Follow by Email

Search This Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Imagination and Sympathy in the Curriculum, Part III

Here's Part II in case you need to review.


Imagination as a Powerful Factor in a Well Balance Mind, by E.A. Parish, is one of the first, and still a strong favourite, source of information about the role imagination should play in the curriculum.  I strongly recommend it.

Parish was one of Mason’s teaching students and she went on to become the principal of the House of Education after Mason’s death.  The article linked above was a paper she delivered at a CM conference. 

"If you were to ask me," she says,  "which part of the Parents' Union School gives most scope for the exercise of imagination, I should tell you that I do not know. As I take up the programmes  and glance through them from the beginning to the end I can see nothing but food for the imagination, if rightly used. “Rightly taught, every subject gives fuel to the imagination, and without imagination, no subject can be rightly followed.”

We'll come back to the rightly used and rightly taught part later.  For now let's just look at just three subjects and how they work with imagination to enlarge the sympathies, to expand that compassion outward away from self and towards others- and remember,  these are just some highlights.  I'm not relying only on the Parish article, I've looked at other articles in the PR and L'Umile Pianta as well, in addition, of course, to the volumes.  But I believe there is far more to be mined in the six volumes and periodicals than I have yet discovered.

Geography: Here we have a clue to one of the keys to Mason's approach. In volume 6 (and also in her pamphlet The Basis of National Strength), she says that all of a child's instruction should come through the best books available, that geography and history books "should be written with the lucidity, concentration, personal conviction, directness, and admirable simplicity which characterizes a work of literary calibre."
And then she says this, "We trust much to pictures, lantern slides, cinematograph displays (this is movies, they had them, and good ones in her day); but without labour there is no profit, and probably the pictures which remain with us are those which we have first conceived through the medium of words; pictures may help us to correct our notions, but the imagination does not work upon a visual presentation; we lay the phrases of a description on our palette and make our own pictures."

I think this use of imagination is not just true for geography, but for other subjects as well, 'without labour there is not profit,' and the pictures that really take hold of us are those we created in our own mind's eye based on excellent descriptions.  We can then use pictures to help improve our mental images, but we need to first do the work of imagining, of picturing in the mind's eye.


You can read the article on imagination in history and geography here. I will advise you that some of the article is dated in description and terms, but it is my opinion that what the author is really talking about here, even in some of his most uncomfortable generalizations or stereotypes, is learning about the culture of of other people in other lands- and sometimes in our own lands as well.  Sarah Lanier's Foreign to Familiar and David Livermore's Great Courses presentation on Cultural Intelligence are invaluable for this study, and lend themselves well to an increased sympathetic imagination and understanding of other people.


Here's a paraphrase of what is said about teaching Geography.  You can’t bring the mountains, islands, seas, and countries directly to your classroom, and it’s not always practical to take the children there- so you work to help your students build pictures in their minds.  You start with what they know and using metaphor and analogy to expand what they know to what they don't know- a stool perhaps a foot tall, now imagine a stack of 3,000 of them and we have a tower, an obelisk- so make it as wide as the town and as tall as all those stools and you have a mountain.  In your descriptions, in the books you choose, be sure to include other details as well, particularly the sights, smells, the accent, customs, and skills of the people, the flowers and birds- build pictures.  Those pictures are not abstract. They are as real as you can make them, giving the children many connections- and relationships to make, because the essence of a CM education is relationships, with people near and far, with creation, with the Creator.

The study of geography is not for the purpose of making a living, being good at a job, passing tests.  That is materialism.  The study of geography is about the world and people God made and where and how His people live.  Never lose sight of this wider richer purpose of education.  As CM said, " if we let the people sink into the mire of a material education our doom is sealed."


Bible.
Another helpful PR article is one by Mrs. Hart Davis on early Bible teaching. She says the mother ”should tell the children enough to make each great name a living character, and omit all the rest which their young minds cannot retain. The point to aim at is the reverent "picture making" in the little hearts, and this can be done ever so simply, always remembering that later study will correct and remodel the details.” 

In the PR article on imagination in the curriculum, E.A. Parish says, “Perhaps nothing so fills the mind of a child with dreams and beautiful imaginings as the Bible language. I have known a child of six so thrilled with the thought of "the Spirit moving upon the face of the waters" that he could think over it for days. Miss Mason always urges teachers to use the Bible, and the Bible only, in teaching, to read passages to the children and to let them narrate; difficulties may be explained first, but the words of the Bible must always be the last sound in their ears, a possession for-ever.” 

So begin with oral stories, stories that focus on the people in the Bible and make them come alive so that they touch the children's hearts and make pictures in their minds. Don't get bagged down in esoteric details.  As the children mature, add stories directly from the Bible. To help them over the difficult parts, you can present some scaffolding or background information first, but then let the words of the Bible speak for themselves and leave the impression only they can make.  Let those words fill their minds with dreams and imaginings- again, this connection between words and pictures in the mind.

Would you like a hint on how to tell if the children are picturing their stories in their minds?  When they annoy you by wondering about details that have nothing to do with the story and cannot be answered from the biblical account!

