March 31, 2013

Education is a Discipline

This is linked to the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.

Education is a discipline.  As I described in my last post, Education is an Atmosphere, this concept of Charlotte Mason's is simple, profound, and difficult to achieve.  You can read what she says about it here, in Original Homeschooling Series, Vol. 6, Chapter 6, point 2

On the one hand, its simple - teach them discipline and they will learn naturally and gladly!
We need not labour to get children to learn their lessons; that, if we would believe it, is a matter which nature takes care of. Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight.   -Charlotte Mason
Provide right and interesting materials, then learning will happen.  But how?
[The children] must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the act of knowing. We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous 'act of knowing,' as easy to a child as breathing and, if we would believe it, comparatively easy to ourselves. 
Okay, that doesn't sound difficult.  It is narration, the cornerstone of the CM method of education.
We currently have 6 weeks left of our second year, and narration is becoming easier for him.  I'm still reading all our school books aloud to him, so narration shows me what he knows (and that he was listening!).  Some days, he does great with the amount of detail, and telling things in order.  Other days, he still tells me the last bit he heard, and I will go back and begin my own narration and let him pick up where I trail off, if he can.  (I'm still in need of some discipline myself in this area, so that I don't ask leading questions, but let him just tell me what he knows.)  He will continue to improve as he practices narrating, because he knows he has to do it.  Every. time.  We don't ever read a school book with a telling back - that is discipline.  Sometimes he doesn't want to tell me, and sometimes I just don't have the patience to listen.  But we do it and we are starting to see fruit! 
It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends and after careful survey, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable. More, habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord. We avoid decision and indecision brings its own delays, "and days are lost lamenting o'er lost days." Almost every child is brought up by his parents in certain habits of decency and order without which he would be a social outcast. Think from another point of view how the labour of life would be increased if every act of the bath, toilet, table, every lifting of the fork and use of spoon were a matter of consideration and required an effort of decision! No; habit is like fire, a bad master but an indispensable servant; and probably one reason for the nervous scrupulosity, hesitation, indecision of our day, is that life was not duly eased for us in the first place by those whose business it was to lay down lines of habit upon which our behaviour might run easily.    -Charlotte Mason
On the other hand, it is difficult  -we must decide for ourselves, and for our children, what habits we want to instill.  Once we decide that we will insist upon, for example, table manners, we must be consistent about demonstrating and teaching those particular manners.  Many of these types of habits we simply continue from our own childhood, but there will be others that you want to add, stop, or modify and these will require active thought and participation...discipline, if you will. ;)

This can't happen overnight.  Instilling discipline within our families is a lifetime goal.  Start with one new habit (it is easier to replace habits with new ones than to stop a particular habit) and work on that until its second nature - this takes about one month.  So don't aim for perfect table manners in one month - break it down.  Say this month your goal is for everyone to use a napkin instead of clothing for wiping hands and face.  Next month, your goal could be to chew with your mouth shut.  And so on.  Don't make it impossible to achieve, or you'll give up before the second meal is over.

'Sow an act,' we are told, 'reap a habit.' 'Sow a habit, reap a character.' But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while. 
I love the quote about sowing and reaping. However, I think she is right that we need to go another step, in providing the ideas to make the act worthwhile.   Children are always asking "why this" and "why that".  If we can show, tell, or read the "why" in a way that impacts their minds, they might attempt the habit even without our guidance (ha!)...okay maybe not, but at least they will know what we are after.  We must provide the best ideas for our children and ourselves, not just good ones!

And now for the full weight of parental responsibility...
We have seen the value of habit in mind and morals, religion and physical development. It is as we have seen disastrous when child or man learns to think in a groove, and shivers like an unaccustomed bather on the steps of a new notion. This danger is perhaps averted by giving children as their daily diet the wise thoughts of great minds, and of many great minds; so that they may gradually and unconsciously get the courage of their opinions. If we fail in this duty, so soon as the young people get their 'liberty' they will run after the first fad that presents itself; try it for a while and then take up another to be discarded in its turn, and remain uncertain and ill-guided for the rest of their days.
 I don't want to fail in this duty.  I don't want my son running after fads, uncertain of his purpose, or ill-guided.  I see plenty of those people around me already - this world doesn't need more close-minded people, who are afraid of anything that doesn't fit in their defined grooves of habit.  We need youth who leave home firm in their beliefs and with well-formed opinions, who can listen without fear to the opinions of others, and love them where they are, regardless of whether they agree with them or not.

