October 6, 2011

I Want to Know

When I was in secondary school I have clear and vivid memories of the structure of school. I remember people I knew, classrooms I was in, lunches that were served, but I have few memories of what I knew. I have few memories of ideas that were being shared with me, and fewer memories of teachers who cared what I was thinking. When I went on to university to study art I remember making a conscious decision to sacrifice my grades so that I could have time to learn what I came to learn at the university, art. Art made me want to live, art gave me a center and a wonderful world of interesting ideas and skills I longed to possess. I was alive, focused, engaged, learning and feeling full. I went about my studies as a rabbit might follow her holes peering into each classroom absorbing the nutrients of knowledge as I was in need of it. For the first time I can recall, I was learning what I was hungry to know. I followed the bunny holes of my own interest not for the purpose of gaining a degree or preparing myself for a job (much to consternation of my folks) and I crammed four years of art study into eight fearing that I would one day I would have to work a real job and leave this precious time of learning aside.

Following university studies I took a real job with pay and benefits. After taking a job at HP for four years I married and found myself also with three darling boys and a new idea called home education tantalizing me into a future I never would have dreamt for myself had I been dreaming it alone. I was initially drawn to home education because of the desire to be with and know my boys. But, I have remained a home educator because I long to give my boys time to know things, to discover, and invent. I want them to have lessons which spur on love of ideas, knowledge and life. In this endeavor of home education I am also nourished by the ideas I am teaching and full of ideas which give my life meaning as well. It is a double edged sword this home education both filling the pipe and the bucket with wealth and purpose found in the ideas we learn about each day.

Recently I have been encouraged and inspired by Kim, Sara and Tracey via their blog Four & Twenty. I love how they encourage discovery and creative thinking as well as feeding their young scholars great literature written by great minds. Following is their description of an artful educator:

The Artful Educator

recognizes the extraordinary in each child

believes that children are capable of self-directed learning

adapts to the brilliance of the young mind

inspires the student toward purposeful action

presents authentic tasks

provides scope for meaningful exploration

emphasizes discovery

whets curiosity

offers depth rather than breadth

encourages personal responsibility in learning

…as a sailing instructor

“I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.”

-Louisa May Alcott

Charlotte Mason in her book Home Education Vol 6 page 300 discusses the need for scholars who are not mere cogs in a societal machine but people who have thoughtful ideas and are well read. Members of a community who are not driven by being useful to the community alone but by the creator who designed them and fashioned them for His purposes. The scholar who follows his bunny trails of ideas follows his heart and likely the one who made Him. Charlotte says:

“Now, here is a most mischievous fallacy (in education), an assertion that a child is to be brought up for the uses of society only and not for his own uses." HE Vol 6 page 302
She goes on to say that Children need time and good literature to feed their hungry minds food that will sustain them and cause them to grow mentally.

"If knowledge means so much to us, "What is knowledge?" the reader asks. We can give only a negative answer. Knowledge is not instruction, information, scholarship, a well-stored memory. It is passed, like the light of a torch, from mind to mind, and the flame can be kindled at original minds only. Thought, we know, breeds thought; it is as vital thought touches our minds that our ideas are vitalized, and out of our ideas comes our conduct of life. The case for reform hardly needs demonstration, but now we begin to see the way of reform. The direct and immediate impact of great minds upon his own mind is necessary to the education of a child. Most of us can get into touch with original minds chiefly through books" HE Vol 6 page 303 
So as I have been pondering this idea of knowledge and nourishment, and the need for time to digest it. I wondered how that practically could be reproduced in our little world of ideas and books here at our home. Perhaps we already have some things in place which feed the young scholar delveoping his mind and his purpose in life. But, perhaps there are corners in our education where old habits are starving the hungry. From Charlotte’s writings (HE Vol 6 page 300) and this PR article (The Open road) I found these points to ponder and reflect upon.

• Am I reading good literature to my young scholars giving them mental food and ideas from great minds to stimulate thinking in their own minds?

• Do I allow time for them to think, ponder, go deeper into a book or idea?

• Am I rushing them towards goals and achievements missing the meaning and wonder of the thought at hand?

• Do I allow them to live in the moment and to fill up their minds eye with all the interesting things they are discovering?

• Am I getting to the root of things, inspiring my young scholars to investigate and know more?

• Do I present education as a series of duties and assignments or as an adventure into unknown ideas ready to explore?

• Do I encourage questions?

• Am I modeling the beauty of each stage of life and each stage of learning?

• Do I revel in the present one showing them that another is coming that will be just as interesting as this one?

• Do I show my students the meanings behind everyday things? Habits we do and what they are for?

• Do I encourage imagination, insight and reflection?

• Does my young scholar know he is important just because he is?

• Can my young scholar think for himself with the knowledge I am giving him?

• Do my young scholar love to know new ideas?

• Are my young scholars full of ideas? Have they something always to think about?

• Do my young scholars read to know or read to achieve?

• Do my young scholars encounter ideas form great minds via book regularly?

• Do I love to learn, and to know for the pleasure of knowing?

• Am I pursuing my interests at home drawing them into them showing them the beauty or the pleasure of it?

I leave you with this final quote from CM:

“We launch children upon too arid and confined a life. Now personal delight, joy in living, is a chief object of education; Socrates conceived that knowledge is for pleasure, in the sense, not that knowledge is one source, but is the source of pleasure.” HE Vol 6 page 302


  1. yay! beautiful pictures. good thoughts.


    thanks for posting Sarah!

    amy in peru

  2. I think it is one of the best-kept "secrets" of homeschooling, that it gives one the freedom and inspiration to follow their own passions. It turn we inspire our children, and we all get to grow and learn together. I so enjoyed your beautiful article.

  3. Very good questions to consider! I'm learning so much from this topic!

  4. Sarah, Thanks for those wonderful questions to ponder at the end : ) Great reflection.

  5. Such good thought provoking questions. You have given me much to think on. Thanks!