Have your kids ever responded to their Bible stories with something like: --“when Joseph’s brothers took Benjamin to Egypt, I wonder if he rode on their laps?" or . in Acts when the disciples told Paul farewell, "the little ones would have to be lifted up to kiss him and say good bye.” Or I wonder what kind of fish Jesus roasted on the seashore?   This is not dithering, not a distraction- these  are examples of their imaginations working on the story because they *have* pictured it in their minds eye!

Here’s another subject, and it's quite an  interesting one, but I am going to ask you to guess which one it is: 

Studying this subject means reading direct accounts of the history and myths of these people, and so, “ this constant practice in the difficult task of understanding the feelings, purposes, beliefs and actions of those men, so remote from us in time, and almost every external condition, yet so near to us in all essentials;--is it not an admirable method of awakening and widening our sympathies and enlarging our power of understanding our own immediate neighbours? And does not that process, so far as it is carried, tend to make us better neighbours…” 

The subject? Greek and Latin. Obviously, this applies to the study of other languages, as well as history and geography. These are subjects that are particularly good for awakening and widening the sympathies. As a sidenote, when your goal is expanding, deepening, widening your sympathy, love, relationships with others, you do not begin, or even succeed, by teaching children to first hate and be shamed by all that is their own.  This is not the way of widening sympathy. It is the way of envy, and a critical bitterness unbecoming and unhealthy for child minds.  We want to love more, and expand our sympathies, not hate and shrivel the center, the place where the child began.


After all, Education is the science of what? Relations. Understanding a people remote from us in time and ‘every external condition’ makes us better neighbours here and now.  Note the assumption that becoming better neighbours is a natural desire for education, not to mention widening our sympathies and enlarging our understanding of others.  If the way you study languages offers no such ground, it’s not rightly taught.

Education is building a house of the mind, and imagination is the door through which we communicate with the world.

TBC


If you appreciate what you read here,  I have some other goodies you'll enjoy.  Take a look below!



$5.00- Education for All, vol 2- the Imagination (and more) issue!- transcript of the imagination talk from the AO Camp meeting, with additional material I had to cut to save time.  

 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal,   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.



 $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!  Miguel Cabrera's beautiful, diverse families, painted in 18th century Mexico this package includes 9 downloadable prints along with directions for picture study and background information on the artist and his work. $5.00


Common Kitchen:  What's for lunch?  Isn't that a common problem in homeschooling families?  What to fix, what is quick, what is frugal, what is nourishing?  How can I accomplish all those things at once?  We homeschooled 7 children, and I was a homeschooling mom for 29 years on a single income.  I collected these recipes and snack ideas from all over the world.  These are real foods I used to feed my family, my godsons, and sometimes my grandkids.  Includes some cooking tips and suggestions for sides, and for a variety of substitutions.  The snack ideas are whole foods, nourishing, and simple to prepare, based on what I have observed children in other cultures eating for snacks.  I think every family will find something they can use here. $5.00

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Imagination and Empathy in the Curriculum, part II

Part I is here.

In volume VI of Mason's six volume collection on education, she shares the following story about a child of five.  You may remember it, but let's review.


This is really where it all began for Mason. Although she'd been studying education and teaching in various capacities for years, this was her first real experience with children in the bosom of their families in their own homes.  The nieces and nephews of a good friend of hers were sent home from England to be educated, and Charlotte's friend taught them at home.  Charlotte went to visit the family and she was amazed. Children do behave rather differently in those two places, don't they? So when Mason finally had an opportunity to observe this, it surprised her.  There was more to children than she had expected- in many ways.  She does not seem to have previously realized just how fully developed children were on their own, how much they were already their own persons. 

 She says she found them astonishing, "persons of generous impulses and sound judgment, of great intellectual aptitude, of imagination and moral insight."   She tells this story as an example of two of those concepts- that’s the account of the 5 y.o. girl who came home from a walk utterly inconsolable.  After some time and a combination of coaxing and letting alone, she gasped out what was so heartbreaking to her, and shared that she was upset because  there was a was “a poor man––no home––nothing to eat––no bed to lie upon,"––and she burst into tears.“

There's a comment here with more pathos than she may have intended. “Such incidents may be common in families, says Mason, but they were new to me.” How many people working with children have no idea how different they are in the bosom of their families, how much there is to them than they reveal in a classroom?  And perhaps a number among us are parents who have this opportunity every day, but we are not ourselves as observant as we should be. However, I digress.  Recall that Mason told this incident specifically as an illustration of how advanced children are in two specific traits- here's the list again- generous impulses, sound judgment, intellectual aptitude, imagination and moral insight.  (One thing she notes where they fell far short of adults was in their "illimitable ignorance." We'll come back to that later.)  Which two traits do you think we see unveiled in this little story?

The traits Mason thought this story illustrated were the children's natural capacity for imagination and moral insight.
Moral insight I understand.  But I had to think a bit to see this as an example of imagination.  Do you see it?  Is this the sort of example you would choose to illustrate the trait of an active imagination? 

