Attentiveness is the first key habit. We make time to focus on something—a few pages, natural object, painting, piece of music, map. After a few minutes of study, we put it away and students tell every detail that they observed. They learn to see all that there is to see and to hear all that there is to hear. Sadly, lessons that we grew up with lessen attention. We skimmed material to get the right answer. We read to find a word to fill in a blank. We ruled out wrong answers to select the best match. We studied a few sentences to mark true or false. We guessed if pressed for time. We learned to read fragments for answers.
A graduate of a Mason education wondered why attention eluded her peers in college. “It dawned on me that the skill they were missing was the ability to read and listen with the intent to understand.” Charlotte Mason compared education to eating. We feed the mind with delicious food. Sensory channels deliver it to the brain which digests the meal and stores what attention captures. The rest is discarded. When required to narrate, the mind chews food slowly. Talking, writing, and drawing extracts more mental nutrients. The graduate concluded, “Every time I was presented with new information, I had trained myself to pay close attention so that later I could formulate an explanation of what I had learned.”
Mason summarized this in her fourteenth principle.
Since one doesn't really "own" knowledge until he can express it, children are required
Educators today are training attention in college. A biology professor chose drawing because “when we draw, we see the things we’d otherwise overlook.” A Harvard art professor has students study a painting for three hours. It fosters patience and stimulates curiosity as they see new things. Harvard also offers medical students an elective in which they do picture study. They learn to study the details and back up to see the whole painting. “If we miss the details, then we won’t get the diagnosis. But if we don’t zoom out, we miss fundamental aspects of who the patient is as a person.”
Professors reorient the desire for a quick answer since the real world doesn’t offer immediate solutions. Students slow down and patiently navigate uncertainty. In group discussions, they learn to communicate, disagree respectfully, and solve problems as a team. Picture study can frustrate some for that reason. Harvest goes beyond Harvard with habit training. Attention is one of many habits that we train. If you want to know more about attentiveness, this article is helpful.
A community called to offer another way to learn for students in Clarendon County