Friday, October 20, 2017

Enthusiasm for Year 4

I love Ambleside Online Year 4 more than any year so far. I was learning a lot in Years 1-3, but Year 4 is a whole new ball game. We get to read Shakespeare now, and Plutarch! I am learning so much, never mind SA(9). I have to stop myself from starting to discuss things in the middle of the reading.

Don't get me wrong, it's hard work, too. I have never put so much effort into pre-reading and scaffolding the readings for my student. ("Scaffolding" is removing obstacles between student and author before the reading, for example, providing definitions and showing maps. The object is for the child to form his own relationship with the author and his subject without too much talking on the teacher's part.) Strangely, while the books are making my brain work overtime, they do not seem more or less challenging to SA than to me. As Charlotte Mason says, he makes the connections "proper to him" and I make the ones proper to me, and we are both learning and growing. I think it's AMAZING that living books allow that to happen.

Almost everything is new to me. I have never read Shakespeare or Plutarch, and my only exposure to Greek Mythology (Age of Fable) so far has been the IliadMadam How and Lady Why is a very interesting way to think of science, and we're having very good discussions over it. I know that I'm talking too much in our lessons (I do try to restrain myself), but at the same time my own enthusiasm for the books is not a bad thing to be modeling. In any case, SA is liking them all. 

My only problem is that I am not giving enough to SA to read independently in his lesson time. He reads The Storybook of Science on his own. I know I could easily hand him Robinson Crusoe, but I love that book! So far I can't resist sharing it with all the boys by reading aloud. I could also give him Madam How and Lady Why, but I feel like discussion flows more naturally when we've just read it together. Maybe I need to get over this so he can do more "digging" for himself. I know we need to work towards more independence for him or I'll drown next year, when I will have three students for the first time.

Is anyone else out there having the amazing experience of learning together with your children? Isn't it wonderful?



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Morning Time Plans, Part 2

Our second part of morning time comes after we have all done our chores and played outside. I also hope to have had some preemptive one-on-one time with the preschoolers by the time we start.

I aim to begin this at about 10:15 every morning. We will have tea or drinks and snacks while we do the first part, then clear away in time for our Canadian loop and Language loop. (The 5 and 2-year-olds will also likely run off and play once the food is done.)

To make this really clear, we are only doing one item in each "loop" per day. The memory work and recitation is all reviewed every day.


TEA TIME LOOP (15 min) (cycle through, one per day.)
- Poetry Appreciation: Tennyson, De La Mare
- Art Appreciation: van Ruisdael, de Hooch
- Music Appreciation: Corelli, Telemann; Sol Fa lesson: Children of the Open Air Level B
- Mathematics Appreciation: Family Math and Mathematicians are People Too
- Poetry Appreciation: childrens’ choice (skip if we have four-day week for some reason)

Memory Work/Recitation (10 min)
- Folk Song: “A Ballad of New Scotland”, “Brave Wolfe
- Poetry: SA – “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, JJ – “Seeds”, “The Mother Bird”
- French Song: “Vous Qui Sur la Terre Habitez”, "Je Me Confie en Toi"
-  Shakespeare: MacBeth “Sleep no More” and/or “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow”
-  Review (one previously memorized folk song OR poem OR French Song OR Shakespeare)

CANADIAN LOOP (20 min) (cycle through, one per day, doing map/timeline work once per week)
- Canadian History: The Story of Canada OR Great Canadian Lives
- Canadian Geography (hoping to do The Map-Maker: the Story of David Thompson if it ever arrives in the mail!)
- Map/Timeline Work (Canadian Oxford Junior Atlas Activity Book)

LANGUAGE LOOP (20 min) (one per day)
- French Lesson: Watch The ULAT lesson OR review AND read French children's book
- English Grammar: KISS Grammar Book 1 (First lessons include material for copywork and dictation as well.)



Notes
Tea Time Loop
Up until the end of last year, we've read poetry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with Art Appreciation on Tuesdays and Composer Study on Thursdays. This year I'm adding in Mathematics Appreciation. I read several chapters of Mathematicians are People Too last year as part of our breakfast reading rotation. In past years we also used to do a fair amount of math games and activities, but I slacked off over time. This year I decided to combine the two and make them part of this special, relaxed time in our school day.

For poetry, we are following the Ambleside Online suggestions for Years 4 and 2. Unlike in previous years, I am giving each boy their own poems to learn for recitation. (We always learned it as a family before.)