Here's how I think it demonstrates imagination.  This is a middle class, upper middle class, probably, child of five.  I'm not sure how many of those details the child would have seen first-hand.  Perhaps simply learning he had no home helped her go on to imagine he also had no bed and no food.  Her grief as well shows us that she has not just imagined his condition, but a child who can hardly ever have been without a bed and food herself has managed to put herself in somebody else's shoes and imagine life from their perspective, and that exercise of imagination is what reduced her to tears.

 Have you ever complimented your kids for having a great imagination when they were sad for a stranger or performed a kind act for another person?  I usually think of imagination as having to do with self-expression, and while that has its place as well, that is not very often the purpose Mason envisions for it in her philosophy of education.  I've been hunting up and collecting references to imagination in Mason's philosophy, and repeatedly I find Mason and her fellow P.N.E.U. members promoting the development of sympathy through imagination, emphasizing the use of imagination in compassion, in warmth and understanding for others.  Only rarely do I find that they focus, or even mention, its value or use in self-expression.

Imagination lets us see more than the naked eye, and it allows us to see with the heart as well as the reason. Reason without imagination makes materialists of us all, unable to recognize faith.   E.A. Parish also quotes Dr. Greville MacDonald (son of George MacDonald), who says it 'recognises the shining light in all things living,' and imagination illuminates what it sees.'  (Note: this is the philosophy of materialism, where all that is in the universe, is matter, a physical world only, with no such thing as spirit or soul. Taken at extreme, even the mind and ideas are mere emanations of the physical)




IN Parish's PR article about imagination and the curriculum I found one of my favourite quotes about imagination: 
“For imagination is born of love, and it is only through love that the child comes out of himself and looks at things as they are, apart from his ego. It is only through love that he will forget himself till his visualization is peopled by others than himself.” 
 That child of five forgot herself, and her imagination was filled with concern for the homeless man.  She had an imagination born of love.  




Imagination is essential for sympathy,* for putting ourselves in somebody else's shoes.  It is necessary to right development of character.  And it is even necessary for habit training.

In an article published in volume 13 of the PR, Mason explains, " To think fairly about the personal rights of others requires a good deal of knowledge as well as judgment. But we can all arrive at some right conclusions by calling in the help of Imagination. That boy is none the less a good fellow who realises his mother's love for the beauty of neatness; who recollects that the maids have enough to do with their regular work; that enough work makes people happy, while too much spoils their lives; and, thinking upon these things, is careful about such little matters as to wipe his feet when he comes in, to confining his messes to his own den, to avoid leaving tracks of soil, tear and damage to show where he has been, because he knows that this sort of recklessness spoils the comfort and increases the labour of other people. "

This, too, is an example of imagination born of love.

In case I haven't made my direction clear, it is my understanding that in Mason’s philosophy, the purpose of imagination isn’t primarily self-expression, but love, a love which creates an active sympathy for others- it’s a flowing outward from a heart and mind filled with thoughts of other people rather than thoughts of self. 

Now, there are many ways to help inform & point imagination that direction, and not all of them have to do with books. I've shared a lot of ideas and information about that in this e-zine.  In this series of blog posts I'm going to share what I've learned about the use and purpose of imagination and development of sympathy through the school curriculum, the how, the why, the who, and more.

I hope you'll join me and share your ideas as well.


Meanwhile: 

Choose a way to narrate what you've read- make a list of ideas, write down as much as you can remember as fast as you can in a minute or two.  Find a friend to discuss it with. 

Look for examples of imagination and empathy at work in your children, in your stories, in people around you.


Part III is here
Notes:

*The word empathy was first used in the 1900s, and then it had something to do with art.  It wasn't really commonly used to refer to feelings towards others until the mid 1950s.  In Mason's day, all that we mean by empathy was included in the word sympathy.

Sources and References:

Part I

Volume VI, Toward a Philosophy of Education, volume VI

"The need of imagination in daily life" by Mrs. Edwin Gray, June, 1914 Parents' Review, copy in my personal files

Imagination article by E. A. Parish, volume 25, no. 5:   https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR25p379Imagination.shtml

 PR Vol 13 p. 046-054 Ourselves, Our Souls and Bodies,  The House of Heart, Part II, by Charlotte Mason, being prepared for sharing on our website by wonderful AO volunteers, visit our forum if you'd like to help us out with this project where we have provided free access to all the PR articles we can gather, and we've been making them freely available to the general public for nearly 20 years now.


Education for All E-zine, vol. 2, the imagination issue



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Weather study ideas

As with other science studies, first hand observation is paramount.  The doing is very important here.

Start keeping a weather chart. Check the temperature, rain, sky, every day at the same time(s) and mark them on a chart.