March 18, 2013

Education is an Atmosphere

     I'm excited to be hosting this for the first time, after being a reader for over a year.  I have been homeschooling for less than two years and am only schooling one child (sometimes with younger foster children around), so I consider myself a newbie. :)
     I fell in love with the Charlotte Mason method as soon as I discovered it while researching educational styles and philosophies.  Ms. Mason believes that "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life", and I wholeheartedly agree.  This carnival is focusing on the first of the three instruments of education.  It seems to me that the concept of education as an atmosphere is both simple and profound.  Read more of Ms. Mason's thoughts here, in chapter 6 of Home Education, Vol. 6.
When we say that "education is an atmosphere," we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's' level.
          - Charlotte Mason's 6th principle

     Its easy to understand how education comes from atmosphere. You make your school room simple and at a child's level, right?  Well, that is more Montessori than Mason.  Mason believed we shouldn't water down materials and real-life things for children, but that they should live in a more natural environment.  Not only did she mean they should spend much time outdoors in nature, but that indoors they should be exposed to beauty - art, music, and literature of the highest quality.

     Sounds simple, right?  But how to do it....redecorate the house?  clear clutter?  I don't think there's one right way to create an atmosphere of education, but it does take intentional thought and preparation.  We have to guard what comes into our homes, because what is in our homes goes into the minds of those in the home.  Easy to understand, but wow! What responsibility!
Without further ado, here are the links for this week's carnival!

In Education is Atmosphere, Silvia believes that there are 2 extremes to be avoided in creating an atmosphere - the artificially cheerful, which creates dependent children, and the completely neglected, which causes vulnerability to bad influences.

The Atmosphere of Books
takes a look at how much we should or should not shelter our children in what they are reading. She says, "There’s no need to avoid reading them books that portray God and the world just as they are."

Nebby writes a thought-provoking post: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.  She delves into what constitutes an atmosphere of education, how habits create discipline, and how, in order to let life teach our children, we must learn to let go of some control.

Nadene has sprinkled some great Charlotte Mason quotes in An Atmosphere. She talks of some of her own joys in homeschooling and encourages other home schools to move to an atmosphere of inspiration and values, avoiding the "glass terrarium" approach.

Megan at The Winding Ascent talks about Nourishing Life: Parents as Inspirers.  What a full post! 

Harmony Art Mom answers a reader's question in High School - Can You Mess It Up?  This great post offers advice, resources and encouragement for those in or entering the high school phase.

Quotes for Nature Lovers from Anna Botsford Comstock
is a lovely teaser.  The post links to GooglePlay so you can download your own free copy of The Handbook of Nature Study and enjoy more from Comstock!

I got a kick out of reading about Pamela and The Frog Eggs in My Cracker Barrel To-Go Cup!  Now I want to go down to our boggy area and find some frog eggs to study, too.

La Casa Giocosa (or "the Joyful House") shares an unexpected connection between a Renaissance man and Charlotte Mason.

In this Nature Study Monday post, Fisher Academy delves into Bug Camouflage.  Can you spot them?

Journey and Destination reviews and recommends Four First Rate Living Books to Read.  I haven't heard of these, and am taking notes!

Ann has put together several posts for us at Harvest Moon By Hand:
Joyous Lessons discusses a couple different aspects from CM's Volume 1.  Both posts offer practical tips, firmly based on Charlotte Mason's method.
Mama Squirrel says this about Online treasures: The Book of the Great Musicians,
"You would probably figure it's just another book of boring biographical notes and maybe some music terminology.  Not so:  this is a very creative, open-ended little guide for young musicians!"  What a treat!  This book is mentioned by CM, and is available at

Last, but not least is Parenting Challenge - Creating an Atmosphere for EducationSurviving Mexico writes about the different way she accomplishes such an atmosphere.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment!  I'd love to hear from you :)