For Art Appreciation in Term 1, I looked through the AO rotation for artists roughly in the time period we are studying in history this year (1640-1780) and found Jacob van Ruisdael and Pieter de Hooch (painters from the Dutch golden age). I like doing this, as I think it helps us immerse ourselves in a time period, but I don't go out of my way to do it (connections happen anyway!). I printed the selections suggested by AO on letter-sized paper at Staples and put them in page protectors in our individual binders. We always spend two weeks on each painting, just looking and talking about it the first week, then trying to fix it in our minds' eye and narrating the second week. I am hoping I will have enough space on my "school wall" to hang up the current picture during the weeks we are studying it. 

For Composer Study, we're using the AO rotation this term. 

Memory Work/Recitation
I chose two Canadian folk songs, as they fit well with our Canadian history. A Ballad of New Scotland is a sort of advertisement to attract people to settle in Nova Scotia in the 1700's. Brave Wolfe is about the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. I found both of these songs in my copy of Singing Our History by Edith Fowke and Alan Mills. This wonderful resource is out of print, but you may find it used (check bookfinder.com for prices including shipping). I highly recommend this resource and others by Edith Fowke if you want to coordinate Canadian folk songs with your studies in Canadian history.

Last school year, I taught the boys "A La Claire Fontaine" as our French song. Though I told them the translation at the beginning, I didn't find that it stuck well (aside from the lovely tune!). This term, I decided to turn to a French version of a psalm we already know well in English. "All People that on Earth do Dwell" is one of the boys' favourites, and that's why we will learn "Vous Qui Sur la Terre Habitez." For the second six weeks of the term, I chose a simple hymn from Jeunesse en Mission (Youth With a Mission): "Je Me Confie en Toi." Sometime in the future I will return to French folk songs, but for this year I will focus on easy and familiar hymns to help build their understanding.

Canadian History and Geography
We are continuing to do Canadian history and geography together, as last year. 

Language Loop
We began using The ULAT last year for French. I was not completely satisfied with how we did with it, but as I've been thinking about it, I realize it was because I did not have a daily system for review of what we were learning. I did not want to sit in front of the screen daily for a video review. I'm going to step back a couple of lessons, and use a notebook to make a list of what we need to review each day in between our lessons. In addition, I plan to find and read French translations of a few classic childrens' books that my children already know well in English, starting with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. (I'm not sure of everything that I'll use...I have a stack reserved at the library and I'll see.)

We are also beginning English grammar and studied dictation this year. I am using KISS Grammar. If you click on that link, you will discover that the website is very, very difficult to navigate and find exactly what you need. Here is the page with links to each workbook. I am beginning with book 1, and I will allow JJ(7) to participate with SA(9) as well, but only if he is interested. (Delayed grammar is something I don't quite see eye to eye with Charlotte Mason on...I know I was ready for grammar and loved it from the time I first encountered it in grade 2 or 3. But of course I would never push it on a child who isn't ready.) The first workbook has short passages that the teacher's guide suggests using as dictation exercises. I can kill two birds with one stone! Now I don't have to think about figuring out what to use for studied dictation with SA for the first little while, anyway.

Ambleside Online also recommends beginning Latin in Year 4. I have acquired a Latin program (Visual Latin), but looking at it I realize that SA needs some grammar before he begins. I expect I will probably start next year, in Year 5. I am quite excited about it, though...I think both grammar and Latin will appeal to SA's logical and orderly mind.

Disclaimer
I'm going to offer this disclaimer again. These are my plans. There will be things that will be adjusted as we go along. There are things that will work for my family that won't work for yours. Use your own discretion. Again, I'm building on the work of previous years, and strongly advise starting small and building from there if you are just beginning.

Here are some links from previous years, when the boys were younger:
Our Very First Poetry Teatime (4 years ago)
Our Circle Time (1.5 years ago)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Morning Time Plans, Part 1

Morning Time is the part of our homeschool day that we do together as a family. At our house, we divide it into two parts, both anchored to food: breakfast time and tea time. I started this when my oldest was four or five, and doing two shorter stretches made more sense than one longer one. It still makes sense.

Our Morning Time has expanded over the years. In the beginning, it was very simple. We read the Bible, sang one verse of a hymn, and prayed after breakfast. The boys called this "Read-an-Sing-an-Pray." We read poetry at 10:00 Tea Time. The end.