Rain: Make a simple rain gauge (two or one litre plastic bottle, x-acto knife, etc). Read 'the Story of the Rain Gauge.' https://www.thoughtco.com/rain-gauge-history-1992371


 Wind: Make a weather vane: https://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-and-experiments/where-is-the-wind-going-try-a-diy-weather-vane You need some stuff like a wad of clay, a pin, a pencil with fresh eraser, some cardboard and coloured paper, a straw, a compass (your phone should have one) Super cool, more complex- make an anemometer- measure wind speed: https://www.education.com/science-fair/article/make-anemometer/ Just like somebody from Canada is a Canadian and somebody from Korea is Korean, winds are named based on where they are from. An easterly wind comes from the east, and the north wind blows from the north.

 Air Pressure: do this experiment: http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys/expansion.html
Make the balloon diver (you need a balloon, some paperclips, a foil packet like ketchup comes in at fast food restaurants, or maybe one that held single serve salad dressing or pop rocks, and a clear plastic bottle); http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys/Balloondiver.html
Air has weight demonstrations: one uses straws, balloons, and maybe some tape or string. One uses a bike pump, an old bike valve you can take off an old bike tire, and a plastic bottle with its cap. http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys/Airhasweight.html

 Read about the invention of the Barometer here (page 42): https://books.google.com/books?id=vGMJAAAAIAAJ&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&dq=invention%20barometer&pg=PA40#v=onepage&q=invention%20barometer&f=false

 A whole page of pumps to make from things you might have at home: http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/pumps-from-dump.php

the story of the barometer: page 782 https://books.google.com/books?id=tf8zAQAAMAAJ&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&dq=Torricelli%20barometer&pg=PA782#v=onepage&q=Torricelli%20barometer&f=false



Keep a weather record for at least two weeks putting down your observations under the heads given above.
Make your own readings twice a day if possible first in the forenoon and again in the afternoon The book

Weather Riddles is free online here: http://arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/weather-vp.pdf It has 8 chapters, probably best for about grade 6 up, but you know your children best. You could read 2 chapters in week one, and spend week two doing experiments and first hand weather observations, then one chapter the next week, while taking the daily weather observation, then a week of time spent on experiments, demonstrations, activities and daily charts, then a chaper, and so on, with two chapters the final week.  IOW, 2 chapters the first and final week, then one chapter every other week between.

  Consider reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind this term, the one for young readers.

If you appreciate what you read here,  I have some other goodies you'll enjoy.  Take a look below!



$5.00- Education for All, vol 2- the Imagination (and more) issue!- transcript of the imagination talk from the AO Camp meeting, with additional material I had to cut to save time.  

 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal,   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.


 $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!  Miguel Cabrera's beautiful, diverse families, painted in 18th century Mexico this package includes 9 downloadable prints along with directions for picture study and background information on the artist and his work. $5.00


Common Kitchen:  What's for lunch?  Isn't that a common problem in homeschooling families?  What to fix, what is quick, what is frugal, what is nourishing?  How can I accomplish all those things at once?  We homeschooled 7 children, and I was a homeschooling mom for 29 years on a single income.  I collected these recipes and snack ideas from all over the world.  These are real foods I used to feed my family, my godsons, and sometimes my grandkids.  Includes some cooking tips and suggestions for sides, and for a variety of substitutions.  I think every family will find something they can use here. $5.00

Essay on Luxury by Oliver Goldsmith


Some of Oliver Goldsmith's writing is assigned to AO students in year 9.  I don't think this essay is one of them, but it could be used for dictation or just as one of the essays included in their literature reading.  If you do that, I'd include three or four more of his essays so the students get a feel and sense of Goldsmith's style.

To use for dictation, the year 9 student should spend a few minutes a day reading it and studying the spelling and punctuation each day on Monday thru Thursday.  On Friday, dictate any two paragraphs to your student and then compare to the original and make necessary corrections.  You could allow them to take dictation on a word program with the spell-check on (you may need to note that some of the spellings below are English rather than American)

You could have your student read this carefully on Monday, make an outline of it on Tuesday, and on Friday try to rewrite it in his own words.  This is the method Ben Franklin used to improve his own writing.  Suggest updating it by revising the problematic references (such as the 'savage in Thibet.')

Or ask your student to write his own essay on luxury.  Does the student agree or disagree with what Goldsmith says here?

Compare and contrast what Goldsmith says to the current trend for minimalism and 'Kon Mari-izing.'

The Benefits Of Luxury In Making A People More Wise And Happy
From Oliver Goldsmith’s CITIZEN OF THE WORLD, compiled from texts at archive.org
Note- this was published in 1760/61. and describes people of other countries and races in ways we find appalling today.

From such a picture of nature in primeval simplicity, tell me, my much respected friend, are you in love with fatigue and solitude? Do you sigh for the severe frugality of the wandering Tartar, or regret being born amidst the luxury and dissimulation of the polite? Rather tell me, has not every kind of life vices peculiarly its own? Is it not a  truth, that refined countries have more vices, but those not so terrible; barbarous nations few, and they of the most hideous complexion? Perfidy and fraud are the vices of civilised nations, credulity and violence those of the inhabitants of the desert. Does the luxury of the one produce half the evils of the inhumanity of the other? Certainly, those Philosophers who declaim against luxury have but little understood its benefits; they seem insensible, that to luxury we owe not only the greatest part of our knowledge, but even of our virtues.

