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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Montessori, Mason, and Ideas


Previously I wrote something about the common assumptions of a common time and how we should keep this in mind when reading Charlotte Mason. That is, people who are contemporaries share certain assumptions they don’t even know they share. This often only comes out in a later generation when those assumptions are no longer shared. When we lose those assumptions it’s easier to spot them in our predecessors, but this should keep us humble and ever mindful of our own unrecognized assumptions. Today we’ll get more specific about Montessori and Charlotte Mason, and also working with children with disabilities.
Reading this PR article sparked a good discussion I once had on Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and ideas. I’m revising that some of that discussion here, including some insights made by Tammy Glaser, who has extensive experience using Mason's methods with non-neuro-typical children. If you want to get straight to the crux of things that would work for you at home, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
It is true that Montessori and Charlotte Mason have many things in common, just as Mason and Froebel do. There are many similarities and Montessori seems to me to have been a wise woman with no small amount of love for her charges and we could learn much from her. But it is also true that Miss Mason disagreed with Montessori very specifically on some key points.
Incidentally, in the quotes that follow Montessori uses a word for disabled children that has fallen into grave disrepute today. Please understand that it was merely a medical term at the time and it fell into disrepute through its abuse, to the point that it now has completely lost its original meaning and is merely an insult. In the same way the the once useful and mostly medical word ‘retarded’ has lost its nonpejorative associations and is now used as an insult by people who ought to know better.
Maria Montessori writes that early in her work she hoped that “some day, the special education which had developed these idiot children in such a marvellous fashion, could be applied to the development of normal children,” and that was the aim of her work. About her work with the Childrens’ Houses, she says, “Methods which made growth possible to the mental personality of the idiot ought, therefore, to aid the development of young children, and should be so adapted as to constitute a hygienic education of the entire personality of a normal human being.” 
Charlotte Mason says that ideas developed for disabled children (as Maria Montessori’s were) are not suited for healthy children- that it’s like treating all children as though they are mentally crippled: “I am jealous for the children; every modern educational movement tends to belittle them intellectually; and none more so than a late ingenious attempt to feed normal children with the pap-meat which may (?) be good for the mentally sick…”
I think she’s also talking about Montessori (and possibly others as well) here:
“We come dangerously near to what Plato condemns as “that lie of the soul,” that corruption of the highest truth, of which Protagoras is guilty in the saying that, “Knowledge is sensation.” What else are we saying when we run after educational methods which are purely sensory? Knowledge is not sensation, nor is it to be derived through sensation; we feed upon the thoughts of other minds; and thought applied to thought generates thought and we become more thoughtful.”
This is why I am pretty sure she is talking about Montessori.  Note how in The Montessori Method, by Maria Montessori herself, we can note Montessori’s emphasis on ‘sense training’ and reaching the mind through outside sensations:
“I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you,” recalled the fundamental phrase which sums up Séguin’s whole method,–”to lead the child, as it were, by the hand, from the education of the muscular system, to that of the nervous system, and of the senses.”
“IN a pedagogical method which is experimental the education of the senses must undoubtedly assume the greatest importance.”
Pedagogy…is…designed … to… educate the senses. … the education of the senses is entirely possible.
the education of the senses has, as its aim, the refinement of the differential perception of stimuli by means of repeated exercises.
Speaking of her graduated blocks and the pegs she uses, Montessori says, “Our didactic material renders auto-education possible, permits a methodical education of the senses.”
She says she teaches writing “through a series of problems to be solved. These problems are presented as sense exercises.”
the education of the senses must be of the greatest pedagogical interest.
In chapter IV, Maria Montessori says explains her view of why it is wrong to start education from ideas instead of from motor activities to develop the senses.
The education of the senses should be begun methodically in infancy, and should continue during the entire period of instruction which is to prepare the individual for life in society.
Æsthetic and moral education are closely related to this sensory education. Multiply the sensations, and develop the capacity of appreciating fine differences in stimuli and we refine the sensibility and multiply man’s pleasures.
The directress must intervene to lead the child from sensations to ideas–from the concrete to the abstract, and to the association of ideas. For this, she should use a method tending to isolate the inner attention of the child and to fix it upon the perceptions–as in the first lessons his objective attention was fixed, through isolation, upon single stimuli.
In The Eggman and the Empress by Dennis R. Smith, an interesting article on education (for those interested in philosophical underpinnings),  Smith points out Montessori’s agreement with the philosopher Herbart:
Montessori embraced the [Herbartian] concept of orderly steps and developed materials carefully designed to facilitate each step. She based this program mainly on her observation of children, and their interests and abilities shown at each moment of growth. For Montessori, this was scientific pedagogy. Her observations, however, were filtered through Herbartian lenses that assumed an orderly progression of intellectual development.
Recall that Miss Mason very specifically distanced herself from Herbartian philosophy, in her tenth principle of education. Those principles she considered foundational to her approach. Again, for those interested in reading them, you can find them in the front of each book, but I especially recommend reading them in the sixth volume, as that was her latest work. The first few chapters of volume 6 also flesh out those principles.
Perhaps the greatest area of disagreement Miss Mason had with Montessori was in the realm of imagination and literature.

