I'll post the link and the whole thing here so you can also read on your cells :-) kisses
Principles That Have Been Unrecognized or Disregarded Before Now
I've discussed some of the ways in which our work is extraordinary. I hope to convince readers that our results--students doing so well both in classrooms and home correspondence schools--are based on principles that have been unrecognized until now. Recognizing these principles should give our country's education an intelligent foundation and should make students more stable, content and ambitious.
I'd like to add a couple more arguments to my reasons for implementing this kind of education.
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This education doesn't just work for unusually smart children. It works for average and handicapped children, too.
Schools using this plan take less time to do a day's work than ordinary schools, even though the number of subjects is the same.
There's no need to do reviews, complete work at night, cram for tests, or catch up in subjects. So there's more time to use for vocational training, outside pursuits, or hobbies.
All bookwork is done in the morning so that afternoons are free for outdoor nature study, drawing, handicrafts, etc.
Even with these limitations, students produce a surprising amount of good intellectual work.
There is no homework.
It isn't that we PNEU workers are such geniuses, but, like William Paley's man who found the watch, 'we have stumbled onto a good thing.'
'Any benefit that I experience should be shared.'
We feel that the country and, in fact, the whole world, should know about educational discoveries that can make people more moral. We are experiencing the Renaissance as if for the first time, except we don't have its pagan lawlessness.
Let me share the steps that brought me to these conclusions. When I was a young woman, I spent a lot of time with a family whose half Indian children were living at their grandfather's house and being raised by their aunt, who was a good friend of mine. The children impressed me. They were generous and sensible, intelligent, creative and able to discern moral issues with understanding. Their imaginativeness and moral insight were illustrated one day when the five-year-old girl came home from her walk silent and sad. After leaving her alone for awhile, some careful questioning brought out sobs as she struggled to get the words out--
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'a man--no home--nothing to eat--no bed to sleep in,'--and then she collapsed into tears. Such incidences may be common in most families, but it was new to me. I was reading a lot about educational philosophy at the time because, like any enthusiastic young teacher, I thought that education should change the world. I worked at an elementary school and a church high school, so I was able to observe children in varied age groups. But children aren't as open at school as they are at home. Being with my friend's children taught me to view them as persons, and I began to suspect that they are more than we adults are, except that they haven't learned everything they need to know yet.
I did find one limitation with these children. My friend claimed that they couldn't understand English grammar. I disagreed and said that they could. I even wrote a little grammar book for children aged 7 and 8, which is not quite ready to publish. But I found that my friend was right. She let me give my lessons with as much clarity and freshness as I could. But it was useless. No matter how hard I tried, they couldn't understand the nominitative case. Their minds rejected the abstract concept, just like children reject the idea of writing an essay about 'Happiness.' But I had learned something--a child's mind accepts or rejects new knowledge according to what it needs.
Once I had established that fact, the next step in logic was obvious. In accepting and rejecting knowledge, the mind is actively seeking what it needs. The mind needs nourishment to grow and be strong, just like the physical body. But the mind can't be measured or weighed. It's spiritual. Therefore, its food must also be spiritual. The mind needs the nourishment of ideas--what Plato called images. I came to understand that children are equipped with all they need to deal with ideas.
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Explanations, comprehension questions, drawing out points, are unnecessary. They bore children. Children are born with a natural hunger for the kind of knowledge that is informed with thought. Like the stomach's gastric juices digesting food, children use their own imagination, judgment and what some people call 'faculties' to digest a new idea. This discovery was enlightening, but a bit startling. All of the teacher's hard work to present vividly, illustrate accurately, summarize and draw out by questions were nothing but obstacles. They intervened between the children and their mind diet of ideas. On the other hand, when children are presented with the right idea, they go to work on it with the focus and single-mindedness of a hungry child eating his dinner.
The Scottish school of philosophers explains this with their doctrine of desires. [Perhaps explained in this online article?] It seemed to me that those desires could stimulate the action of the mind so that it seeks invisible nourishment, just like appetites do to keep the body alive and continue the human race. This was helpful. It seemed to me that, of all the desires, the desire for knowledge (curiosity) was the main tool of education. This simple desire to know can be paralyzed, or rendered as powerless as a deformed arm if other desires are allowed to come between a child and the knowledge that's appropriate for him. Placement can encourage competition, prizes can encourage greed, special privileges can encourage ambition, praise can encourage vanity. Any of these can be a stumbling block for the child. It looked to me like, without even realizing it, teachers had created a complex system to ensure that students would behave and be enthusiastic about their lessons through the use of grades, prizes, etc. Yet, in doing that, they have eliminated the children's natural thirst for knowledge, which is incentive enough.