It may sound fine in the mouth of a declaimer, when he talks of subduing our appetites, of teaching every sense to be content with a bare sufficiency, and of supplying only the wants of nature; but is there not more satisfaction in indulging those appetites, if with innocence and safety, than in restraining them? Am not I better pleased in enjoyment, than in the sullen satisfaction of thinking that I can live without enjoyment? The more various our artificial necessities, the wider is our circle of pleasure; for all pleasures consist in obviating necessities as they arise: luxury, therefore, as it increases our wants, increases our capacity for happiness.*  

Examine the history of any country remarkable for opulence and wisdom, you will find they would never have been wise had they not been first luxurious; you will find poets, philosophers, and even patriots, marching in luxury's train. The reason is obvious: we then only are curious after knowledge, when we find it connected with sensual happiness. The senses ever point out the way, and reflection comments upon the discovery. Inform a native of the desert of Kobi, of the exact measure of the parallax of the moon**, he finds no satisfaction at all in the information; he wonders how any could take such pains, and lay out such treasures, in order to solve so useless a difficulty: but connect it with his happiness, by shewing that it improves navigation — that by such an investigation he may have a warmer coat, a better gun, or a finer knife, — and he is instantly in raptures at so great an improvement. In short, we only desire to know what we desire to possess; and whatever we may talk against it, luxury adds the spur to curiosity, and gives us a desire of becoming more wise.  

But not our knowledge only, but our virtues are improved by luxury. Observe the brown savage of Thibet, to whom the fruits of the spreading pomegranate supply food, and its branches an habitation. Such a character has few vices, I grant, but those he has are of the most hideous nature: rapine and cruelty are scarcely crimes in his eye; neither pity nor tenderness, which ennoble every virtue, have any place in his heart; he hates his enemies, and kills those he subdues. On the other hand, the polite Chinese and civilized European, seem even to love their enemies. I have just now seen an instance, where the English have succoured those enemies, whom their own countrymen actually refused to relieve.***  
The greater the luxuries of every country, the more closely, politically speaking, is that country united. Luxury is the child of society alone; the luxurious man stands in need of a thousand different artists to furnish out his happiness: it is more likely, therefore, that he should be a good citizen who is connected by motives of self-interest with so many, than the abstemious man who is united to none.  

In whatsoever light, therefore, we consider luxury, whether as employing a number of hands, naturally too feeble for more laborious employment; as finding a variety of occupation for others who might be totally idle; or as furnishing out new inlets to happiness, without encroaching on mutual property; in whatever light we regard it, we shall have reason to stand up in its defense, and the sentiment of Confucius still remains unshaken, "That we should enjoy as many of the luxuries of life as are consistent with our own safety, and the prosperity of others; and that he who finds out a new pleasure, is one of the most useful members of society.”  

Notes:

 * This sentiment, a favourite one with Goldsmith, is well expressed in his poem the Traveller:  
If few their wants, their pleasures are but few;
For every want that stimulates the breast,
Becomes a source of pleasure when redrest.
Hence from such lands each pleasing science flies,
That first excites desire, and then supplies;
Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy,
To fill the languid pause with finer joy;
Unknown those powers that raise the soul to flame,
Catch every nerve, and vibrate through the frame.


**a term in Astronomy—the difference between the apparent and the real place of a star or other celestial object.  

***During the Napoleonic Wars the French prisoners of war in English hands experienced great want and poverty, as they were expected to receive some funds to alleviate their living conditions from friends, family, and government at home.  The French refused, and so the English citizens took up a subscription to raise money for their relief.  One of the donations came from an Englishman who termed himself a 'Citizen of the world,' and this was the source of Goldsmith's title, and the subject of another one of his essays in the volume.

You can read more about Citizen of the World here.

----------------------------------------------------------------

If you appreciate what you read here,  I have some other goodies you'll enjoy.  Take a look below!

