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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

When will they learn about...

Charlotte Mason says something along the lines of the point of it all being not that the children can correctly pinpoint who wrote/did what in the age of whom, but to give them a sort of pageantry of the mind, rich in ideas and relationships.

 It's not that the facts don't matter, it's that if the children don't have curiosity, love, interest, if they don't even care, none of the facts really sink in anyway. There are things missing from every history book that are worth of attention, but history is a wide and deep topic and there isn't time to give all topics all the attention they might merit in the school hours alone.

So flesh things out with biographies, visits to local historical sites, include museums and historical marker visits in your itinerary if/when you travel, notice those other opportunities for connections in your reading, and in your living  ( a little goes a long way, don't eat up the hours they should have of free time to explore their own interests).

In my own life, I remember learning most about Balboa when my family visited Balboa park in San Diego as a child perhaps 10 years old. If I had ever heard of him before I did not remember it, but visiting the park gave me a wide eyed discovery of the idea about exploration including botany, and curiosity about the man himself.

 My own kids made their first 'discovery' of Cortez when they read Keats' poem: On First Looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

This last stanza was quoted in one of the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome (AO did not then exist, but it is now one of our free reads)- it caught my kids' attention and we looked it up to learn about the poem, the poet, and the people and places he is referring to. Education is not a catalog, it is a discipline, an atmosphere, and a life, and this is how it continues- like circles on a pond or a game of association, a new thing suggests another new thing, and children who have learned to keep their native curiosity go on learning forever. ( I just sidetracked myself looking up multiple references to Ponce de Leon because he was once governor of Darien and may in fact be who Keats should have named instead of Cortez, but perhaps it would have altered his rhyme scheme?)

The atmosphere Mason speaks of is the one we have, the people we are, the home and culture we create when we bring a family together and grow together- so be sure to incorporate that into your days and lives as well, as you discover your own realms of gold in which to travel.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Relations and Affinities

We dabbled in various types of homeschooling for a few years, but there were things that were always part of what I did, and they were there because of reading For the Children's Sake- these were the things that I recall particularly resonated with me:
Poetry (Winnie the Pooh, reciting for grandparents, fourth grade poetry book given to me for Christmas when I in the hospital)
Hymns: acapella tradition, sang hymns at homes and on long car trips.
Classical music- we didn't listen to the radio, but my dad had a number of records (yes, I am so analog), all of them classic. We also had a handful of folk songs in our family repetoire.
Well written books/literature was a constant.
Nature study: My grandmother majored in Botany in the 1920s, when not that many women went to college.  She always showed us the plants and wildflowers on our walks and told us their names.
Education is the science of relations.
Those things appealed to me because they were things I had grown up with- they were, in fact, most the best parts of a childhood that actually wasn't very good, a childhood that, in fact, resulted in two of the three of us emerging into adulthood already loaded by the burden of PTSD from the abuse we endured. And yet those things were there, glimmering beacons of peace and safety in an otherwise extremely painful childhood.
Assuming you are interested in homeschooling and Charlotte Mason, since you are reading this post- why?  Consider that a moment and see if you can trace the causes.
All those things I mentioned, the poetry, the books, the nature study, they resonated with me because I had a relationship, a connection, what Mason calls an 'affinity' for those things- an affinity is a natural connection, a relationship, a sympathetic interest. My interest in homeschooling to begin with was because of a relationship- the relationship I had with my daughter. Then there was the relationship I had with my friend who loaned me For the Children's Sake, and the relationships I built online with other Charlotte Mason homeschoolers,
I am guessing that for most of you, your interest in homeschooling and CM has something to do with some connections and relationships as well, probably both people and subjects. I had a relationship, with poetry and folk songs because somebody took the time to introduce them to me- that's not usually the sort of thing children discover on their own. In my case, and probably yours, these things happened in a somewhat haphazard way. A lot of worthwhile things happen that way, and that's fine. But a Charlotte Mason education is also about having a planned, organized way to help children discover a wide range of topics, activities, subjects, ideas, and skills that they can form a connection, a relationship with, in away that isn't limited only by what we, their parents, already know and like.
You never know what is that will be just the thing a child needs or will connect to, and how he will form those connections.  A child cannot be interested in or pursue relationships with topics and ideas he has never heard of.  That's why there are adults in his life to help him learn about those things.  That's why a CM education is both disciplined and organized and never, ever based on the limitations of what interests you.  But it's also why a CM education incorporates plenty of free time, so the spontaneous connections can also happen.