Excellence in Education.

Last night, Anthony (youngest son) and I had a discussion on education and excellence.

We were cleaning up together after visitors.

Some of our conversation with our visitors had been on educational excellence.

While cleaning the kitchen , Anthony mentioned his thoughts. To his mind, the most important goals in education were to “have a love for learning and to know the basics.”

If by basics Anthony means the tools of learning, then I am right there with him.

The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers.

Sometimes, Anthony reminds me of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes – he says the most amazing things!

My Story

We are reading the novels in the My Story series.

Published by Ashton Scholastic, each novel is a personal account of a fictional character living within a time period of Australian history.

Currently the books in the series span Australian history from the 1770s to 1975.

We also have the three accompanying Teacher’s Guides.

Reading these novels is my idea – living literature for Australian Studies . Gerry ( dh) and Thomas read some of these novels last year and found them to be both interesting and informative – learned more about Australian history via reading.

I’ve asked some of the kids to choose a novel, read it and we’ll follow up with discussions and narrations and activities.

This week, Alexander finished the novel on Sir Donald Bradman.

This novel not only remembered the cricketer but also the man and his almost iconic status. Alexander pointed out that Donald Bradman was often a hero, a ray of hope and a positive distraction to those suffering during the Great Depression – so, naturally, this novel looks at the Great Depression and at life in Australia at that time.

All of the My Story books are written in the form of either diaries and journals or personal letters. We have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to write in such a style.

And why choose fiction? Can fiction enable us to understand another’s life more easily? To become enveloped in the story? Does it whet our appetite for more serious history study?

What about the problem of bias and interpretation?

The educator Charlotte Mason saw value in teaching history as the story of one person. She wrote,

“The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn ‘outlines’ of the whole history… just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

What is education?

At the 4 real learning forum, we have been discussing unschooling.

What is unschooling? Is it another form of education, of homeschooling?

To a certain extent, one could say that our family is a family of unschoolers. Especially if one uses the quote below from educator John Holt, to describe our unschooly homeshool.

However, I do hate labels – we never quite fit the parameter of any one particular box, be it the unschool box, the homeschool box, the Catholic box… I suspect this is true for most.

The quote ~

Any child who can spend an hour or two a day, or more if he wants, with adults that he likes, who are interested in the world and like to talk about it, will on most days learn far more from their talk than he would learn in a week of school. ~John Holt

This quote describes part of our homeschooling life and our philosophy of homeschooling.

So, what is education?

A poster at the 4 real board posted a link to this article ~ What Does It Mean to be Well Educated?

This article makes me cringe .The example used by the author – his wife – is the example that causes me to grimace. The author points out that his wife does not know literature, for example, but is a deep thinker, a physician, well educated, etc. I am sure she is all these things.

So, why does this make me cringe? I think because the author does not give us the impression that his wife is continuing to learn – to realize “Hey, I know a lot about some things and I enjoy thinking about them and contributing to society. But when people talk about literature I have no idea. Maybe I’m missing somethng here? I’ll continue with my self education and read literature and broaden my horizons.”

There is a self satisfaction promoted by the article, a postmodern view that all learning is equal, all things are good….

To me, education and to be educated implies having a thirst for knowledge and for thought and/or discussion, self learning, never stopping learning…throughout life.

In part, that is why I like unschooling – it tends to encourage and feed this thirst for self learning.

And in part, that is why I am no longer a radical unschooler – I wanted to add to our life, to add some “let’s do” to our days and weeks – rather than just an reliance on strewing.

For me a “let’s do” has a bit more emphasis than strewing. It has a stronger encouragment for areas for which my sons may not naturally feel an attraction , even when we strewing and set examples as role models.

Areas that are important, that we parents see as having value ~ areas that are noble and good.

I like this essay ~ C. S. Lewis on a Liberal Arts Education.

Lewis describes a liberal arts education as an education that makes one free. Free from the slavery of appetite and free to choose to be self disciplined. To learn from the past, to think , to fulfill one’s humanity, to become a better person and a better citizen.

“Most of all, perhaps, we need an intimate knowledge of the past.” C.S. Lewis

Perhaps we are liberal arts unschoolers?

A few quotes

I found these quotes while searching for appropriate quotes , for a piece that I was asked to write, on older children leaving the home. On how mothers deal with the separation.

The quotes stand alone. They speak volumes .

“That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike!” Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis

“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.” Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus


A little Science.

Funny. January must be a Science month.

I read Theresa’s blog and noted their bacteria exeriments.

Jennifer and her daughter have embarked on a study of birds.

We also undertook Science activities this last week – on Thursday.

It all began with a clearing and organizing project. January is good for these sort of jobs!

We re-organized our “school boxes”, the containers in which we keep projects and notebooks and drawings and writing and anything else we can stick into a file folder and call a portfolio for the Board of Studies.

We tidied up some homeschooling shelves. I threw into the recycle bin a pile of papers – notes and ideas and themes and units. No point in hoarding..

In the process, we came across a few Science textbooks, primary and secondary level.

I asked Alexander, Thomas and Anthony to each select a book of interest from this group, to pop into their school boxes for possible reading.

Straight away, Thomas and Anthony became interested in the Science activities in the books.

Anthony made a water lens – see the pic above. You can make a similar

Thomas attempted to create and observe static electricity ~ do you know how difficult it is to create static electricity when you want to? Or how easy it is to create and exerience static electricity in every day life, when you could care less? There must be some sort of Murphy’s Law applicable to this situation..