The Foyer, 2019-2020, 07
We have written a bit about principles. Charlotte Mason outlined twenty of them. She lived at a time when scientists searched for natural laws to explain the world. She did the same with education. She tried to uncover basic truths about how children learn.
Her first principle answers an important question. What is a child? For the purposes of education, students are seen as future workers. Standards, textbooks, and tests are developed to foster their success in the work world. This point of view values the three R’s and STEM over the riches. This leads us to rate children like the goods and services they will offer someday. A forty-hour work week is only a third of our waking lives. What about the other two-thirds?
In Charlotte Mason’s day, educators saw children as blank slates. Writing all necessary knowledge on the slate was supposed to give them what they needed to know. Their personality, ability, and interests had little to do with the process. Here is how Charlotte Mason answered the question:
Children are born persons - they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters
How does this principle look? Narration reflects a child's personality. The wit is going to narrate quickly while the deep thinker freezes but shares something brilliant a day or two later. A student who is weak in a subject tells the main idea and a few details. The one who is strong sequences details and connects to other books. When a book aligns with a child’s interests, the narrator adds extra knowledge or does something during free time to live out that book. No two narrations are alike because no two narrators are alike.
Last spring, a couple of middle schoolers wanted to do a Bob Ross picture study. We thought they were joking until they persisted. We realized that, while his art misses the mark for picture study, his technique would fit Tuesday handwork. We told the middle schoolers, “Convince us.”
Interested middle and high students hatched their plan. They called themselves the Harvest Assembly of Bob Ross Enthusiasts. They bought Bob Ross T-shirts and researched and prepared a speech about Bob Ross. They taught us that he had served in the Air Force with honor. While stationed in Alaska, he was inspired by the beauty around him. While stationed in Germany, he learned wet-on-wet technique and painted Alaskan scenes inside gold pans. Bob Ross made more money from selling his novelty gifts than from his military salary. After retiring as a master-sergeant, he filmed 203 episodes of his popular television series. His Christian faith infused the show with optimism and happy catch phrases. He donated all his paintings, and he did not ask for one paycheck from PBS. Then, they pointed out how his beliefs matched a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. We could not refuse their request.
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