When SA turned six and we officially started school, we added some Bible memory work to "Read-an-Sing-an-Pray," and he started narrating the Bible story we read. We also started Art Appreciation and Composer Study, substituting it for the poetry at Tea Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In SA's year 2, we added a read-aloud as well at breakfast, beginning with Pilgrim's Progress. In his year 3, we started rotating through a few read-alouds, and began using a "memory binder" to habitually review some of our former memory work (a very necessary addition!).

Now SA is 9 and in Year 4. JJ is 7, MM is 5, and AJ is 2. This is the year Ambleside Online adds Plutarch and Shakespeare. I plan to add it to the end of the breakfast, after our prayer so the younger children can go and play, but are welcome to stay if they like. Here's my plan for the breakfast portion of Morning Time this term:

BREAKFAST READING AND NARRATION LOOP (Cycle through, one per day.) (15 min.)
- Church History/Biography: The Little Woman OR Trial and Triumph
- Elementary Geography
- Tales: Blue Fairy Book OR Canadian Wonder Tales

Memory Work/Recitation (10 min.)
- Hymn/Psalm: "We're Marching to Zion," Psalm 32:1-6, Psalm 86:1-7
- Bible: Philippians 2:1-11
- Review: 1 Psalm or Hymn and 1 Bible passage per day. (Occasionally skipped if time is tight.)
- Catechism: Continue with The Catechism for Young Children

BIBLE READING AND NARRATION LOOP (One per day) (15 min.)
- New Testament: Mark
- Old Testament: Joshua/Judges

Prayer (ACTS, Prayer List) (10 min.)

SHAKESPEARE/PLUTARCH LOOP (One act/lesson per day) (20 min.)
- Shakespeare: “MacBeth”
- Plutarch: “Romulus”


Notes:
Breakfast Reading and Narration
For the breakfast reading, I begin reading once I'm done eating. Nine times out of ten, the boys are still eating, and they enjoy being read to while they finish. Then they usually take turns narrating, including the five-year-old. Though I never ask, he insists on being included. (And narration flows out of him much more readily than out of the older two. Ah, extraversion...)

For Trial and Triumph, I'm following the readings for Ambleside Online Year 4 (three chapters per term). The Little Woman is Gladys Aylward's autobiography (as told to Christine Hunter) . We finished Pilgrim's Progress last year and I decided to do a missionary biography before starting PP again. This one was on my shelf. Gladys Aylward is special to me because it's a story my father told to us when we were children.

I'm going through Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography because somehow I've neglected this subject for the last three years. It had something to do with not having the physical book. Now I have it, and we'll just read it a chapter at a time until it's done.

I'm reading tales, even though they are not on the AO schedule for Years 2 and 4 (our current years). We loved them so much last year, and we were not finished the books, so I decided to continue. I really want this morning read-aloud to continue to be a delightful experience for my preschoolers as well as the rest, and this is for them.

Memory Work
In memory work, we normally start a new hymn and Bible passage every 6 weeks (rather than every month as in Ambleside Online). This just works better for me as we usually have a break and I have a moment to plan then. We don't do all of the AO hymns, as I want to include psalms as well. The psalms I've chosen are ones we are learning as a church. (Our church is transitioning to Sing Psalms from the old Scottish metrical psalter, so singing the same psalm repeatedly for a month until we know it well.)

In the past, we've always read our Bible memory passage together in unison each day until we know it. Lately I've noticed that they don't always pay complete attention, and trail off. Also, I've been thinking about recitation and its purposes. For this reason, while we will continue to learn one Bible passage together as a family (this has value, too), I will have the boys take turns reading the passage aloud on alternate days with a view to them being able to recite it at the end of the term. They do read well as a matter of course, projecting their voices with confidence and expression. (I think this is just because of example, as my husband is a preacher and reads well himself.)

In catechism...sigh...I have to admit we have never made it through the entire thing in the last four years, despite the fact that it's a very simple one! I just keep working away at it.

Bible Reading and Narration
In Bible reading and narration, we just read a short Bible passage and the children narrate. As usual, I'm following the Ambleside Online schedule for my oldest child. Lately I've been reading Paterson-Smyth's commentaries on the Old Testament passages we do, and using that to set the scene beforehand, or to spark a bit of discussion afterwards. It's all very simple, though. Because the Bible is the one book that has been constant throughout the last three years of homeschooling, this is where I've really seen how effective simple reading and oral narration is.

