Monday, January 5, 2015

How the "Science of Relations" is Formed

I'm sorry, despite my resolve, I am really having trouble getting started jumping back into Charlotte Mason's Volume 3! If you're not familiar with this volume, it is entitled School Education and it deals with developing a curriculum for children under the age of twelve. Right now I'm working through chapter 7: "An Adequate Theory of Education."

There is much more in this chapter than I can do justice to right now, so I'm going to follow an idea within the chapter: that education is the science of relations. What does this mean? It means that our children are educated by the relationships --"ties of intimacy, joy, association, and knowledge" (p. 75) they form with things and with ideas. The end result of this type of education must be "fulness of living, joy in life."

Charlotte Mason describes how these relationships are formed:

1. Recognition. Even young children begin to recognize the things around them --the birds at the feeder, the trees in the backyard, a piece of music. We need to be encouraging and nurturing this recognition as much as we do their progress in early reading and math.

2. Appreciation. This follows closely after recognition. Children begin to naturally compare and contrast the things around them, and to appreciate their beauty. Some children (mine do not yet, sadly) begin to try to copy what they see with their pencil crayons and paint.

3. First-hand Knowledge. This is the beginning of science. To use Nature Study as an example, children begin to observe more closely, and to notice similarities between birds or plants, and to realize that they belong to families.

4. Appreciative Knowledge and Exact Knowledge. I find the relationship between the joy and the discipline of learning fascinating (and sometimes hard to get my mind around, depending on the child and the subject). Charlotte Mason says let the joy, the delight, the spark of interest, come first. Then building the discipline of exact knowledge will be eagerly pursued.

I had an example of this just today. I had to choose a chapter for SA(6) to narrate from the Burgess Bird Book. Now, he sometimes finds this a bit of a difficult book. However, I chose a bird that we happened to see yesterday for the first time this winter (a Hairy Woodpecker). As a result, he was very interested to learn about the difference between the Downy and the Hairy Woodpeckers, and also get to know about a few more types of woodpeckers.

I think it's clear that the education gained by relationships formed in this way is worth far more to a person than anything studied only in order to pass a test!