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Monday, February 4, 2013

thoughts on mind...

Imagination, Reason, Conscience, etc., are all present in even the very young child.
How do you measure those? How do you measure the mind?

One of the scariest things when I first started teaching my own kids was, the realization that I can't see what they've learned. I can't measure it. Have you ever noticed that and felt a little nervous? I'm pretty sure that's why tests were ever invented in the first place; because some well meaning teacher got a little nervous, started wondering if the kids had been listening, and just for good measure started asking questions. Enter big schools, and tests came to serve as, not the measure of, as that is impossible, but an indicator of learning. Administrators (government?) want to know whether large numbers of children have memorized what the teachers said, and whether or not teachers have covered the material intended for consumption by the masses. Of course, as would be the case, teachers couldn't help trying to secure their students' success (and theirs) by skipping right to the point and teaching them just what would be on the test. Yes, we've come a long way, baby! If this is even a little like what has happened, one might begin to question whether or not tests really are all that necessary. Has all that come as a result of feeling a little bit nervous because we can't see or measure a mind? Hmmmm...

We can't see the mind, either. We can't see what's happening inside the mind; which obviously includes the interior of the minds of children we are hoping to see educated. And last time I checked, neither can we see ideas. And though we can't see which ideas are causing a spark, which are making connections, which fall flat or those which are basically running wild causing unchecked mind development in our kids, there may be certain clues. We might head in several directions to try and find evidence of the education by idea.

We could test for it. And we might fail the test - both we and our students.
Or, we could believe it's inevitably taking place, and foster it further by providing the things necessary: atmosphere, good books, short lessons, variety of material, good books, healthy habits, opportunity to tell back, interesting ideas, good books, discussion, encouragement, did I mention, good books?

Some learners provide more evidence to the interior work of idea than others. Possible clues of an idea at work might be: a wrinkled brow, staring out the window, irritability, incessant talking around a given subject, hand cramps, towering piles of notes, etc. ;)
“Brain is the instrument of mind, as piano is an instrument of music." "Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen.”
The invisible yet recognizable by those who've experienced the process of mind feeding on idea is thus:
“we hear of... a new thought of some poet... we take in, accept, the idea and for days after every book we read, every person we talk with brings food to the newly entertained notion.” v6p40
I cannot even tell how many times I have been inspired, carried away or even tortured by idea. It happens ALL the time. I love it. The feeling of making connection upon connection to flesh out a concept, is an intellectual thrill almost unequaled. It seems like it could be almost as addictive to the mind as some drugs are to the body, though I wouldn't know from personal experience. At any rate, it certainly gives the mind an exhilerating charge. Conversely, there are no negative effects, only stimulation and growth. Unfortunately, the process cannot be forced. I can't will my mind to connect things, it just happens by giving time and letting it happen. By feeding on lots of different idea sources, some stick, some propagate, some lie fallow for a time. But inevitably, the work of mind is done.

I figure, that it's disrespectful of the mind of a person to bore them with over explanation, or to force a person to listen to something they are completely not interested in. But presenting interesting ideas especially clothed in story, sparing stacks of facts, giving just enough to properly inform, leaving them hungry for more (or not, as the case may be); this is education that respects the person. {That is not to say that children (or adults) will always consciously WANT to hear the book, look at the pictures, that is in essence; to learn. But when treated respectfully, I'm pretty sure they'll come around. eventually.}

In any given subject, with language well expressed, give the child some details, and he will fill in the outline with his own imagination in perfect color. Mind speaks to mind by means of idea, NOT through play, environment, much talk, models, graphs or charts, as good as though those things may be at times.
“History must afford its pageants, science its wonders, literature its intimacies, philosophy its speculations, religion its assurances to every man, and his education must have prepared him for wanderings in these realms of gold.” v6P????
On the reverse side, a child should not be misled out of the joy of learning to know, by encouragement toward greed (wanting to be the best) or emulation (to be the best talked about or thought of), since delight comes naturally when he finds through carefully subtle guidance and wisely chosen books, that he is already in a large and richly decorated room, with many other rooms only waiting to be discovered.

We ought to be awed by the minds of children... and in so doing, we might be at once 'better prepared to consider how and upon what children should be educated'.

Children, students or not, are engaged in Self-Education; ideally, alongside of wise teachers and parent guides. We must respect the minds of children if we want to secure their well placed interest.
"It is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses." v6p40
My kids do amaze me. While I can't measure their minds. Often, I am blown away at how well they listen to stories, catch the important underlying concepts, as well as many ancillary details, and can accurately tell back what they've heard. But quite apart from school, their minds always seem to be working, as evidenced by their incessant questions and persistent returns to the same subject matter, among other clues. It is truly shocking... unless of course you are constantly aware of how amazing their Creator really is, and that He made them like that on purpose. In that case, they are just doing what they are made to do, as a matter of course.

This has been a reflection on Charlotte Mason's Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, Towards a Philosophy of Education, Chapter 2.
You can read it here.

1 comment:

TL Glaser said...

If we test for it, then it is like we are constantly ripping the seeds out as they are beginning to root. We get in the way of their ability to grow every time we drag them out of their natural environment. Very lovely thoughts, Amy!

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