Tag Archives: Education

Parenting Challenge–Teaching Reasoning


Children should be brought up, too, to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle's eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not the less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them.

Children should be brought up, too, to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle’s eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not the less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them–Charlotte Mason

Once upon a time, our family lived in a culture where it was not necessary to employ reason in our daily actions because there were laws that dictated our actions.  For example, a person would not kill his or her neighbor because there were a set of consequences that would result, not necessarily in a moral conscious twinge for taking a life, but laws that would punish and protect.  Then we moved to México and here discovered that laws do not guarantee reasonable behavior. (See On Life and Liberty)
Therefore children should be taught as they become mature enough to understand such teaching that the chief responsibility which rests upon then: as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas presented to them. To help them in this choice we should afford them principles of conduct and a wide range of fitting knowledge.–Charlotte Mason
So how can I, as a mother, provide these principles of conduct and a wide variety of fitting knowledge when the culture we live within is not my own?  Should I insist on the behavior of my own culture from my child?  Should I negate the culture surrounding us?  Should I compromise rules of conduct because the cultural norms of both cultures are not mutually exclusive?  The answer is:  it depends.
One example I mentioned before is that of the culturally permissible practice of lying in México.  (See Parenting Challenge–Telling Truths).  Lying is on my list of cardinal sins, but is so commonplace here that nothing spoken (or written) can be believed at full face value.  So we compromise.  Within our family, the rule is that we do not lie to one another, however outside the family circle, it is up to each member’s own reasoning ability whether to lie or not.
Then there is the touchy subject of religion.  México is predominantly Catholic.  The laws are made by Catholics for Catholics.  Anyone else outside that carefully maintained circle must fend for him or herself.  This includes nearly universal instruction de la fe (of the faith or more specifically Mexican Catholic faith) that the majority of private schools include as part of their regular curriculum.  Public schools have after-hour Catechism now because technically there is a separation of church and state by law, if not by practice.  All of my son’s classmates at the public school he attends, also attend Catechism in preparation for their first communions.  My son does not. (See Homeschool Variation).  If his remaining unbaptized in the Catholic faith makes him like the animals (as his grandmother repeatedly told him) then so be it.  He and I are animals.
Conventional religious instruction should not be confused with faith which can include any number of religions.  We talk in our family openly about faith and what it can and can not do and how it is different from religion.  So how do we navigate these tricky waters?  By taking them one issue at a time.  (See Parenting Challenge–When someone dies).  Each unexpected disaster, each surprising wonder is an opportunity for us to discuss as a family what it means to have faith and what faith looks like, for us and for those around us.  (See Carnival, Lent, Pilgrimages).
Each discussion teaches us anew that … .there is no single point upon which two persons may reason,––food, dress, games, education, politics, religion,––but the two may take opposite sides, and each will bring forward infallible proofs which must convince the other were it not that he too is already convinced by stronger proofs to strengthen his own argument.–Charlotte Mason.  (See Politicking)
So my task as a mother and educator for my son is to develop his reasoning abilities through a broad spectrum of lessons and experiences. (See Parenting Challenge–Creating an Atmosphere for Education)  Beyond the English grammar worksheet in the morning and the Mexican history lesson in the afternoon, there are other lessons to learn.   Sometimes these lessons are through his own studies (See Parenting Challenge–Education as a Discipline) and sometimes they are incidental. (See Parenting Challenge–Conformity and Education, Parenting Challenge–Cultural Apathy).  And I continue to work at this because I firmly believe that the function of education is not to give technical skill but to develop a person; the more of a person, the better the work of whatever kind; and who doesn’t want his or her child to become a whole person?
It is my hope, that even though the laws in this country prove without a doubt that no wrong thing has ever been done or said, no crime committed but has been justified to the perpetrator by arguments coming to him involuntarily and produced with cumulative force by his own reason that my son can develop his own reasoning to find his own way as he travels through life.  Since once we are convinced of the fallibility of our own reason we are able to detect the fallacies in the reasoning of our opponents and are not liable to be carried away by every wind of doctrine or custom.

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Parenting Challenge–Conformity and Education

The other day I was asked what secondary school my son would be attending. As he is only 11, I hadn’t thought much about it. This person, with good intentions, began listing the attributes of different schools in the area. I started to get stressed. Maybe I should start investigating? Maybe I should start visiting the schools to see what they offer and what the facilities are like? Maybe I should start planning for my son’s future? Then I had to take a deep breath and get ahold of myself. I had to remind myself why we sent my son to school in the first place.

What the traditional classroom does not teach our children

What the traditional classroom does not teach our children

My son attends a Mexican public school 4 hours a day, 200 days a year. We made the decision to send him to school, not because we thought the school system here was adequate for life learning, but because we realized that in order for him to one day integrate into our community, he would need skills that neither I, as a foreigner, nor his father, who never went to school, could teach him. (See Homeschool Variation) We wanted him to learn the habits and customs of the region, along with the language, so that if he chose to remain here, he could do so with moderate to extreme success. With those reasons, who cares what school he goes to???