Shakespeare and Plutarch
And finally, the two new additions! Shakespeare and Plutarch are intimidating to me, but I will just jump in and do it. I myself have not read either Shakespeare or Plutarch before, so I will be learning as I go. I chose Plutarch's Romulus because I am using Mrs. Beesly's Stories from the History of Rome to introduce the stories, and "The Building of Rome" is the first chapter in that book. I plan to read Beesly first, and then follow Anne White's study guide at our own pace. We will read a little every other day until we are done. I have no ambition to finish a "life" in a term...we'll just keep going next term if we're not done yet, and then start a new one.

I am still wondering if I made a good choice with "MacBeth" as our first ever Shakespeare play. I am not following the AO rotation this year because I wanted to begin with stories my children seemed to like from Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare last year and build on that. For our comedy, I will go with "The Taming of the Shrew," and for our tragedy, "MacBeth." After that, I will do a history, though we are not familiar with those stories yet. The reason I jumped into the tragedy before the comedy was because I found a resource on Audible that seemed really helpful. We will listen to the Shakespeare Appreciated introduction together. I will pre-listen to the version of the play with commentary for my own benefit. Then we will go through the play together, act by act, listening to the version without commentary and reading along. As with Plutarch, I will not worry about finishing a play in a term...we'll just keep going until we're done.

Disclaimer
I feel like I need to add a disclaimer here. These are my plans. If my plans don't work well, they will be adjusted. My plans may not work for you. If you're new to Morning Time, I strongly advise that you start simple and build over the course of years. It is better to make a strong foundation of habit than to try to do too much at once, burn out and never do it again. For me, I am just adding one time slot (Shakespeare and Plutarch on alternate days) to last year's successful morning time plans.

I hope to be back tomorrow with Morning Time Plans, Part 2.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Goal of Education is Relationship: My Theme for This School Year

Having just read School Education by Charlotte Mason, one of the things I have been thinking about most deeply is her principle "Education is the Science of Relations." In the past 3-4 years as I have been following Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods, I think that I have focused more on the instruments of education: "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life." "Education is the Science of Relations" is a different kind of statement. It is not about the instruments of education, it is about the goal of education.

Yesterday I was half listening to the latest "Close Reads" podcast (the Q&A on Brideshead Revisited), when Andrew Kern said something that arrested me:
"The goal of education is friendship."
Now, I don't pretend to know how he would expand on that statement, but my mind immediately went back to Charlotte Mason's "Science of Relations". I believe that she would say something quite similar: The goal of education is relationship.

Here's Charlotte Mason's Principle 12:
Out of this conception [that the child’s mind comes fit to deal with knowledge, and that facts must not be presented without their informing ideas] comes our principle that, – "Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of--
 "Those first-born affinities
 "That fit our new existence to existing things."
Children are born persons. God has made them so that they are naturally equipped to form relationships with the world around them (things), with themselves (self-knowledge), with the people around them, with people and things of all times in history and all places in the world, and most importantly with Himself. Our job in education is to make the introductions; to facilitate with the goal that they will form relationships of friendship, of duty, of affection, or whatever is proper to each particular relationship.

There is one hitch for teachers, though. We don't know which introductions will result in friendship. Children form their own relationships with things and people they have a natural affinity for. One thing we do know, however, is that as human beings they have a natural affinity to many things. This is why we introduce children to such a feast in a Charlotte Mason education: "physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and many living books." We know that if we make enough introductions, somehow, somewhere, they are going to "take to" something or someone. And the more relationships they form, the more relationships they are able to form.

The Goal of Education is Relationship is my theme for this school year. I'm going to write it on my wall and think about it as we're going through our daily routine. I hope it will make me ask questions of myself:

-Am I too focused on "covering everything"? (a common failing with me...)

-What kind of relationships am I facilitating here? Relationships of delight and affection? Of stress and animosity? Of indifference? (Of course, I do not control my children's responses, but I may have an effect on them by the way I present things.)

-Is there any way I can help with the relationships my children are forming? Resources? A well-placed question or comment? Standing aside? 

-How can I create a culture of sharing as both they and I form our own relationships with the things and books we study?

-How can I present this thing or book in a winsome way that will not hinder or manipulate my child's potential relationship with it?


