Sunday, May 1, 2011

So what is this 'educational law' which Charlotte Mason valued so much?

Though Charlotte Mason never codified a formal thesis on 'educational law', there are a few specific things which Miss Mason has said about 'educational law'.

For example, in the preface to her series, she says that 'educational law' is:

"a basic concept with various details working in harmony with it. This workable, effective theory of education ... wouldn't think of education as an isolated, shut-off compartment, but as a natural part of life, like birth, growing, marriage, or work. It would create a bond between the student and the great wide world, connected at many different points where interest was sparked."
At other times, she said that one of the tools to identify 'educational law' would be to identify what we as parents and teachers ought not do. To help us know what we 'ought not do', her writings eloquently illuminate how to assess educational efforts according to the gospel, which teaches us that we should hinder not, despise not, and offend not one of the least of these.

She also taught basic principles supporting the 'basic concept' of helping children to learn to attend. She went on to teach that children can in and of themselves naturally attend to that which is their proper diet, yet, that it is the purpose of the educator to help children to gradually discipline that natural ability to attend. In order to do so, the children are called upon to apply their will in order to gradually increase their attention sufficiently enough to help them grapple effectively with any matter at hand which is worthy of note, in order that the children themselves will be able to allow the subject at hand to 'make an impression' upon their heart and minds.

Further, Miss Mason taught that life itself and living things (including 'living books') worthy of note in the life of a child are sufficiently suited to help empower all children to come to their studies with appropriate levels of attention. She went on with sage guidance on many points, such as principles to suggest that requiring too much attention of a child would be an offense to the child, and such as her eloquent instruction regarding other principles which guide one to know when the child has attended sufficiently and when he has not, and what to do in response to the child in the case of either circumstance.

So, why should such 'principles' be called 'educational law'?

The 'laws of education' are much like 'the laws of physics'. Once one begins to understand the basics of gravity, one can plan to build a hut, but once one knows more of those principles, one can move towards the ability to vault a sky-scraper.

Each of our children can achieve more than they would otherwise if we understand how the laws of education should guide us in their development as individuals.

It might seem quite a horrific challenge to think that one needs to 'engineer' a child's education, but Miss Mason points out that once the principles are understood, they become natural in their implementation.

Without the 'educational principles' as a guide, sometimes parents and teachers try the latest fad or a long held idea without knowing how to assess the validity of those trends. The results are typically good for some children, but not for all.

With the educational principles as a guide, we can each begin to redirect our views of parenting and teaching bit by bit, moving each of our children's 'education' more and more in line with the principles of educational law.

That might look a little different for Johnny than it does for Jane, but the principles behind the educational choices for both children will be the same principles.

This idea of implementing the same 'laws' differently in different circumstances is readily illustrated in the fact that building a foundation for a skyscraper on the bedrock of NYC is accomplished differently than the building of a foundation on the soil structure found in Mexico City, where there is no such thing as bedrock. In and around Mexico City, there is no effective bedrock. There is so much water in the earth in and around Mexico City that foundations for skyscrapers there are actually designed to 'float' to a certain extent. That's a totally different type of 'foundation' than the ones employed in NYC, but the purpose is still the same, 'to vault a skyscraper'.

Both the 'bedrock' foundation and the 'floating' foundation are effective implementations of 'physical law'. The foundations are different, but the principles which guide to the one foundation are the same principles which guide us to the other foundation as well.

In the same way, implementing 'educational law' might look different for different children, but the goals and aims are the same for each child. Best of all, as we implement educational law more and more effectively, the results will be an increasingly natural, increasingly beneficial, and increasingly joyous education.

If something is not working in your homeschool, with the help of prayer and the principles of CM, it is possible to make adjustments as needed.

We have corrected course many times in our homeschool, and in doing so, my oldest in particular watched the changes move us more and more towards grace and ease in learning (he being my most dysgraphic and dyslexic, BTW).

We have never 'arrived' at a perfect implementation of CM principles, however, each time we move closer, more of our life is blessed.

So if no one ever 'arrives', is it really that difficult to understand the principles?

No, not really. The principles, once understood and valued - become free to work for you in your home. They literally work naturally in and of themselves once we get out of the way and allow that to happen.

We do need to direct and guide activities to help our families move in line with the principles, but it is the act of trusting, honoring, and following the principles that provides confidence, peace, faith, joy, and increasing love for each other and for learning, bit by bit, in our homes.

Sometimes one or more family member might reject a principle here or there, or we might misunderstand a principle's direct application here or there, but once such resistance and once those misunderstandings are addressed, the principles become free to work for our families again.

Here is a quote from the early pages of CM's Vol I that relates to that idea:

It is worth while to point out the differing characters of a system and a method, because parents let themselves be run away with often enough by some plausible 'system,' the object of which is to produce development in one direction––of the muscles, of the memory, of the reasoning faculty––were a complete all-round education. This easy satisfaction arises from the sluggishness of human nature, to which any definite scheme is more agreeable than the constant watchfulness, the unforeseen action, called for when the whole of a child's existence is to be used as the means of his education. But who is sufficient for an education so comprehensive, so incessant? A parent may be willing to undergo any definite labours for his child's sake; but to be always catering to his behoof, always contriving that circumstances shall play upon him for his good, is the part of a god and not of a man! A reasonable objection enough, if one looks upon education as an endless series of independent efforts, each to be thought out and acted out on the spur of the moment; but the fact is, that a few broad essential principles cover the whole field, and these once fully laid hold of, it is as easy and natural to act upon them as it is to act upon our knowledge of such facts as that fire burns and water flows. My endeavour in this and the following chapters will be to put these few fundamental principles before you in their practical bearing. Meantime, let us consider one or two preliminary questions.

As you begin to learn about the basic principles, you will see that each one begins to bless your family.

As you begin to add more principles and/or fine tune the first ones you began to implement at the beginning of your CM journey, you will find that the principles do not merely add to each other, they multiply the overall benefits exponentially.
May God grant us more and more faith to trust in all of His laws. May we meditate on them day and night, be they spiritual law, moral law, social law, or even educational law. May we respond to those laws as we meditate upon them and are led by them in such a way that we praise Him through our faithful obedience, trust, and joy in those laws - magnifying His name in all we do and say.

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