Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Priorites of a Home School

I have just finished reading a delightful and insightful article written by Charlotte Mason for the 3rd volume of The Parents' Review (1892-93) called "The Home School".

I am going to do my best to narrate back what I remember from my reading......and I'm seriously fighting the urge to grab the paper and re-read it (that would so be cheating!)

Miss Mason was writing for those parents that were homeschooling their children using the curriculum provided by her school. She felt that no parent should be ashamed or disappointed if their children were unable to attend a public or private school because she was convinced that on the whole the Home School was the best teaching and training ground for children provided the parents took a serious and active role in educating their children.

I was vastly encouraged when when she stated that it is nothing for a teacher to organize and teach a class of 20 or so children of the same age and grade but a much more difficult task to teach and organize a class of 3 children in 3 different grades.....Amen sister!

Miss Mason takes great pains to enumerate on the benefits of both education and experience for the teacher. She tells us that experience is not necessarily the best teacher in all matters because so often bad habits are trained through experience when this could have been avoided through better education.
She is quick to point out though that the experience of learning is quite a different thing and when one has a teachable spirit there are very few doors that aren't able to be opened.

Next she lays out the very basic priorities that should be included in every Home School.

Most importantly is the learning of the Bible. She places the importance of learning the stories from the bible for not only moral and language learning but mostly of spiritual training. The system used in her schools was for a short portion of the scriptures to be read and then to be narrated back word for word as possible by the student. She encourages the teacher or parent after the narration to feel free to ask a few questions if this will help the understanding of the student but to never consider the answers as narration. She also encourages the teacher to add any historical notes or insights that will be a help to the student.
She very specifically points out that there should be NO written narrations by children under the age of 10 siting that it is too easy for the child to put out poor work because they are not capably ready to write good composition before this time.
I was convicted by her statement that it is much easier for a teacher to set the student to write a narration because that then frees up her time for other things but that the more difficult task is for the teacher/parent to require a spoken narration from the student because it takes her time and attention.
(for a simple bible reading plan see my Scribd documents in the side bar)

Next in importance is the learning of History. She encourages the learning of Greek and Roman history and details some of the benefits of children learning from Plutarch's Lives.

She also encourages all teachers to put much effort into Natural History, not just in reading about areas of Natural History but to get in touch with Nature.
It is very important she says for children to keep tadpoles and caterpillars and other creatures to learn first hand about them. What is read in books should be a side benefit of learning Natural History not the whole of the education.

Physical Education and drills rank high in Miss Mason's list as well and she encourages teacher/parents to not just have their children go through the motions of the drills (Swedish) but to make sure that the children are using and training their muscles in the work.

Lastly, she encourages all parents to take the brave step into the world of foreign languages. I appreciate how she breaks down the learning to just 40 lines of a french tale for 1 term as a manageable amount. Miss Mason shows of the high esteem she has for children by affirming her belief that the students will surprise the teacher/parent by how much is learned and retained by consistent work in this area.

As a closing reminder Miss Mason clarifies that these schooling priorities should never consume a child's whole day. She reminds teacher/parents that 5 of the 13 waking hours of the child should be spent in free play and 3 of those say between the hours of 2 and 5 pm should be spent out-of-doors. Short lessons as always are an important essential and she places importance on not nagging or badgering or humiliating the student who does not complete the work set before them in the proper amount of time. There is nothing like personal experience for the child to learn to value time and do the work allotted for that specific time.

I hope you were encouraged and educated a little by my narration but I would highly recommened that you read the real article yourself.
You can find it here in the Parents' Review articles posted under Volume 3, title The Home School.

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