Are there other questions I should be asking myself? How do you work out the principle "Education is the Science of Relations" in your day-to-day work as a home educator?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

School Education: The Appendices

I did it! I finished reading School Education yesterday, 29 days after starting. Some of it was hard going (Chapter 14, I'm looking at you!), and much of it was surprisingly repetitive. This is something you don't notice as much when you're reading through Charlotte Mason's works slowly, as I've always done. Still, the very repetition shows what was the most important to Charlotte Mason. It's as if she is continually saying, Before we focus in on this one principle, let's step back and see what place that principle has in the whole philosophy of education. Before we dig in to the details of one aspect of education, let's remind ourselves of the principle that informs it. Charlotte Mason was an unusual person, I think. She was a big picture person, a visionary who was yet eminently practical.

The appendices of Volume 3 are pictures of what happens when you apply Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education.

Appendix 1 is a study guide for Volume 3 intended for people who wanted to become "Qualified Members" of the P.N.E.U. by taking the "P.N.E.U. Reading Course." As I was reading very quickly, I did not make use of these questions, but I notice that they seem like narration questions for adults.

Appendix 2 contains samples of answers to exam questions from students in the Parents' Review School. There are answers from children age 6 through 15. Impressive as the answers are, Charlotte Mason assures us that it is "average work." As my own children are 9 and under, I can only compare their exams with the answers of the younger students. I find our results quite similar, with a weakness in nature study (I knew that already...). The work of the older children impresses and intimidates me, but no doubt we will grow into it.

Appendix 3 tells us what a child should learn in the six years between the ages of six and twelve. I will quote the list here in full. 

"a. To grasp the sense of a passage of some length at a single reading: and to narrate the substance of what they have read or heard.
b. To spell, and express themselves in writing with ease and fair correctness.
c. To give an orderly and detailed account of any subject they have studied.
d. To describe in writing what they have seen, or heard from the newspapers.
e. They should have a familiar acquaintance with the common objects of the country, with power to reproduce some of these in brushwork.
f. Should have skill in various handicrafts, as cardboard Sloyd, basket-making, clay-modelling, etc.
g. In Arithmetic, they should have some knowledge of vulgar and decimal fractions, percentage, household accounts, etc.
h. Should have a knowledge of Elementary Algebra, and should have done practical exercises in Geometry.
i. Of Elementary Latin Grammar; should read fables and easy tales, and, say, one or two books of 'Caesar.'
j. They should have some power of understanding spoken French, and be able to speak a little; and to read an easy French book without a dictionary.
k. In German, much the same as in French, but less progress.
l. In History, they will have gone through a rather detailed study of English, French, and Classical (Plutarch) History. 
m. In Geography they will have studied in detail the map of the world, and have been at one time able to fill in the landscape, industries, etc., from their studies, of each division of the map.
n. They will have learned the elements of Physical Geography, Botany, Human Physiology, and Natural History, and will have read interesting books on some of these subjects.
o. They should have some knowledge of English Grammar.
p. They should have a considerable knowledge of Scripture History and the Bible text.
q. They should have learned a good deal of Scripture and of Poetry, and should have read some Literature.
r. They should have learned to sing on the Tonic Sol-fa method, and should know a number of English, French, and German Songs.
s. They should have learned Swedish Drill and various drills and calisthenic exercises.
t. In Drawing they should be able to represent common objects of the house and field with brush or charcoal; should be able to give rudimentary expression to ideas; and should be acquainted with the works of some artists through reproduction.
u. In Music their knowledge of theory and their ear-training should keep pace with their powers of execution." (p. 301-302)

My oldest son is halfway...just starting Year 4. We have three of those six years left. I can definitely see areas that I have neglected (drill, drawing), areas where I need to buckle down (French, Nature Study), and areas that my student is lagging behind (writing). (Also, of course, areas of study that we will just begin this year.) However, overall I am encouraged to keep on offering this wonderful feast. It is good to know the ideal I'm aiming at. Without that I, for one, would not expect (and therefore not get) work of this level at this age.

Appendix 4 shows a term's work for a twelve-year-old: first the programme including all the books used, then the exam questions (2-4 per subject), then exam answers received from a typical (not exceptional) student. My main take-away at this point (since my children are a few years younger) is that I want to find geography books like the ones Charlotte Mason used! 

