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S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Education is... a Discipline
June 11, 2008, 12:14 pm

"Education is a discipline - that is, the discipline of the good habits in which the child is trained." (Vol 2, p. 247).

Elizabeth Foss is leading a summer study of Simply Charlotte Mason's Education Is... eBook. This is my second post in this series.

Just as Charlotte Mason has identified three components of education - Atmosphere, Discipline and Life, so has she divided the idea of the discipline of habits into four specific areas: moral habits, mental habits, physical habits and spiritual habits. A future discussion is scheduled wherein I anticipate delving deeply into each of these areas. However, today's focus will be on the discipline required to instill any habit, specifically 5 ways from Charlotte Mason to cultivate good habits.

I have tried to think these through regarding older children. It is quite easy to read about children throwing toys and the consquence being the loss of that toy but I don't see Marianna pitching her belongings around in a fit much anymore. :)
I think if it is a good and true theory it will apply to all ages, even (especially!) adults.

1. Pick One Habit

Quality over Quantity. Don't Overwhelm. My impulse is to grab a habit from each area. Let's have one spiritual, one physical, one... this may be an area to SLOW DOWN. I may not be able to plan 10 years of habit training in the remaining 5 school years but I imagine I can touch on some pertinent ones in that time!

2. Be Vigilent and Consistent

I truly liked the idea of following through by making certain I have the attention of the child, stating the command once, asking for a narration (repeat back to ascertain comprehension), and then applying the consequences. Why get myself worked up and jump straight to the consequences if I haven't yet caught the child's attention or the comprehension of what I'm asking isn't there?

3. Share Living Examples

Concrete rather than Abstract. Bring examples in that the child can relate to. Of course, anytime you hear the word Living in a discussion of C.Mason, think non-twaddle. The classic George Washington = Truthfulness was given as an example but I'd really like to come up with a modern (dare I say, living?) list of people that exhibit the qualities I'd be talking about, an example might be Olympic skier Rebecca Dussault.

4. Apply Appropriate Consequences

The emphasis is on applying Natural Consequences as much as possible as they are a reflection of real life. A wonderful point was made that a consequence that is overused it can lose its effectiveness. To combat this several options were given.

*Physical Stimulus - i.e. physically helping the child complete the task. The example given in Education is... was to repetitively and physically walk your child through the task of picking up toys even to the point of guiding her bodily. Obviously this won't work with a teenager quite so well. :) However, to take the idea of physical repetitiveness and apply it to a task a teen might have like sweeping the floor (or scrubbing the deck!) the consequence of neglecting to do so might result in doing the task twice in succession.

*Removing Obstacles - Is there something distracting the child from completing the task? For the older child a distraction might be access to books, music, the computer and other technologies (ipod, cell phone, games, etc...) Remove it until the task is complete.

*Adding Responsibilities - The classic for the older child. If you don't get your dirty clothes in the laundry YOU do the laundry the next day.

*Removing Privileges - Another oldie but goodie. The most pertinent point here, I felt, was the idea that the privilege lost should be connected to the action. The example in Education Is... was having the child stand through a meal or lesson instead of using a chair if that child continually disobeys the directive not to tip the chair back on two legs. Makes sense to me.

5. Encourage, Don't Nag

Nagging can be so easy to fall into, but a simple rephrase and control of the voice and expression can lead to an attitude of expectant encouragement rather than nag-nag-nagging.

Have you noticed that there is not much talk about the child and their actions but rather much discussion of the parental actions! This idea that 1/3 of Education is a Discipline really plays into the parent's lap. If I can apply these ideas to my own life I feel I'll be well on the way to guiding my daughter in the formation of her life!

Charlotte Mason
Education Atmosphere
June 5, 2008, 12:30 pm

Elizabeth Foss is leading a summer study of Simply Charlotte Mason's Education Is... eBook. It is a free download so head over there and read this great little gem. It focuses on three words from Charlotte Mason's writings that encapsulate her approach to education. What are those three words? Charlotte Mason said, "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

Webster defines education as involving training by both formal instruction and supervised practice; it includes all that we do to help our children develop mentally, morally and aesthetically; it entails our persuading our children to feel, believe, or act in a desired way. Simply Charlotte Mason makes the case that this all-around approach is what Charlotte Mason had in mind when she considered education. We can equate Mason's atmosphere with Webster's aesthetics, her discipline with his morals and Mason's life with Webster's mental development.

Let's address today the first third of a well-rounded education then. Simply Charlotte Mason focuses first on atmosphere with 6 quotes from her writings.

1. Children should grow up in a natural home setting, not an artificial, adapted "child environment."

To this particular chosen quote I'd add one more gem of Charlotte Mason's, "It stultifies a child to bring his world to a 'child's' level". This was oh so easy for me when Marianna was little, I never goo-gooed at her, we listened to great music together and frequently attended live productions, used real art materials, etc... but now that she has in fact entered that new realm called adolescence, what does this look like? I think it will result in acknowledging her ideas as valid and allow her additional input into that environment we call home. We are all (literally!) in this boat together.