And then I asked myself, Can't people do just fine with a bare minimum of knowledge? After all, how much is really necessary? My young friends gave me an answer. Their insatiable
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curiosity showed that the whole world and its history was barely enough to satisfy any child, unless spiritual malnutrition had made him apathetic. My next question was, What is knowledge? Ages of intellectual thought haven't answered that question yet! But perhaps all we need to know is that the only knowledge a person has is what he has digested when his mind has actively chewed on it.
Children's natural inclination to learn, and their eagerness to know everything, made me conclude that the areas made accessible for children to learn about should never be artificially restricted. He has a right to as much and as varied knowledge as he's able to take in, and he needs it. Any limitations on his curriculum should only depend on what age he leaves school. In other words, a common curriculum up to age 14 or 15 should be the right of every child [regardless of social class].
We no longer believe that old medieval notion that intelligence is only born in children of the privileged classes, or that intelligence is inherited or can be developed by artificially manipulating the environment a child grows up in. Of course, inheritance plays a part, but so many factors come into play in genetics. Environment can make a child's learning fun or stressful, but learning is a spiritual thing of the soul, and can't be forced by making the child look at things or making him manipulate his fingers. Things of the mind are what appeal to the mind. Thought gives rise to more thought, and that is how we are educated. This is why we owe it to every child to put him in touch with great minds so that he can have access to great thoughts. Then he can be in communication with the minds of the people who left us great works. The only essential method of education seems to be that children should read worthy books, and lots of them.
But some will say that schools have libraries, and children have access to their public libraries and that they do read. Or, some will protest that the literary language of well-written books is too challenging for children of the lower classes. But
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we know that, although haphazard reading is fun and can even teach a thing or two--yet it isn't education in the sense of obtaining knowledge. If a person reads casually, then he isn't really applying his mind to work at making the knowledge 'his own.' If we don't actively read to know, then we won't be much better educated, even if we read a lot.
Why insist that books be written with literary style? My many years of experience have shown me too many circumstances and considerations to describe here, but I have seen that it comes naturally to us to enjoy well-written words--until our 'education' kills our taste for books.
It's difficult to explain how I figured out how to solve the problem of getting students to focus their attention. Observing many children, things I read here and there, remembering my own childhood and considering my own current mind habits, has taught me that there are certain laws that relate to the mind. By adhering to those laws, the focused attention of children can be guaranteed all the time, regardless of their age or social class. And they can keep their attention focused even with distractions. It's not due to the winning ways of their charismatic teacher, since hundreds of different teachers working both in homes and PNEU elementary schools and junior high schools are able to secure the attention of students without really trying. And it isn't because their lessons are so entertaining. The students do find their lessons interesting and enjoyable, but they're interested in a lot of different subjects, and their attention doesn't wander during the dull parts.
It's not easy to summarize those principles that the mind acts on naturally in a few sentences. I've tried to relate those principles as they apply to a school curriculum. The main idea is that children are already persons when they're born, which makes them affected by the same motivations to behavior that
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we adults are. One of those is the desire for knowledge. Everyone hungers to know, because curiosity is natural to everybody. History, geography, what other people think, which is humanities, are things that we all like to know about, and it's good for us to know about them. Science is, too, since we all live in this world and want to know more about it. Everyone needs beauty and wants to know how to evaluate it, so art is something worth knowing about. Ethics and social studies teach us how to act in life. And everyone needs to know about religion, because all men, not just those on the battlefront, hunger for God.
Since all children have that thirst to know, their unspoken demand is to have a wide and very diverse curriculum. They should learn something about all the many different issues that humans should know about. The various subjects included in their curriculum should never be curtailed because of convenience or time constraints.
Considering the wide range of things that children have a right to know about because they are persons, how can we get them to learn those things? What should they learn in the few years they go to school? We have discovered answers to those two questions. I say discovered rather than invented, because there's only one way to learn. Intelligent people who can talk about any subject, and experts who know a lot about a specialized subject, both learned in the same way--by reading to know. I have discovered that this method of reading in order to know is available to any child, whether homeschooled or in a large classroom.
