Monday, June 28, 2010

Miss Mason Monday

The Habit of Attention
So I originally planned to follow up the narration blogs with some information on what many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers would label as “twaddle” however I have misplaced my notes. I will-once found-add that very important topic to our Miss Mason Mondays but until then I will leave you with some thoughts on the habit of attention from Penny Gardner’s wonderful book, The Charlotte Mason Study Guide..
For me this is a personal struggle! Before going to sleep every night I try to read a little from one of the few books that I am working through. It never fails that after a few minutes of reading I find myself not sure of what my eyes have been scanning because my mind has wandered. My eyes are still dutifully doing their job but my mind is no longer paying any attention! (Ever happen to anyone else?)
It’s frustrating isn’t it? This happens so much to me yet I am ashamed to admit that I get frustrated when my little ones do it. It is so important however to train our minds to pay attention but how do we go about doing it? Here are some quotes from Miss Mason’s Home Education Series.
“Our minds go off on tangents. Attention wanders because there are so many things that run through our minds.” (Vol. 1, p.137)
That pegs me right between the eyes!!
“It is the mother’s part to supplement the child’s quick observing faculty with the habit of attention. She must see to it that he does not flit from this to that, but looks long enough at one thing to get a real acquaintance with it.” (p.140)
That is so hard! Or at least seems like it would be! But think about it, how long will a little child, one of even two or three years, stare at the T.V. while watching a favorite video or show? The answer, as long as we let them!! Now we recently got rid of the T.V. in our own home and I am so glad that we did but I can remember times when my little ones would sit in front of the one-eyed monster like hypnotized little followers. It truly bothered me! Even though what they watched was always monitored I didn’t like what they looked like while they were watching it. But, if they can sit still and watch a T.V. show for any amount of time it is because the T.V. has their FULL ATTENTION! All we as Mothers have to do is to transfer that attention to things that are actually edifying and exercising their little minds.
Whatever it is that we are wanting our children to pay attention to we need to remember that Miss Mason advocated SHORT lessons. In keeping lessons short but expecting FULL attention we will be more successful in training this habit of attention. It will require some watchfulness on our parts, making sure that the child's full attention is given to whatever work is being accomplished at the moment. It will seem like a lot on us at first I'm sure (especially those of us with numerous children) but the effort will be well worth it because it will produce bright, educated lovers of learning people!
It is recommended to do something like this, “This applies to babies and toddlers also. Once the child starts lessons, keep them short and interesting. Don’t allow dawdling to even start. You might have to go to a very different subject then come back to the unfinished one after the change. Follow a schedule so child can see that he has only 20 minutes for math, 15 minutes for the next subject, and so forth. If he attends well and gets done early then the time left over is his free time-his reward (natural consequence) for attending."
Doesn’t sound too difficult does it? It’s consistency on our part that will add much to the success of training our children in the habit of attention.
I love this next quote, “Ability-a different thing from genius or talent-is simply the power of fixing attention steadily on the matter in hand and success in life turns upon this cultivated power far more than on any natural faculty.” (Vol. 5, p 94)
Our children will have the ability to accomplish whatever it is that they desire if they are successfully trained in the habit of attention.
“We need not labor to get children to learn their lessons; that, if we would believe it, is a matter which nature takes care of. Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight. The call for strenuousness comes with the necessity of forming habits;but here again we are relieved. The intellectual habits of the good life form themselves in the following out of the due curriculum in the right way. As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the act of knowing. We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous ‘act of knowing,’ as easy to a child as breathing and, if we would believe it, comparatively easy to ourselves. The reward is two-fold: no intellectual habit is so valuable as that of attention; it is a mere habit but it is also the hallmark of an educated person.” (p.99)
Whew! Did you get all that? If the children are allowed to do the work and parents don’t spoon feed the information to be learned, the children will learn their lessons and learn with delight. We just need to be sure that what we are doing we are doing in the right way. (And to be honest I am still learning and getting comfortable with the “right way” that Miss Mason speaks of.)
But you know what I'm thinking? If we, as parents, would work diligently to train our children in the habit of attention we would eliminate the need for all of that "cramming" that is done by high schoolers and college students alike. I can remember being in college and trying to cram a semester's worth of information into my little brain the NIGHT BEFORE the final. Ya know what, I didn't always do so well on those tests. But if I had been trained in the habit of attention as a young child then I am sure that the things that I was learning would have actually been aquired knowledge and not just crammed, temporarily memorized knowledge. Just my thoughts.
So, that is my little bit for this week. Nothing profound, not a lot of McMama in here. Just some great suggestions on the important habit of attention. If you have any thoughts please link up and share!

Lovin' Learnin'

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