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Beauty in the Word – Ch. 1 Child, Person, Teacher

Beauty in the Word – Ch. 1 Child, Person, Teacher

This is part of the ongoing discussion with Cindy at Ordo-Amoris.

Stratford Caldecott devotes this chapter to describing the nature of the personhood of the child and how teacher and child interrelate with one another and with God.

Child-Centered vs Teacher-Centered Approach to Education

Caldecott points out fairly the devastating effects of over-emphasizing either the child or the teacher/method/curriculum. “[Romantic] educators believe that too much rote learning and compulsion will turn children against education altogether—and in Catholic circles away from the church. Whereas, too much child-centered education results in “such absurdities as pupils being given certificates of recognition for ‘future achievements’ that may never happen and refusal to award low grades or admit failure…[resulting in] narcissism, overconfidence, and vacuous sentimentality” (19).

So how do we find a new balance, a new approach that does justice to the positive in both of these methods of education? (20)

For Caldecott, the answer lies in attending to a specifically Christian definition of what it means to be a child. This is why the public school system can never get education right.  It’s not just a middle-ground between child- or teacher-centered education we should seek, it’s that government bureaucrats can only define the child in psychological, social, or developmental terms, certainly never spiritual.  Caldecott says the child shows the image of God better than the adult–a sort-of more pure form of human. “It is the central image of man, a sign and pointer towards his origin and the purity of his original being” (27).

At first, I was skeptical of this claim, being a firm believer that children are sinners just like the rest of us.  Anyone who’s ever parented through the terrible-twos can clearly see how ungodly even the cutest of children are.

Caldecott, thank goodness, says “This is not to romanticize or idealize childhood, but to understand it in the light of a new fact: the Incarnation of the second person of the divine Trinity” (26).  That Christ came to us in the form of a child–a fetus no less–shows us that even that bit of humanity is redeemed and within reach of the eternal, ever-loving God of the Universe.  The Lord of Heaven and Earth humbled himself to the point of total dependence on earthly parents.  Yikes.

But children do have a strange way of seeing the world.  Call it innocence, call it purity, call it trust.  In all our work to form them into adults like us, sometimes we fail to realize how different children really are from us.  We must pay attention to the fact that there is something inherent in childhood that Christ wants us to imitate, when He said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15).

I love what Cindy said about “the way we really learn in sprints and spurts and rests,” and, “Learning is ALWAYS individual because of the nature of growth.”  This is a radical idea even to homeschooling parents.  Don’t we “need” to be doing 5 lessons per week, for X number of weeks, to “stay on track?”  No, there’s nothing wrong with hitting benchmarks on the way to long-term goals, but LIFE happens, and people aren’t machines.

I also like the way the veteran journalism teacher says it in this new HSLDA video on Common Core.  “They’re not apples, they’re people!”  That is, they’re not objects to be traded or consumed, or pushed along an assembly line toward a college degree and successful career.  They are living beings with hearts and dreams, who trust easily and are purer than ourselves.

So how shall we teach such beings?  I’m sure Caldecott will spend the rest of the book fleshing this out but he says, “If attention to the child is the key to the teacher’s success, it is the child’s own quality of attention that is the key to the learning process” (30).

The teacher’s purpose is to help the student “attend” to truth.  “Attention is desire: it is the desire for light, for truth, for understanding, for possession” (30). If the nature of a child is to trust and believe more easily than us, we simply need to direct their trusting and belief toward truth.

We’ll see what Caldecott has in store for us in Chapter 2.

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.


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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

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  • PSA: Don’t let curriculum publishers and internet ads scare you into thinking you NEED to buy their products to get your kids a solid education. #askamom #momsmentoringmoms
  • #Homeschooling when you didn’t choose it:
I would feel totally overwhelmed and underprepared if I were in your shoes. Homeschooling is hard even when you did choose it. We’ve changed a little, too. Every meal is a reading meal these days if the kids want that. (They do🤓.)
So, please ask me all your questions. I and other HSing mamas in your community have YEARS of experience with this atypical version of education. How can we help you and your specific kids in your specific situation? We have learned a lot of things the hard way and we are happy to help make this time smoother for you.
What I desperately hope: those of you stuck in a situation you didn’t want AT ALL, might come to see education a little differently. It can be flexible. It can happen over the course of a whole day, with snacks, outside time, screen time, and play interspersed between lessons.
This type of education is more about LIFE and HOME than you might think. While your students may be doing the same work assigned by the school, the setting change from school to home will change almost everything else about their educational experience this semester.
Here are my two favorite tips to get you started:
1. Use short lessons. 
2. Alternate between types of work.
The younger the kids, the shorter the lessons. Ballpark: elementary should be 15-30min/subject max. Middle school 30-45min/subject max.
How does this look? Have your student read for 15 min, then do something physical for 15, then do handwriting for 15. That kind of a thing. “A change is as good as a rest."
Don’t expect elementary kids to complete the whole assignment in such a short lesson. Just expect focused attention for that time, no matter how far he gets in the work. That builds the habit of, “when we sit to do school, we focus on school.” If you have to do 5 or 10 minute lessons because that’s all he had the attention for, that’s totally normal. Build up to longer periods, but it’s not really reasonable developmentally to expect hour-long math sessions for very young students. Those lead to tears. Ask me how I know.
  • Some days are just “pull your big girl panties on and handle your business like a grownup” days. Cheers to all of you who handled your business today. #navywifelife #adulting
  • This is the best kind of helpful. 🥰💛☕️
  • Everybody loves bacon! Also, breakfast for dinner + wine + good tunes = a good, chill cure for a Monday. 🎶Man cannot live by bread alone🎶 @michaelbuble @thirdday @theweepies @ginnyowensofficial @norahjones #family #familydinner
  • Just in case you need this message today.  #suicideprevention #dontgiveupsigns

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