Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unifying Principle of Education

You may be wondering why I am bent on comparing a modern book on child development (Awakening Children's Minds) with books written by Charlotte Mason around hundred years ago. The reason why is that I am trying to transfer this new knowledge from short-term memory to long-term memory by blogging. At the Second Annual Charlotte Mason Conference in June 2006, Dr. Carroll Smith discussed how the brain stores memory. His actual words are available in an audio recording called "What is Good Instruction" and what I remember follows. Learning must occur in context, must have meaning, and must tie to previous information. Trying to tie this new material into ideas that are already stored in my memory will help me learn it. The mind also requires two steps in the learning cycle: taking information and reproducing it in a unique way. Blogging is my way of reproducing what I am learning.

I am finding the parallels between the two books fascinating. Both Awakening Children's Minds and Home Education focus on about the same time of life: birth to nine years of age. Both Laura Berk and Charlotte Mason realize the deficiencies of two extremes in child training and education: adult supremacy versus child supremacy. Both present an extensive review of the history of childhood education (Charlotte outlines this in Towards a Philosophy of Education). Both seek a unified vision and scientific research to back it up!

In a section bearing the subtitle, "Absence of a Unified Vision," Laura writes, "Parents trying to make their way through these opposing theories, and their attendant advice about child-rearing and educational practice, are likely to find themselves in a dim forest, without a discernible trail blazed before them" (page 15). Compare that to Charlotte's words,
The educational outlook is rather misty and depressing both at home and abroad. That science should be a staple of education, that the teaching of Latin, of modern languages, of mathematics, must be reformed, that nature and handicrafts should be pressed into service for the training of the eye and hand, that boys and girls must learn to write English and therefore must know something of history and literature; and, on the other hand, that education must be made more technical and utilitarian--these, and such as these, are the cries of expedience with which we take the field. But we have no unifying principle, no definite aim; in fact, no philosophy of education (page 1).
Laura based her unified vision in her book upon current scientific research, "Today, sound theories and educational strategies exist that are neither adult- nor child-centered but, instead, portray both as participating actively, jointly, and inseparably in the process of development" (page 18). Charlotte yearned for this kind of research and did the best she could with the experience she had in teaching young children,
Those of us, who have spent many years in pursuing the benign and elusive vision of Education, perceive her approaches are regulated by a law, and that this law has yet to be evoked. We can discern its outlines, but no more. We know that it is pervasive; there is no part of a child's home life or school work which the law does not penetrate. It is illuminating, too, showing the value, or lack of value, of a thousand systems and expedients. It is not only a light, but a measure, providing a standard whereby all things, small and great, belonging to educational work must be tested. (pages 1 and 2)
I will close with another point upon which everyone agrees: the early years are important, the question is how best to direct them.

Laura: "On only one point is the popular parenting literature unanimous: the vital importance of getting development off to a good start during the preschool years" (page 18).

Charlotte: "It is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children's early, most impressible years "(page 2).


Bonnie Arnwine said...

Speaking of child directed I am amazed at how well G's reading comprehension has picked up now that he can choose the books. Currently he is reading a book called "Game Development" it is over 200 pages, has lots of colorful pictures, as well as technical information, and he is facinated!

Godsgirlnga said...

Hi Tammy,
Thanks for the comment, got a question? How about using CM with a dyslexic child? My son is dyslexic and Im am just on wit's end about what to do? I don't want to put him in ps, I have been reading a lott of books but need to get some ideas of how to teach and what to use...any suggestions?

The Glasers said...


Books that have meaning and context for the child are easier to comprehend. He probably reproduces the knowledge when he is using his games.


Many people with dyslexic children find CM a great fit for dyslexic and other diff abled children. Lynn over at Popcorn and Peanuts uses CM with her severely dyslexic daughter. She's the one who recommended At Last! A Reading Method for Every Child for her daughter--it worked great for my two as well.

Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

I think i should have gotten the other book too...just starting chapter one of minds. so far i'm say...'duh' took a study to tell that?? will blog sometime this weekend on the subject.

The Glasers said...

I can't wait to read your blog. Queen Mum, all six of Charlotte Mason's books are online at AmblesideOnline. I bought the books before they were so readily available in cyberspace. While I prefer paper, you can do a quick search for a key word real easily online because AmblesideOnline makes each book available in one html page if you choose!