Wednesday, July 23, 2008
New Year -- preparing your brain
Summer also gives me a little extra time to make sure that my house gets back in order and do some decluttering. I have had extra motivation in this department thanks to Handprints on the Wall, and while I have work yet to do, I feel confident that things will be in order in that department come September. With my house humming more smoothly, now I turn to preparing myself for the year ahead. Before I can think about the academics, or schedules, or anything else I want to implement, I need to make sure that I have my own focus, motivation, and encouragement flowing.
As the teacher in this one house school I need to set the standard, establish the atmosphere, and know where I plan to lead. Part of this leading means I must constantly learn as well. Reading plays a huge part in that. Each summer I try to read a book, or a few books, that will advance my knowledge as a teacher and seek out more books to add to my reading list for the coming year. Some years I need more spiritual encouragement and choose my books accordingly. Other years I want to get a peak into what my kids will be reading, so I take extra time to do that. This year I decided to sink myself into Charlotte Mason's works. I have just made it about a third of a way through the first volume of this 6 volume work, so this choice may well take me all school year to finish.
This first book in the series has done what I hoped it would do. It has encouraged, inspired, and motivated me as we prepare for the year ahead. It has given me practical ideas that I want to incorporate into my schedule, as well as general purpose and goals.
In the past I read through summaries of this work, but I like to get to the source of information and found that I could get the series, a book at a time, through my local library. So, here I find myself in the midst of the first book and I know that by the time I get to the end I will not remember all that I want to. I have started journaling about what stands out to me as I read. This way, I will have my own compact handbook of Charlotte Mason's works when I finish that I can refer to anytime I want to without having to check it out from the library, and without having to buy the set and have it filling my bookshelves.
Here are some snippets that have caused me to stop and think:
- Charlotte Mason talks about children starting out as beings with potential for both good and evil. Now, unfortunately, this almost made me stop reading, because the Bible clearly teaches that man is sinful. We are born with a sin nature inherited through the ages from Adam. However, I could still agree with her resulting actions in this regard, although I don't agree with her philosophical motivation. She said that because of this, we need to expose them to as much good as possible. On the other hand, I believe all the more strongly that we must do our part to expose them to God, His Word, and His creation because they have a natural bent against goodness.
- In the practical world, she encourages children to spend time out of doors as much as possible. While I agree with this, I am often lax to promote it. This coming year I want to get out more, hold class outside more, and keep my windows open more. I definitely see the difference when I have to go for my morning run inside as opposed to breathing the fresh air of God's great creation. She said even 22 hours inside each day is too many. I don't know if I can get out more than 2 hours every day all year long, but do want to make a conscious effort in this regard.
- The Mason method is well known for its nature studies and I have only half heartedly agreed before reading her book. Does it really benefit a child in modern society to know the difference between a white oak and a red one? A swallow and a tern? A daffodil and a buttercup? Then, as I read, I realized that what all of this really taught was the power of observation (and then drawing conclusions). So much can be learned from books, but they need to get out and see the real thing and determine for themselves what type of tree and flower they see. Look for the buds on the real deal, not just in a picture where someone else already found the perfect example and circled it for you to halfheartedly glance at and return to your own activity. We have already started our local tree study and I love that each child jumps in with their own level of learning and builds from there. It has already stretched their observation skills as we try to classify all the trees around us. More on our tree studies in another post . . .
- Charlotte Mason also talks at length about instilling habits in our children. Again, I don't completely agree with her philosophy, but gained valuable insight nonetheless. I don't think I would completely agree with anyone, but I can almost always learn from them, even if it is what not to do. She talks about the power of habits. How much of what you do everyday is habit? Getting dressed, eating, using the bathroom, etc. We don't need to think about how to button our shirt or tie our shoes. Habit truly does dominate our actions throughout each day. I do think that habit differs from character (just because a child always turns off the light doesn't equate responsibility), but they may be intertwined at times, and habits can be teaching opportunities for character.
- Growing good habits in our children takes diligent, consistent effort. I want to start easy, so I am going to work on having my kids consistently turn lights off when leaving a room. Her tips have influenced how I will approach this project. She said that we sometimes try to come up with rewards when instilling a new behavior, but the habit gained is reward in itself.
Nothing against sticker charts, and fun rewards, but I realized that I don't really need to 'come up' with anything. The success of the habit will instill pride and joy in the child without it, and sometimes the reward may become the focus of the change rather than the habit. I saw this in my own children some time ago when they kept their room clean to earn a prize. It worked, but then fell apart once achieved. A habit is for life.
And that, leads into the other point that stuck with me . . . don't let them slip when they start showing success in an area. Sometimes we grow lax and think since they do a good job most of the time, I won't worry about this one time they forgot. This starts the cycle all over again, sometimes from an even worse place. I must remain consistent throughout and consistent until the end.
That is how far I am in my Charlotte Mason journey, and what I have learned so far, and look forward to implementing in the coming year. I would encourage you to find a good book to read this summer to grow your own brain a bit and find the motivation that you need for the year ahead. I think it is so critical for homeschooling parents to be always learning and setting the example in that regard.
Here are some other books I would recommend:
- Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
- Lies Homeschool Moms Believe by Todd Wilson
- Let Us Highly Resolve by David and Shirley Quine
- Different Children, Different Needs by Charles Boyd
- Celebrate Home byAngie Peters (a great encouragement, especially for moms of preschoolers)
Again, while I may not agree with everything in each of these books, they have all helped me to continue down the homeschool journey at one time or another.
Any others to add?
Next in preparing for the new year . . .organization!
For more homeschooling thoughts, take a look at Happy to be at Home.