Books and Things: A Planning Post

It always seems like there are so many things we could be doing in our homeschool but just don’t quite have the time for. One of our primary jobs as home educators is that of curator.

It’s up to us to choose the best and most appropriate experiences, books, and opportunities for our kids. But there are SO. MANY. CHOICES. And it’s only getting harder to choose, the more homeschool curricula gets published. Some of the options are getting better, with years of input from homeschoolers, that’s for sure. But still, curating can be a tough job.

As you’re planning the upcoming school year, it can be easier to wade through the stacks of curriculum catalogs if you break that task of curating into a couple of categories. In her “Educational Manifesto” in School Education, Charlotte Mason divides the tools of education into these two categories: Books and Things.

Books:

img_5961That seems fairly straightforward. Most of us homeschool mamas have a love of books that borders on unhealthy. Just this week I assembled another new bookshelf in our house to hold my finds from the library book sale. Which is technically only a problem when we move…which only happens every three years or so…which is why I have to tip the movers well. Ahem.

  • Does the book you’re thinking of using point toward truth, goodness, or beauty?
  • Is it a “medium for ideas and not merely a receptacle for facts?”
  • Does it compress someone else’s knowledge in a way that makes it dry?
  • Does it enliven in you a desire to learn more? (If it doesn’t do that for you, mom, it won’t for your student.)

Ms. Mason reminds us of the power of books, if they’re chosen well, and given to a child for his free use:

Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with ‘delight’ his own living, books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum. Children between six and eight must for the most part have their books read to them.

This plan has been tried with happy results for the last twelve years in many home schoolrooms, and some other schools.

By means of the free use of books the mechanical difficulties of education–reading, spelling, composition, etc.–disappear, and studies prove themselves s to be ‘for delight, for ornament, and for ability.’

Did you catch that? They disappear. Books are powerful, y’all.

Things

And so are Things. But what the heck does Charlotte Mason mean by “Things?” Lucky us, she gives us a list:

i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
ii. Material to work in–wood, leather, clay, etc.
iii. Natural objects in situ–birds, plants, streams, stones, etc.
iv. Objects of art.
v. Scientific apparatus, etc.

What does that all translate to? Our kids should be outside, doing stuff. I mean, really, it’s that simple. Engaging with things isn’t mom-intensive. Remember our job is as curator. A good curator gives them access to materials, enough instruction to get them started, and time to work with the materials. Once the kids have some elementary skills, they can be off and running. Then access and time become the biggies.

So as you plan the upcoming year, consider simplifying the way you think about the curriculum. Books are the primary way our children gain experience with ideas, things are the way our children gain experience with the world around them. When we can spread a broad feast of experiences in front of our children in the way of books and things, much of the work of educating flows easily from there.

Happy homeschool planning to you!

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