Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Programme to Fit the Child

I recently heard a very liberating discovery dug up in the May 1914 edition of L'Umile Pianta. But before I mention it here's part of Redeemer's description of the 'magazine':

In 1895 the House of Education Old Students’ Association was formed to provide current and ‘old’ students who were scattered abroad, opportunities to keep in touch and provide mutual support. In 1896 they began publishing the magazine, L’Umile Pianta, named after a plant growing near Ambleside which Charlotte Mason admired for its ability to bend without breaking. This plant was also pictured on the House of Education’s medal, with the motto “For the Children’s Sake.”
"...for it's ability to bend without breaking."

I tried to find an image of it to see what CM admired about it. It is a simple rush, 'the humble plant'. The juncus species. Humble, flexible, yet unbreakable... are we? For the children's sake.

And so here is the liberating tidbit found in the L'Umile Pianta that was likely in our conscience all along. Miss Kitching, I believe, was a good friend of CM's. 

Miss Kitching’s introduction to the discussion of this subject involved the following points:

(1) That the P.U.S. time-table is intended to serve simply as a guide to the teacher in making her own, for it stands to reason that no two schoolrooms are identical as regards the work done, or the time allotted it.

(2) That in making her own time-table the teacher must be careful that no two lessons requiring the same mental effort, follow one another in close proximity.

(3) That it is better to leave the term’s work unfinished, than to rush the pupils through for the sake of having finished the work set.

The general outcome of the discussion was to the effect that some modification of the programme and time-table is absolutely necessary, each teacher using her own discretion in the matter. Somebody very wisely remarked that Miss Mason intends the programme to fit the child, and not, as some wildly imagine, the child to fit the programme.
 And there you have it!

But wait! Before you use this as a reason to throw out Parables from Nature, Pilgrim's Progress, Kidnapped or anything else that you think is too hard for your kids, please read what Jeanne has to say about it here: http://ohpeacefulday.blogspot.com/2012/10/on-substituting-ao-books.html

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Habit of Attention

How often today do we come across children who can't hold a conversation, can't sit still, can't focus? What is our society's answer? ADHD - medicate! Is this really the answer? In some cases, perhaps, but in so many children? What are the stats now? I think in some states it is 10% or higher. Really, 1 in 10 children has ADHD?

There's no doubt attention is of utmost significance. Charlotte Mason believed it was worth more than...
all the so-called faculties put together; this, at any rate, is true, that no talent, no genius, is worth much without the power of attention; and this is the power which makes men or women successful in life. (Vol.5, p.29)
What good is talent or genius without the power of attention?

But Charlotte Mason didn't think attention was a "faculty" (something you either have or you don't). She saw it as something that can be trained, a skill to be developed.

If she were alive today, I wonder if she wouldn't have a few choice words about it all.  I also wonder if we adults were to put ourselves in our children's shoes and endure what they endure in the classroom - text books, testing, talky-talky teachers, dumbed down readings, etc - day in and day out, we mightn't be diagnosed with ADHD ourselves!

Don't you ever wonder how much of it is truly the child and how much is the methods and the curriculum and the lack of any shred of worthwhile thought for these children to chew on?

Charlotte Mason claimed *every* child had full measure of attention within them.
Attention, we know, is not a 'faculty' nor a definable power of mind but is the ability to turn on every such power, to concentrate, as we say. We throw away labour in attempting to produce or to train this necessary function. There it is in every child in full measure, a very Niagara of force, ready to be turned on in obedience to the child's own authority and capable of infinite resistance to authority imposed from without. (Vol.6, p.75)
In other words, it's useless to try to produce this function of attention in the child. It's there already in full measure. We just have to teach them how to turn it on. It resists *infinitely* (yikes!) when it is imposed from without (the parent, teacher, etc.)

