Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rich, Generous and Liberal... Simply Beautiful

I had the opportunity to attend a conference on the beautiful Charlotte Mason philosophy of education on Friday. The kids and I went up to Nashua, NH and spent the night with Mike's parents on Thursday night. "Memere" was kind enough to take on the huge task of watching ALL THREE children on Friday while I drove into Groton, MA to attend the conference... EIGHT hours of babysitting. A big "thank you" to my wonderful mother-in-law.

The conference was very enriching and inspiring. I even learned how to play the recorder so that I could teach my kids (yes, this is the new favorite item in the house...). Charlotte Mason believed in "awakening the soul of the child" by providing a generous, broad, culturally-rich and liberal education to every child.
Charlotte did not believe in using text books or presenting dry facts to children, but rather to have them read "living books".

She believed in "awakening the soul" of the child and believed that this required that "gift of time". No one should ever rush academics. In fact she believed that before the age of six, any formal lessons shouldn't even take place unless the child requested the instruction (for example, Nicolas has just begun to ask me "Mom, how do you spell the word...?", but I would not at this point teach him phonics formally). The great outdoors are one of the best places to be as a young child and she believed that children should spend several HOURS each day outside! I posted about this in early summer here.

Lessons are kept short so as to keep concentration maximized and dawdling to a minimum. Fifteen to twenty minutes for the youngest child. Lessons are also varied. For example, if Sophia has just copied a poem (using her hand, of course), we would then move onto something that let out some energy and then to a sitting/reading activity. You know, mix things up. Even as an adult, I get ancy sitting at the computer for too long or for a lecture (um, not to say that I've been sitting here writing this post FOREVER...).

This "rich and liberal" curriculum includes language arts (oral narration, copywork, spelling,
grammar and later dictation), history, geography, math, science (most of which is Nature Study), literature, art, poetry, music, handicraft and foreign language. It is indeed a "generous curriculum" although I am amazed that I rarely see Sophia burnt out or bored to tears. It really helps to hold her concentration and focus.

Even at this point, during our first grade year, we are experiencing most of these subjects. Every day we read a poem, a passage of Scripture, copy a poem or motto in our "best handwriting", study math/"see" mathematics taking place, hear a good piece of literature read and have Sophia read aloud to me. Weekly we study a piece of art, hear a new folksong or hymn, take a nature walk and journal/sketch what we have observed, read about a person who made history, study a bird or other animal and learn a new skill (whether is be baking, embroidery, woodworking or making a card for someone- anything that is useful in the end).

It is so fulfilling and exciting to be learning alongside my children. Learning really is a lifelong process. I never thought I would just NOW be learning to play the recorder or that goats gravitate to the highest spot in their pen or what a "laconic answer" means or that Ben Franklin dipped candles with his father as a child! I am enjoying first grade as much as Sophia...


Amanda said...

this is beautiful and inspiring. i love it. i will be thinking about this....

christinemm said...

I enjoyed your post. Thank you for submitting it to the Carnival of Homeschooling. Was that the Penny Gardner conference? I was on the fence about attending it and decided to not go, due to feeling overly busy. I run a Charlotte Mason Study Group in CT.