Monday, June 12, 2017

Reflections on Home Education - Part I...

This post is a continuation of my study of Volume 1, Home Education by Charlotte Mason. It will cover Part I. You can find my thoughts on the Prefaces here.

Part I Some Preliminary Considerations
Children are a Public Trust. Now, that work which is of most importance to society is the bringing-up and instruction of the children - in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman. (p. 1)
This idea that children are a public trust brought a bit of interesting discussion within our CM Study Group, as one mom didn't agree, or more likely, didn't like the wording of this statement. As if our children, were to be on some sort of public display or that Charlotte was suggesting, it takes a village. However, later in the paragraph, Charlotte states...
The children are, in truth, to be regarded less as personal property than as public trusts, put into the hands of parents that they may make the very most of them for the good of society. (p. 2)
Given the second part of Charlotte's declaration, I see it more as a parent's responsibility to ensure that children are brought up so as to be productive members of society because after all, they hold the future. She further states that the primary responsibility in this feat single-handedly falls to mothers, "because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children's early, most impressive years." This put me in mind of that saying, "The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world."

I. A Method of Education

Next, Charlotte writes about traditional methods of education, which came across to me as punitive. She talks about methods versus systems.
Method - A way to an end and step-by-step progress in that way - danger is that a method should degenerate into a mere system 
System - the observing of rules until the habit of doing certain things, of behaving in certain ways, is confirmed, and, therefore, the art is acquired
A method is progressive. It has a goal. A system simply means following the rules. A while back, I listened to Schole Sisters podcast #20, in which Brandy and Mystie spoke with Karen Glass about the differences between methods and systems. I made a copious amount of notes and it was helpful to reference back while reading this section of Volume 1.
Though system is highly useful as an instrument of education, a 'system of education' is mischievous, as producing only mechanical action instead of the vital growth and movement of a living being.
....but the fact is, that a few broad essential principles cover the whole field, and these once fully laid hold of, it is as easy and natural to act upon them as it is to act upon our knowledge of such facts as that fire burns and water flows. (p. 9-10)
In the podcast, Karen pointed out that Principle 1, Children are born persons, and Principle 12, Education is the Science of Relations, are two of the main principles. I couldn't agree more. Glass stated that many of the other principles are sub points to these two. I've been thinking a great deal about this since. These two principles have really guided the way I view my children's education. Several other podcasts and conference talks that I've listened to over the past few months have also alluded to the significance of these two principles, without actually stating them or even referencing Charlotte Mason.

II. The Child's Estate

As a matter of fact, the first paragraph in this next section suggests children are born persons and not just "tablets to be written on." Charlotte further states, there is a "a code of education in the Gospels expressly laid down by Christ" and that it's "summed up in three commandments"
Take heed that ye OFFEND not - DESPISE not - HINDER not - one of these little ones. (p. 12)
I believe this is based on Matthew 18:10, which says, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." Charlotte spends the next several pages defining these commandments.

III. Offending the Children
An offense, we know, is literally a stumbling-block, that which trips up the walker and causes him to fall. (p. 13)
These stumbling blocks being:

1. Not holding a child accountable to do that which is right;
2. Mother having no sense of duty;
3. Failing to provide for a child's physical needs (unwholesome food, ill-ventilated rooms, disregarding simple laws of health);
4. Wrecking the child's intellectual life with dreary, dawdling lessons and stultifying his wits;
5. Not cherishing the family's affections.

IV. Despising the Children

Charlotte begins this section by defining despise,
"Despise: to have a low opinion of, to undervalue" - thus the dictionary; and, as a matter of fact, however much we may delight in them, we grown-up people have far too low an opinion of children. (p. 17)
She then states mother's should be careful to choose the best 'nurses' (babysitters, day cares) for their children, if they must.
But they should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours; while at the same time, she is careful to choose her nurses wisely, train them carefully, and keep a vigilant eye upon all that goes on in the nursery. (p. 18)
Charlotte further states we must,
Deal with a child on his first offense, and a grieved look is enough  to convict the little transgressor; but let him go on until a habit of wrong-doing is formed, and the cure is a slow one; then the mother has no chance until she has formed in him a contrary habit of well-doing. To laugh at ugly tempers and let them pass because the child is small, is to sow the wind. (p. 19)
This really is a great point and sometimes so difficult when young children are too cute in their naughtiness, but Charlotte makes it clear that one must not laugh, but rather correct the bad behavior on the first offense. I could have saved myself great pains if I had implemented this sooner.

V. Hindering the Child
The most fatal way of despising the child falls under the third educational law of the Gospels; it is to overlook and make light of this natural relationship with Almighty God. (p. 19)
According to Charlotte, we do this by not showing signs of reverence to God and by using God as a threat.

VI. Conditions of Healthy Brain-Activity

Charlotte suggests in order to have a healthy brain, children need exercise, rest, and nutrition.  Below are some sub points she lays out of each condition:

1. Exercise
- daily habit of appropriate moral and mental work
- brain is not content with entire idleness

2. Rest
"Just as important is it that the brain should have due rest; that is, should rest and work alternately."
- Charlotte felt morning was the "best time for lessons and every sort of mental work."
- allow time for digestion after meals
- change of occupation...."the brain, or some portion of the brain, becomes exhausted when any given function has been exercised too long."

3. Nutrition
- the brain cannot do its work well unless it be abundantly and suitably nourished.
- food must be nutritious and easy to digest
- varied diet
- child must be well fed
- regular meals at unbroken intervals
- digested food nourishes the system
- meal time should be the "brightest hours of day" to aid digestion
- children should sit at the table with parents
- advocate of eating fish
- children become bored of leftovers
- alter pudding
- "The quality of the blood depends almost as much on the air we breathe as on the food we eat..."
- children need regular fresh air
- children should walk every day
- "delicious life-giving air of the country"
- well ventilated rooms
- night air is wholesome
- sunshine
- should sweat
- whole surface of the skin should be in a condition to freely excrete
- bathe daily, followed by vigorous scrubbing of skin
- wear wool clothes for breath ability

Some of Charlotte's ideas may seem outdated, but many are still relevant today. Exercise, rest, and nutrition are still the keys to a healthy brain for children and parents alike.

VII. 'The Reign of Law' in Education

Finally, Charlotte advises us not to trust too much in common sense and good intentions, but rather obedience to divine laws in the facts of life. She says it's confusing to children when unbelievers have better morality than believers.

She closes Part I by stating,
My endeavour in this and the following volumes of the series will be to sketch out roughly a method of education which, as resting upon a basis of natural law, may look, without presumption, to inherit the Divine blessings. (p. 41)
There was a great amount of information to digest here. I can see this being very helpful to a new mother. I'm starting to think Home Education would make a great baby shower gift!

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