Saturday, October 9, 2010

Magnum Opus of a child's mind

"The Wart did not know what Merlin was talking about, but liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned."  This marvelous quote from The Once and Future King by T.H White reminded me of yet another reason why I homeschool. The truth of the matter is that children do not like to be talked-down to.

Our society believes that children are less superior to adults. Our children are riddled with dumbed down lessons as evidenced in the Disney renditions of the classics such as Bambi by Felix Salten , The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen and Heidi by Johanna Spyri. On and on, title after title, Sunday School class after Sunday school class, Classroom upon classroom. We are living in a culture that has "dumbed down" education.

When we read good books to our children we are exposing them to the good thoughts from the author who penned that story. Charlotte Mason, a British educational philosopher who studied and educated children for over 60 years asserts, "We feed upon the thoughts of other minds; and thought applied to thought generates thought and we become more thoughtful"( Vol. 6, ch. 1, p. 26). She continues with an analogy that our minds need quality food, and much of it every day, just as our bodies need 3 square meals a day. We do our best to feed our children a varied diet of nutritious food so their physical bodies will grow strong. But, what are we feeding into the minds' of our children? Are we placing before them a feast such as is found in good literature, beautiful music, brilliant paintings, biographies of brilliant people, and walks in nature to stimulate their minds to grow!?

Miss Mason continues, "The mind , like the body, digests its proper food, and it must have the labour of digestion or it ceases to function. But the children ask for bread and we give them a stone; we give information about objects and events which mind does not attempt to digest but casts out bodily ( upon an examination paper). But let information hang upon a principle, be inspired by an idea, and it is taken with avidity and used in making whatsoever in the spiritual nature stands for tissue in the physical" ( vol. 6, ch. 1, p. 26).

What do you suppose are the stones we are feeding to our children? Are we offering them quality materials that can be digested in their minds? Are we setting before them a feast to educate upon?

If thought begets thought, as Miss Mason claims , don't you want brilliant ideas for your children to feast upon?

Last night I was reading an article about the new Facebook movie called Social Networking. The article was referring to ideas building upon ideas which lead to inventions. I pondered this concept of people having ideas, that feed more people with more ideas, until eventually an idea evolves and an invention is created. This is what happens in the mind of a child when he is stimulated to think because of the influence of the great minds. A bountiful curriculum leads to abundant thinking and this leads to brilliant minds.

Just as The Wart (the young boy from The Once and Future King) loved sitting in the presence of adults and deciphering their conversations, we should be presenting books and art that would be considered above the minds of our young children. Instead of reading the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, read the real version written by Hans Christian Anderson. Instead of watching Shirley Temple as Heidi, read the original book by Johanna Spyri. Experience the Magnum opus of Shakespeare with your children. Study the masterpieces by Vermeer and Waterhouse. Listen to Mozart and experience the glory of God by exploring creation.

My 14 year old is experiencing the hardships of David Copperfiled through Charles Dickens, Shrew Taming from the mind of Shakespeare, The adventures of Merlin  from the imaginations of T.H, White, The culture of Normans and Anglo-Saxons from Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, the language of Middle English Poetry, the use of lighting in The paintings of Vermeer, the spirit of God in the sounds of Beethoven, the intricacy of the human body in the study of anatomy through the mind of a professor and the life of Dr. Paul Brand, the articulations of Spanish through Mrs. Neve, and much more.

I tell you this to show you how a 14 year old can be fed a generous feast of ideas. She is capable because she is a human being that has a mind to think. Unfortunately, if she were in a public school, she would likely be spoon fed ideas, rather than left alone with the ideas which will naturally build within her more ideas and a strong character and life long love of learning. Did I mention that she LOVES school?!