She wants us to teach the child to will themselves to attention rather than just obeying forced attention. One is lifelong, the other will be temporary, ending as soon as the teacher is gone. There is no education but self-education.
Self-Compelled.––As the child gets older, he is taught to bring his own will to bear; to make himself attend in spite of the most inviting suggestions from without. He should be taught to feel a certain triumph in compelling himself to fix his thoughts. Let him know what the real difficulty is, how it is the nature of his mind to be incessantly thinking, but how the thoughts, if left to themselves, will always run off from one thing to another, and that the struggle and the victory required of him is to fix his thoughts upon the task in hand. (Vol.1, p.145)
This has to be approached in several ways. On one end, the child has to understand the reason why they must pay attention. What does it matter to them? If they think it is for mom or the teacher, there will be little motivation.
Attention is hardly even an operation of the mind, but is simply the act by which the whole mental force is applied to the subject in hand. This act, of bringing the whole mind to bear, may be trained into a habit at the will of the parent or teacher, who attracts and holds the child's attention by means of a sufficient motive. (Vol.1, p.145)
The child of God is taught that he is here with purpose - to glorify God. 

Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism states: "What is the chief end of man?" "...to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."

What opportunities will arise in their lifetime to glorify God? They can not know, but they can prepare as best as they can. I've talked to my kids about many things I've come across in life where I could have prepared better and missed opportunities because of it. We can't know what will be needed of us, but we can do our best to prepare ourselves in service to Him, to our community, to our future spouse, family, etc. which in turn benefits us as well. And this all ties into Charlotte Mason's motto - I am, I can, I ought, I will

With the right motivation, the child can then be brought to know that they have the ability in themselves to focus their own attention. As mentioned, CM said it is not a faculty, but a habit to be developed.
All school work should be conducted in such a manner that children are aware of the responsibility of learning; it is their business to know that which has been taught. To this end the subject matter should not be repeated. We ourselves do not attend to the matters in our daily paper which we know we shall meet with again in a weekly review, nor to that if there is a monthly review in prospect; these repeated aids result in our being persons of wandering attention and feeble memory. To allow repetition of a lesson is to shift the responsibility for it from the shoulders of the pupil to those of the teacher who says, in effect,––"I'll see that you know it," so his pupils make no effort of attention. Thus the same stale stuff is repeated again and again and the children get bored and restive, ready for pranks by way of a change. (Vol.6, p.75)
...those who propose suggestion as a means of education do not consider that with every such attempt upon a child they weaken that which should make a man of him, his own power of choice. (Vol.6, p.130)
Some things we can do to help the child develop the habit of attention are:
*Make him aware of his ability to will himself to pay attention. Let him know that like a muscle, the more he exercises his will to pay attention, the stronger it gets and the more he will be able to pay attention.
*Use living books in their curriculum, not dead lifeless books.
*Set the expectation that the reading will happen only once and they are to give it full attention.
*Keep lessons short (10-15 min. to start) and focused, you can gradually increase the time as their attention improves.
*Give a very brief intro to the reading for context and write any difficult names up on the board so they are aware of them before the reading and not taken off track by them during the reading.
*Let them know they will be asked to tell back (narrate) what they heard.
*Let them know the reason why they narrate - so they can remember. Not so you can check what they remember. By telling back, they cement things in their own minds and that's why we are asking them to narrate. That takes you out of the picture and helps them realize they are educating themselves, not spewing back information for the sake of the teacher.
*Don't interrupt or correct them during narrations - make brief corrections only after they are finished - and then focus on the ideas, not the facts.
*Don't re-read! (unless they genuinely missed something or wanted clarification out of interest; which is very different from not paying attention)
*Stop right at a cliff hanger so they look forward to the next reading. (think Pinnochio)
*Genuinely praise whatever effort you see them making towards developing their habit of attention.
*Go about this little by little, day by day rather than expecting perfection the first day. It takes time and practice just like anything else.
*Grace, patience and encouragement are a great help.  
Another misapprehension which makes for disorder is our way of regarding attention. We believe that it is to be cultivated, nursed, coddled, wooed by persuasion, by dramatic presentation, by pictures and illustrative objects: in fact, the teacher, the success of whose work depends upon his 'personality,' is an actor of no mean power whose performance would adorn any stage. Attention, we know, is not a 'faculty' nor a definable power of mind but is the ability to turn on every such power, to concentrate, as we say. We throw away labour in attempting to produce or to train this necessary function. There it is in every child in full measure, a very Niagara of force, ready to be turned on in obedience to the child's own authority and capable of infinite resistance to authority imposed from without. (Vol.6, p.75)
Attention 'is in every child in full measure'. Then why do we see so little of it in so many children? Mason claims that we hinder it. Some things she says hinder attention are:
*the 'talky-talky teacher' who gets between the book and the child
*dead lifeless books with no living thought in them
*long lessons
*force and coercion
*not accepting what the child gives back (their work is never good enough)
*prodding and coddling with questions
*not trusting the child's intellect

I think it's worth mentioning also that TV and video games with heightened sensation on a regular basis will likely stimulate their sensitivities to the point where a book lacks the excitement they are used to. I also firmly believe that being in the middle of a bunch of noisy unsettled kids bouncing from one place to another, what we sometimes see in preschools, can also negatively train the attention.