In this PR Article, Miss Mason specifically responds to an article by Dr. Montessori for the purpose of refuting Montessori’s ideas in this area. The entire article is worth reading.   Miss Mason dismissed Montessori’s term’ cultivating the imagination’ and said it was rather a feeding of spiritual hunger. That sentence, I think, sums up the difference between Mason and most other educators of her time. Others wanted to ‘develop’ faculties and separate portions of the mind that they believed were either not there to begin with or so latent that it required a teacher to bring them out and build them up. Miss Mason believed the faculties, if they existed, were part of a whole, the whole child's whole mind, and they shouldn't be teased apart like that, would take care of themselves if only we would feed the child’s natural, inborn hunger for meaningful knowledge, for ideas. And if the faculties did need this development, she thought, they would develop well enough if fed real mind food- ideas, just as all the parts of the body would develop holistically if fed real nourishing food.
Miss Mason also wrote a pamphlet which expresses her disagreement with certain of Montessori’s methods.
In another PR article the president of the PNEU says, “I have never been able to develop any enthusiasm for the Montessori system since I learnt from Madame Montessori’s book that stories play no part in her scheme of education.”
So while there are indeed similarities, Miss Mason and other members of the PNEU expressed serious reservations about significant points of Dr. Montessori’s work.
And now that the philosophizing is out of the way, Here is Tammy Glaser’s much more useful comment:
On the whole sensory thing, here is what I have observed in my daughter with autism. For her, doing sensory activities was about getting her calm and focused. Sometimes, she felt so much stress she could not learn because she was about ready to meltdown. When the brain is in flight or fight mode, it is unable to transfer information from short term to long term memory (Carroll Smith pointed that out at the 2006 ChildLightUSA Conference).
So, sensory activities calmed her down! Then, we could get to the business of learning. They helped her brain focus and get ready to learn when she was having a rough day, but they were not the main vehicle of learning.
I do think that distinction fits within a Charlotte Mason philosophy.
I agree with her. Tammy, as I said, homeschools a child with autism and has worked with neur0logically atypical kids, and she used to have a blog about that experience here. If you have a child with disabilities, you should bookmark her blog and return to it often for wisdom, inspiration, encouragement, and thought provoking ideas.
---------------------------

 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal, Buy Now!   Feed Your Mind!  This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science. See sidebar for purchasing options if you are in the Philippines.

New! 
 $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.
  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!  Carefully selected with an eye toward well written sentences, memorable scenes, and some practice copying sentences that model the basics of capitalization and punctuation.   Suitable for use with children who have already mastered the strokes and letters for basic penmanship.

Somebody Wondered

One of the best ways to test your understanding of a geographical term is to read a description or definition, and then attempt to either draw it, or to model it using blocks or other small objects. Then look for a picture and compare the picture to your rendition, correction any mistakes in your understanding.

 Find the following places on a map, but where a definition is given, first try to picture it in your mind, and then on paper.

 An archipelago is a cluster or chain of islands grouped together in a large expanse of water. Individual islands, or small bits of land surrounded by water, become part of an archipelago when there are many islands grouped together so closely they are considered part of the same geographical area.

  The Philippines is an archipelago nation in Southeast Asia. There are more than 7,500 islands in the Philippine archipelago. Most of them are quite small.  What do you see when you look at the map of the islands?  Some people think the arrangement of the islands looks something like a man kneeling in prayer.