Children are born with all they need to deal with knowledge, in the same way that they're born with all they need to deal with digesting their food. They already come pre-wired with a hunger to know and an enormous, almost unlimited ability to focus their attention. Their ability to remember seems to be related to their power of attention
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in the same way that the stomach and intestines are related to the total digestion of food. Some might say, 'Yes, children have natural curiosity and they're capable of paying attention when they're interested, but they can only be coaxed to attend to their lessons part of the time.' But isn't that the fault of the lessons? Shouldn't lessons be planned carefully around the needs of the child's mind, just as his meals are planned around the needs of his physical body? Let's consider the way the mind works. The mind is concerned only about thoughts, imaginings, and reasoned arguments. It doesn't assimilate facts unless they're in the form of appropriate mind food. The mind is always active. It tires quickly of passive listening. A child's mind is as bored by the rambling twaddle of a prattling teacher as we adults are by twaddly small talk. The mind prefers something literary. When presented with something in literary form, the mind is curious and will attend to a great variety of topics.
I say that these are things of the mind because they seem to be true of the minds of everyone. I've observed these things, as well as a few other points about how the mind works. All I needed to do was to apply what I had discovered to a trial curriculum for schools and families. Lectures were mostly eliminated. Lots of books from many subjects were scheduled for reading during morning school hours. So much work was scheduled that there was only time for a single reading. All reading was tested by narrating either part of the selection or the entire reading, either orally or in writing. Students doing this kind of work know what they read, even months later. Their ability to focus their attention is remarkable. They don't have trouble with spelling or composition. They mature into well-informed, intelligent people. (The small test school related to The House of Education, with students from ages 6-18, tests the schedule of schoolwork sent out each term and the end-of-term exams. The work in each form/grade is easily finished in the hours of morning school.)
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But someone might say that reading or hearing different books read out loud chapter by chapter and then narrating is merely memory work. But that can be easily tested. Before turning off your light in bed, read a newspaper article or a chapter from Boswell or Jane Austen, or an essay by Charles Lamb. As you go to sleep, narrate silently to yourself what you just read. You'll be disappointed with the results, but you'll find that the act of narrating requires every power of your mind. Points and details that you didn't notice come into your memory. The whole thing is visualized and brought into focus in an unusual way. What's happening is that the particular scene or argument has become part of your personal experience. You have assimilated and know what you read. This is not memory work. In order to memorize, we repeat a passage or series of points or names over and over, inventing little clues to help us. We can memorize a string of facts or words this way, and that memory is useful in the short term, but it isn't really assimilated. After its purpose is served, we forget it. That's the kind of memory work students use to pass exams. I won't try to explain (I don't even understand!) this power to memorize. It has its temporary use in education, I'm sure, but it must never take the place of the main tool, which is the ability to focus the attention.
Long ago, a philosophical friend used to quote this saying: 'The mind can know nothing except what it can produce as an answer when it asks itself a question.' I haven't been able to trace the saying to its author, but over the last forty years, I've become more convinced of its importance. It implies that questions shouldn't come from
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without (this doesn't include the Socratic method of questioning to draw out students' thinking for the purpose of teaching morals). This internal questioning is necessary to be certain of something intellectually, to really own the knowledge. For example, if we want to get the details straight in our memory after a conversation or incident, we go over it again in our minds. That 'going over' process is the self-questioning I just mentioned. When someone narrates something they just read, this is what happens: The mind asks itself, 'what happened next?' to remember each consecutive detail. This is why it's so important that only one single reading be allowed. Trying to use rote memory techniques weakens the power to focus the attention, which is exactly what the mind needs to do. If the teacher wants to ask questions so that certain points are emphasized, they should be asked after the narration, not before or during.
Some advanced psychologists agree. They declare that the key is 'not a group of mind faculties, but one single subjective activity, which is attention.' And, again, there is 'one common factor in all mind activity, and that's attention.' (I'm quoting from the Psychology article in the Encyclopedia Britannica.) I would add that attention is unfailing, prompt and steady--so long as the material set in front of students is suited to their intellectual requirements, and so long as the material is presented concisely, directly, and simply, as all good literature should be.
Another thing to keep in mind: the intellect needs a moral motivation. We tend to rouse our minds to action better when we know, somewhere in the back of our minds, that there's a reason that we must. For students, that reason is that they'll be required to narrate or write from what they just read, and they'll have no opportunity to look things up or otherwise refresh their memory. Children enjoy narrating so much that the teacher hardly ever has to coax students to do it.