Appendix 5 shows how oral lessons are used. In general, the Charlotte Mason teacher's role is to "read with" her students, not lecture them. However, oral lessons were also used in Charlotte Mason's schools, "a channel for free intellectual sympathy between teacher and taught, and a means of widening the intellectual horizon of children." (p. 329) The oral lessons were always supplementary to the book-work of the students. Here are some ways they were used:
- to introduce a course of reading
- to bring certain readings to a point
- as an opportunity to read from several books on one subject in order to interest the student in learning more.
- to teach subjects that require oral lessons: languages, math, science
- to expand, illustrate, or summarize some part of students' book-work.

I found this appendix fascinating! I think I've shied away from oral lessons almost entirely because of Charlotte Mason's many warnings against too much talk from the teacher. And we do have to be careful of that. However, I see now that there are times when oral lessons are appropriate. Some of these examples depict what I've always heard referred to as "scaffolding" (introducing a reading in such a way as to capture a child's interest and remove obstacles in the way of his understanding). Read this appendix if you want to learn how to scaffold well. Others are just plain oral lesson plans, often with built-in discussion, and it's helpful to see how the teachers always kept their object (the science of relations...that students would form a relation with the subject/person/place) before them as they gave these lessons.

And that's the end of this series! I'd love to hear from you if you've been reading along, or even if you have just dipped into volume 3 as topics interested you. What do you think of the picture Charlotte Mason paints of her results in the Parents' Review School? Does it intimidate you? Encourage you? Prod you to work harder or in a more balanced way?
Let's talk!

Friday, August 4, 2017

School Education Chapters 20-22: Suggestions Towards a Curriculum

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.

Summary

Charlotte Mason leaves her ideas for the selection of curriculum till last, and before she does, she reiterates all the principles that have come before in this book. "...because a curriculum is not an independent product, but is linked to much else by chains of cause and consequence."

Curriculum needs to be selected with several principles in mind:
-We do not have the right to pick and choose a limited number of subjects for children to study.
-Children are intelligent, though there is much they do not know yet.
-Our aim is knowledge, not mere information.
-We want to make children "at home in the world of books," putting them in direct communication with the minds of the authors.

Some do's and don'ts for teachers:
-Do find the right living book.
-Do let the author speak for himself, don't get in the way with too much explaining.
-Do be cautious about the use of "appliances" other than ones that allow children to observe things for themselves. (Microscopes, telescopes, and magic lanterns are good, elaborate models and diagrams not so much.)
-Do co-ordinate studies in a natural way, don't make artificial connections between subjects (as in unit studies).

Because education is all about making relationships with things, with people past and present, and with God, the curriculum we choose needs to cover a broad range of subjects: religion, philosophy, history, languages, mathematics, science, art, physical exercises, and manual crafts. Charlotte Mason gives some general guidelines as to what curriculum a child between twelve and fourteen should use, and what they should know:
Religion: curriculum is the Bible itself.
History: English history, contemporary French history, and Greek and Roman history by way of Plutarch's Lives.
Language: A fair knowledge of English grammar, some literature, more or less power in speaking and understanding French (able to read an easy French book), beginning German, ability to read at least 'Fables' in Latin.
Mathematics: "I need not touch upon the subject [...] it is rapidly becoming an instrument for living teaching in our schools."
Science: Nature study, the power to recognise and name natural things, keeping of personal nature-journals. Supplemented with occasional object lessons.
Drawing: No use of mechanical aids. Free rendering of objects observed. Illustrations of stories don't have value as art instruction, but are useful imaginative exercises.
Art Appreciation: Some study of the lines of composition, light and shade, and style with the object of appreciation, not reproduction.
Manual and Physical Training

Using living books as curriculum is efficient! Even given all the subjects to be studied, in the Parents' Review School all book work was done between 9:00 and 11:30 for the lowest class, and 9:00 and 1:00 for the highest class. One or two hours in the afternoon were devoted to handicrafts, field-work, and drawing, and the evenings were free for children's own hobbies, family reading, or other things.

Six reasons for failure in education:
-Oral lessons by a teacher, which are far inferior to treatment of the same subject by an original thinker in a living book.
-Lectures, also inferior to living books
-Textbooks, both the dry and uninteresting kind and the easy and beguiling kind.
-Motivations for learning other than desire for knowledge
-Dependence on apparatus and illustrative appliances
-Use of readers. Even if they have good selections, they can't match a whole book.
Teachers must also be careful not to follow educational fads.

