Room to Grow
I began writing this post on Saturday the 29th. Snow, of all things, was swirling outside. It covered the ground and weighed heavily upon the leafed trees in clumps, breaking branches and disabling electric power. Our server has been down for days so I am visiting my daughter Yolanda to be connected today.
October snow is extraordinary in southern Pennsylvania. It brings to mind a story I wrote for Story Starters. In “Deborah Misses Dad” the first snowfall is early. It is October snow. This is significant and provides a bit of suspense because Deborah’s father promises that he would return from his long sea journey at (or before) the first snowfall. Would he return in time to fulfill his promise?
The day before our snowstorm I had taken a more usual autumn photograph while standing in our driveway.
I also made Autumn Leaf Decorations from the leaves I gathered on a brisk and refreshing walk. The leaves were gathered at the height of color - and just in time, too.
Goodbye to a garden of pink verbena.
A More Together Feel
I enjoyed two very nice letters from blog friends and also a conversation recently. Something common to each dawned on me. My friends mentioned how in earlier years, home learning had a more “together feel.” Now that the children are maturing they are off at their own desks doing lessons on their own. The family still gathers ‘round the dinning room table for Bible, poetry, a song, or Picture Study but much of the children’s skills and acquiring of knowledge are being achieved by independent effort or by taking turns one-on-one with mother.
A Second Look
Change is inevitable in home education because children grow. It seems that just as we grasp of a workable timetable one year, the next year, it is altered. When change occurs we take a second look and wonder “Is this going well? Is this working for us?” It may take a few months but eventually the timetable takes shape as we adjust to our children’s growing abilities.
A New Suit of Clothes
Actually a wonderful thing is happening. These home taught children still enjoy a degree of companionship; the family isn’t growing apart but growing up alongside one another. And the children are trying on a new suit of clothes. Miss Charlotte Mason would call this suit self-education. And a very fine suit of clothes it is – with room to grow. One that too few students have the opportunity to try on for size. Why? Out of insecurity perhaps, or out of a need to ensure a good showing of right answers on tests, teachers do too much for students.
“If we give him watered-down material, many explanations, much questioning, if we over-moralize, depend on the workbook to work the mind, what thinking is left for the child to do? How is his mind to grow? Pg 41 A Charlotte Mason Companion
The mind feeds on ideas. These ideas are found in books of literary quality. A student digests this mind-food by narrating and after a while he develops a taste for knowledge. With each new idea digested and each new bit of knowledge made personal, he grows.
“Miss Mason believed that there is no education but self-education. Our business, she said, was to give him mind-stuff. Both quantity and quality are essential. . . . Self-education by means of [living] books, narration, first-hand experience and observation is such a very satisfying and rewarding process that it naturally continues throughout life.” Pg 43 & 44 C M Companion
Driving a Horse That is Light
During our fist summer here in Pennsylvania Dutch Country I was waiting at a traffic light. When I looked in my rear-view mirror I was startled. “Oh my, it’s the face of a horse!” Waiting behind me in traffic were a horse and buggy. During that time it was no easy task to teach the last two of our children how to drive with the added feature of passing buggies safely, I can assure you. With every venture down our roads comes the unnerving necessity to pass at least one or two.
Anyway, this summer, when I was in Historic Strasburg with Dean photographing some handsome old houses (here shown) I kept an eye out for the opportunity to snap an action shot of a horse and buggy. I anticipated illustrating a post on “self education” with it.
Since first reading the following paragraph in Philosophy of Education I have been immensely fond of it. It is enlightening. Miss Charlotte Mason assumes that her readers, born in the 19th century, are as familiar with the behavior of horses on the road as we are in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. She wrote:
“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.”
Do you see how the gentleness aspect in “the gentle art of learning” is an embodiment of self-education?
Charlotte Mason takes no credit for being the first to recognize the advantages of self-education. She refers to the Christian educator, John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) at the very start of her book Philosophy of Education: “. . . that golden rule of which Comenius was in search has discovered itself in the Rule, - ‘Whereby teachers shall teach less and scholars shall learn more.’”
I made it a point to support Miss Mason’s urgings to trust in self-education (of teachers teaching less and students learning more) when I created Story Starters. The multi-skill levels of narration-composition give the student “room to grow.”
All in one English course a child can rescue those in danger, comfort the sick, cheer the lonely, laugh with the ridiculous, tame the wild and do battle for good. The exercises in Story Starters suspend the student in the middle of a predicament. He is then faced with the question “What happens next?” This is his cue to expand and embellish the story however he wants. The settings are sometimes exciting, sometimes funny, sometimes sweetly domestic, but they always pose a challenge.
Are you looking for a writing course that will engage a student in critical thinking as well as awaken him to write boldly, freely, with imagination and zest? With Story Starters a child will write in ways he has never written before – and with willing effort – like a horse that is light in hand.
Our family tradition of making Autumn Leaf Decorations can be found in A Charlotte Mason Companion page 316.
Sonya Shafer of Simply Charlotte Mason invited me to contribute to the discussion of her articles “The Gentle Approach” on her blog. Thank you, Sonya.
Comments are warmly welcome,