The three largest islands lay in a line from north to south. They are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, with the island of Luzon at the northernmost tip and Mindanao being the most southern of the three. You can take a plane from the Davao airport in Mindanao to the The Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Luzon, and it will take about 3 hours. Or you can drive through the mountains and valleys of Davao, taking bridges and ferries connection the islands north of Mindano and arrive in Manila three days later.
 Be sure to carry extra fuel and food supplies because you may not be near a petrol station when you need it!

 The islands are lush and green, with a flourish variety of fruits and palms and hardwood trees, with flowers blooming year 'round. The mosquitoes also flourish year round in the lower elevations because it's a tropical climate. The southern islands are only about 350 miles from the equator. Surrounded by seas (The Philippines SEa, the South China Sea, and Celebes Sea), the Philippine diet includes many foods from the ocean, including various sea vegetables or seaweeds, shellfish, crustaceans, and a variety of fish. Families might buy the fish at the market, or the children might take fishing lines and go fishing in one of the abundant (though not always clean) rivers or streams.

Not so long ago, a little boy named  Ricardo Babaran lived in Cagayan province, which is the northernmost end of the island of Luzon which is the northern most of the largest islands. If you got in a boat and sailed north from Cagayan Probinsya you would get to Taiwan. .  He's a grown man now.  But as a boy, Ricardo loved to go fishing with his friends. Most of the time they used earthworms for bait, but sometimes they would use crickets. Young Ricardo noticed that they caught different fish when they used crickets instead of earthworms,and he wondered why that happened. He asked his friends, but they hadn't really noticed, and they did not know why. It was a mystery he couldn't stop thinking about, and he wondered about it for along time.

 When he grew up he left Cagayan to go to The University of the Philippines, Diliman, still on the island of Luzon, but a bit further south in Quezon City. He learned many things. He also sometimes endured some teasing from others about studying 'fishing' for four years, when anybody could fish with a line and a pole. But he did not solve the mystery of why he and his friends caught different fish with earthworms than they did with crickets. He still wondered about that, and he found new things to wonder about, too.

 When he had finished his four year degree, he still wanted to learn more, so he studied for his Masters at the University of Washington, in the Seattle Washington area near the Pacific ocean and the Puget sound. He learned many interesting things there, and had many new and different  experiences, but he still couldn't find out why some fish were caught with earthworms while more of other, different species of fish were caught using crickets. He was curious about many things so the more he learned, the more new ideas he had to wonder about.

He went to Japan to study for a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science at Kagoshima University, Japan, which is also near the ocean. At last he learned the answer to the question he had been asking since childhood. "I learned that catfish and mudfish responded differently to earthworms and crickets because of a process called chemo-reception.”

 All organisms transmit some chemical information about themselves- when you sweat and others smell you, that's an act of chemo-reception. Many species of animals can tell what you are, where you are, what you had for dinner, and whether or not you will taste delicious just by the way your sweat smells. When you smell a piece of fruit and decide whether or not it smells good enough to eat, that is an act of chemo-reception. The organisms receiving the chemical information have special cells that detect and process the transmitted information and draw conclusions from it- 'this would be good to eat' or "this seems dreadful." And because different species have different needs and different kinds of bodies and organs and different ways of breathing and living, they require different diets. So catfish and mudfish receive different chemical signals from crickets and worms, and they make their choices based on those signals.

 Dr. Ricardo P. Babaran is now the tenth Chancellor of the University of the Philippines-Visayas where he will help a rising crop of students answer their questions and discover new things to wonder about and ask. What are you wondering about? What questions are you asking yourself? This is education- wondering, asking yourself questions, and finding out the answers.


 ---------------- I read about Dr. Babaran here, at PinoyPenman3.0 blog, written by Jose Dalisay, Jr. According to Wikipedia, Professor Dalisay is currently a Professor of English and creative writing at the College of Arts and Letters, U.P. Diliman, where he also coordinated the creative writing program. He writes a weekly Arts & Culture column for the Philippine Star. ----------------------------------- See sidebar for purchasing options if you are in the Philippines.
 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal, Buy Now!   Feed Your Mind!  This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science.

New! 
 $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.
  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!  Carefully selected with an eye toward well written sentences, memorable scenes, and some practice copying sentences that model the basics of capitalization and punctuation.   Suitable for use with children who have already mastered the strokes and letters for basic penmanship.

Picture Study

Painting by Corot
You should have several works by the same artist. https://amblesideonline.org/ArtSch.shtml is a great resource, in my humble opinion.

