Education is a Science of Relations – part one

In the midst of packing away our books in preparation for our move, I have stumbled upon so many fantastic books that have been passed down to us by my parents. Each book seems to contain a wealth of encouragement and motivation for me, and I hesitate to pack it away into a box, resenting the certainty that I won’t read that particular book anytime soon. So even while I attempt to pack everything up in neatly labeled boxes, I have managed to accumulated a basket of books that are simply too good to put away. I am attempting to read a bit from each in the mornings, and to steal moments with each book when I sit and nurse Gillian.

This morning I was reading from the Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola, a book that has been a favorite of mine since my mom first bought it when I was a young adolescent. I have browsed through its worn pages for more than a decade now, first I looked through the book for ideas to carry out with my younger siblings. In my mid teen years I read exerts dreaming of what it might be like to apply these wonderful ideas to my own future children. When my first daughter was born, I borrowed the book from my mom and skimmed it again, determined that the philosophy that Mrs. Andreola had to share would be a guiding light in the bringing up of my little people. As a tired mama to four children six and under, I kept the Charlotte Mason Companion by my bedside and intended to read it again, just as soon as we made it through the next harried day.

I am reading it again now, from cover to cover, and since I have to pack it away soon I find myself wanting to copy many exerts so that I can remember and motivate myself as Dan and I discuss and plan our approach to educating these lovable little munchkins this next year. So bear with me… read some of these ideas if you feel like it, and hold me to them. What I am sharing today comes from chapter four, entitled Education is a Science of Relations
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“We parents can become quite anxious about covering and completing all the requirements for a particular grade level, and seeing that our children excel in the skills demanded of that grade level. It’s a woeful business when parents look toward doing what the grand system of education says is right for a child within their little homeschool. But when parents pursue knowledge for its own sake they need not be subservient to this grand system. Many young children hunger for knowledge. Yet they dutifully serve the system of textbook overview with never-ending worksheets and, under a system that does not feed their hunger for vibrant, vital knowledge, they begin to pine away. It is then that Mother loses confidence and feels discouraged and unqualified to teach. The children, for their part, find it harder and harder to obey. Parents and children alike are stuck in a system that stifles curiosity and initiative, and makes learning uninteresting.” ~ Karen Andreola, “A Charlotte Mason Companion,” page 29

I keep having to remember that thought, over and over again. From what I see around me, I think it is a good reminder to all parents who choose to home educate. We decline what The System has to offer, but still bind ourselves to it. I feel that in a way we embrace the worst of both worlds.

“The idea that vivifies teaching. . . is that ‘Education is a Science of Relations;’ by which phrase we mean that children come into the world with a natural [appetite] for, and affinity with, all the material of knowledge; for interest in the heroic past and in the age of myths; for a desire to know about everything that moves and lives; about strange places and strange peoples; for a wish to handle material and to make; a desire to run and ride and row and do whatever the law of gravitation permits.

Therefore. . . we endeavor that he shall have relations of pleasure and intimacy established with as many possible of the interests proper to him; not learning a slight or incomplete smattering about this or that subject, but plunging into vital knowledge, with a great field before him which in all his life he will not be able to explore.

In this conception we get that ‘touch of emotion’ which vivifies knowledge, for it is probably that we feel only as we are brought into our proper vital relations.” ~ Charlotte Mason

Relationship with God

“…But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.” ~ Charlotte Mason

Relationship with Man

Perhaps the main part of a child’s education should be concerned with the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to ’cause’ and country and kind, to the past and the present. History, literature, archeology, art, languages, whether ancient or modern, travel and tales of travel; all of these are in one way or other the record or the expression of persons… ~ Charlotte Mason

“The greatest maxim of all is that children should be brought up as simply and in as domestic a way as possible, and that (not interfering with their lessons) they should be as much as possible with their parents, and learn to place the greatest confidence in them in all things.” ~Queen Victoria

What a joyful reminder that it is our duty as parents to put our children in touch with the with the study of persons and with God’s dealing with persons. How sobering to realize that our relationship, as their parents are the first human relationship they will observe and in turn, act out. It is our great privilege to introduce our children to biographies, historical fiction, myth and delightful picture books all written by authors who truly love their subjects!

“…Historical events are interesting to us mainly in connection with feelings, the sufferings and interests of those by whom they are accomplished. In history we are surrounded by men long dead, but whose speech and whose deeds survive…” ~ Emerson

Relationship with Ourselves

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote:

This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

Charlotte Mason wrote a little book which she entitled Ourselves. I have not read it yet, but am linking it here partly as a reminder to myself to read it soon! She suggested that it be read little by little, and given by means of Sunday talks.

Relationship with the Universe

“The child who learns his science from a textbook has no chance of forming relations with things as they are because his kindly obstrusive teacher makes him believe that to know ABOUT things is the same thing as knowing them personally,” said Charlotte Mason

I have so much to say here – about nature journals, and astronomy and bird watching… but my little charges are all awake now, and have wet diapers and tummy aches, and they need their mama. I will have to get back to the rest of the chapter tomorrow, but at least I have motivation for today! 🙂

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Gilli in the morning…

In the evening, she is bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to take on the world.

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It’s a much different child in the morning!

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Our morning Gilli has swollen puffy eyes, crazy hair, and a skeptical outlook on life. Come to think of it, she is ready to take on the world in the morning, too… it’s just in a more antagonistic manner!

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Springtime Breakfast

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One of the things that we love the most about spring is eating our meals outdoors. Especially in that precious week of warm weather before the mosquitoes get involved. We enjoyed quite a few breakfasts, lunches and dinners outdoors last week!

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The slightly cooler mornings call for coffee, of course!

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Some of us take a little longer to wake up and get with the program! 🙂

Cats are connoisseurs of comfort…

Says James Herriot. And if anyone should know, it would be James Herriot.

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So, we ended up with a cat. We named her Meredith. She caught many mice and all was good.

What has surprised me is how perfect Meredith has been for our little family.

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The children have really bought into another James Herriot thought: “I have felt cats rubbing their faces against mine and touching my cheek with claws carefully sheathed. These things, to me, are expressions of love…”

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Some days we have to outlaw holding Meredith, because after a while she takes on the persona of a frog that has been held too long and too lovingly by a three year old boy. Not that that ever happens here. But even on Non-Holding Days, Meredith still wants to be with the children. I think she loves them!

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Dan and I have been thinking a lot about our approach to education over this next year, and I have been browsing back through my Charlotte Mason books. She viewed children as “thinking, feeling human beings, as spirits to be kindled and not as vessels to be filled”.

Attaining this enlightenment happens through the relationships that we form and the influences that we experience in our lives. Our ideal “curriculum” provides our children with something to love, something to do, something to think about. While there are many different things that will fit each of these goals, and while it will vary greatly from family to family and from time to time, Meredith sure does make a nice “curriculum”` for us right now!

When April Comes

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When April comes with softly shining eyes,
And daffodils bound in her wind-blown hair,
Oh, she will coax all clouds from out the skies,
And every day will bring some sweet surprise,–
The swallows will come swinging through the air
When April comes!

When April comes with tender smile and tear,
Dear dandelions will gild the common ways,
And at the break of morning we will hear
The piping of the robins crystal clear–
While bobolinks will whistle through the days,
When April comes!

When April comes, the world so wise and old,
Will half forget that it is worn and grey;
Winter will seem but as a tale long told–
Its bitter winds with all its frost and cold
Will be the by-gone things of yesterday,
When April comes!
Virna Shear