Nature, on the other hand, and curiously being led to observe the wonder of - a spider building a web, an ant carrying something heavier than itself, a flycatcher catching bugs, etc. strengthens attention. Here again, the 'talky-talky' must give way unsolved mysteries which lead to wonder, curiosity and self-education.

Through an understanding of God's will in their life, enlisting their own will, Mason's methods in lessons, time in nature, an atmosphere of the home where children are regarded and heard... it's all interweaved in a way that the child's existing attention is not hindered, but strengthened and the "whole mind brought to bear."
In this way of learning the child comes to his own; he makes use of the authority which
is in him in its highest function as a self-commanding, self-compelling, power. ...But to make yourself attend, make yourself know, this indeed is to come into a king––all the more satisfying to children because they are so made that they revel in knowledge. (Vol.6, p.77)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival - October 2012

Welcome to the October 2012 Edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival all the way out here in California!!

 The continued theme of the carnival is Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles and we are now on principle 16 and 17 which focuses on the will. Here they are in her own words:
16. There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, which we may call 'the way of the will' and 'the way of the reason.'
17. The way of the will: Children should be taught, (a) to distinguish between 'I want' and 'I will.' (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will. (c) That the best way to turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. (d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour. (This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as diversion, whose office it is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may 'will' again with added power. The use of suggestion as an aid to the will is to be deprecated, as tending to stultify and stereotype character, It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well as of success.)
CM tells us our aim in education is less conduct (outward behavior) than character (inward choice). Children may be coerced to behave correctly for all the wrong reasons: rewards, attention, avoidance of fear, humiliation, etc.. She asserts that behavior is of value to the world only as it has its source in character.

How is character and strength of will developed? By exercising the will whose function is to choose, to decide.

We may objectively help them think through matters of consequence, and then age appropriately leave them to make their own choice.  
...the one achievement possible and necessary for every man is character; and character is as finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated and accustomed action of will.
CM writes that those who propose suggestion as a means of education do not consider that with every such attempt upon a child they weaken that which should make a man of him, his own power of choice.

But what if they choose wrong?!?! I suppose that's why we read them all those living books and discuss them and direct them to the scriptures and pray. In the end, we must know they are His.  

You can read more about the will in Vol. 6, Chapter 8 of Charlotte Mason's Homeschooling Series. 

Now onto this month's posts!

A couple posts from Harmony Art Mom:
...a little reflection on reading and narration: Narration: Helping Your Child Get The Most Out of Their Reading
...and a little encouragement from the Parent's Review and the Handbook of Nature Study to get out and do some autumn nature study time. Apple Time - Delicious Nature Study

A post from Bobby Jo on Fall Handicrafts: With Our Hands

Three posts from Amy, who makes this Carnival all happen!
Nature Study Mondays - October - link up!
Narration: a little prep goes a long way pt. 2
Pursuing the Way of the Will

From Patti over at All Things Bright and Beautiful

A post on CM's views towards analytic and critical instruction by Nancy over at Sage Parnassus: Borrowed Views - Charlotte Mason on Critical Thinking

Here is Carol's post on History Timelines and Notebooks

A conversation on narration over at Letters from Nebby: Narration (Help appreciated!)

Cindy shows us all that can be done with pumpkins and math over at Our Journey Westward: Pumpkin School 

And we have Sarah's Week Five Wrap Up over at All That's Goood

Silvia sends us her Charlotte Mason 101 over at Homeschooling in a Bilingual Home

We have three posts from Ann over at Harvest Moon by Hand:

Two posts from Brandy at Afterthoughts:

A post from Catherine on answering "why" they homeschool over at Grace to Abide: Homeschooling Overseas Part 3

A peek at Celeste's nature group's finds over at Joyous Lessons: Nature Study Outing - Week 9

Why Read the Classics? by From Lindafay at Higher Up and Further In
Charlotte Mason was a big fan of classic literature and they were a major part of her book choices for the children using her curriculum. This post is for those of you who are wondering why the classics are important.

