Monday, November 23, 2015

Nothing New Under the Sun?

I thought of the idea of homeschooling one bleak day in November 34 years ago, then dismissed it as a silly dream. Who ever heard of such a thing, except perhaps pioneers or missionaries too remote to attend a school?

Two years later I was startled to learn that my idea was not unique. After that, I began purposefully moving toward the home education goal, but even though the practice was not unheard of, it was uncommon, against the law, and resources for home teachers scant.

Not so today. Attend any homeschool convention, or, easier yet, attend a virtual one online, and the array of resources and materials is astounding. If you relish novelty, there is surely something for you out there. The options for curricula, devices, audio books, instruction manuals, seminars, gadgets, videos, games, equipment, school supplies, educational accessories and sheer paraphernalia is mind-boggling.

What's a new homeschooling mother to do, or an old one, for that matter?

For starters, remember, there's nothing new under the sun. Children have been being born with the instinctive desire for knowledge since they began being born. It's easy in an inventive and creative culture, where technology reigns supreme and obsolescence is only moments away, to believe that tools are essential to life. They are undeniably useful, but the most enduring and trustworthy means to getting a child educated is found in, well, in the child.

Charlotte Mason observed the child and recognized the obvious. They learn, and by the simplest means possible, notably, themselves: their five senses, mind, heart, soul body encompassing persons that no scientist can yet explain even vaguely. The child is the learner; the teacher is not the education giver.
"Now, here is the danger that besets us in education. We seize upon ambidexterity, upon figures drawn with the compasses without intention, upon 'child study' as applied to mind, upon terrible agglutinations which we call 'apperception masses,' upon intellectual futilities in a hundred directions, each of which will, we hope, give us the key to education. We may perceive the futility of such notions by applying the test of progress. Are they the way to anything, and, if so, to what? 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. (School Education, pp. 244-245)
As a new mother, watching the incredible curiosity and inventiveness of my five-month-old daughter that November day, I knew a child must be able to learn at home, though my own experience in the "modern" educational system had blinded me to the simple truth. A decade later, I was introduced to the older ideas of a much more sensible woman and began putting into practice her principles for supplying the child with educational nourishment. Our utilitarian approach to everything, including education, stamps out thousands of morsels of information and thousands of morsel-fed schoolchildren. All too often, homeschoolers have followed suit. That's not what I and many other homeschool pioneers were after.

I am thankful, this Thanksgiving, for the delectable education Mason has passed on to me, and for the six unique persons I have been privileged to teach in the wide room of nature, real things, and living books.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

7 comments:

  1. SO thankful for you and Emily. This site has been a rich resource. I have learned so much from your writing and lists of books.

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    1. Bonnie,

      That comment is reciprocated--it is we who have learned from you and are so thankful for all you have shown us. I am thankful for all the books and articles you read aloud to me in particular.

      Liz

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  2. "Charlotte Mason observed the child and recognized the obvious. They learn, and by the simplest means possible, notably, themselves: their five senses, mind, heart, soul body encompassing persons that no scientist can yet explain even vaguely. The child is the learner; the teacher is not the education giver." Love that bit, Liz and the School Education quote!

    Happy Thanksgiving! :)

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    1. Amy,

      Thank you. I still need to remind myself of this often, so entrenched in my own educational treatment that I am. The fact that they are the learners doesn't absolve us of responsibility, just shifts what responsibility we have.

      Liz

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    2. What a beautifully way of stating that! I might quote you! ;) :D

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  3. Thanks for a beautiful reminder this Thanksgiving week. Simplicity in learning is truly my saving grace now. Using our 5 senses, our hearts, souls and minds make school a joy--for our whole family. I'm always appreciative of your helpful advice.

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  4. I know it's past Thanksgiving, but even so, I am grateful for your blog, these periodic reminders that I'm on the right path, and encouragement to keep me walking in it.

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