Saturday, February 15, 2014

conversing through stories

My previous posting was a journaling of some conversations that we had in our home this week with our oldest son who became a communicant member of our Reformed Presbyterian church back in the summer of 2012. Thinking about the conversations we had have this week leaves me so thankful that I am here with him each day as we have so many different opportunities to discuss every aspect of life.
This is why we homeschool our children.
We are convinced that God has given us as parents the responsibility to train our own children in His ways. We are convicted that having our children home with us each day, requires that we actually do the things we have been commanded to do and to do them as thoroughly as we are able. We are not taking it one year at a time, we are committed to this work for the duration, which means a lot more conversations to be had with our children, God willing.

So I wanted to write further about conversing with our children as I have been learning some humbling lessons that I need to remember every wakeful moment with my children.

In Chapter 1, Self-Education of Charlotte Mason's A Philosophy of Education, she writes about two potent means of creating incuria (mental lethargy)  I will only discuss the first means in what she calls the talky-talky of the teacher.
"We all know how we are bored by the person in private life who explains and expounds. What reason have we to suppose that children are not equally bored?" ~p. 52

It was Cindy Rollins who first alerted me to this problem that we as eager and concerned homeschooling parents create for ourselves. The problem of the pontificating parent.
The problem goes like this.
We see a great lesson in the passage we just read together in the Bible (or other literature) and we begin to expound on it, writing our own unpublished commentary as we go. We return back to earth with a thud, only to see our carnal children looking exactly like they have been spaced out in a different corner of the universe. We sigh and ask them if they were listening. They either shrug, act sheepish or piously affirm our sermonette or some version of all three. The dust gathers on the books still waiting their turn for our lavish attention.  We have just created some incuria, although we despair and think our children are being incorrigible.

What children want, says Charlotte Mason is knowledge conveyed in literary form and the talk of the facile teacher leaves them cold. 

Is it not true that the reason many of us have been drawn to Charlotte Mason is because of all the wonderful books we get to read to our children?  Then let's get on with the business of reading these great books and let the stories speak to our children and not our constant chatter. I speak to myself first.

If you will bear with me, here is a bit of analogy which I hope you will be kind to.

Consider your newborn child's mind like a new sponge, just freshly removed from the packaging it came in. It is slightly moist already, not dry, for of course, the child is born a person.The prenatal baby who has been hearing sounds and voices for the last few months, now recognizes them as important parts of this new world they have been born into. The days go by, the infant babbles and chatters and soon it is speaking it's mother-tongue. The sponge is now quite damp. Amazing.
The books on the shelves begin to show wonderful wear and endearing tear. There are favorites and new additions, bought and borrowed. The sponge is beginning to be soaked. Then the reading lessons start in earnest and now the books are flying off the shelf. The stories get longer and tell of histories and legends and poems. The sponge is now quite heavy. As the years advance, the sponge is seeping, a little pressure and it leaks some major drips. The child's mind, full of literary absorption is beginning to drip great drops of connections and ideas. The slightest touch yields full paragraphs of wonder and excitement.  Yes, the mind can no longer contain all that it is seeing and knowing. Your dear child is bursting with insight.

The stories and books have done their work, parents. Do not let the sponge shrink with your arid talky-talky; even the best intentions can so easily dry out the sponge.  If Charlotte Mason is correct in her solution, let the books bring the knowledge. Let the narrations and grand conversations reveal what the child's mind is absorbing. Let the Word bring the times of refreshing.  Let the Spirit do His work. Again, I speak to myself.

Here are two resources (in the same link)from Cindy on this topic that I consider required reading and listening for anyone, homeschooling or not.
What Are We Doing to our Boys?
Scroll past the photo and listen to Cindy's talk which is embedded after a brief bio. She covers so much, but it all goes back to the same idea, use Morning Time to connect great literature to your children, but don't get in the way of the connection with moralizing and preaching.
Continue to scroll down and read the ensuing interview she gives alongside another educator.  And if you enjoy it, please share it with those within your circle of influence.

I talk to moms quite a bit about not moralizing, spiritualizing, or nagging. I think this is tied to what James is saying about masculinity being externally-based, while femininity is internally-based. I naturally learned over the years that I could preach away if it made me feel better – only no one was listening. Worse than that, it deadens the conscience. ~Cindy Rollins

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