Put one of the works up for display- on your computer screen, on the refrigerator, in a frame, on an easel, clothespinned to string on the wall or a curtain, taped to the front door or  pinned to a bulletin board- it's not that important.  Maybe your print is in a book you own.  Stand the book up on a small display easel.  They make some for plates that would work, depending on your booksize.  Other sources listed below.

After the picture has been out where the kids can see it for a few days, set aside some time where they have five minutes or less to look at it, then turn it around so they cannot see it and ask them to describe the picture back to you, or to each other if you have a class.

If you like, you can tell them the name of the artist and the name of the painting.  Sometimes you can wait to tell them the name and ask what they would call that painting.  You can ask a couple other questions sometimes, but it is not necessary every time.  You might ask if they can tell what time of day it is, or who the people are and what they are doing, or what the artist wanted people to think about.  Don't over do this.  The primary object here is for the children to see the work, look at it, describe it.   The next week you could have them try to draw a sort of map of the painting - not a duplication, a sort of sketch that just roughs in where objects are in relationship to each other. You could use ovals for humans, rectangles for trees and boats, - it is not an art project, it's a project to strengthen the image of the picture in the child's own mind's eye. 
Mason says what we want for the children is for them to be able to have ''clear mental pictures' and this is true in many areas.  This is part of what enables them to narrate well, to write well, to communicate clearly.


Q. But I have this great free curriculum that teaches about lines, perspective, schools of art, etc.

Charlotte Mason: There is no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, but the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else -- where we shut out the middleman.

As mentioned elsewhere here, this sort of teaching definitely does come later, about ages 13 and up.  See the picture talk example in volume 3, for one model of how it would be done.  But we don't introduce ways to take things apart and examine and label the pieces and parts before there is a solid background of taking things as a whole, developing a relationship with, a fondness for (an affinity) the thing as a whole, whether we are discussing poetry, pictures, botany or beetles.

Q. But I want to read a good biography of the artist.

You can. More often, Mason had the teacher learn a few key points about the artist's life and share those briefly with the children when they were introduced to the first picture: 


 "A friendly picture- dealer supplies us with half a dozen beautiful little reproductions of the work of some single artist, term by term. After a short story of the artist’s life and a few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the little pictures are studied one at a time; that is, children learn, not merely to see a picture but to look at it, taking in every detail. Then the picture is turned over and the children tell what they have seen, — a dog driving a flock of sheep along a road but nobody with the dog. Ah, there is a boy lying down by the stream drinking. It is morning as you can see by the light so the sheep are being driven to pasture, and so on; nothing is left out, the discarded plough, the crooked birch, the clouds beautiful in form and threatening rain, there is enough for half an hour’s talk and memory in this little reproduction of a great picture and the children will know it wherever they see it, whether a signed proof, a copy in oils, or the original itself in one of our galleries." 

Here is a direct example of the type of biographical information her teachers would give the students on first studying the artist's work: "Tell the children a little about the life of Millet (giving them one or two pictures to look at meanwhile); give only a brief sketch, so that they will feel that he is not a stranger to them. Just talk to them a little about his early childhood, how he worked in the fields; how he had two great books––the Book of Nature and the Bible, from which he drew much inspiration; how later on he went to Paris and studied the pictures of great artists, Michael Angelo among them." vol 3 pg 354


It helps to understand the principles behind the practice.  This is not an academic subject on which a test could be administered. This is not about analyzing the works or knowing the right names for the techniques and styles- some of this the children will pick up on as you go along, and some will be addressed more specifically later.  The first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves.  It is the pictures that communicate what the artist wanted to communicate:

""But we begin now to understand that art is not to be approached by such a macadamised road, It is of the spirit, and in ways of the spirit must we make our attempt. We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves." 

The children are reading, NOT BOOKS, but the pictures themselves.

 "Every painter, every composer, worth the name, has a few master ideas, which he works out, not in a single piece, but here a little and there a little, in a series of studies.... And here is a sound foundation for art- education, which should perhaps, for most of us, consist rather in drawing out the power to appreciate than the power to produce."

