Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 6 - Other Goals

Charlotte Mason has much to say about the power of developing constructive habits.  The science behind this idea was known somewhat even in her time and is confirmed now as we more fully understand the formation of neural pathways.  Sometimes, students of Mason make almost an idol out of habits, believing that if once they can form effective habits in their children the difficulties are over.

Charlotte Mason made a point of insisting that habits are not our most important or sole focus.
“The busy mother says she has no leisure to be that somebody [who takes time to gently guide a child exploring], and the child will run wild and get into bad habits; but we must not make a fetish of habit; education is a life as well as a discipline.”
Charlotte Mason  Volume 1 p. 192

Discussing all of her thoughts on habit training would require more than this single post, so we will pass on to another area of focus after just this one more note.   Mason encourages us to secure cooperation and participation through gentleness.
“Do not treat the child's small contumacy too seriously; do not assume that he is being naughty: just leave him out when he is not prepared to act in harmony with the rest. Avoid friction; and above all, do not let him disturb the moral atmosphere; in all gentleness and serenity, remove him from the company of others, when he is being what nurses call 'tiresome.'”  
CM Volume 1 p. 181

One last area of significance during the preschool years: storytelling and conversation.
“In connection with this subject let me add a word about story-telling. Here are some of the points which make a story worth studying to tell to the nestling listeners in many a sweet "Children's Hour";––graceful and artistic details; moral impulse of a high order, conveyed with a strong and delicate touch; sweet human affection; a tender, fanciful link between the children and the Nature-world; humour, pathos, righteous satire, and last, but not least, the fact that the story does not turn on children, and does not foster that self-consciousness, the dawn of which in the child is, perhaps, the individual 'Fall of Man.' But children will not take in all this? No; but let it be a canon that no story, nor part of a story, is ever to be explained. You have sown the seed; leave it to germinate.
Every father and mother should have a repertoire of stories––a dozen will do, beautiful stories beautifully told; children cannot stand variations. 'You left out the rustle of the lady's gown, mother!' expresses reasonable irritation; the child cannot endure a suggestion that the story he lives in is no more than the 'baseless fabric of a vision.' Away with books, and 'reading to'––for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child's vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. It is contrary to nature, too. "Tell us about the little boy who saved Haarlem!" How often do the children who know it ask for that most hero-making of all tales! And here is another advantage of the story told over the story read. Lightly come, lightly go, is the rule for the latter. But if you have to make a study of your story, if you mean to appropriate it as bread of life for your children, why, you select with the caution of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls. Again, in the story read, the parent is no more than the middleman; but the story told is food as directly and deliberately given as milk from the mother's breast. Wise parents, whose children sit with big eyes pondering the oft-told tale, could tell us about this. But it must be borne in mind that the story told is as milk to the child at the breast. By-and-by comes the time when children must read, must learn, and digest for themselves.”

CM Volume 5 pp. 215-217
Rather than emphasizing reading picture books, focus on oral storytelling.
“Experiences with pictures attached, even when they involve looking at picture books and learning new words, are not as valuable, says [Dr.] Wells, because the child needs to learn ‘sooner, rather than later’ to go beyond just naming things that can be seen.  He concludes:
For this, the experience of stories is probably the ideal preparation. . . . Gradually, they will lead them to reflect on their experience and, in so doing, to discover the power that language has, through its symbolic potential, to create and explore alternative possible worlds with their own inner coherence and logic.  Stories may thus lead to the imaginative, hypothetical stance that is required in a wide range of intellectual activities and for problem-solving of all kinds. . . .” 

Jane Healy, Ph.D. Endangered Minds p. 92
“Telling stories over and over, expanding on characters, events, and ideas, also helps children learn to think carefully and give good explanations.” 

Healy p. 91

“Any activity that helps children use their brains to separate from the ‘here and now,’ to get away from pictures and use words to manipulate ideas in their own minds, also helps them with the development of abstract thinking. . .” 

Healy pp. 91-92
Conversation and storytelling both provide important frameworks for learning.
“Although writing--and the kind of talking and thinking that go along with it--promotes the development of school-like ways of reasoning, the arts of storytelling, oral history, and conversation have their own special niche in developing reflective thought, memory, and attention.” 

Healy p. 103
“Good language, like the synapses that make it possible, is gained only from interactive engagement: children  need to talk as well as to hear.” 

Healy p. 88

“The person who teaches your child to talk also teaches a way of thinking.  The ideas, values, and priorities of a culture are borne along on the stream of language that flows between generations.” 

Healy p. 89

“Many parents today try hard to provide elaborate ‘stimulating’ environments for their children, but not even designer toys substitute for good-quality conversation.” 

Healy p. 91
Jewels of Astonishing Worth - What is a Child? (Series Introduction)