Thursday, June 26, 2014

"For the Children's Sake" Part 1

Beginning formation of a philosophy of education is quite daunting. However, through blogs of other moms (like her and her and her) who are already homeschooling and have been for many years, I have come to be familiar with the name of Charlotte Mason. She was a nineteenth century Brit who developed her own system of education after years of being a schoolteacher herself. 

Last spring, I downloaded her six-volume series on kindle for only 99 cents. WIN! I began reading it... that's all. I just began. I haven't finished. It's crazy long, and somewhat dense, in that it requires thought, and thought requires time to think, and I just don't have much time right now. 

However, I have heard rave reviews of other books that sum up her philosophy, or reflect on it. One of those titles is For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Susan is the daughter of Frances and Edith Schaffer, whose names are familiar but I can't think of why - oh, he is a Christian theologian, author, and philosopher; thanks, Google! I do intend to eventually get through CM's six volumes, but for now, I have settled for checking out titles such as FTCS from the library. 
Charlotte Mason.jpgimage from Wikipedia

I am taking thorough notes, and reading through each chapter twice, but I still have a difficult time recalling what I have read (a CM education would have trained me to read through carefully and slowly and be able to retell what I have read - "narrate" the story). Because I would like to remember what is in the book, and because my notes are sloppy, and because I am likely to lose my detailed but sloppy notes, I have decided to blog my notes and occasional reflections. 

Chapter 1- "What is Education?"
Author and husband were uneasy with the thought of putting their firstborn in school ;  put their daughter in a local school but felt it wasn't a good fit; didn't have an educational philosophy in place so they couldn't explain why. Didn't like the idea of her in a school as they knew it. "...want the best, but... often have to settle..." (3)
They found a "little school run in a cottage" that "still practiced the gentle art of an education based on a certain Charlotte Mason's ideas." (4) They sent their children there, and loved it. They read up on her ideas, found that they were relevant and made sense. Practices that can be universally applied, whether at home, in a school, in an African village, inner city school, daycare etc. 

Her views were shaped by her teaching experiences. She passionately believed that children are born persons and should be treated with respect for their individuality. Rooted in biblical Christianity. 
Her parents died when she was 16, but she carried on with her ambition and enrolled in a teachers' college. Because of financial stress, she accepted a job as a teacher of a small school after only a year, but continued her studies in her spare time. Fifteen (?) years later, she was appointed vice principal of the Bishop Otter College in 1874. There, she gave lectures on education. Four years after that, she was forced to give up the position due to ill health, but this allowed her more time for further study and observation. Began giving lectures to parents --> National Society of Parents: journals, curriculum guides --> Home schools, PNEU schools of CM-following parents. House of Education @ Ambleside was a teachers' training school. 

What happened? Why has no one heard of her today? Society moved away from strong Christian beliefs she used as her foundation. 
"Christians can't develop a Christian view of education by accepting the usual aims and views of our society and then adding a 'Christian message' or interpretation." (7). 
Education is lifelong, active state of learning, responding, understanding. CM believed parents have "the most interesting and valuable vocation that exists among mankind." (8). Home as basic educational environment. Different applications of these ideas for diff families, even diff children within same family. Take care not to judge others' schooling choices.
 "It can often be that a strong, rich home life with Christian teaching and understanding more than offsets the 'center of gravity' at a secular school." (8-9).
 Adults should be involved in the secular systems as Christian salt. 
"Any choice and/or arrangement should be done for the children's sake... Galatians 6:9 "Let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people [children are people], especially to those who belong to the family of believers."  "(9).
Matthew 7:7-11. Good gifts to children. We give our kids good food, which nourishes them. Don't want to give them junk food that might make them full but not nourished. Then don't feed their minds with junk food either. 
"Do we brush off the eager questions, and then expect the children to listen to some 'spiritual lecture' another time?" (10). 
Parents - evaluate priorities. Consider why you respond that you don't have time to do what the kid wants i.e. hike/camp/paint/talk with them. 
"What is really important? The sacred career? Educational institutions make poor substitute mothers, fathers, and homes. There has never been a generation when children have so desperately needed their parents' time, thoughtful creativity, and friendship....
One of the greatest powers for good is a family whose members respect each other and who have learned to function, however poorly, with the rich concepts the Word of God gives us as human beings. It is almost incredible to think of the stabilizing effect an ordinary family can have: not only for themselves, but as a light in a troubled generation." (10)
Other applications of CM principles would be a public school teacher as "a stable adult friend in a personally insecure world.... Even a glimmer of light can transform a dark world." Other ideas for application: in a church or Christian community; as a babysitter; daycare; after-school care; "friendly neighbor who gives the gift of helping that child who has nobody with time for him"; nieces, nephews, grandchildren; single adults have the advantage of extra flexibility:
"Children in need are in every church, school, and community. They are often emotionally adrift, without that sweet and natural security of their parents' marriage to give a base to their family life. Parents become tense and stressed, trying to fit fast-moving careers into ordinary human life. Schools become mechanical, where the child all too often doesn't really count. TV becomes a sedative, stilling active play, reading, talking, sharing. Planned activities crowd out personal growth and creativity. And the god of money, status, and personal ease and pleasure seeps in everywhere, like a noxious gas." (11).
Every child matters; bright or dull, privileged or troubled, each is valuable.

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