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Narration Jar

Narration is an important part of a Charlotte Mason education, and a deceptively simple one. Do not be fooled by its simplicity. Narration is the bones for essays, critiques, and all other sorts of more formal writing later on. Narration seems so simple, but it really gets the brain working on all sorts of complex tasks, reviewing, reasoning, comparing, contrasting, organizing, selecting, and summarizing. Once the brain has done all this work then the child tells back, which is also an important skill in communication. With such a simple, yet complex task, some try to make it more complicated than it is, and others find that their children are surprisingly reluctant to begin. Perhaps these ideas will be helpful to those who wonder where to start.
Beginning narrators typically narrate after listening to (or reading) a single paragraph- or, in some cases, even a single sentence. This is to help develop the habit of attentiveness as well as to gently accustom the child to the skill of narration. Gradually, as the child shows readiness the length of the reading increases. Over a period of years the student makes a slow and steady transition to the point where he is able to write his narrations as well. However, written narrations will never completely replace oral; there is a place for both in the Charlotte Mason method.
The narration itself should not ever be interrupted or corrected in mid-narration. However, once the narration is completed, you may ask questions or point out areas the student might have missed, make corrections, and discuss further.
For those new to narration, the oral narrations generally begin with “Tell me what you remember.” Sometimes, “Tell me what you remember about….” is used. For reluctant narrators I might ask, “Tell me anything at all about something we just read.”
My understanding of how Charlotte Mason applied narration is that in order for it to be a truly effective tool, every book, every reading, and every lesson must be narrated- but don’t despair. You can do this. In Miss Mason’s schools every single reading was followed by a narration, but that didn’t mean that every child always narrated. Because of the dynamics of the classroom setting, the children always knew they might be called on, so they listened to the readings with the attention required if they were going to be called to narrate. Knowing that they stood a good chance of being called on to narrate probably gave an edge to their attention skills.
In the homeschool it requires a bit more effort to help the children gain this same edge, but it can be done. If you have more than one child reading the same book they can alternate narrations. One narrates from the first book, the next narrates from the second book, etc. Their attention will be just a little sharper if they each realize they might be called to narrate at any time, so you could instead simply draw names for each narration, or pick a number between one and ten. Sometimes this may mean the same child narrates four times in a row, but that is fine. You can also have one child start a narration, interrupt him midstream and have another finish. You should _not_ have one child narrate the whole story and then another child narrate the same story. Repetition of narrations is, like repetition of reading, frowned on in a Charlotte Mason education. Repeating narrations from the same reading dulls the attention.
You could have one narrate and ask the next to fill in any missing details. Sometimes you might narrate, asking the child or children to fill in any details you missed. You might also try something we use which has come to be called a narration jar. I have written down a variety of styles of narration individually on slips of paper. I put all those slips of paper in a jar. After the reading, one child draws out a slip of paper from the jar and narrates in the manner indicated- and sometimes he draws out a slip of paper and then several of the children end up narrating.
Here are some things in our narration jar:
Draw a picture of a scene from your reading.
Set up a scene from the story with your blocks.
Model something from the story using play-dough.
Narrate into the tape recorder.
Narrate orally to Mama.
Write down five sentences about what you read.
Tell me about another story or event that reminds you of what you just read about.
Write down three sentences about what you read.
You have 10 minutes to plan a short skit from what you read.
If you were giving a test on this reading, what are three questions you would ask?
Skip the narration today.
Write a letter (or e-mail) to Grandma about the reading you did today.
Tell me what you think is going to happen next, and why.
I do not have the same number of papers for each style- there are several ‘narrate to Mama’ slips but only two play dough and skit suggestions. After the children draw the slip, they return it to the jar, so the next narration has just as many choices. As the children grow more comfortable with narration, more complicated tasks and styles of narration can be added.
The narration jar is not our only form of narration. Rather, this is for when Mother is busy or having trouble thinking. At other times I might ask them questions more specific to their reading (what kind of person is Frodo, give me some examples that show his character; tell me about how Edison made his discovery; Draw me a map of Marco Polo’s travels).
To read further about this remarkable educational tool, try these webpages:
We Narrate and then We Know
Concerning Repeated Narrations
Some Notes on Narration
Thoughts on Narration
If you have suggestions for creative narrations that could be added to the narration jar, leave them in the comments. This article is copyrighted and may be reprinted and shared freely, providing you credit the author (me) and include this notice. AT no time may this article be included in any publication for resale.   I’ve just found bits and pieces of it copied all over the place, without notice, without credit- including over at currclick for sale.  Sigh.  I wish they wouldn’t.
If you appreciate what you read here,  I have some other goodies you'll enjoy.  Take a look below!



$5.00- Education for All, vol 2- the Imagination (and more) issue!- transcript of the imagination talk from the AO Camp meeting, with additional material I had to cut to save time.  

 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal,   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.

L'Harmas Talk on Imagination in the Curriculum, part I

How ideas work themselves into a talk: 
I've gotten to speak four different times to four very different groups this year, and I enjoyed it every time. I don't consider myself a gifted or a natural speaker, but I love my topic and am always eager to share the things I have learned or am learning about Charlotte Mason with anybody who will listen. This is not a slyly veiled request for compliments. I know my limitations and I consider myself in the learning stage of public speaking. This is one reason I don't charge anything. Every time I speak I learn something new and I go home and make notes to myself about how to do better next time. I am grateful for the patient members of my various audiences who give me this platform from which to learn.

 I appreciate the chance to share my thoughts on CM with others, and I feel that in spite of the weak spots in my public speaking, I have something to offer and I am eager to offer it. I had, after all, done this homeschool thing for 29 years by the time our youngest graduated 3 years ago. I have used Mason's methods in tutoring children from other cultures, other races, other language groups (I tutored in English, which was their second language). I have read the volumes multiple times, and I am still reading them. They are so rich and densely packed with ideas. I looked up the books she referenced in her volumes and read as many of them as I could as well. I am always learning something fresh and new even after 30 plus years of studying this philosophy of education.

 As I work on improving my presentation skills and the organizing of my thoughts, I am rearranging and editing my talk from L'Harmas. Over the next few days, I'll be sharing what I said, but in the order and arrangement I think would have have been even better. Most of all, it is the content that matters.

