Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lessons as Instruments of Education - part 1

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This post contains an affiliate link to the book we are discussing.

Hello!  Welcome to our continuing discussing the book Home Education by Charlotte Mason.   I'm hoping that these discussions will be really practical and encouraging for all of us!  I will bring up some areas of the chapter that I'm trying to implement in my home this summer, and I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Lessons as Instruments of Learning

This chapter is all about how to do school lessons.  It is a very long chapter, so we will talk about the first part today and then the second part next week.  The big take away that I pulled from the chapter is that your lessons should be giving children new ideas.  They should come away from their lessons with something new to think about.  And not just any old idea, but something that is really worthwhile thinking about.  The chapter goes through all the different types of lessons a child should receive (reading, writing, math, geography, etc.) but we will just talk about the first part today.

This chapter was interesting to me because there were parts that I really enjoyed and appreciated, and other parts that I just did not agree with.  I will break down my thoughts into those two categories for discussion.

I agree, Ms. Mason!

  • Life is not broken down into age groups, so why do we do that for education?  Ms. Mason said that it is fun to be with people are own age from time to time, but "for everyday life, the mixed society of elders, juniors, and equals, which we get in a family, gives...the most room for individual development."   I agree!

  • "The part of the the early to sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding and restraining hand only when these are badly wanted."  Even though I think this is taken a bit too far, I do like the sentiment of it.  I think that training should be more hands-on, but it is nice to be inspired by these ideas as well.

  • Begin the learning of a new subject on a birthday or some other special day.  Then they will think that a new study is a privilege.  I think that is a fun idea!  I remember as a kid, waiting to learn to ride a two wheel bike until my 5th birthday.  It made it special.  I can see where that would be fun for learning to read or something like that too.

  • She recommends alternating reading and spelling instruction days.  We have been doing that these past few months and I really like it.  

  • "All children have it in them to recite."  Children should be taught to speak beautiful thoughts.  I love that!

  • Read something to a child only once, to teach them to pay attention when you speak.  I really like this, but I'm not sure that my children have learned to listen well yet =)  I'll keep trying!

  • Each lesson should begin with referencing the lesson from the day before.  I think that is a great idea. 

I cannot agree, Ms. Mason.

  • "Tommy should be free to do what he likes with his limbs and his mind through all the hours of the day when he is not sitting up nicely at meals."  Practically I do not know how she would get all her teaching and habit training in while letting children do whatever they want.  From reading further in the chapter, I'm guessing that she would want us to make the children want to do the lessons and such.  Personally, I think it is just fine (even good) to make children do things they do not want to do from time to time.

  • Children should not be urged or required to "show off" their work when they would rather be playing.  I do not agree.  I don't think that parents should be parading their children's talents all across town, but I see no problem with telling a child that it is time so do 'such and such', even when he doesn't want to.

  • I know that Ms. Mason's views are much more gentle than my own (which is a big reason why I like to read her from time to time!) but I was surprised to see her preference of sight reading over phonics instruction.  Did you know that?  She wants children to focus on the shapes of entire words, memorizing the look of the letters together in a long word, saying that learning to put sounds together is too cumbersome for children.  I couldn't disagree more!

  • As far a memorization, "the child must not try to recollect or to say the verse over to himself, but...present an open mind to receive an impression of interest."  She doesn't want you to teach your child passages to memorize, but instead just read them the passages at odd times throughout the day and the child will just pick it up.  I don't mind doing as she suggests, but I don't think it is wrong to outright teach passages either.  

  • Limit reading aloud to your children.  Only do it as an occasional treat. She thinks that children won't want to read themselves if adults read to them.  That is just not true!  If anything, it is the opposite and fuels a child's desire to read at the times when their parent isn't reading to them.  I much prefer the suggestion (from our discussion of Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorn's) of reading upwards of 2 hours each day to your children of all ages!

  •  Children should only narrate when 'he has a mind to' and never be called upon to tell anything.  So much if this just seems so child-centered to me!  Are we going to hurt children's feelings if we ask them to do something that they don't have a 'mind' to do right then?  I just think that children are stronger than that.  Please leave a comment if you can help me understand what she is getting at better!

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  1. The phonics thing and the reading aloud thing are two of the main reasons I don't consider myself a CM homeschooler.

    I don't have the book so I'm not reading along but I do enjoy seeing what others are getting from it.

    1. Interesting that you knew that about CM. I thought I knew a decent amount before starting this book, but I didn't know those two things! I am finding that I really do like her sentiment, but practically I don't agree with a number of things.

      Not that you have to, but you know you can read it for free on Ambleside?

  2. Also, the quote about Tommy has to be taken in a very specific context: she is talking about allowing a kindergarten-aged child to have as much freedom as possible to learn and explore and discover (in her terms, preferably outdoors), rather than being made to spend hours sitting at a little table being told to colour or use little math cubes. She makes a point there not only about allowing a child to develop those large-motor skills, but also learning from his own "adventures," being able to make some decisions for himself. This certainly doesn't negate habit training and duty; she has lots to say about those as well, but her point here (I think) is that we can also harm them in those precious preschool-K years by continually breathing down their necks.

    1. I definitely agree with you (and her) that little kids need lots of time to run and discover. I just don't see the harm in having a kindergartener sit at a table for 15 minutes to practice writing or math, even if he doesn't have the 'mind to' at the moment. Same with memorization. I think it's a great idea to throw a poem in throughout the day, but see nothing wrong with telling a small child to stand in front of you for 5 minutes for the purpose of a new verse. Maybe I'm not seeing the big picture yet. Hopefully I'll continue to learn more about her methods from continued reading and helpful comments like yours!

  3. I think my first comment disappeared...I'll try that one again. There is an article by Elsie Kitching (a friend and colleague of Charlotte Mason) in which she says that good teachers will have their own preferred methods of teaching reading, and that they should use them. (The article was recently posted on the CLUSA blog, so you might find it interesting to read.) Also, they did do a lot of word-building exercises, not just sight words; there's a detailed example given here: .

  4. I've just jumped right into your discussion this week without reading the book, but I've read about CM so much over the years that I have to agree with you on many of the points where you disagree with Ms. Mason. I guess we must always be wise and discerning when we read and learn new things, even a well-known founder of a whole method of education may have not been correct on every idea she shared. :)

    1. Thanks for the comment, and reassuring me that I'm not crazy =) You are so right about being wise and discerning! Overall, I have really enjoyed learning more about Charlotte Mason!


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