Q. A few master ideas?  What does that even mean- some of these pictures are just farmers and trees.

A. 
The commonplace made beautiful is a master-idea. Mason speaks of children who will perhaps get to visit an art gallery or some great home where true art is exhibited on the walls, and " life itself is illustrated for them at many points. For it is true as Browning told us, — For, don’t you mark, we’re made so that we love First when we see them painted, things we have passed Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see.” Here is an example of how beautiful and familiar things give quite new delight when they are pictured." She also notes:

Q. That's all?

 A. That's it.  Really.  That is the basic practice of picture study- one by one, over time, look at a series of pictures by the same artist (one at any given lesson), turn it over, describe it back.  Learn the name of the name of the artist. 

Start with the pictures. Look at them carefully.  Describe them without looking.  If you don't do this first, none of the other things will be starting from the right foundation.  Don't add anything else until you have spent some time just looking at the pictures in the manner described above.

After being able to describe them, you can add an occasional time period where you sketch them from memory.  You can also play with 'tableaux,' setting up a scene (something like charades, of different paintings.  This is a fun activity in a co-op.  Each family can pick a painting to represent to the group.

Digging deeper:

If you want to make your own selections:

Choose your artist.  You might want an artist from a particular cultural background.  You might want to choose from the artists who worked during the time period you are studying for history. 


Once you have a list of artists to choose from, apply these principles to the artworks and narrow your selection to abut six works by a single artist.

You need six works by the same artist.  You don't have to be ridiculously rigid about that number. If you want to do 9 or can only find 4 or 5, that's also okay.  You don't the kids to get sick of that artist before you move on and you do need enough for them to get a sense of their style. 

In selecting our pictures, we should keep these things in mind (these are either quotes from or adapted from Charlotte Mason's works):

~The pictures should have a refining, elevating influence.

-They should express great ideas, and this is more important than the technique.

-The great ideas our art prints express might include:
"the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to `cause' and country and kind, to the past and the present."

- Our art prints ought to put "our children in touch with the great thoughts by which the world has been educated in the past, and to keep... them in the right attitude towards the great ideas of the present "-And bring us into the "world of beauty created for us by those whose Beauty Sense enables them not only to see and take joy in all the Beauty there is, but whose souls become so filled with the Beauty they gather through eye and ear that they produce for us new forms of Beauty"

- Do our choices expose the children to those works of art which seek to "interpret to us some of the meanings of life?" "...FraAngelico will tell us of the beauty of holiness, that Giotto will confide his interpretation of the meaning of life, that Millet will tell us of the simplicity and dignity that belong to labour on the soil, that Rembrandt will show us the sweetness of humanity in many a commonplace countenance.

The artist -- "Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him, Above and through his art," -- has indispensable lessons to give us, ... the outward and visible sign is of less moment than the inward and spiritual grace."-Technique, no matter how brilliant, is not a substitute for expression of beauty, or one of those 'meanings of life' interpretations.

-Let us choose pictures using this as a guideline- "Nothing can be a work of art which is not useful, that is to say, which does not minister to the body when well under the command of the mind, or which does not amuse, soothe, or elevate the mind in a healthy state."- Cm quoting William Morris

-The works of art we choose should represent 'master ideas,' which the painter 'works out, not in a single piece, but here a little and there a little, in a series of studies.' The artist is "a teacher,who is to have a refining, elevating effect upon our coarser nature"

-Our prints can also be chosen to help the children develop a love for the commonplace beauty of every day things- " For it is true as Browning told us, -- For, don't you mark, we're made so that we love First when we see them painted, things we have passed Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see." ...we learn to see things when we see them painted."

- Our art prints should help our children develop an affinity for, an attraction to, the beautiful, the lovely, the pure, the refining-because "education is concerned to teach him what pictures to delight in."

To go to the source, and you should go to the source, please see Charlotte Mason's own books, in particular:
Vol 1 pg 308-311
Vol 2, page 262
Vol 3 pg 77page 209, page 239,  page 353ff, 
Vol. 4, pages 2-3, page 42page 44, 48-49
Vol 5 pg 231 - 236
Vol. 5 p 312- 315
Vol. 6, pages 213-217
Vol. 6, page 275
Vol. 6 328-329
Picture Talk, Parents Review, Vol 17, 1906
Picture Talk, Parents Review, Vol. 12, 1901
Impressions of Conference Work with Class II (scroll down for two paragraphs about a specific picture talk given)  A similar explanation and example is offered here.
ARt and Literature in the Parents' Union School (the art/picture study section is midway down the page)

There are other pages in the volumes and other PR articles that touch on picture study and art in the curriculum.  These are a fair place to begin digging deeper.




