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Mondays with Miss Mason–On Thinking Practice

January 31, 2011

Note: this post is part of an ongoing series. For more information on Charlotte Mason and Mondays with Miss Mason, please read the first post.

My little plan to make myself read more of Miss Mason’s work is having its desired effect. Wow, weeks sure do pass quickly!

“Thinking, like writing or skating, comes by practice.”

I think Miss Mason’s ideas on habits are the ones that have changed me the most in my day-to-day parenting and teaching. Not only in little things like putting away shoes, but also in big things like thinking and obedience.

From Home Education, Part IV, Section 3:

The child who has never thought, never does think, and probably never will think; for are there not people enough who go through the world without any deliberate exercise of their own wits? The child must think, get at the reason why of things for himself, every day of his life, and more each day than the day before. Children and parents both are given to invert this educational process. The child asks ‘Why?’ and the parent answers, rather proud of this evidence of thought in his child. There is some slight show of speculation even in wondering ‘Why?’ but it is the slightest and most superficial effort the thinking brain produces. Let the parent ask ‘Why?’ and the child produce the answer, if he can. After he has turned the matter over and over in his mind, there is no harm in telling him––and he will remember it––the reason why. Every walk should offer some knotty problem for the children to think out––”Why does that leaf float on the water, and this pebble sink?” and so on.

What habits of thinking am I forming in my children?

When they ask “Why?” am I challenging them to think a little further or am I offering up answers quickly and without giving them practice in the habit of thinking?

In education circles, this  is called “inductive” teaching. It is the bottom-up, not starting with all the answers, asking the right questions, way of teaching. It’s the way Socrates taught.

It is not, however,  quick, easy or convergent (one answer wrapped up in a bow) which is why you may have never heard of it. Schools don’t spend a lot of time in divergent or inductive teaching.

But that’s why we homeschool, right?

Of course, every lesson, every day cannot be an open-ended discovery session. However, the brain needs to be exercised and solving problems should be “habit-forming,” don’t you think?

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