Monday, July 7, 2014

Practical Masterly Inactivity

My 6-year-old has begun to learn to play the piano. I found a little used beginning piano instruction book at Value Village and brought it home one day a few months ago. I started him off with one or two lessons, and then he took off. Without much more effort on my part, he has progressed to page 40 of his book. Every time he passes the piano, he seems to need to stop and play, just for the joy of it. He does not stick with the page, but plays his pieces backwards and inside out. He tries them in different places on the piano and hears how they sound different there. I could interfere at this point. "You're not playing what's written on the page." But I know this feeling's how I learned to play myself as a child, and it's pure joy. He is "feeling his feet" in music, and I believe I need to stand back and practice a little masterly inactivity at this point.

And so I felt a sense of recognition when I read Charlotte Mason's words in chapter four of volume 3:
"In their work, too, we are too apt to interfere with children. We all know the delight with which any scope for personal initiative is hailed, the pleasure children take in doing anything which they may do their own way; anything, in fact, which allows room for skill of hand, play of fancy, or development of thought." (p. 37)
 " 'They felt their feet,' as the nurses say of children when they begin to walk; and our non-success in education is a good deal due to the fact that we carry children through their school work and do not let them feel their feet." (p. 38)
I love it when Charlotte Mason backs up what my instinct and personal experience were already telling me!

Charlotte Mason speaks of the use of masterly activity in several areas:

In their Play:
"There is a little danger in these days of much educational effort that children's play should be crowded out, or, what is from our present point of view the same thing, should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than that about work." p. 36

In their Work:
"...we do not let children alone enough in their work. We prod them continually and do not let them stand or fall by their own efforts." p. 39

In Choosing Friends:
"...we should train children so that we should be able to honour them with a generous confidence; and if we give them such confidence we shall find that they justify it." p. 40

In Spending Pocket-Money:
"The parents who do not trust their young people in this matter, after having trained them, are hardly qualifying them to take their place in a world in which the wise, just, and generous spending of money is a great test of character." p. 42
In Forming their own Opinions:
"We all know that nothing is easier than to make vehement partisans of young people, in any cause heartily adopted by their elders. But a reaction occurs, and the swinging of the pendulum is apt to carry them to a point of thought painfully remote from our own." p. 42
This last point was thought-provoking to me, and I plan to write about it next week.

Read Jen's comments on Masterly Inactivity in part 2 of chapter 3 here.