Sources for art prints:
Art Museum websites will often allow you to search by country or by century.
Joining the AO forum will give you access to our picture study discussion area where resources for free prints are shared frequently.
medievalpoc.tumblr.com - once you have your artist, you can go here and plug in their name and find some links and information to any works they have which include people of colour.
Other families using AO have put together PDF files and people have various methods of printing them out-
~put them on a thumb drive or email them to your favourite print shop (Office Max or Office Depot in the US) for printing
~use Shutterfly coupons (affiliate link for a promo code for a free book)  to make books of that term's art prints. 
~You can join the AO FB group and read this post for some ideas.

Use what you have.  


What I have or have used:

What we have used we have picked up at thrift shops, yard sales, and the local library. There are a couple of resources I consider superior and well worth your time to find and use. In listing the resources we've used below, I have put those in bold type. Otherwise, use what is available to you and within your budget- this is what we had. You may have something just as good or better (these are affiliate links, but I strongly recommend searching your thrift shops for several of these).
We have used: A Child's Book of Art; Discover Great Paintings, by Lucy Micklethwait (picked up at the library.
Discover Great Paintings by the same author is also good). Cute introduction to just looking at pictures, suitable for younger children. An early innoculation against the cultural assumption that this is boring and inaccessible.

Mommy, It's a Renoir, by Wolf, Aline D. (I mostly just ended up using the 'childsized masterpieces' postcards rather than doing all the activities)

Janson's History of ARt Janson and Janson hb, dj Abrams c.1997, Fifth edition

Metropolitan Seminars in Art, Art portfolios, a series of about 11 books, edited by John Canaday These are readily found second hand, and I didn't use the books, just the art prints.

The World of Vermeer, and other Time, Life Libary of Art books in this series.  Readily found second hand.

Family pass to the nearest art museum, every visit followed by a trip to the gift shop for a post card of their favourite work.

_Stories from the Old Testament with Masterwork Paintings Inspired by the Stories_ and _Stories from the New Testament with Masterwork Paintings Inspired by the Stories_, both by Simon and Schuster.

How Should We Then Live, by Francis Schaeffer
Art calendars of various artists (pick these up late in the year when they are half price or better)

The list of artists and articles found at amblesideonline.org

For learning to draw, we have used: Mark Kistler's Draw Squad ,
Draw, Write, Now and something called Draw Today for the one child who actually demonstrated a real talent and affinity for drawing. I do not know if our failures in the drawing arena can be attributed to lack of innate ability as much as lack of self-discipline on my part. I think if I had been more consistent in this, those children without an obvious natural gift in this area might still have developed greater basic competency and confidence and comfort. 

(post contains affiliate links)
------------------------
 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal, Buy Now!   Feed Your Mind!  This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science. See sidebar for ordering options if you are in the Philippines.

New! 
 $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.
  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!  Carefully selected with an eye toward well written sentences, memorable scenes, and some practice copying sentences that model the basics of capitalization and punctuation.   Suitable for use with children who have already mastered the strokes and letters for basic penmanship.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Common Assumptions

C.S. Lewis on old books

Let's chat!
Every era has common assumptions we all take for granted, beliefs so commonly accepted that we don't even think of them as 'beliefs,' and to pick them out of our heads and examine them is as impossible as deciphering the individual molecules of the air we breathe.
An excellent illustration of the sort of thing I mean can be found any time you read older books. Take Charlotte Mason as an example. She was an educator in the Victorian era, popular today with certain bookish, liberal arts inclined homeschoolers like myself. She wrote six lovely volumes ( the sixth is my personal favourite) about her philosophy of education. In order to explain what she believes about education and where she differs from other theories she often goes into great detail, first explaining what those other ideas are, and then, very gently, where she disagrees with them.
When reading Mason it’s easy to see similarities between her approach and some other contemporary-to-her (or older) philosophy of education. Miss Mason was a well-read woman, and there are few writings on education available in her day which she did not read. CM and Montessori had some ideas and practices in common, just as Miss Mason did with Froebel, Pestalozzi, Plato, and even Rousseau, who preceded her by many decades, but was still very popular when she wrote. She sort of cherry picked, or gleaned, for good ideas everywhere.
So one reason for some similarities is because Miss Mason deliberately borrowed the ideas she thought best from each educator and fit them into her own philosophy. But there’s another reason. She and Montessori were contemporaries, so they also shared certain underlying assumptions in common with their time. As C. S. Lewis put it (in an article worth reading in its entirety for its own sake):
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.
It is a very humbling thought, is it not, that a hundred years from now, people will look back up on us and what we wrote and thought and see more agreement between, say, an easy believism evangelicial, an atheist, and a full five point Calvinist, or a staunch pro-life advocate and equally staunch pro-abortion proponent.  Possibly a hundred years from now people will look back on some current topic of great debate and won't even be able to tell what we thought we were arguing about.
From time to time I find myself pondering what our own particular ‘great mass of common assumptions’ might be. And how would we know ? Because the thing about common assumptions is that they are assumed, taken for granted, believed as thoughtlessly as we take in the air we breathe.

