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Reading Over My Shoulder: Education Is an Atmosphere

Lately there’s been a lot of that going on.  While I try to be attentive to my children at most meals, especially, I will confess to reading the local newspaper over breakfast.  However, I’m once again realizing that almost everything can (and likely will) become a “learning moment” (whether I want it to or not 😉 ).  I refer to Lulu as a blossoming reader, and while I’m sure there’s a more appropriate educational term, I like mine.  I see her mind opening up to the possibilities inherent in the ability to read.  While she sometimes balks at our short phonics lessons (‘though she does extremely well and even likes it when it’s said and done), she is forever going about the house reading whatever she sees–shampoo bottles, book titles, canned goods labels, newspaper headlines.  This brings us up to day, breakfast time.  I was eating my bagel and peanut butter and skimming an editorial when Lulu announced, “There’s an s and a z together in that word!”  The article entitled “Chavez’s socialist project hobbled” on the page next to the one I was reading had caught her eye, especially the strange-looking arrangement of letters.  This led to a quick little discussion of possession and the use of apostrophes. 

I think this is the part of homeschooling that I find most rewarding and most confounding.  It’s rewarding because I think this is where much of real learning takes place–in the incidentals, the times when there’s a need to know something, or simply an interest in knowing something.  Will my kindergartener remember everything I told her about possession?  No.  But will she at least be a little more familiar with it than she was before?  Yes. 

It’s confounding because my brief experience as a public school teacher makes me want (need?) to quantify our learning.  Should I make a note that we talked about this?  Can I somehow work this into our lesson plans for the day?  If you have that same voice in your head, you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, lucky you.  😉

I’ve been reading up on the Charlotte Mason method lately, especially by perusing Simply Charlotte Mason and slowly going through When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for Today.  Up until the past few weeks, I was fairly certain that I wanted to put into practice the methods of a classical (neoclassical?) education a la The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home .  I still love the idea, but I’m wondering if what I think of as a more gentle approach might be better for us in the beginning.  I’m still mulling it all over in my brain, trying to figure it out myself.  The reason I bring this up now is because I’ve been thinking about one of the pillars of a Charlotte Mason education:  learning is an atmosphere.  I understand that there’s probably a lot more to this little statement than meets the eye as far as an education method is concerned, but I think it must have something to do with the whole incidental learning situation.  I want to be free in my mind for this to be the way our days go.  I think in reality they already go pretty much this way, but in the back of my mind there’s always the little record keeper, checking things off her list. 

I’m still thinking.  I’ll keep you posted.

7 Responses

  1. Good thoughts, Amy.

    I wrote a 4-paragraph response here, then decided I should just write my own post sometime instead of blabbering on and on in your comments thread. 🙂 Thanks for being so thought-provoking!

  2. Love it! Totally agree with it and struggle with the same thing. Thanks for reminding me I’m not alone in that wrestling match! Blessings

  3. YES! Awesome post. All the moments ARE teachable. (It’s just that sometime I”d like a teeny little break.) However, when your three year old finally learns to tell time on a regular clock because he wants to know when Daddy is coming home from work and when lunch time is, you just smile. And when they notice letters in the words you are reading – well, that’s just rewarding!

    I’ll be curious to see what you land on in your thinking and hope you’ll share again. =)

    My mom was a teacher and did everything “by the book” and wrote everything down. Jonathan’s mom was the opposite. I think I’d like to fall somewhere in the middle. Yeah, I think records DO need to be kept. At the same time, I know myself and locking myself into a system isn’t going to be beneficial – for anyone!

    Anyway, awesome post and thanks for sharing! (I’ll stop before I reach the dreaded 4-paragraph response.)

  4. As a Charlotte Mason fan, I love the Blossoming Reader stage. Lulu has obviously caught the love of learning.

    I particularly liked your ideas in the second paragraph … learning amidst the incidentals. Great mental picture!

  5. My oldest just turned 4 so I don’t have too much practical experience yet, but having read The Well Trained Mind and also the Charlotte Mason books you mentioned I am thinking that the classical approach and the CM approach can be combined somewhat. Although CM is “gentle” as you mentioned, it’s also rigorous and concerned with original texts and ideas.

    I’ve never been a public school teacher, but I have the same temptation to want to quantify every bit of learning. 🙂

  6. Some great thoughts here – I also love the incidental learning side of Home ed.

  7. In my early days of homeschooling my experience as a public school teacher was my biggest liability. I finally let all of that go and fully embraced Charlotte Mason.

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