A heartwarming post from Liz on a blind mother's will to overcome obstacles and not only teach her child to read, but to also train his will: Where There's a Will There's a Way, or, Reasons Kids Don't Read

How to Frame Your Days with Nature Study from Tricia over at Hodgepodge
And last but not least, a couple from yours truly: A Disciplined Will and STEM and CM

We hope you enjoyed the carnival this month! Post your comments below and you can catch the carnival next month at Our Journey Westward.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Rain

We had our very first rain of the season here in California this week beginning with Thunderstorms early in the morning. The kids can't get outside fast enough! Rainy days are rare and pure joy for the kids as they stomp around the puddles.

After the rain is the best time to spot tracks in the mud along the sides of the creek. I've been contemplating plastering tracks for some time now. Seems messy, but worthwhile. Have any of you?

It finally feels like fall with cool breezes in the air. The Sycamores are turning to their fall dress making perfect subjects for our nature journals. 

dd's sycamore leaf has three leaves

Mine has five
The golden bush is unaware, still dressed in her summer best.

Dana Point Headlands

Dana Point, located in Southern Orange County, is named after Richard Henry Dana, Jr. who sailed in a hide brig named The Pilgrim to San Juan Bay (Dana Point) as recorded in his Harvard Classic titled Two Years Before the Mast.

San Juan is the only romantic spot in California. The country here for several miles is high table-land, running boldly to the shore, and breaking off in a steep hill, at the foot of which the waters of the Pacific are constantly dashing. For several miles the water washes the very base of the hill, or breaks upon ledges and fragments of rocks which run out into the sea. Just where we landed was a small cove, or "bight," which gave us, at high tide, a few square feet of sand-beach between the sea and the bottom of the hill. This was the only landing-place. Directly before us, rose the perpendicular height of four or five hundred feet. how we were to get hides down, or good up, upon the table-land on which the mission was situated, was more than we could tell... 
...there was a grandeur in everything around, which gave almost a solemnity to the scene: a silence and solitariness which affected everything! Not a human being but ourselves for miles; and no sound heard but the pulsations of the great Pacific! and the great steep hill rising like a wall, and cutting us off from all the world, but the "world of waters!"

 Nowadays, you won't find solitariness, but a full harbor, the Ocean Institute and visitors and locals mingling on benches overlooking the sea to the tunes of Fleetwood Mac being strummed by a friendly regular. 

Straight up the road to the top of the steep hill is the Nature Interpretive Center and a fenced trail along the headlands. Here's a painting of the crew of the brig heaving cow hides off the hill on the wall of the interpretive center with a diorama in front.


My older two like the nature center, but aren't too thrilled about the trail because of the restrictions. They prefer freedom to roam over great views, understandably.

Here's a very blurry picture of an electra buckmoth we saw on the trail

The views are spectacular and many people come here in hopes of sighting whales.

I love the sky. Are these cirrocumulus clouds? They ripple as if they're a reflection of the waves and oh how the seagulls and pelicans soar in that sky!

Marine helicopters fly by every so often heading south to Camp Pendleton

 Back down in the harbor is a replica of the Brig Pilgrim which they sail annually at the Tall Ships Festival.

Here's a shot of the breakwater showing the difference between the active sea and the calm of the harbor. How many analogies could we come up with here? 

A willet from the tidepools last week feeding on the organisms in the sand:

I'm not sure about this one, but I think it's a whimbrel. The beak distinctly curls downward, but it's not long enough to be a curlew. Or maybe it is, what do you think?

Last but not least, this was an interesting somewhat-nature sighting; she won a grooming award for her colorful work. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

California Private School Affidavit

It's that time of year again to register your private school affidavit if you register your homeschool as a private school. You have until October 15th to submit your electronic registration.

For information on how to fill out the form, visit HSLDA's California page and click on the "Filing Instructions for Private School Affidavit" link. 

