Friday, August 11, 2017

The Goal of Education is Relationship: My Theme for This School Year

Having just read School Education by Charlotte Mason, one of the things I have been thinking about most deeply is her principle "Education is the Science of Relations." In the past 3-4 years as I have been following Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods, I think that I have focused more on the instruments of education: "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life." "Education is the Science of Relations" is a different kind of statement. It is not about the instruments of education, it is about the goal of education.

Yesterday I was half listening to the latest "Close Reads" podcast (the Q&A on Brideshead Revisited), when Andrew Kern said something that arrested me:
"The goal of education is friendship."
Now, I don't pretend to know how he would expand on that statement, but my mind immediately went back to Charlotte Mason's "Science of Relations". I believe that she would say something quite similar: The goal of education is relationship.

Here's Charlotte Mason's Principle 12:
Out of this conception [that the child’s mind comes fit to deal with knowledge, and that facts must not be presented without their informing ideas] comes our principle that, – "Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of--
 "Those first-born affinities
 "That fit our new existence to existing things."
Children are born persons. God has made them so that they are naturally equipped to form relationships with the world around them (things), with themselves (self-knowledge), with the people around them, with people and things of all times in history and all places in the world, and most importantly with Himself. Our job in education is to make the introductions; to facilitate with the goal that they will form relationships of friendship, of duty, of affection, or whatever is proper to each particular relationship.

There is one hitch for teachers, though. We don't know which introductions will result in friendship. Children form their own relationships with things and people they have a natural affinity for. One thing we do know, however, is that as human beings they have a natural affinity to many things. This is why we introduce children to such a feast in a Charlotte Mason education: "physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and many living books." We know that if we make enough introductions, somehow, somewhere, they are going to "take to" something or someone. And the more relationships they form, the more relationships they are able to form.

The Goal of Education is Relationship is my theme for this school year. I'm going to write it on my wall and think about it as we're going through our daily routine. I hope it will make me ask questions of myself:

-Am I too focused on "covering everything"? (a common failing with me...)

-What kind of relationships am I facilitating here? Relationships of delight and affection? Of stress and animosity? Of indifference? (Of course, I do not control my children's responses, but I may have an effect on them by the way I present things.)

-Is there any way I can help with the relationships my children are forming? Resources? A well-placed question or comment? Standing aside? 

-How can I create a culture of sharing as both they and I form our own relationships with the things and books we study?

-How can I present this thing or book in a winsome way that will not hinder or manipulate my child's potential relationship with it?

Are there other questions I should be asking myself? How do you work out the principle "Education is the Science of Relations" in your day-to-day work as a home educator?