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Welcome to week 10 of our Home Education book club! This week we’ll be reading pages 169-181.
Below are some journaling pages to use as you read or to follow along with during our discussion.
The video discussion will be posted as soon as it is available.
Part V: Lessons as Instruments of Education
I. The Matter and Method of Lessons:
Charlotte starts by saying that parents have gotten in the habit of leaving all education in the hands of teachers, “more than is wholesome for the children.” (pg. 169)
Parents Must Reflect on the Subject Matter of Instruction:
She states that parents should take a deep interest in the subjects their children are being taught and the matter in which they are taught, for the sake of the children and the teacher.
“Nothing does more to give vitality and purpose to the work of the teacher than the certainty that the parents of his pupils go with him.” (pg. 170)
Home The Best Growing-Ground for Young Children:
Charlotte is adamant that home is the best place for young children to learn if at all possible. If mother can’t take on all of the responsibility herself, great care should be taken in choosing a school or tutor, and she should be very involved in the direction of her children’s education.
Three Questions for the Mother:
Charlotte recommends that a mother thoughtfully consider these three questions:
Why must the children learn at all?
What should they learn?
How should they learn it?
“If she take the trouble to find a definite and thoughtful answer to each of these three queries, she will be in a position to direct her children’s studies; and will, at the same time, be surprised to find that three-fourths of the time and labour ordinarily spent by the child at his lessons is lost time and wasted energy.” (pg. 171)
Children Learn to Grow:
Asking why must a child learn is the same as asking why must a child eat! It is in order to grow, and not just to know.
“Just as the limbs grow strong with exercise, so does intellectual effort with a given power of the mind make that power effective.” (pg. 172)
Body: Eat + Exercise = Growth
Mind: Things worth learning + Application of things learned = Growth
Doctoring of the Material of Knowledge:
Specialists, Charlotte says, often attach too much emphasis on exercising separate mental faculties, when in reality children are capable of exercising them all at once if a lesson is properly presented.
“… this sort of doctoring of the material of knowledge is unnecessary for the healthy child, whose mind is capable of self-direction, and of applying itself to its proper work upon the parcel of knowledge delivered to it. Almost any subject which common sense points out as suitable for the instruction of children will afford exercise for all their powers, if properly presented.” (pg. 172)
Children Learn to Get Ideas:
New ideas should be sown in the mind of a child daily,
“If the business of teaching be to furnish the child with ideas, any teaching which does not leave him possessed of a new mental image has, by so far, missed its mark.” (pg. 173)
A morning without new ideas is a morning wasted!
Ideas Grow and Produce After their Kind:
But, Charlotte says, an idea is more than simply an image or picture. It’s like a seed that will germinate and grow to produce kindred ideas. We are all familiar with the process of obtaining a new idea that captivates us and causes us to go in search of “feeding” it. It’s the same for our children!
Scott and Stephenson Worked with Ideas:
She gives the examples of Sir Walter Scott, whose childhood tales and folklore eventually became the Waverly Novels, and George Stephenson, whose childhood fascination with little clay engines eventually became the locomotive.
Value of Dominant Ideas:
The moral of the story:
“Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information; for the child who grows up with a few dominant ideas has his self-education provided for, his career marked out.” (pg. 174)
Lessons Must Furnish Ideas:
In order for lessons to be received, the mind of a child must be open to it. And when we stumble upon those ideas that seem to be increasingly fruitful to a child, the lessons we give should “feed” that idea.
Children Learn to Get Knowledge:
The child learns in order to furnish his mind with ideas, to secure intellectual growth, and to obtain knowledge. The earliest years of education are quite possibly the most important but they are only capable of processing so much (like a phial with a very narrow neck). So we must be sure that what we pour into it is only the very best.
Mothers, Charlotte says, are often wise enough to know the capabilities of their young children’s minds, but other people often feel like they need to dumb things down for them, which is totally unnecessary.