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 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal, Buy Now!   Feed Your Mind!  This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science. See sidebar for purchasing options if you are in the Philippines.

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 $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.
  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!  Carefully selected with an eye toward well written sentences, memorable scenes, and some practice copying sentences that model the basics of capitalization and punctuation.   Suitable for use with children who have already mastered the strokes and letters for basic penmanship.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Greek in Public School, conclusion

This is an article taken from volume II of the Parents' Review, edited by Charlotte Mason.  The author is Oscar Browning.  All the Parents' Review articles we find are freely made available to the general public at Ambleside’s website
Oscar Browning has been talking about the benefits of a study for both character development and scholarly learning, and he says “I know of no study which produces such results as history, if only the history be properly taught,’ and that is where I quite typing. He continues,
“Even in the lower classes the frivolous boy is turned by it into a thoughtful man. The reason for this is not far to seek. It is essentially a manly study. The schoolboy coming to the University if he takes to classics has merely to repeat the exercises of this childhood; if he takes to history he is plunged at once into those studies and those considerations on which the most mature men are accustomed to exercise their minds. History may, of course, by bad teaching be turned into a mere exercise of the memory. But if the political side is kept clearly in view and the student is made to trace events to their cause, to explain the present by the past, to distinguish in the records of ancient times what is permanent from what is temporary, what is essential from what is accidental, he must acquire a robustness of intellect which few other studies can give. It also calls out what I before described as the highest organon of thought- the power of balancing probabilities. In history there is no certainty either or prediction or of judgment, or even of the relation of facts. “Do not read history to me,” said Bolingbroke; “I know that must be false.” False it is , tried by the test of science; true in the highest sense if measured by that standard of probability which is the only criterion within the grasp of weak and fallible man.
This modern literary training, based on the highest use of language, culminating sometimes in history and sometimes in philosophy, will , I believe, be the training of the future, if in the future the highest intellectual training is to exist at all. Let us therefore begin it it as well as we can. Science is claiming every day a larger scope; she is spreading her influence far and wide over the land, extinguishing fancy, imagination, and belief, hardening the mind against those eternal voices which can only be heard in whispers. If we would protect mankind from a mental leprosy whose influence may last for centuries, we must call to our aid all the assistance which literature in its widest sense can give us. It will be obvious from what I have said that while I believe most strongly that Greek should continue to be an essential part of classical education wherever that is pursued, yet I think that literary education, of which classical education is a branch, cannot hold its own against the advancing tide of science unless it call to its aid the literature and the literary thought of the modern world, and this can be done by establishing a new kind of literary education in which not only Greek, but perhaps also Latin, has no place. I should therefore, wish to see some substitute for Greek admitted at our Universities, but such a substitute as would ensure that it was given up not out of mere indolence or indifference to culture, but from the desire to pursue some other worthy object of study with effective industry. The substitute for it should be either a competent knowledge of French and German taken together, or of mathematics and sciences. I trust that what I have said, if it does not command assent, will at least suggest ample topics for discussion.*”
And the editor, Charlotte Mason, attaches this comment to the conclusion of the article, “Discussion is invited.- Ed.


 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal, Buy Now!   Feed Your Mind!  This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science. See sidebar for purchasing options if you are in the Philippines.

New! 
 $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.
  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!  Carefully selected with an eye toward well written sentences, memorable scenes, and some practice copying sentences that model the basics of capitalization and punctuation.   Suitable for use with children who have already mastered the strokes and letters for basic penmanship.