Paying Attention on Reading the Poem lesson days.

In the ‘How to Use the Teacher’s Notes for First Reading Lessons’ the instructions read:
Read the poem with the student. Help them with sounds and words when they need help.

I suppose that is enough said. But, of course, there is more to say on it- both from my experience and from Charlotte Mason.

What I would have liked to add, but, for sake of space, didn’t, was:
Although they studied these words in the lesson, they may not be able to read them on Read the Poem lesson day.

And then I would like to add my original thoughts on that statement:
What are we doing these lessons for, if it’s not to know these words when we see them?

I had this thought and acted on it when I went through the Reading Lessons with my daughter and son. My philosophy was influencing my expectations and therefore, my  method. You might be asking this questions as well.

Then I’d like to add:
to learn anything according to the philosophy of CM one builds a relationship.

Just as it is with history, art, music, and literature so it is with reading lessons. And just as it is with people, history, art, music, and literature, to build a relationship takes time.

I thought that once my children saw the word in the lesson and pictured it in their mind, if we were using attention as we should be, that was the end of it—learned. done.

Being a CM fan, I knew that attention was paramount and I wanted to train it. I knew by this point in my study of CM, that attention could and should be trained in every subject all the time. So in my enthusiasm to live out the philosophy through the method of reading lessons, I took the challenge of holding up the attention standard and making sure it was accomplished. To play that philosophic principle out in the method of lessons looks like this:
if the students’ attention were on and employed fully, then, they’ll know this word—now-and-forever-after when they see it. A happy ever after. The Charlotte Mason way.

Well… it was not happy nor ever after.

This was a high standard. It was done with good intentions and with knowledge of CM and even CM quotes, but it was a misrepresentation of the entirety of the philosophy. Pulling out one portion, one thought, one piece, one word is dangerous to the study and application of anything.  A true application must take the whole into account.

So, of course, this zeal for attention put stress on my children when we read the poem at the end of a unit. Because I expected their attention to remember a word forever-after, I assumed they should know the word when we read the poem. Fortunately the damage from my well-intentioned attention standard was not often and eventually my way grew clearer.

This is how we sometimes apply the philosophy in the wrong way and stray with good intentions. We forget that each subject has to filtered through the same complete lens. Each action, each thing we allow, each discipline we bring has its underlying philosophy that plays out. There is something that we are believing when we act. It will affect the output.

As I held up this standard of one-time-seeing then forever-knowing in the name of training attention, I was turning the tables away from a natural learning process. This is not a Living Education. A Living Education capitalizes on the natural, God given desires and motivations which children and all people have. It is not a standard to meet, not a challenge to be conquered. Standards to be met and challenges to be overcome are not bad, nor to be avoided. This was not the arena for them.

The goal is not attention at all costs. A Living Education uses attention as one of its building blocks, but it is not the prize. It is a habit used to help us get to the prize—it’s one of several processes that are foundation blocks to reach the goal. The goal is attention strengthened along the way. The goal is to set a path that keeps a love of learning.  In a natural way this journey, traveled over time in joyful relationship with subjects and people is a Living Education.

Here are some passages from Charlotte’s Volumes that enlighten my thoughts:

            The worst of it is, both authors and publishers in every case act upon the fallacy that well-intentioned effort is always excusable, if not praiseworthy. They do not perceive that no effort is permissible towards education of children without an intelligent conception, both of children, and of what is meant by education. – Volume 1  p247

            …it is not for lack of earnestness and intention on the part of the teacher; his error is rather want of confidence in children. He has not formed a just measure of a child’s mind … – Volume 6  p41

            It seems to me that education, which appeals to the desire for wealth (marks, prizes, scholarships, or the like), or to the desire of excelling (as in the taking of places, etc.), or to any other of the natural desires, except that for knowledge, destroys the balance of character; and, what is even more fatal, destroys by inanition that desire for and delight in knowledge which is meant for our joy and enrichment through the whole of life. “A desire for knowledge,’ says Dr Johnson, “is the natural feeling of mankind, and every human being whose mind is not debauched will be willing to give all that he has to get knowledge.” Is it possible that what has been called ‘mark-hunger’ is debauchery of the mind? The undebauched mind takes knowledge with avidity; and we find their studies are so interesting to children that they need no other stimulus. – Volume 3  p226

          Education the Science of Relations.—We consider that education is the science of relations, or, more fully, that education considers what relations are proper to a human being, and in what ways there several relations can best be established; that a human being comes into the world with capacity for many relations; and that we, for our part, have two chief concerns—first, to put him in the way of forming these relations by presenting the right idea at the right time, and by forming the right habit upon the right idea; and, secondly, by not getting in the way and so preventing the establishment of the very relations we seek to form.
Teaching must not be Obtrusive.—Half the teaching one hears and sees is more or less obtrusive…We study in many ways the art of standing aside. People sometimes write that the books set in our school constitute much of its usefulness; they do not always see that the choice of books, which implies the play of various able minds directly on the mind of the child, is a great part of that education which consists in the establishment of relations. – Volume 3 p65-66

            The psychologists—not your craft, this time, Doctor—tell us that enormous curiosity, a ravenous appetite for knowledge, is as natural to children as bread-and-milk hunger. Put the two together; the boy has an eager desire to know—has the power of fixing his whole mind on the new thoughts set before him, and it’s as easy as A B C; of course he learns with magical quickness. The field has been ploughed by the parents, and you have only to sow your seed.” – Volume 5  p165

            First, as to her lessons: you must help her to gain the power of attention; that should have been done long ago, but better late than never, and an aunt who has given her mind to these matters takes blame to herself for not having seen the want sooner. ‘But,’ I fancy you are saying, ‘if the child has no faculty of attention, how can we give it to her? It’s just a natural defect.’ Not a bit of it! Attention is not a faculty at all, though I believe it is worth more than all the so-called faculties put together; this, at any rate, is true, that no talent, no genius, is worth much without the power of attention; and this is the power which makes men or women successful in life…
          Attention is no more than this—the power of giving your mind to what you are about—the bigger the better so far as the mind goes, and great minds do great things; but have you never known a person with a great mind, ‘real genius,’ his friends say, who goes through life without accomplishing anything? It is just because he wants the power to ‘turn on,’ so to speak, the whole of his great mind; he is unable to bring the whole of his power to bear on the subject in hand. ‘But Kitty?’ Yes, Kitty must get this power of ‘turning on.’ She must be taught to give her mind to sums and reading, and even to dusters. Go slowly; a little to-day and a little more to-morrow. – Volume 5 p29-30

          The question is not,—how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? – Volume 3 p170-171