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What follows is a complete list, a chain, describing the educational philosophy that I've tried to work out. If nothing else, what it has in its favor is that it's been successful in practice. I've adopted and applied a few hints, but I hope that I've succeeded in methodizing the whole thing and making education what it should be--a system of applied philosophy. Even so, I have been careful not to use philosophical terms.
Briefly, here's how it works:
A child is a complete person with all the spiritual needs and abilities of any person.
Knowledge nourishes the mind in the same way that food nourishes the body.
A child needs knowledge just as much as he needs food.
He already has:
The desire for knowledge (curiosity).
The ability to take in knowledge by paying attention.
As much imagination, reflection, judgment, etc. as he needs to deal with knowledge, without the need for outside props.
Natural, inborn interest in all the kinds of knowledge that he'll need as a human being.
The ability to retain and articulate that knowledge, and assimilate what he needs.
He needs most of his knowledge to be communicated to him in literary form. When he articulates knowledge from a literary source, his version will be touched by his own unique personality, so that his reproduction becomes original.
The natural ability for making use of knowledge and digesting it is already sufficient. No external stimulus [reward, threat, entertainment] is needed to make a child learn. But some kind of moral motivation is needed to prompt students to pay attention.
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The moral motivation is knowing with certainty that he will be required to tell what he read. Children have a right to the best that we have. Therefore, their school books should be the best books we can find.
Children get tired of lectures, and bored with comprehension questions. They should be allowed to use their schoolbooks for themselves. If they need help, they'll ask for it.
Children need a variety of knowledge--about religion, humanities, science, art. Therefore, they should have a broad curriculum with a set amount of reading scheduled for each subject.
The teacher should give the student some direction, sympathy in his work, an encouraging word sometimes, help with things like setting up experiments, and the usual help they need in languages, experimental science and math.
When education follows these conditions, 'lessons are enjoyable,' and seeing daily progress is exhilarating to both the teacher and the students.
Some readers might say, 'I already knew all of this before and I've always acted more or less on these principles.' All I can say is, the incredible results we've had didn't come from adhering to these principles 'more or less,' but by following them strictly in practice. Joseph Lister must have had this same difficulty to contend with. Surgeons in his day knew that their instruments should be sterile, but it was only those who actually acted on that knowledge and sterilized their instruments each time with his chemical solution who saved millions of lives. That's the difference between scrupulously following exact principles, and casually using them 'more or less.'
It remains to be seen whether my method is the only right way to educate. There needs to be more proof than
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the thousands of students who have used it. But one thing is certain--today's current education is feeble and unclear because there are no sound principles being put into action and applied exactly. It's time to decide. We've trusted in 'civilization' and we've taken pride in our modern progress. Of all the painful things that war has brought us, perhaps the most difficult is the total breakdown of the civilization that's always meant education to us. We've learned our lesson and we're once again relying on our human instinct and God's divine rules. The part of a person that can be educated is his mind. The senses and muscles aren't educated, they're trained. The mind, like the rest of the body, needs quantity, variety and regularity in its diet. The mind, like the body, has its own appetite: the desire to know. The mind, like the body, is perfectly capable of taking in and digesting its food via attention and reflection. The mind, like the body, doesn't like limp, dull and unpleasant food. It wants its meals to be in literary form [such as, in stories]. The mind's diet is restricted to one thing: it can only absorb ideas and facts when they're connected to the living ideas on which they hang. Children who are educated this way respond in a surprising way. They develop ability, character, self-control, initiative, and a sense of responsibility. Even as children they are good, thoughtful citizens.
In this book, I've tried to show the principles and methods that this kind of education is based on, and that's so successfully being carried out. I've added chapters to explain the history of our movement, whose aim is, as Comenius says, 'All knowledge for all men.' I've been given permission to use the comments of various teachers, Directors
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of education, and others about the practical application of this method.
It is a cause for celebration that we have the opportunity to give students from all socio-economic classes a foundation of mutually shared thought and knowledge. This includes familiarity with a common collection of literature and history, which has an interesting way of bonding people together. Also, it's a wonderful achievement that children of lower income families, even with their limited opportunities, will have access to this kind of education. They will have equal opportunity to develop the stability of mind and nobleness of character that are the result of a rich, bountiful education.
In this book, I'll limit myself to clarifying and illustrating some of the points I tried to make in this introduction.
~ Servant to the most high,
~Wife to Mr. Wonderful
~mother of four amazing boys,
~Daughter of two of the most awesome to people
~ Sister to my BFF
~ Friend of my hero
~Wonderful is my life!