Quotes

Chapter 20
"--education should aim at giving knowledge 'touched with emotion.'" (Quoting Matthew Arnold) (p. 220)

"Therefore we do not feel it is lawful in the early days of a child's life to select certain subjects for his education to the exclusion of others; to say he shall not learn Latin, for example, or shall not learn Science; but we endeavour that he shall have relations of pleasure and intimacy established with as many as possible of the interests proper to him; not learning a slight or incomplete smattering about this or that subject, but plunging into vital knowledge, with a great field before him which in all his life he will not be able to explore." (p. 223)

"there is no such thing as the 'child-mind'; we believe that the ignorance of children is illimitable, but that, on the other hand, their intelligence is hardly to be reckoned with by our slower wits. In practical working we find this idea a great power; the teachers do not talk down to the children; they are careful not to explain every word that is used, or to ascertain if children understand every detail." (p. 223)

"Not what we have learned, but what we are waiting to know, is the delectable part of knowledge." (p. 224)

"The distinction between knowledge and information is, I think, fundamental. Information is the record of facts, experiences, appearances, etc., whether in books or in the verbal memory of the individual; knowledge, it seems to me, implies the result of the voluntary and delightful action of the mind upon the material presented to it." (p. 224)

"Perhaps the chief function of a teacher is to distinguish information from knowledge in the acquisitions of his pupils. Because knowledge is power, the child who has got knowledge will certainly show power in dealing with it. He will recast, condense, illustrate, or narrate with vividness and with freedom in the arrangement of his words. The child who has got only information will write and speak in the stereotyped phrases of his text-book, or will mangle in his notes the words of his teacher." (p. 225)

"It seems to me that education, which appeals to the desire for wealth (marks, prizes, scholarships, or the like), or to the desire of excelling (as in the taking of places, etc.), or to any other of the natural desires, except that for knowledge, destroys the balance of character; and, what is even more fatal, destroys by inanition that desire for and delight in knowledge which is meant for our joy and enrichment through the whole of life." (p. 226)

"no education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge." (p. 226)

Chapter 21
"A book may be long or short, old or new, easy or hard, written by a great man or a lesser man, and yet be the living book which finds its way to the mind of a young reader. The expert is not the person to choose; the children themselves are the experts in this case." (p. 228)

"The master must have it in him to distinguish between twaddle and simplicity, and between vivacity and life. For the rest, he must experiment or test the experiments of others, being assured of one thing--that a book serves the ends of education only as it is vital." (p. 229)

"The business of the teacher is to put his class in the right attitude towards their book by a word or two of his own interest in the matter contained, of his own delight in the manner of the author. But boys get knowledge only as they dig for it. Labour prepares the way for assimilation, that mental process which converts information into knowledge; and the effort of taking in the sequence of thought of his author is worth to the boy a great deal of oral teaching." (p. 229)

"Do teachers always realise the paralysing and stupefying effect that a flood of talk has upon the mind?" (p. 229)

"For the same reason, that is, that we may not paralyse the mental vigour of children, we are very chary in the use of appliances (except such as the microscope, telescope, magic lantern, etc.)." (p. 230)

"the co-ordination of studies is carefully regulated [...] solely with reference to the natural and inevitable co-ordination of certain subjects. Thus, in readings on the period of the Armada, we should not devote the contemporary arithmetic lessons to calculations as to the amount of food necessary to sustain the Spanish fleet, because this is an arbitrary and not an inherent connection; but we should read such history, travels, and literature as would make the Spanish Armada live in the mind." (p. 231)

"Writing, of course, comes of reading, and nobody can write well who does not read much." (p. 233)

"The teachers are careful not to make these nature walks an opportunity for scientific instruction, as we wish the children's attention to be given to observation with very little direction. In this way they lay up that store of 'common information' which Huxley considered should precede science teaching; and, what is much more important, they learn to know and delight in natural objects as in the familiar faces of friends."(p. 237)

Chapter 22
"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." (p. 241)

"...[theorists] feel it to be more important that a child should think than that he should know. My contention is rather that he cannot know without having thought; and also that he cannot think without an abundant, varied, and regular supply of the material of knowledge."

