Sunday, January 22, 2017

Priorities in the Education of Little Children

I was reading some of Charlotte Mason's works today in preparation for a meeting with my online "Start Here" study group tomorrow. In the middle of Home Education, there is a wonderful summary of six points Mason has made in the first part of the book.

(a) That the knowledge most valuable to the child is that which he gets with his own eyes and ears and fingers (under direction) in the open air.
(b) That the claims of the schoolroom should not be allowed to encroach on the child's right to long hours daily for exercise and investigation.
(c) That the child should be taken daily, if possible, to scenes--moor or meadow, park, common, or shore--where he may find new things to examine, and so add to his store of real knowledge. That the child's observation should be directed to flower or boulder, bird or tree; that, in fact, he should be employed in gathering the common information which is the basis of scientific knowledge.
(d) That play, vigorous healthful play, is, in its turn, fully as important as lessons, as regards both bodily health and brain power.
(e) That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself--both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences.
(f) That the happiness of the child is the condition of his progress; that his lessons should be joyous, and that occasions of friction in the schoolroom are greatly to be deprecated. (Home Education, pp 177-178)
Mason then says,
Premising so much, let us now consider--What the children should learn, and how they should be taught. (p. 178)
The word "premising" really struck me. This list comes first, before the books and the teaching.

This is something I need to keep coming back to, because my natural tendency lately has been to let our whole day revolve around our lesson time. Outdoor time has been neglected. My oldest child is only eight, and the things on this list are still important for him, not to mention for the preschoolers running around.

And point (f)! Last week Friday, I sent the boys outside after breakfast to play in the snow. I made a thermos of hot chocolate for them, and they stayed out until after 11:00. It was hard for me because we did not have enough time anymore to get everything on my homeschooling list done. But the attitudes that day were 100% better than they had been for a few weeks. I hadn't even realized how bad things had gotten until the moment I saw how good they could still be.

Happiness matters in your homeschool. It is not artificially produced with a certain type of lesson. It is a natural by-product of a healthy amount of fresh air, sunshine, and free play.

If your lessons have not been "joyous" for a while, it might be time to stop and think about these "premises" again. That's what I'm doing right now.

Related: Charlotte Mason and Preschool Priorities 1: The Outdoor Life for the Children