I am taking a break from blogging about our lessons this week. Fill you in next time.
|Our rough materials|
|Max's drawing of my hiker.|
|Via Tiny White Daisies Tumblr|
"Miss Mason went on to say that the best work is not visible: it does not employ the reasoning here, the imagination there. It employs the whole mind, for the whole mind is a whole, not a parcel of faculties. One should not think that what is not seen does not exist: when the whole mind is at work, knowledge infallibly results." - Karen Andreola from A Charlotte Mason Companion pg. 149Karen put this paragraph at the end of one of her chapters on narration. It was the idea that the entire goal of education is to nourish the mind and that the mind must be the one to do the work which recently has captured my interest. It was an idea I had up till now missed. Narration more than any other kind of lesson is a tool that uses the whole mind. We can not see how the mind is at work organizing the thoughts to put them in order to give a narration. As well, we can not see how the mind is recalling names or dates or other specific info in the read passage. We are not allowed to interfere with the question it asks itself when narrating "What next?" In many ways this intrinsic necessity for our child's education is out of our hands and totally unseen. We can not quantify it or measure it as with other lesson types. But it does work. For the child must do the work to mine out the nuggets of nourishing knowledge he needs to feed his hunger by retelling it. We must trust him to do it, provide the opportunity, set the feast with nourishing foods and let him chew and digest it.
|Via Tiny White Daisies|
"The day the child begins using narration is the day he begins to become an independent learner....when we trust in a child's ability to become self educated with the use of narration and whole books, we are not expecting them to go it alone. We have great expectations that they will go it along with the help of the holy spirit and our direction." Karen Andreola From A Charlotte Mason Companion pg 127,129Although it is a simple tool that Charlotte Mason commends in her method of education I have not found it an easy one to implement. Honestly, it takes time to do narrations. You simply can not lay it over the top of everything else and expect it to work well. It is foundational to Charlotte's method and it alone is enough to feed the hungry child's mind. For myself the rub came here, if narration takes of "x" amount of time then there isn't really time left for other kinds of lessons. You see, I am very fond of hands-on-learning as I am crafty and visual. I like teaching lessons which display information visually and require the student to be doing something with their hands. It is (art or visual presentations) a powerful way of communicating and idea, but I have discovered that through out Charlotte's writings that it is conspicuously absent when nourishing the mind is mentioned. Narration however is mentioned everywhere as the tool that uses the whole mind, thus producing true self education and nourishment for the mind.
"Another certainty presents itself, that we have not time for short cuts: The training of muscle and sense, however necessary, does not nourish the mind; and, on the other hand, the verbiage of a lecturer is not assimilated. There is no education but self-education and only as the young student works with his own mind is anything effected." Towards a Philosophy of Education pg. 224I was crushed, but I was also relieved. I have had inklings already that the lessons we were doing were not producing what I was seeing in Charlotte's writings and results I wanted. I could also sense our lessons were more my work than their work. Narration, living books, and using the hands on methods she used I can change that.
|Via Tiny White Daisies tumblr|
|Via Tiny White Daisies|
|Via Tiny White Daisies|
"Reaching our goal of having children acquire a wealth of knowledge and be able to to express it in good English seems distant-on some days utterly out of reach! Yet to have an ideal, to look onwards and upwards, is vital to our homeschooling endeavors."-Karen Andreola from A Charlotte Mason Companion pg. 144I was encouraged to read that Karen's second daughter was a slow starter when it came to narration. Only is wasn't till after two years of hearing short, influent narrations that her daughter's narrating begin to really flow. That is good to hear, it is not something every child takes to readily or right off the bat. So mine must be all right. I'll stick it out, keep the lessens short, go out on top, and above all trust. In our house I needed a good dose of patience and a firm hold on faith of the ideal applied daily to our lessons to continue along the way. After one year of beginning narrations my three boys have noticeable improvements. We began this year narrating one paragraph at a time, now we read three to four pages of good living books and they can do it. We are not yet like the children in Charlotte's writings but though I cannot see the invisible work that is happening in there, I embark on this journey into the invisible with a firm hold on the tiller of faith that Charlotte will be right once again and my boys will be getting the mind food they need and will enjoy their journey in self-education.
"Children brought up largely on books do better than those educated on fewer books and lectures. Wide reading produces children with generous enthusiasms, keen sympathies, a wide outlook, and sound judgement because they are treated from the first as beings of "large discourse looking before and after." They are persons of leisure too, with time for hobbies, because their work is easily done in the hours of morning school." Philosophy of Education pg. 305UPDATE july 2013: more on Narration from Dr. Carroll Smith HERE. He is writing an entire series which is insightful and inspiring that you may want to read. In the post I linked you to above Dr. Smith discusses how to chose good living books for narration. Enjoy!
