teachers, a self-sacrificing and greatly overburdened class; the difference is just that between driving a horse that is light and a horse that is heavy in hand; the former covers the ground of his own gay will and the driver goes merrily. The teacher who allows his scholars the freedom of the city of books is at liberty to be their guide, philosopher and friend; and is no longer the mere instrument of forcible intellectual feeding.

A wonderful method indeed!