Ideas alone matter in Education - The whole subject is profound, but as practical as it is profound. We must disabuse our minds of the theory that the functions of education are, in the main, gymnastic. In the early years of the child's life it makes, perhaps, little apparent difference whether his parents start with the notion that to educate is to fill a receptacle, inscribe a tablet, mould plastic matter, or nourish a life; but in the end we shall find that only those ideas which have fed his life are taken into the being of the child; all the rest is thrown away, or worse, is like sawdust in the system, an impediment and an injury to the vital processes.A friend of mine drew my attention to this section of Charlotte Mason's writing over the weekend, and I just couldn't wait to get home today to grab my Volume 2 off the shelf to read it in context. You see, I've always been privately convinced of the idea that regardless of the educational methods employed, the majority of what a child is taught in the tender years is mere scaffolding for what is to come.
Charlotte Mason Parents and Children p38
By that I mean that the simple addition we teach now will lead to algebra which will lead to calculus; the alphabet lessons will lead to Shakespeare; introductory stories about great historical men will lead to a greater understanding of the pageant of history; the rich living books will lead to an extensive vocabulary, this is true. But it is equally evident that much of the actual content of what we teach in the early years is 'thrown away by the child'.
I am saddened when Jemimah forgets the content of wonderful living books she narrated so enthusiastically in AO1. How could she just forget the names of the Great Lakes that we spent so much time on as we followed Paddle on his journey to the Sea? Or no longer know the story of Benjamin Franklin's kite? I've always assumed, despite my sorrow that this was normal and inevitable. And I think it is. Miss Mason seems to think so, anyhow.
Until today I had wondered privately to a couple of AO mums whether this view of mine was possibly anti -CM. Silly me. I should have realised that something I notice in my control sample of one child would have been noticed by Miss Mason with her sample size of thousands.
After the quotation above, Charlotte goes on to explore the theory that it is the duty of parents to sustain a child's inner life with ideas that strike him, impress him, seize him, take possession of him and rule him, in the same was as they sustain his body with food. These initial ideas then beget subsequent ideas and so on in a predictable and logical line, and so inevitably, the destiny of life is shaped in the nursery.
This changes my mind set entirely. Instead of being concerned at how much Jemimah has forgotten, I am wondering afresh at how much she knows. I remember her incredible ability at maths in only a few short years. I see the books she reads and understands, the Shakespeare she adores, the music and poetry and opera and ballet that broaden her outlook, the kindred spirits that she has in the characters of her books. I think of the great historical lives she has to emulate, the citizenship that she is developing, the empathy that she feels for those of different creeds and colours, the depth of knowledge and understanding she has of Scripture and the faith that she displays and I feel content. I feel more than content.
When Jemimah sees Benjamin Franklin's name, the kite and the key are faintly remembered after all. The Great Lakes might no longer have names, but one is shaped like a wolf's head and the Isle Royale is its eye. Can I ask for more?
Jemimah is only in Grade Three (AO4). She has only just started on the journey that is her education. As of today I am going to renew my efforts to ensure that the predictable and logical line that it points to is the destiny I want for my daughter. Because that destiny began in Grade Prep and it is my responsibility to furnish her with the initiative ideas on which the successive ideas germinate, and to ensure that the ideas stay within the due limits of their course and don't become the sawdust that clogs the system. That is my duty as her teacher. And now after reading this quote I'm going to do it better.
What do you think?