Wednesday, January 09, 2013

We are not Middlemen

mid·dle·man  (mdl-mn)  -n.  An intermediary; a go-between.
"The direct and immediate impact of great minds upon his own mind is necessary to the education of a child. Most of us can get into touch with original minds chiefly through books; and if we want to know how far a school provides intellectual sustenance for its scholars, we may ask to see the list of books in reading during the current term. If the list be short, the scholar wilt not get enough mind-stuff; if the books are not various, his will not be an all-round development; if they are not original, but compiled at second hand, he will find no material in them for his intellectual growth. Again, if they are too easy and too direct, if they tell him straight away what he is to think, he will read, but he will not appropriate. 

Just as a man has to eat a good dinner in order that his physical energies may be stimulated to select and secrete that small portion which is vital to him, so must the intellectual energies be stimulated to extract what the individual needs by a generous supply, and also by a way of presentation that is not obvious. 

We have the highest authority for the indirect method of teaching proper to literature, and especially to poetry. The parables of Christ remain dark sayings; but what is there more precious in the world's store of knowledge?

How injurious then is our habit of depreciating children; we water their books down and drain them of literary flavour, because we wrongly suppose that children cannot understand what we understand ourselves; what is worse, we explain and we question. A few pedagogic maxims should help us, such as, "Do not explain." "Do not question," "Let one reading of a passage suffice," "Require the pupil to relate the passage he has read." The child must read to know; his teacher's business is to see that he knows. 

All the acts of generalization, analysis, comparison, judgment, and so on, the mind performs for itself in the act of knowing."  -vol 6, Charlotte Mason

one step at a time...

picture source


  1. This is a helpful reminder right now; thanks! Over-explaining and questioning puts a burden on my son to search out my expectations instead of ingesting the material.

  2. Guilty. I should tape this post over my mouth.

  3. Anonymous18.1.13

    But when do we discuss the books with them? So many times I can see that my teenage daughter is not understanding and then she just gives up. What should one do in such a case if we don't discuss?

  4. Christy,

    Sometimes Charlotte overemphasizes a point in order to show its importance. In other places in her writings, she mentions that discussion has its place. But since teachers tend to overuse discussion and explanations, she cautions us to generally leave it alone. The bottom line-wisdom must be used in deciding when and how much discussion should be utilized. If your daughter is completely lost, she needs your help. By all means, help her out. It is better to refrain from pointed questions, but using a few broad questions to help get your daughter thinking about a particular reading can be very helpful.

    Currently, my 14 year old is having troubles with War of the Worldviews. So, I have been reading aloud to her from it for the last two weeks just a brief section at a time and then asking her to narrate. When she gets lost, I explain and clarify. It is all beginning to make better sense to her and she is ready to continue the book on her own now.

    However, this same daughter came to me earlier in the year about another schoolbook. After a few prompting questions, I realized that she was understanding the general ideas just fine, but she was wanting to understand EVERY SINGLE WORD AND SENTENCE. I told her that she didn't have to understand everything and that as long as she was understanding the general events that were being described she was doing well and I told her not to worry about the particulars. At first, her narrations were terrible but with encouragement, she realized that all details were not necessary and I was okay with her explaining just the general events. This is all she needed to take off and now she narrates beautifully from this book and her understanding improves as time goes by.

    I compare CM's methods with current popular homeschool curricula that use "discussion and analysis" as the draw for using their program. Frankly, I believe that the heart and soul generally gets ripped to sheds from the readings as the student must answer vocabulary, plot and character questions and then listen to a long commentary from the author who claims that he understands the deeper meanings behind what the original author was writing and he is now going to impart the answers to you. He is not only doing the thinking for your student, he is also pushing his personal and religious ideas onto your student--and charging a nice, fat fee to do it. This is not education. It is indoctrination. Occasionally, some background information about the author and his book is very helpful for a student, but generally I have found that CM was right- less is more. I use other author's commentaries very judiciously and only occasionally.


  5. Anonymous18.1.13

    That is extremely helpful. The last paragraph reminds me of my Sonlight IG's in the upper cores...a lot. ;0)

  6. Anonymous18.1.13

    Oops forgot to say thank you.