Part 3: The Elements of the Charlotte Mason Method Used in the Method
This is how the Heart-Deep model is applied to the Math Lessons for a Living Education Series through three important elements of the Charlotte Mason method:
short, quality lessons, application-based learning, and right-brain learning.
Short, Quality Lessons…
Charlotte Mason recommends that the attention span of the child be grown and built upon, not completely ignored or fought against in their educational process. This means that the lessons of a child should not be substantially longer than that child’s ability to focus on the learning. This growing of the attention is done by using short lessons that focus on using quality over quantity. This type of lesson builds the habit of attention by teaching the child to pay attention to the details, make connections, and process the concepts thoroughly through play and hands-on activities.
Honestly, if we adults would stop and think about this concept of meeting a child where they are developmentally and allowing and encouraging them to continue to develop as God intended, we would recognize that it is simply common sense. After all, we cannot yank on a plant to make it grow, and we cannot “help” a butterfly escape from its chrysalis without maiming it for life. This law of nature applies to our children as well.
Charlotte Mason’s short, quality lessons meet the criteria outlined in the model for heart- deep learning and teaching in the following ways.
• They address the actual mind of the individual child, not some hypothetical (and mythical) “average” model that “most children this age” should for some strange reason.
• They do not overwhelm a child emotionally. Instead they connect with the child on an emotional level, reassuring them that they are loved by their teacher and by God.
- They do not foster boredom or rebellion against their lessons, teacher, or God. Instead, they teach the child that they can become the master of their wills through the growing of their habit of attention.
- As the teaching and learning through short lessons circles down through the levels of learning, it reaches and teaches the child at a heart-deep level, building confidence and joy in the process. Their actions will come from that heart-place. Application based learning … We all learn better when the concepts to which we are being introduced are given to us in their context. We have learned how the context helps our brains make connections. When concepts are presented in an aesthetic fashion, we connect with it more readily because our brains, senses, and emotions are working together. This is why movies and plays, where there are plentiful visuals and sounds being used to relate a story, have the power to move us. When we connect with something at this level, our brains are completely engaged. An educational method that uses application based learning teaches concepts in their natural context as much as possible and encourages the child to bring the concept out of the lesson and into their world. It encourages the child to connect with the concept using as many senses as possible and gives them plenty of opportunity to play with those concepts in order to internalize them. Application based learning meets the criteria outlined in the model for heart-deep learning and teaching in the following ways.
- It engages the mind of the individual child by showing them the concept in context and then encouraging them to apply it to their own unique personal world.
- Application based lessons reach the child on a level that is much deeper than formulaic level learning does. It engages the child as a whole, encouraging them to engage and connect on a personal and applicable level.
- As the child connects to and applies the concepts being learned, knowledge becomes wisdom. The child grows in their concentration and determination to connect with the world around them in academic and nonacademic ways. Their whole lives are affected by their growing ability to make the connections.
- As the teaching and learning through application based lessons circles down through the levels of learning, it reaches and teaches the child at a heart-deep level by building layer after layer of applied knowledge. Their character grows and their actions and behaviors mature.
One of the ways I have discovered in encouraging children to engage in what I call right brain learning (especially in the discipline of mathematics) is by employing the whole fact approach. In Math Lessons for a Living Education, I call it right-brain math. In essence, it is the practice of showing the child the whole fact or concept in context as much as possible.
By doing this, the child’s brain is able to grasp it as a whole instead of in fragments. The logical left side of the brain says, “Yes, this makes sense. It is a concept in which I can see the separate parts that make it up as a whole.” And the artistic right side says, “Yes, this makes sense. Nothing is missing. It is a whole picture.” In that moment, both sides of the brain can recognize and begin to digest the concept or fact.
If a child is taught in this way, approaching complex subjects in a complete and cohesive way that makes sense and connects the critical thinking and the creative thinking abilities of that child, they will be able to move into that divergent thinking much more easily.
The tradition searching-for-the-answer (before seeing/learning the concept in context) method of education is what creates stress in a child’s brain – the kind of stress that inhibits the learning process and builds major distrust in their own ability to learn, as well as begins to build a learning-resistant mindset.
Right-brain learning meets the criteria outlined in the model for heart-deep learning and teaching in the following ways.
- Right-brain, whole concept teaching addresses the whole brain in a cohesive way. The child’s mind is nurtured as it is learning.
- Right-brain teaching and learning addresses the emotional needs of a child by not frustrating them by expecting them to understand fragmented, out-of-context information.
- Right-brain teaching and learning gives the child confidence by working with their natural ability not against it. When a child has this confidence, they are much more willing to push through even extremely difficult concepts.
- A child who has been taught in a whole picture (right-brain) approach, will understand connections and will develop the ability to think divergently and inventively. This will show in their actions, behaviors, and school work.