2. Character traits can be learned through the atmosphere of the home.

Does my home have an atmosphere of respect, courtesy, kindness, etc? It only makes sense that if these virtues are apparent in the atmosphere of my home that Marianna will absorb them into her being. As my Mom was so fond of saying throughout my childhood: "Actions speak louder than words."

3. We must be careful how we live, because our children will pick up attitudes and ideas from us that will affect them the rest of their lives.

Gosh, can I be a little nautical here and quote one of my favorite mottos from Latts & Atts? "Attitude: The Difference between Ordeal and Adventure." How am I living my life? Is every little thing met as a challenging adventure or with the big ol' sigh of an ordeal? I know which side of the coin I'd prefer to be on, so what can I do to make certain that happens? Personally, I find that the big things are easy to file under Adventure but the small things drag me down into Ordeal-ville.

If I could relate a small story? Memorial Day after work I grabbed some fried chicken from Dion's and Hal and Marianna prepped our flats boat for a picnic. We haven't had rain down here for 40 days and 40 nights so we didn't pay much mind to the clouds blowing in from Cuba. Bad mistake there. We lost the impeller just as we were making a run back up the channel to the mainship as huge monster raindrops began falling. The channel's narrow so we just blew over onto the flats where we angled the bimini to provide a bit of shelter from the rain that was now driving horizontally beneath dark lightning-streaked skies. At this point I brought out the chicken for our picnic. We had a great time, we have another jewel of a memory to file away and once the storm lessened we made a dash back home absolutely drenched to the skin and laughing the whole way. We were met at the dock by our neighbors, horrified that we had been out, that our paddle had snapped in half, that our flats' pole was now a bit shorter than it should have been, that we had been through such an ordeal.

No. That was an Adventure! Marianna was right there beside us holding up the bimini with one hand and chewing on a drumstick with the other! She wasn't cowering in the bottom of the boat terrified out of her mind because I was wailing my head off at Hal because I just knew we were going to die! Could we have died? Of course, but as we all know, more people die from coconuts conking them on the head than from shark attacks each year.

Now those small things, the things that drag me down into
Ordeal-ville tend to be things like dishes. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I had a little system that worked wonders for organizing this boat and it fell apart over the last year. Slowly but surely I am bringing it back into play and I am determined that the dishes won't win the war! They may lay claim to a battle or two but I will be victorious!

4.The atmosphere of our homes is formed out of the ideas that rule our lives as parents.

What are these ideas that rule our lives? I think this might be where most of our time and effort is spent. Do we as parents value education? Our faith? Our health? Or are they simply afterthoughts in the rat race of our lives? If I continue to learn something new (a language, an instrument) I show by my actions that education is important. The same holds true regarding making time on Sunday to attend Mass, choosing healthy meals or attending to those neccessary things like annual eye appointments.

5.Atmosphere is only part, not all, of a child's education. We must also give the discipline of good habits and the living ideas of a generous education.

Balance. I think balance is key. An overabundance of any one thing will not lead to the generous education I hope to give my daughter.

6.The atmosphere of the home should encourage freedom under authority and obedience.

Perhaps a picture would be an appropriate example now. While I was writing this Marianna was swimming with her friend. She has the freedom to be in the water if she has a buddy. Simple rule laid down by those in authority that if obeyed results in freedom...freedom to find the largest Horse Conch we've ever seen!

Being the good boater girls they are there was no chorus of "Can we keep it?" Rather, the resounding chorus was "Can we eat it?"

Charlotte Mason
Breakfast of Planners
The fuel for this conversation, white peaches, black plums, a scone and cappuccino - lots of cappuccino!
August 24, 2007, 8:03 am

I know I've been promising huge posts regarding changes coming up here on the S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen so let's talk about one of these changes - Our Schooling.

Which after much (much!) deliberation is actually a non-change or perhaps it would be clearer to say, a change-back.

Confused yet? Boy I was for awhile! Paralyctically confused and caught in a downward spiral of planning. Each morning I would wake up and grasp a new idea and by afternoon have an entirely new year laid out for Marianna - seriously!

I now have extensive plans for a Lord of the Rings Lit-based study, a Medieval study with pertinent books marching across our virtual shelves in accordance with our time-line (can't read a book out of order, can you?), a Lord of the Rings unit study emphasizing the Medieval and Christian themes contained within, blah, blah-blah, blah.

Actually the last four words is exactly how I felt about the whole thing. I'd scribble all these ideas down quickly, quickly, quickly and then start thinking about how this would look in a typical week, knowing that no week is ever going to be typical this year. What were the first things to be written in my planning pages, the ones that truly excited me and didn't fill my head and heart with dread?

