In my last post, I talked just a little bit about some of the in-between but important bits that are called riches in Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. This part of the series will focus on the workshops/sessions that we attended. I do not feel I have the space to talk about the other workshops/sessions that were offered.
Technology and Charlotte Mason
The sessions we attended were all great and very informative. The first we chose was “WWCMD: with the Internet”. That stands for “What Would Charlotte Mason Do”. Technology is huge today. We just cannot escape it. Should we even try? Actually any tool that is invented and used is technology. Sometimes I forget that books are technology in our age of all-things-digital. I think many people are with me on that.
The session was led by Lisa Cadora brilliantly. Lisa is one of the coordinators for Mason in the Morning CM study group and Great River Learning CM co-op in the Cincinnati, OH, area. She talked, very briefly, through different technologies and how they ‘changed’ society. She also mentioned those who at the time pushed back against the technologies. Individuals such as Plato, Socrates, Seneca, Benjamin Franklin and Marshall McLuhan. Even through all the pushing and shoving, technology continues on advancing. And we are left to catch up.
We discussed what are some *good* resources on the internet, as well as how we as parents manage the technologies. It was very good. A point that she made, and I’m sure can be seen by many who have children (ahem, and adults) who spend a lot of time on digital technology: When they are done with their time on the technology, they sometimes suffer depression, anxiety, let-down, and can be irritable. Digital technology affects our brains in ways that are only now beginning to be understood. She gave titles for books that she recommends:
- Alone Together, Sherry Turkle
- The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein
- Wired, author?
- The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
- Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers
One that I highly recommend is Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.
Some technological resources that the group suggested:
Notebooks and Charlotte Mason
The individual session we attended on Friday morning, before our long drive home, was “Keeping Notebooks” by Erin Daly and Kerri Forney. For those who follow CM schooling methods, if you do not use notebooks, I highly encourage you to look into including these in your lives. Recently Laurie Bestvater published a book, The Living Page, that discusses notebooks and Charlotte Mason. I believe that notebooks are essential to a good CM education. Almost as essential as narration. That is a personal sentiment. Here are some quotes from the session:
“He gives back what he has taken in, and so makes it his own possession.” (CM, speech “P.N.E.U. As A Service to the State”)
“Therefore, teaching, talk and tale, however lucid or fascinating, effect nothing until self-activity be set up; that is, self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.” (CM, vol. 6, pg. 240)
“But the children are not to sit still and merely passively receive ideas. No lesson is valuable which does not promote self-activity by making the child think…making the idea given a well-spring of activity. We can judge then of a value of a lesson by the amount of work which it gives the children to do.” (Miss R. A. Pennethorne, “P.N.E.U Principles as Illustrated by Teaching”)
Notebooks afford attention, concentration, and thoroughness; intellectual volition, accuracy, and reflection. One thing that I personally came away with from this session is that it isn’t about how well a person can draw or how neat the handwriting. It’s about what is known, how accurate it is, and how much the child cares about what they know. For a nature journal, it is about the connection that are made through the time it takes to get to know the specific plant or animal that they have chosen.
I would like to share with you some of our nature notebook pages. Remember, it isn’t about being perfect; it is about the process. You can browse some of mine that I’ve put on my blog. The ones below are from my son’s notebook, and daughter’s new notebook, since we’ve been back from the conference. My daughter, especially, enjoyed this session.
The three notebooks that are most often mentioned and used in Charlotte Mason’s schools are the Book of Centuries, the Nature Notebook, and a Commonplace Book. We started utilizing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy late, in the sense that my kids were already teens, and so we’ve never had a Book of Centuries.
Is it too late to start one even when a student is in their teens? Personally, I don’t think it’s ever too late. Education is, after all, a life. The Book of Centuries will still afford connections, even to older students.
The Commonplace Book is actually my favorite notebook. It was not the first of the three I started with but it has become my most treasured. Mason says in Volume 5 of her works (p. 260):
It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author…Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review.
The purpose of notebooks is not to show the work that has been done, although it is a way to do that. The purpose of notebooks is not to show how talented a student is with their handwriting. The purpose of a notebook is not to show how well a student can draw or paint. Tweet: Notebooks are for the process and the connections. They are for the self-education of the student. The session ended with suggestions to create a notebook culture at home. The ones I appreciated the most are:
- Parents start keeping notebooks, as a model; be regular and enthusiastic
- Focus on the self-education of the child and not the notebook
- Respect the ownership of the notebook- be ready to share in the joy of discovery; avoid critiques or praise
- Be patient
Next, and final, post in this series I will talk about the plenaries and the big picture of the conference.