Sunday, September 9, 2007

CM Volume 1 – Preface

Here are some thoughts I had while reading.

But we have no unifying principle, no definite aim; in fact, no philosophy of education. As a stream can rise no higher than its source, so it is probable that no educational effort can rise above the whole scheme of thought which gives it birth; and perhaps this is the reason of all the fallings from us, vanishings, failures, and disappointments which mark our educational records.

This is true of many homeschoolers as well. I try to emphasize to new homeschoolers the importance of settling on a philosophy first, before choosing a curriculum and starting school, but they usually look at me like I’m crazy. But your philosophy determines the assumptions from which you are working and the priorities you will have. Different assumptions and priorities will lead to different choices about what to do, when, and how.

And the path indicated by the law is continuous and progressive, with no transition stage from the cradle to the grave, except that maturity takes up the regular self direction to which immaturity has been trained.

Not to belabor the point, but to my mind (and feel free to contradict me here) this quote shows one place where CM parts company with Classical trivium-based curricula. The trivium presupposes different stages of education, with a different focus at each stage. CM here explicitly rejects that idea.

I think #18 is my favorite:

18. We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.

But just in proportion as a mother has this peculiar insight as regards her own children she will, I think, feel her need of a knowledge of the general principles of education, founded upon the nature and the needs of all children. And this knowledge of the science of education, not the best of mothers will get from above, seeing that we do not often receive as a gift that which we have the means of getting by our own efforts.

It is common for people who criticize CM to fault her for not having children herself and yet daring to suggest to us how we should raise and/or educate our children. I think the above quote explains something of why merely having children does not give us everything we need to be able to raise them and/or educate them as well as we might. God expects us to do our part, which means learning all we can about best practices, what works, what doesn’t work. Trial and error with our own families, which even for the biggest families means no more than ~20 individuals, will not necessarily provide us with enough experiences to make the best judgments about what works and what doesn’t, and certainly relying on personal trial and error means that we will make some mistakes that might be costly and that could have been avoided if we had learned from the trial and error of others.

CM certainly gives honor to us as parents and expects that we will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, make the best judgments about our own children. She is merely passing on to us the accumulated wisdom of years of working with many, many children, so that we can consider it and see how it might apply to our own situations.

This period of a child’s life between his sixth and his ninth year should be used to lay the basis of a liberal education, and of the habit of reading for instruction. During these years the child should enter upon the domain of knowledge, in a good many directions, in a reposeful, consecutive way, which is not to be attained through the somewhat exciting medium of oral lessons.

Some parts of Volume 1 will not apply to Year 0. They will apply to years 1-3, when a child is from 6 to 9 years old.

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