Mexico is no different than the U.S. in their educational methods. They employ a curriculum based on service to self rather than service to the world. Students have been taught to do as they are told, become successful to buy more things, pay their taxes, run the maze, never mind that isn’t enough to truly be. As we do not want my son to be like most men who… .go through life without a single definite act of willing. Habit, convention, the customs of the world have done so much for us that we get up, dress, breakfast, follow our morning’s occupations, our later relaxations, without an act of choice.–Charlotte Mason — our daily activities are often at odds with the culture we find ourselves in. (see Forcibly Green–Obligatory Organic ) This way of life has caused some angst on the part of my pre-teen son. (see Parenting challenge–cultural apathy). Sometimes he just wants to do what everyone else does. I admit, at times I feel the same. It’s so hard to always be at odds with those who live around you, to not know the socially correct response in a given situation. When I start feeling this way, I have to remind myself that I made the conscious choice to live life as a field mouse rather than a lab rat and, therefore, this social discomfort is the price I pay. Teaching this ‘will’ can only be done through indirect means rather than a series of planned lessons. (see Parenting Challenge–Creating an Atmosphere for Education) Mostly it comes down to demonstrating through actions, the difference between what is and what could be, that there are no right answers, only more questions, and that there always, always is a choice and those choices always, always have consequences.

This service of man (or as Charlotte Mason says, service of God) is a difficult path to be sure. I’d like to give up, especially after being hammered with lawsuits (See Demanda 1 Demanda 2) for getting in the way of another’s service to self. But as I stand as an example for my son, my actions, whether I wish it or not, are observed by him; my decisions, intentionally or not, affect his life; so I can not in all good conscience throw in the towel. But as for being stressed out over sending him to a good school? Bah. The best school is the one you make for yourself as you travel through life.

Freethinkers are not formed in a standard classroom setting.

Freethinkers are not formed in a standard classroom setting.




Filed under Carnival posts, Education, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Parenting Challenge–Education as a Discipline

Our vacation education project!

Our vacation education project!

Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight. –Charlotte Mason

During the long 2 week vacation that comes with Semana Santa (Holy Week), I started my 10-year-old son on an educational path that involved the book “The Most Dangerous Book for Boys” by Con and Hal Iggulden. With a title like that, you would have thought that he would have dove right in, but it took a little prompting and finally a stern mandate that he was to read one section of the book and complete the activity (if it had one) each and every day of the vacation period. However, I moderated that he could choose whatever topic he wished. So reluctantly he took the book to his room and thumbed through the table of contents, only to return a few minutes later to ask if he really could choose whatever topic. I responded affirmatively, and his excitement was evident. He went back to reading and came back again asking if he could do more than one section a day. Of course, he could.

As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the act of knowing. –Charlotte Mason

The first thing he read was about how to make paper airplanes. The house is now littered with the ones he learned from the book and several that he made his own adaptations to. Then he read about building a tree house, although I asked him what he thought he would do with that information since we do not have any trees large enough to support a tree house (cactus is not inherently stable enough to house a tree house.) But he wanted to read it, so he did. I came home from classes and found he had adapted the information to make a second dog house for Cocoa all on his own. (The first dog house, constructed with the help of his dad, has been taken over by 2 kittens and Hershey the new puppy.) Another day, he asked me to bring home vinegar and blotting paper for the newest experiment, a battery made with vinegar, quarters, copper wire, salt, and blotting paper. As blotting paper could not be found, he substituted thin cardboard and set to work. After a failed attempt (he had forgotten the salt) he tried again, his dad looking on. The second attempt also failed, (the light bulb was too large), so he tried again, doubling the number of quarters. He still wasn’t able to make the bulb light up, but he was able to create a spark, so the experiment was deemed a success.

making a battery

Working on making a battery from quarters and vinegar.

The bad habit of the easy life is always pleasant and persuasive and to be resisted with pain and effort, but with hope and certainty of success, because in our very structure is the preparation for forming such habits of muscle and mind as we deliberately propose to ourselves.–Charlotte Mason

My son’s new found enthusiasm for experimentation has sparked my husband’s mind as well. My husband has retooled our moto (motorcycle) wagon and is now gathering materials for making an attempt at a windmill to provide us with electricity since it seems that the powers that be in this area are not interested in their civic duties. My husband has always been creative but slipped into complacency this past year. I hope that his new projects will reawaken what was once a sharp and agile mind.

side car

Moto-cart. Just the thing for transporting!

Physical fitness, morals and manners, are very largely the outcome of habit; and not only so, but the habits of the religious life also become fixed and delightful and give us due support in the effort to live a godly, righteous and sober life. We need not be deterred by the fear that religious habits in a child are mechanical, uninformed by the ideas which should give them value. –Charlotte Mason

Having myself been raised in a religiously strict household, I have taken a more indirect approach to religion with my son. Instead of attending regular religious services, we look for God in the everyday. Instead of forced bible readings, I present tidbits that prompt his own investigations. “The most Dangerous Book for Boys” contains sections on the greatest battles ever fought since the beginning of recorded history. Of course, this included biblical figures such as Nebuchadnezzar. He read the section covering the conflict in the book, then went off with a bible to gather more details about Nebuchadnezzar’s life and times.

It is as we have seen disastrous when child or man learns to think in a groove, and shivers like an unaccustomed bather on the steps of a new notion. This danger is perhaps averted by giving children as their daily diet the wise thoughts of great minds, and of many great minds; so that they may gradually and unconsciously get the courage of their opinions. –Charlotte Mason

There are sections on scientists, explorers, inventors, poets, excerpts from Shakespeare, The Declaration of Independence, and the King James Version of the Bible. There are readings on overcoming adversity, scientific discovery and reaching out towards self-awareness. I was delighted to find some of my own childhood favorites included. After all, my own life is based on what Frost tried to say “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference” and it is my hope that my son will find his own path armed with all the knowledge and education that I lay before him.



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