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18 August 2017

Morning Lessons and Long Afternoons

I've seen people talk about having mornings reserved for lessons, and long afternoons for kids to enjoy their own pursuits... and I've often wondered how people get all the work done in the morning! For a long time, I thought that maybe it was our odd schedule -- my husband's previous work was on a second shift schedule, and he held that position for over a decade, so we had very short mornings and late nights, in order to facilitate the maximum "daddy time", and allow him to participate in our bedtime routine. Had we been doing public school during those years, the kids would have only seen their dad on the weekends, which was not an acceptable alternative! So we had this odd, late schedule. And while it's been more than a year since he changed jobs and schedules, it's proving difficult to fix the schedule that the kids and I keep. So I assumed that part of the problem with our inability to get all our school work done in the mornings was lingering schedule issues. And probably some of it is.


I was reading the Introduction to A Philosophy of Education today. I've read a fair amount of this volume before, but I typically skip introductions, so I missed this last time. This is what Miss Mason says:

This scheme is carried out in less time than ordinary school work on the same subjects. There are no revisions, no evening lessons, no cramming or "getting up" of subjects; therefore there is much time whether for vocational work or interests or hobbies. All intellectual work is done in the hours of morning school, and the afternoons are given to field nature studies, drawing, handicrafts, etc. Notwithstanding these limitations the children produce a surprising amount of good intellectual work. No homework is required. 
-Charlotte Mason, 6:9

I turns out that Miss Mason and I define "academic work" very differently, and that's part of the "problem" that I've been puzzling over: she appears to be dividing the students' work in to academic and non-academic work... and I haven't been: it's all school work to me. Miss Mason includes Nature Study in non-academic work, done in the afternoon. I like to go out in the morning; the weather is typically better. We also need to travel to our Nature Study area -- not far, it's just a local park -- but the need to travel to get there means that we don't do a little bit every day, we tend instead to do it once a week, and use about three quarters of our school day on it when we go out. Drawing and art work in general is another thing that I tend to do at less frequent intervals for larger chunks of time because that works better for our family.

Additionally, I love this idea:

When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task. 
-Charlotte Mason 1:141

The idea of arranging the day so that we typically move to a lesson that is unlike what we are currently doing is very appealing to me. In practice, what I actually do is put all our lessons on a markerboard, and let the kids choose what they want to work on next. It doesn't actually matter to me what order they do them in the majority of the time, so long as they are done at the end of the day, and the kids relish the opportunity to make those small choices. The distinction between lessons with Mom and independent lessons is, practically speaking, far more important in our day that Miss Mason's divisions of academic vs. nonacademic work. Independent work tends to be what we finish before lunch, simply because they don't have to wait turns to do it. Interestingly, when left to chose their own order, the kids nearly always order their days so that the next lesson is quite unlike the one just finished.

So it's really instructive to see what, exactly, Miss Mason is including in her afternoon work, because it makes me aware that the largest reason that we're "unsuccessful" at doing our lessons in the morning is because I don't make that kind of academic/nonacademic distinction, and in fact, leaving "nonacademic" projects for the afternoon would not work well for our situation for a variety of reasons. I am inclined to think that changing up the categories of lessons is not a critical alteration to the method: things like solid habits of attention and narration, the broad feast being spread, the respect of the individual student, and attention to the development of student character all strike me as being far more central to the classical education methods and philosophy that Miss Mason was teaching. While the specifics of our schedule doesn't exactly match hers, the principles that underlie: making sure that the important, but less academic, perhaps less obviously "educational" schedule items get adequate time, that is something that we both have in common on schedules that work for our specific situations.

Makes me glad that I read from her volumes; it's easy to start to worry that I'm somehow doing it wrong. But Miss Mason's ways are so gentle and lovely, it's well worth the effort of reading them yourself.


Anne Chovies said...

Sometimes I forget that I'm not in Facebook when I'm here and I find myself looking for the "Like" button

Ritsumei said...

I have done that!


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