 I'd like to begin by sharing a little corner of our lives and some experiences we have had that changed my thinking about how children learn prejudice and how they learn to think about those who seem different from themselves. We adopted a child with multiple disabilities when she was nearly 6. She's now over 30. She is nonverbal and only has a few signs. She is still in diapers. She dresses herself only with help. She gets impatient when feeding herself and will drop her utensils and grab the food with her hands. She likes music, and cuddles, bananas and bakes sweet potatoes. She likes tearing paper, including pages from my books. She likes to scribble on paper, and sometimes that paper is pages in my books. She doesn't speak or sign much but she will sometimes communicate he extreme disapproval of somebody or something by slapping one of us really hard. She slapped her sister for eating before she herself had had breakfast. She slapped another sister because that sister's toddler was standing on Angel's feet. We aren't always able to tell what she is annoyed about, however, and she can be a bit unpredictable.

 When we adopted her we were very good friends with another homeschooling family with a lot of children, and we spent a lot of time together. One day the youngest child of my friend, a child who had spent time with Angel without incident several times a week, was playing nearby her as usual, and she did something unpredictable (I don't even remember what, but it wasn't anything new for her, it just didn't have any obvious reason). My friend's little boy suddenly looked at Angel like he'd never seen her before, and he screamed and pushed her away. It was really shocking. He didn't want anything to do with her at all, and my poor friend was devastated. It was obviously something about her specifically that he suddenly found fearful and disturbing and he would scream whenever his mom brought him near Angel to try to work things out. She kept apologizing, nearly in tears, and asking what she had done wrong and assuring me she hadn't taught him to dislike handicapped people -- all of which I knew. After all, he'd been playing with her just fine before.

 In another incident a family with four children who come over a few times a year had one of their four children refuse to sit next to Angel, refuse to hold her hand during prayers, refuse to be near her or have anything to do with her. The other three siblings were not the same, so I knew that this prejudice towards a different child, a child with disabilities, was not because her parents had taught her this prejudice.  They wouldn't have taught this to one child but not the other three.  In fact, her older sister (who wasn't *that* much older) would often be embarrassed by her sister's behaviour and she would go take Angel's hand for prayers herself when her sister was being ugly about it (a balm to this mama's heart).  Same family, same parents, different personalities.

 I think we have a mistaken idea about how we learn prejudice. I've heard people say that kids don't see colour, they don't see differences, unless they are taught. People assume that children only display fear and dislike of people who are different if they are taught that by their elders. I disagree.

 While there are surely some families where open bigotry is the practice at home, in comments made while watching television or movies, in open disdain and hostility about the race or abilities of somebody who annoyed mom or dad at the grocery store or library will be expressed in the car and at home, most of the time I think fear of the Other is actually natural, and our fault is invisible, it is in errors of omission, not deliberate comments and acts of commission.

 Unconvinced? Imagine this scene with me: It’s Christmas, you’re at the mall and there’s a booth with a Santa Claus in it and a line of parents and children waiting to sit on Santa’s knee and get their picture taken. What are many of the small children doing? They are howling and crying and resisting the fat bearded man in the red suit. They are terrified, and pushing him away. They don't want to be near him at all.

It’s Easter and you’re again at a mall for some reason. You’ve got a couple preschoolers and a toddler with you, and a person in a giant rabbit costume strolls over and tries to engage the kids in conversation. Shall we place bets? Do they respond with joy and instantly start chatting with the giant mutant rabbit or scream and hide behind you in terror?

What about clowns? Why do so many children find these things scary? Do parents teach their children to hate and fear fat bearded men in red suits or freakishly large rabbits who walk on two legs? Do we tell them clowns are scary and threatening and they should scream when they see one? Of course we don’t. And when children do scream and cry about the clown or the Santa Claus, we don't tsk tsk and intone, "Children don't see (insert physical attribute here). They have to be taught to react that way."

Okay, but...  But those things are weird, right? So it’s natural the kids would be scared and upset. I'm still not making my case for some of you. But the fact that it is natural for kids to fear and reject what is strange to them, to find 'strange' or 'weird' the same as frightening is exactly my point. I agree it’s entirely normal and natural, particularly at certain developmental stages.

What do we do when children react that way? We try to help them overcome it. We understand it and work to make the strange familiar, so they will be more comfortable. We do this with strange situations and unfamiliar people as well. Sometimes, if we are wise, we do this intentionally.  When a child is going to the dentist for the first time the parent who plans ahead has read a few picture books about dentists, has given the child some advance information about what to expect. When we lived overseas for 2 years and were ready to return home, my other daughters did some intervention work with their children, reminding them (because they were so young and might not remember) that Aunt Angel is not quite the same as other people, that she reacts differently, that she's an adult who doesn't talk and does suck her thumb, and that she can't answer their questions or play the usual games with them. You might have a relative who needs some advance explanation for your children in order to help them respond with acceptance and understanding. You know another word for this?

 Representation.