If you are not a member, they will ask you to fill out your name and email for their mailing list. Once you fill in your information, they will take you to a page with a link to the form and details on how to fill out the form correctly.

Shakespeare - Three Chests of Gold, Silver and Lead

My 10 yo YR5 daughter and I read Shakespeare and Plutarch on Fridays. We're reading The Merchant of Venice which is a story we both know from having read it in the Nesbit version once when she was in YR3 and also just last week again as I read it to my YR3 son.

What's interesting is that we're learning there is more to the story than we knew; more that is actually fun for mother and daughter to read together.

In Act I, Scene II of the Merchant of Venice, Nerissa, Portia's waiting-maid, says to her about her deceased father:
Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men at their death have good inspirations: therefore the lottery, that he hath devised in these three chests of gold, silver and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you, will no doubt, never be chosen by any rightly but one who shall rightly love.

This is followed by some comical discussion of the suitors the rich heiress Portia has already met including a drunk who...
when he is best, he is little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast. 

Portia, not wanting the drunk to choose the right casket tells Nerissa she will have to lure him away from the right casket by placing a glass of rhenish wine on the contrary one. Clever girl. I think my favorite was her opinion of the French lord Monsieur Le Bon:
God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.

We already know Bassanio is her true love :)

In Act II, Scene VII we read what happens when the Prince of Morocco, one of her suitors, comes to pick one of the caskets to win her:
Portia: Go draw aside the curtains and discover
The several caskets to this noble prince. Now make your choice.
Morocco: The first, of gold, who this inscription bears,
'Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire;'

The second, silver, which this promise carries,
'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;'

This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt,
'Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.'

How shall I know if I do choose the right?

Portia The one of them contains my picture, prince:
If you choose that, then I am yours withal.

Which is the right casket? You'll have to read it yourself to find out.

"I think I know" says 10yo girl with a smile :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I've been hearing a lot about students needing to meet STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) requirements lately in the AO Forum. I also received an email this morning with offers for a new Homeschool Robotics Class highlighting teaching methods and materials that help your children learn STEM subjects.What do you think about all this push for STEM education?

What parent doesn't want their child to be able to survive in the job market of tomorrow? Consider some of these statements:
The future well-being of our nation and people depends not just on how well we educate our children generally, but on how well we educate them in mathematics and science specifically.… Our children are falling behind; they are simply not “world-class learners” when it comes to mathematics and science. (The National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century 2000)
If trends in U.S. research and education continue, our nation will squander its economic leadership, and the result will be a lower standard of living for the American people…. By 2015 [the country needs to] double the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually to U.S. students in science, math, and engineering. (National Summit on Competitiveness 2005)
The United States faces an unprecedented challenge to its long-term global economic leadership. And a fall from leadership would threaten the security of the nation and the prosperity of its citizens.… High school students in the U.S. perform well below those in other industrialized nations in the fields of mathematics and science … [and thus we need to make] STEM education a national priority. (Council on Competitiveness 2004)
The committee is deeply concerned that the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength … we fear the abruptness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost…. (National Academies of Science 2006)

It's enough to make a CM educator pause and consider.

I did a quick Google search and found this conflicting information in an article titled: Into the Eye of the Storm by B. Lindsay Lowell of Rutgers and Harold Salzman of Georgetown. Here is what they had to say: 
SAT math scores have risen most years since 1982. The students also take more math and science courses. In 1982, high school graduates had taken on average 2.6 math courses and 2.2 science courses. In 1998 the figures were 3.5 and 3.2. College Board data show increases in the percentage of students taking precalculus, calculus, chemistry and physics.
There are more than enough students who score well in math and science to fill the few S&E (Science and Engineering) jobs that open up each year. If there is a problem, it is not one of too few S&E qualified college graduates, but, rather, the inability of S&E firms to attract qualified graduates.
The U.S. graduates about 3 students with degrees in S&E for every new job (this figuredoesn’t include the job openings that occur because of retirements). Research finds that most dropouts from S&E programs occur because of dissatisfaction with the quality of instruction or other program shortcomings.
One to two years after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in S&E, 20 percent of the graduates are in school, but not in S&E programs while 45% are working, but not in S&E jobs.
It’s not an education story, it’s a labor market story.
National Science Board has estimated more than half of 93,000 postdocs in the U.S. are now foreigners on short-term visas.
Less than one-third of science and engineering graduates are working in a STEM field closely related to their degree, while 65 percent of science and engineering graduates are either employed in or training for another career field within two years.
Nearly every faculty member with a research grant now uses postdocs to do the benchwork for the project. Paid out of the grant, these highly skilled employees might earn $40,000 a year for 60 or more hours a week in the lab.

