Connections All Around

Originally posted in 2007

     We began homeschooling in 1988. I had been brought up with poetry, classical music, and living books, so naturally, they were already part of our lives, as were folk songs and regular field trips to historical sites and science museums. My background combined with the fact that the very first book I read on homeschooling was Susan Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, meant that from the beginning, I included certain ‘CM’ elements in our homeschooling. However, it was many years before I took hold of it with both hands and started applying her principles rather than just many of her methods.

Along the way between our start and our full discovery of the riches of a Charlotte Mason education, we did many projects. We studied the colonization of American and built a diorama of the settling of the west on our dining room buffet. We had an egg carton mountain representing the Cumberland Gap, and small covered wagons to the east of that, and totem poles for the northwestern Indians away to the far left side of our buffet. It was lovely. It was elaborate. We spent months adding to it as we studied a new era in history and exploration of NOrth America. Visitors commented on it all the time.
My children do not remember much about this.

We studied the Middle Ages and had a full feast, complete with drawbridge made from a mattress box, costumes, and a rich collection of books and biographies of the major figures and events of the time. My children do remember the drawbridge and feast, and they loved it. They do not remember the other things.

As I read more of Charlotte Mason, we did fewer and fewer projects. I noticed that my children actually remembered more and more of what we studied. Not only that, they made connections and found relationships between subjects I would never have thought to bring together in my carefully planned and organized (and often quite contrived) unit studies of our early homeschooling days.

I really have found that with education, less is more- less of my specially designed projects, more of the child’s direct contact with the book itself; less of me dragging in all this extra stuff and forcing my own connections into the reading, more of my children making their own connections in a much more meaningful way; less extra stuff, more of what I believe is *real* learning. When I did all that careful planning and what Miss Mason calls the ‘correlation of lessons,’ I was the one doing all the work of the mindand so I was the one doing the most learning. I was feeding my children whirled, pre-prepared mind food, instead of letting them chew on it themselves and make their own connections.

We don’t do many involved projects anymore. I don’t make worksheets or vocabulary cards for games. I don’t create elaborate dioramas (although the children can if they want). Occasionally when we finish a reading I have asked my children to tell me about anyone or anything that the story we just finished reminds them of. Sometimes they tell me they can’t think of anything. That’s okay. Sometimes they will come up with a connection I would never have thought of- that’s really delightful.

Sometimes I don’t have to ask. One day many years  ago we went for a long walk through our woods. On our walk my then 7 and 5 year olds were sharing the connections they were making, and also showing me that studies do serve for delight, and that education is the science of relations.=) Our five year old told me that the woods made him think of Little House in the Big Woods. We found a large tree fallen over a stream outlet, and the top was hollowed out, making a space large enough for two small children to play in. They told me they were Vikings like Harald, only nicer. We found a pile of red fur and one of them wondered if it belonged to Reddy Fox (from one of Thornton Burgess’ books). They played Pooh sticks at the bridge. Our five year old found a hollow in the base of the tree and explained to us that this was one of the animal homes with a place for a door in it for animal visitors to knock on (ala Beatrix Potter).

IN church one Sunday the preacher referred to Genesis 1- as he started reading my 5 y.o. whispered in my ear “He’s going to start reading about Adam and Eve!” A little later in the sermon the preacher quoted a verse that my 7 y.o. has been working on- her eyes lit up and she nodded vigorously at me to show she recognized it- another connection made.

During that same time frame, we read the story of William Tell. When I read about Gesler putting the hat up on a pole in the market place and requiring people to bow to it, I asked my children if that reminded them of anything else they’d heard of- and one of them immediately remembered the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the furnace for refusing to worship the statue of the king.

Many years before this when young Pipsqueak was about ten or so,  we were sitting in church one morning and the preacher was teaching on a passage about the tongue and the destructive roaring fire it could become. After class, this child said thoughtfully to me, “That kind of reminds me of A Tale of Two Cities.” I was rather astonished, and asked what on earth she meant. “Well,” she explained, “in the French Revolution people were informing on other people all the time, and if they were mad at a neighbor they might spread lies to get them in trouble. They could get somebody else in a lot of trouble just by something they said without thinking about it. That’s pretty destructive.”

Charlotte Mason’s ideas of short lessons, alternating lesson types (two literature lessons not following quite back to back, but rather alternate *types* of studies so that one part of the brain is getting a rest while the other is working), and free time in the afternoons gives the children the time they need to make those connections.

Children need that free time for doing nothing but thinking, pondering, daydreaming. It’s just about as important as school and chore time, and I think it is more important than time organized for sports and outside activities.

Sometimes I will follow up a particularly meaty lesson with drawing, a simple craft, or something like sewing on buttons. I think that this gives them time to dwell over the reading more if they are doing something simple with their hands immediately afterward.

However it is managed and planned, do be sure the children have free time to think. Doing this will enable the children to make their own connections, and when they do this, the material is really theirs.
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Postscript: I will also add that day in the woods was a particularly lovely day. We _do_ have days when the eyes glaze over, the frowns glower, and the narrations are dull and lifeless, or there are no narrations at all because there was no attentive listening. There is no need to feel discouraged if you have not gotten such feedback yet- sometimes kids are processing information and making connections quietly under the surface and it will come up at surprising times.

This entry was posted in Charlotte Mason, the science of relations. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

3 Comments

  1. BecTasmanian
    Posted July 20, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for reposting. When this was first posted, home education was not on my radar. My eldest was one.

  2. Frances
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I was just looking up a passage in Frank (Maria Edgeworth) about mending china and I wonder if you share my enjoyment of her “early lessons”. (I think Mama was a bit over the top with the Purple Jar, though – no proper shoes!!!)

    • Headmistress
      Posted July 27, 2018 at 5:24 am | Permalink

      I do like Edgeworth!

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