 What does weird really mean? Some people think it’s weird to have rice and fish for breakfast and some people think it’s weird not to. Some people think it’s weird to go up and hug somebody who’s crying- it’s more considerate to turn around and pretend you don’t see them, and some people think it’s weird not to offer physical comfort, even to a stranger. Some people think it’s weird for men who are just friends to share a bed on a road trip and some people think it’s weird and lonely to sleep by yourself. Some people think it's weird to bow when greeting somebody and some think it's weird to shake hands, or wave. Some think it's weird to have a child sleep in your room at night, and some think it's weirder, and rather irresponsible and cold-hearted not to. Some people think it's weird to smile at strangers if you make eye contact on the street and others think it's weird and unfriendly not to.

 Weird just means we’re not used to it, it’s outside the range of normal for us. The kids are scared and respond in fear not because the parents taught them to act that way but because it doesn't always occur to even kind, well intentioned, parents that they needed to teach children not to act that way.


The children may just hit a certain developmental stage similar to the stranger danger stage when they come across somebody different enough to cause fear. The family may not had enough exposure to people of varying abilities, skin tones, hair and eye colour, races, complexions, accents, etc.

Parents who believe that children can only react in dislike and fear of people who look different if those children have been taught that way are parents who didn’t realize they needed to actively bring their children into sympathetic relation with people who are different. Representation is not just important for children who do need to see people who look like them in their picture books, art, literature, history and so on. It is important for children who only see people who look like themselves as well.

Some families, through neither deliberate intention or preference, live in places and situations where seeing people who look different is outside of the norm. And to little kids, outside the norm can be scary. I lived in the Philippines for two years and sometimes I happened to be the first white person to speak to a small Filipino child, just by accident of time and place, and quite often they’d scream and cry. This was not because their parents taught them to hate white people, but because I was unfamiliar, I talked funny, so I was unpredictable and unknown to them, and thus, scary. This is normal, it's even a reasonable response for young children to make. What matters is how we go from there. Of course there are parents who deliberately foster fear and dislike of other ethnic groups. However, we need to accept that this also happens naturally and what we want to do is focus on *unteaching* it.

 Happily, a Charlotte Mason education, properly done, will also help us to address that. Mason's philosophy applied will widen and deepen the children ‘s imagination, direct it outward, squeezing out self-absorbtion and replacing it with interest in other people and ideas. A Charlotte Mason education is ideal for learning and thinking about how other people live and why. Repeatedly Mason asks that children picture in their minds the images representing the stories they read, and as they use their imagination to picture the lives of other people, empathy increases.

Charlotte Mason says of children that "Other peoples and their languages must not be strange to them." 

 A little over a year ago I was struck by the realization of the connection Charlotte Makes between imagination and sympathy. She is not referring to just the moral imagination, which I was familiar with. For Charlotte, a warm, deep, connected sympathy to other people is the legitimate, perhaps even the most important, function of imagination. This discovery set me off on a journey to find how Mason's philosophy played out through her curriculum and what ways her recommended practices encourage the growth and development of this deeply warm, sympathetic connection with other others, including 'Others.'

 Over the next week or two I will be sharing some of my finds with you. I hope you'll join me and learn something as well, and please consider helping me learn more by contributing to the conversation in the comments. Thanks!

Thinking about what you've read here... here are a couple suggestions (only suggestions, not assignments) to go deeper- take a minute and write down as much as you can remember as quickly as possible.  When the minute is up, look it over and think about what you wrote.  What stands out to you the most?  Do you have questions or possible objections?  Make a note of those, too.

Does this remind you of anything else?  What are the connections you've made there?

Have your children ever reacted to a person with disabilities, a person from another ethnic background, country, or culture, in a way that embarrassed or shamed  you?  Think about what happened and ask yourself what was really happening and why.  What could you do to change that in the future?

What does your home library look like?  Does it include stories by and about people who are not as you are? What about your daily life, where you go to church, shop, what types of cultural events you might visit, your study of languages- are you including opportunities for exposure to other people and customs, other cultures, other stories?

If you appreciate what you read here,  I have some other goodies you'll enjoy.  Take a look below!



$5.00- Education for All, vol 2- the Imagination (and more) issue!- transcript of the imagination talk from the AO Camp meeting, with additional material I had to cut to save time.  

 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal,   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.



 $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!  Miguel Cabrera's beautiful, diverse families, painted in 18th century Mexico this package includes 9 downloadable prints along with directions for picture study and background information on the artist and his work. $5.00



Common Kitchen:  What's for lunch?  Isn't that a common problem in homeschooling families?  What to fix, what is quick, what is frugal, what is nourishing?  How can I accomplish all those things at once?  We homeschooled 7 children, and I was a homeschooling mom for 29 years on a single income.  I collected these recipes and snack ideas from all over the world.  These are real foods I used to feed my family, my godsons, and sometimes my grandkids.  Includes some cooking tips and suggestions for sides, and for a variety of substitutions.  I think every family will find something they can use here. $5.00


Part two of the L'Harmas talk on education is here.