"Let us, out of reverence for the children, be modest; let us not stake their interests on the hope that this or that new way would lead to great results if people had only the courage to follow it. It is exciting to become a pioneer; but, for the children's sake, it may be well to constrain ourselves to follow those roads only by which we know that persons have arrived, or those newer roads which offer evident and assured means of progress towards a desired end. Self-will is not permitted to the educationalist; and he may not take up fads." (p. 245)

"Knowledge is, no doubt, a comparative term, and the knowledge of a subject possessed by a child would be the ignorance of a student. All the same, there is such a thing as an educated child--a child who possesses a sound and fairly wide knowledge of a number of subjects, all of which serve to interest him; such a child studies with 'delight.'" (p. 245)

"My plea is, and I think I have justified it by experience, that many doors shall be opened to boys and girls until they are at least twelve or fourteen, and always the doors of good houses, ('Education,' says Taine, 'is but a card of invitation to noble and privileged salons'); that they shall be introduced to no subject whatever through compendiums, abstracts, or selections; that the young people shall learn what history is, what literature is, what life is, from the living books of those who know." (p. 247)



That's it for this week, and the book is done! I'll be back next week with the appendices.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

School Education Chapters 17-19: Educated by Our Intimacies

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.

Summary

In these three chapters, Charlotte Mason uses autobiographical works "The Prelude" by William Wordsworth and Praeterita by John Ruskin to illustrate how education is the science of relations.

Because children are born persons, we are limited to the use of three external instruments of education: atmosphere, discipline, and life. Any other instrument would encroach on the child's personality by playing on his vanity, or his love, or his desire to please, or even his fears. Even atmosphere, discipline, and life are limited by our respect for them as persons: we do not manipulate their environment to shield them too much from real life, and we help them develop habits in the context of real life.

 Education is the science of relations: "we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future--with all above us and all about us--and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of." (p. 186) In education, our role as parents and teachers is "to remove obstructions and to give stimulus and guidance to the child who is trying to get into touch with the universe of things and thoughts which belong to him." (p. 188)

Neither Wordsworth nor Ruskin had perfect educations, but the ideas that took hold of them and bore fruit in their lives were the result of their intimacies. Charlotte Mason gives examples from Ruskin of how he handled and made with material objects, from Wordsworth of his intimacy with wildflowers, from both of their love of books by specific authors. There were limitations in the educations of each of them, but their autobiographical works show how children latch on to "their proper affinities" when they are given the opportunity to do so.

Education as the science of relations should not be seen as an excuse to be lazy or unintentional in our schooling. Strenuous effort has to be put into making these relationships. Often this effort is made for the joy of it, but it is work all the same. Quiet, steady, daily effort is more conducive to "Captain ideas" than taking random special opportunities to learn.

Quotes

"habits, ideas, and circumstances are external, and we may all help each other to get the best that is to be had of these; but we may not meddle directly with the personality of child or man." (p. 183)

"All I would urge is a natural treatment of children, and that they be allowed their fair share of life, such as it is; prudence and not panic should rule our conduct towards them." (p. 185)

"habits, whether helpful or hindering, only come into play occasionally, while a great deal of spontaneous living is always going on towards which we can do no more than drop in vital ideas as opportunity occurs." (p. 185)

"Our deadly error is to suppose that we are his showman to the universe; and, not only so, but that there is no community at all between child and universe unless such as we choose to set up." (p. 188)

"It is enough for the present if they have shown us in what manner children attach themselves to their proper affinities, given opportunity and liberty. Our part is to drop occasion freely in the way, whether in school or at home. Children should have relations with earth and water, should run and leap, ride and swim, should establish the relation of maker to material in as many kinds as may be; should have dear and intimate relations with persons, through present intercourse, through tale or poem, picture or statue; through flint arrow-head or modern motor-car: beast and bird, herb and tree, they must have familiar acquaintance with. Other peoples and their languages must not be strange to them. Above all they should find that most intimate and highest of all Relationships,--the fulfilment of their being." (p. 209)

"We must get rid of the notion that to learn the 'three R's' or the Latin grammar well, a child should learn these and nothing else. It is as true for children as for ourselves that, the wider the range of interests, the more intelligent is the apprehension of each." (p. 209)

(quoting Sir Walter Scott in Waverley:) "Alas, while he was thus permitted to read only for the gratification of his amusement, he foresaw not that he was losing for ever the opportunity of acquiring habits of firm and assiduous application, of gaining the art of controlling, directing, and concentrating the powers of his mind for earnest investigation--an art far more essential than even that intimate acquaintance with classical learning which is the primary object of study." (p. 210)

"we cannot catch hold of any one of the affinities that are in waiting for us without strenuous effort and without reverence." (p. 211)