What are we to think? What would CM say?

Thanks to Jeanne (A Peaceful Day) who dug up some of what CM had to say about Science and Mathematics, we can have some idea. 
I have so far urged that knowledge is necessary to men and that, in the initial stages, it must be conveyed through a literary medium, whether it be knowledge of physics or of Letters, because there would seem to be some inherent quality in mind which prepares it to respond to this form of appeal and no other. I say in the initial stages, because possibly, when the mind becomes conversant with knowledge of a given type, it unconsciously translates the driest formulae into living speech; perhaps it is for some such reason that mathematics seem to fall outside this rule of literary presentation; mathematics, like music, is a speech in itself, a speech irrefragibly logical, of exquisite clarity, meeting the requirements of mind. ~Vol. 6, pp. 333,334
In a word our point is that Mathematics are to be studied for their own sake and not as they make for general intelligence and grasp of mind. But then how profoundly worthy are these subjects of study for their own sake, to say nothing of other great branches of knowledge to which they are ancillary! Lack of proportion should be our bĂȘte noire in drawing up a curriculum, remembering that the mathematician who knows little of the history of his own country or that of any other, is sparsely educated at the best.

At the same time Genius has her own rights. The born mathematician must be allowed full scope even to the omission of much else that he should know. He soon asserts himself, sees into the intricacies of a problem with half an eye, and should have scope. He would prefer not to have much teaching.
 But why should the tortoise keep pace with the hare and why should a boy's success in life depend upon drudgery in Mathematics? That is the tendency at the present moment to close the Universities and consequently the Professions to boys and girls who, because they have little natural aptitude for mathematics, must acquire a mechanical knowledge by such heavy all-engrossing labour as must needs shut out such knowledge of the 'humanities' say, as is implied in the phrase 'a liberal education.
Mathematics depend upon the teacher rather than upon the text-book and few subjects are worse taught; chiefly because teachers have seldom time to give the inspiring ideas, what Coleridge calls, the 'Captain' ideas, which should quicken imagination.
How living would Geometry become in the light of the discoveries of Euclid as he made them!

To sum up, Mathematics are a necessary part of every man's education; they must be taught by those who know; but they may not engross the time and attention of the scholar in such wise as to shut out any of the score of 'subjects,' a knowledge of which is his natural right. ~Vol. 6, pp.232/233
It's amazing how applicable her comments are to today.
There is a tendency in human nature to elect the obligations of natural law in preference to those of spiritual law; to take its code of ethics from science
Specialisation, the fetish of the end of the last century, is to be deprecated because it is at our peril that we remain too long in any one field of thought. We may not, for example, allow the affairs and interests of daily life to deprive the mind of its proper range of interests and occupations. It is even possible for a person to go into any one of the great fields of thought and to work therein with delight until he become incapable of finding his way into any other such field. We know how Darwin lost himself in science until he could not read poetry, find pleasure in pictures, think upon things divine; he was unable to turn his mind out of the course in which it had run for most of his life. In the great (and ungoverned) age of the Renaissance, the time when great things were done, great pictures painted, great buildings raised, great discoveries made, the same man was a painter, an architect, a goldsmith and a master of much knowledge besides; and all that he did he did well, all that he knew was part of his daily thought and enjoyment.~Vol. 6, pp.53,54

And these by Karen:
We trust perhaps a little blindly to the training which certain subjects give in certain mental habits. The classics, we consider, cultivate in one direction, the mathematics, in another, science, in a third. So they do, undoubtedly, so far as each of these subjects is concerned; but possibly not in forming the general habits of intellectual life which we expect to result. Remove the mathematician from his own field, and he not more exact or more on the spot than other men; indeed he is rather given to make a big hole for the cat and a little hole for the kitten!
The fault does not lie in any one of these or in any other of the disciplinary subjects, but in our indolent habit of using each of these as a sort of mechanical contrivance for turning up the soil and sowing the seed.