Art Studies
Nature Studies
Science Experiments
Plans for Handwork and Crafts
Liturgical Teas
Field Trips

Very CM, right? Why cut out the things that filled us with joy? If the "wheel" on this "school bus" is rolling along just fine, why reinvent it?

Why indeed, I wondered, was I feeling this overwhelming urge to change things up when I was so very happy with how things were? More importantly, Hal and especially Marianna, were happy too.

The conclusion I reached?

Now don't laugh, you Moms of older homeschooled kids, but I have a Seventh Grader this year. Last year she was a Sixth Grader and I could pretend she was in one of those schools where Sixth Grade was still part of Elementary school. But this year - we've moved up to Junior High, baby! I panicked and froze just like a deer caught in the high beams of an on-rushing car (better make that a semi-truck, a Mack semi-truck).

Not pretty at all, much less beautiful.

I decided it was time to plan less and listen more. I began by looking through my own blog and keeping my eyes off others' work. I bravely asked input from the ever present girl looking over my shoulder and I tried to really listen to what she said as we reminisced. The things she remembered and the things she had wanted to do that got swept under the carpet received mental stars next to them on my planning list, the list that was shaping up to look very similar to the one I shared above.

If those were the things we really enjoyed, how in the world did they end up on the cutting room floor in the first place?

I began to think in terms of fitting our "basics" around those items. But before I could do that I imagined the worst day possible, one of those days where the outside world sticks it's head in the hatch and hands down it's own list of things to do that day. When such a day happens, whether it is full of chores in town or hurricane prep, what would I consider a successful schooling day? Reading, Writing and Arithmetic easily jump to mind.

When I began to plan from the standpoint of these three things and these three things alone for everyday I found that Writing was easily worked in with the items we loved and missed. As a single example, our Art Studies follow Penny Gardner's example of oral narration on Monday, sketches on Tuesday and Wednesday and written narration on Thursday. Could a similar base be found for the other days of the week too? The answer, of course, is YES!

That left Reading to cover for the basics. I could easily brush this off with the comment that you've never seen such a voracious reader...but I really do want to challenge and encourage my voracious reader and I think that is best described through a quote of Charlotte Mason that I found inspiring enough to use as the title to my 4th post on this blog.

"Education is a life; that life is sustained on ideas; ideas are of spiritual origin, and that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another. The duty of parents is to sustain a child's inner life with ideas as they sustain his body with food."

Grand ideas, life sustaining ideas, ideas that are of spiritual origin. If I look at our book list for this year with this as my criteria and recall how when we followed a purer Charlotte Mason Term we implimented a slow reading of a few chapters a day of selected books and the resultant exchange of ideas, the discussions this sparked, the excitement when there was time to digest what was read, and anticipate what was coming, it makes me quite eager to return to this style of reading versus the gulping of many books. Plus - as a little boater comment - the thought of toppling towers of books again makes me seasick! We don't really need to read every book the library has on a chosen subject, so this year I am committing to going deep, not wide. I'm thinking the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, not the Platte River!

Oh and Math? That was easy, we're Saxon people. My mathematician of a father chose Saxon for us girls when we homeschooled and I see no reason to change that for Marianna especially since she thrives on it. Math we can leave well enough alone with one addition - Living Math Journals.

Now that I've yammered on much too long, I thought I'd share some things that were helpful to me in this time of pondering and thinking once I could look at other's work and not turn as green as one with mal de mer.

The conversation on Nuturing Beauty over at 4Real and Elizabeth's blog posts on Rhythm and Beauty and Creativity.

Leonie's posts on a Swallows and Amazon's Childhood and her Unschooling and Planning Series were very helpful.

Lissa's Rule of Six and the resultant Carnival that exploded last year also her concept of Tidal Homeschooling.

Penny Gardner and the ABC's of Charlotte Mason are two of my quick and dirty go-to sites when I need a quick refresher course on CM.

As a little exercise to end this post, which originally wrapped up in quite a wistful manner, hoping to one day write my own Rule of 6, I instead buckled down and committed myself to coming up with 6, right now, not this afternoon or next week or the first day of school opening exercise but right now. I mean I already had 3, surely I could come up with 3 additional ideas I would be happy with and you know, I did!


And then because I can't leave lists alone, I played around with it trying to make a word or a pattern or a poem and came up with FARWEB which will do for now. Hmmm...a FAR flung WEB bracketed by Faith and Beauty might not be a bad Rule of 6 to have as we raft through the deep canyon of knowledge this year!

Do you have a Rule of 6 this year?

Charlotte Mason


S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen
Who: Capt. Hal, Jennifer, and our daughter Marianna, a great photographer!
Port: Boca Chica
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