"Habit is either the ally or the opponent, too often the frustrater, of the will." Vol. 1 pg. 326We have spent much of last year focusing on the habit of obedience, so this year when I made a change in the way I approached school they were already in the habit to follow me so the habit worked for their benefit and the switch was not so painful had it been if they were not already in the habit to just follow along. Yeah it is encouraging to see some of our hard work paying off.
|The last of the flowers this year.|
"I soon perceived that children were well equipped to deal with ideas, and that explanations, questionings, amplifications, are unnecessary and wearisome. Children have a natural appetite for knowledge which is informed with thought. They bring imagination, judgment, and the various so-called faculties to bear upon a new idea pretty much as the gastric juices act upon a food ration. This was illuminating but rather startling; the whole intellectual apparatus of the teacher, his power of avid presentation, apt illustration, able summing up, subtle questioning, (perhaps even hands-on-activities instead of a narration) all these were hindrances and intervened between children and the right nutriment duly served (literary ideas in living books); this, on the other hand, they received with the sort of avidity and simplicity with which a healthy child eats dinner." -Vol 6 Book 1, part 3Having said this we still do a day of projects at the end of our week. This is done after five days of nourishing meals of literary ideas much the way as CM did handicrafts in the afternoon. I am being careful to fill them up with ideas from a literary source and not to replace that feeding with activities. This is not to say that we all do not benefit in some way from a hands-on-activity or a questioning say in the socratic method, but we must be sure they are fed plenty of literary ideas for their minds to grow on and let them digest it on their own as they need it. As my children are growing older I can see they are preferring the 'mind stuff' over the other types of lessons we have done in the past which they often found wearisome. Not to say that they do not find narrating wearisome at this point too because they do, however not as much as cutting coloring etc we did last year. When we did hands-on-projects last year they begged to have something read as they worked. They are hungry for ideas.
"I can still see people in my cozy sitting room: Stephen ensconced in a small fireside chair utterly entranced with "Watership Down". I did most of the reading and he took up the final two paragraphs of each chapter, managing passably well. Sometimes the whole hour was spent like this; sometimes I sensed that one chapter was enough. On one occasion, "what next ?" brought the answer, "game of scrabble with moonlight sonata on the record player." Once they had got to know my range I let them choose what to do. I can see Alex on the floor by the fire making up her mind which song to have, "Sur le Pont" or "Au Clair de la Lune," singing softly to herself as she puts on a record. And Jimmy streaking in at the front door, and by the time I've turned on the hall light he's got two chairs drawn up to the fire with a copy of "101 Dalmatians" on each. We read the statuary chapter in the usual way. He snapped the book shut and went to the bookcase saying, "Now poetry. Two each," handling out large anthologies. We rearrange ourselves at the table and get on with the choosing. He seems a bit stuck. "what's the matter? Can't you find one?""The trouble is I've got THREE."
"We could have an extra, you know." And we're off, sometimes a verse a week each, sometimes each reading the whole of our chosen poem.
Later on he took to "A Puffin Book of Verse."
"Page 273," he said, "It's really good."
And what did I find on page 273? Psalm 23. By the last few weeks he'd decided we must stop this haphazard choosing and go straight through."
"Stephen ensconced in a small fireside chair utterly entranced with "Watership Down". I did most of the reading and he took up the final two paragraphs of each chapter, managing passably well. Sometimes the whole hour was spent like this; sometimes I sensed that one chapter was enough."
"Once they had got to know my range I let them choose what to do."
"In a school like this, the children belonged to a sort of family. They were continually in relationship with each other and the teachers. This wonderful, simple, and yet precious. The relationships endured- there was real caring, and the atmosphere of a community that lives, plays, enjoys and learns together."-Susan Schaffer Macaulay from When Children Love to Learn pg. 48
"Stand fast for I have not given you a spirit of fear but of love, courage and a sound mind. "(new Testament)
"Anyone might have found it, but the whisper came to me." (from preface of A Book of Discovery by Synge)So I will stay committed. Our journey in this will continue for no love for knowledge yet has replaced the love for treats and rewards. But it has only been a week and I am not surprised it will take longer. I am prepared to run a marathon if need be. Slow, gradual, kind, but firm...and the unruly will follow in the end.
"To travel hopefully is better than to arrive" says Stevenson.Bible: Acts over breakfast.
"The children look at this for some time, visualizing it as an aid to committing it to memory, and then say it through several times. The teacher then rubs out several figures here and there in the table lets the child fill in the gaps thus left. Then the while table is written out again with several gaps to be filled in by the pupils. The whole table is then said through again by each one." (Stephens, 1911 pg. 10)Form a mental picture: First lesson, we listened to the skip count song for that table (X8). Then we added the numbers to our table we have been creating with the stickers.