So what do you think? Should we turn the ship around and focus on STEM? Should we specialize?

Our parents lived in a time when a good education equaled a good job with a good company, a gold watch and a cushy retirement. It's the advice they handed to us. Not so today. Entire industries have been replaced or changed forever by technologies in the blink of an eye - think vinyl records, vhs, film, music, mail, brick and mortar retail, and the list goes on. Consider what will happen in the next decade within the food industry with everyone up in arms about GMOs.

Were those people who lost their jobs able to adapt?
In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." ~Eric Hoffer
CM does not lose sight of educating the whole person.

If my children have special interest and aptitude in STEM fields, it will be self evident. Keep in mind my oldest is still in YR5, I'm in a very different place than some of you with middle and high schoolers. Maybe I'll think differently in a few years. Additionally, I think it is sensible to invest in developing commodities that will always be necessary in the marketplace: the ability to think, to learn, to care and to do what is right.
Now we must deal with a child of man, who has a natural desire to know the history of his race and of his nation, what men thought in the past and are thinking now; the best thoughts of the best minds taking form as literature, and at its highest as poetry, or, as poetry rendered in the plastic forms of art: as a child of God, whose supreme desire and glory it is to know about and to know his almighty Father: as a person of many parts and passions who must know how to use, care for, and discipline himself, body, mind and soul: as a person of many relationships,––to family, city, church, state, neighbouring states, the world at large: as the inhabitant of a world full of beauty and interest, the features of which he must recognise and know how to name, and a world too, and a universe, whose every function of every part is ordered by laws which he must begin to know.
It is a wide programme founded on the educational rights of man; wide, but we may not say it is impossible nor may we pick and choose and educate him in this direction but not in that. We may not even make choice between science and the 'humanities.' Our part it seems to me is to give a child a vital hold upon as many as possible of those wide relationships proper to im. Shelley offers us the key to education when he speaks of "understanding that grows bright gazing on many truths." ~Vol. 6, p.157
I should be inclined to say of education ... To educate children for any immediate end––towards commercial or manufacturing aptitude, for example––is to put a premium upon general ignorance with a view to such special aptitude. ... Excellent work of whatever kind is produced by a person of character and intelligence, and we who teach cannot do better for the nation than to prepare such persons for its uses. He who has intelligent relations with life will produce good work. ~Vol. 3, p. 241

In a discussion on the topic over at the AO Forum, Brandy at Afterthoughts pointed out that there is an audio of a lecture by Christian Kopff on the issue of STEM. (Scroll down towards the bottom, it's the second from last lecture on the list)

The audio gives us an on-campus view to much of what David Hicks talks about in his book Norms & Nobility. A detachment between science and the history of scientific thought. A separation between the humanities with an unbalanced focus on the social sciences of today without thought towards the wisdom and thought of the ages.

Some of his thoughts on the push for STEM are sobering. He said that plans at the University of Colorado in the next 30 years are to hire 600 scientists and 300 humanities and social scientists. Literally twice as many. There is no balance because what the future requires is scientists in the sense of 'STEM'

The University feels the problem they have is not enough money and not enough students in the pipeline for STEM fields. At the same time the H1B visa is bringing in thousands of foreign engineers because there aren't enough in the USA to fill the jobs.

But if we consider the findings of the study by Lowell and Salzman,  Into the Eye of the Storm, that isn't the case. Their claim is that there are plenty of people in the STEM pipeline and that there are twice as many jobs. That in fact those that were in those fields are getting out. As I quoted above, it's apparently a market issue. Too many foreign workers willing to work for much less pay ($40,000/yr for 60+ hours of lab work) is not enticing enough to keep Americans with degrees in STEM fields interested. I would imagine their debt load from all their college loans would be a significant part of their decision to change fields.  

Further into the talk, Knopff says what we are seeing is a STEM bubble being created by government spending similar to the mortgage sub prime bubble. The consequences are imaginable as we witness the state of the job market today.

As a mom, it's hard to truly know what is going on or what will happen in the future, which is why I find myself even more convicted that it is less of a risk to educate the whole child as a person rather than to push them into a direction based on a perceived utilitarian end.