“… but professional teachers, whether the writers of books or the givers of lessons, are too apt to present a single grain of pure knowledge in a whole gallon of talk, imposing upon the child the labour or discerning the grain and of extracting it from the worthless flood.” (pg. 175)
Dr. Arnold’s Knowledge as a Child:
Children who are exposed early to plenty of grown up literature often times have more robust mental capabilities than children who feed on what Charlotte calls the twaddle of children’s books.
She gives Dr. Arnold as an example, a historian who was a professor at Oxford. He received Smollett’s History of England at three years old and was so interested in its contents that he could still quote it perfectly in adulthood though he hadn’t picked it up since he was eight years old.
Literature Proper for Children:
Often times children’s literatures is so watered down and diluted that it is of little value to them. But Charlotte hopes to help parents and educators see that and change it.
Four Tests Which Should be Applied to Children’s Lessons:
Children’s lessons should:
Provide material for mental growth
Exercise several powers of their mind
Furnish them with fruitful ideas
Afford them with knowledge worth recalling
Resume of Six Points Already Considered:
The most valuable knowledge to a child is the kind he gets himself with all his senses in the open air.
Time in the schoolroom shouldn’t encroach upon a child’s right to long hours of exercise and investigation.
The child should be taken daily to various outdoor landscapes for exploration and the gathering of scientific knowledge.
Play is equally valuable to lessons in both body and mind.
The child should be left to himself (under supervision) to work in his own way through ideas and be open to natural influences.
A child’s happiness is the condition of his progress— lessons should be joyous and friction in the school room should be deprecated.
And now, Charlotte says, we can move on to what and how children should be taught!
II. The Kindergarten as a Place of Education:
The Mother the Best Kindergärtnerin:
Charlotte states that in a perfect world, the Kindergarten would be like a heaven on earth, with a teacher outfitted with all of the great qualities necessary to provide the perfect atmosphere of learning and growth for each of her pupils. However, more often than not, much is lost in the teaching process, whether by fault of the teacher, the administration, or the program itself.
“If the very essence of the Kindergarten method is personal influence, a sort of spiritual mesmerism, it follows that the mother is naturally the best Kindergärtnerin; for who so likely as she to have the needful tact, sympathy, common sense, culture?” (pg. 178)
The Nursery Need Not Therefore be a Kindergarten:
Charlotte believed that mothers are outfitted with all of the necessary skills and gifts required to provide a Kindergarten education to her children. Therefore, her home doesn’t have to be transformed into a Kindergarten classroom to get outstanding results.
Field of Knowledge too Circumscribed:
Often times the exact prescription of Kindergarten learning is too confined in a classroom and does not allow the child to acquire real knowledge that is learned outside of a classroom.
“Therefore, while the exact nicely graduated training of the Kindergarten may be of value, the mother will endeavor to give it by the way, and will by no means let it stand for that wider training of the senses to secure which for her children is a primary duty.” (pg. 179-180)
When taught at home by their mother, children don’t have to experience the stress so often encountered when they are slower to grasp a concept, which may cause disappointment to their Kindergarten teacher.
Training of a Just Eye and Faithful Hand:
There is no harm in introduction Kindergarten activities at home, but a mother should remember that the same skills can be honed and formed through the medium of a home life. Training of a just eye and faithful hand can be taught just as weakly through the straightening of a tablecloth or picture, or the wrapping of a package.
“Nevertheless, as a means of methodical training, as well as of happy employment, the introduction of some of the games and occupations of the Kindergarten into the nursery may be allowed, provided that that mother does not depend upon these, but makes all the child’s occupations subserve the purposes of his education.” (pg. 180)
‘Sweetness and Light’ in the Kindergarten:
There are some methods within the Kindergarten classroom that we should happily emulate within our homes, Charlotte says. For example, the sweetness and light often cultivated within the Kindergarten classroom where children who are “tiresome” are simply removed from an activity rather than treated as though they are being naughty.
“… even a momentary absence of sunshine on the faces of her children will be a graver cause of uneasiness to the mother. On the whole, we may say that some of the principles which should govern Kindergarten training are precisely those in which every thoughtful mother endeavors to bring up her family…” (pg. 181)
This concludes our week 10 reading! Next week we will continue Part V: Lessons as Instruments of Education by reading pages 182-199. See you then!