Holding off on formal lessons can be a little nerve wracking. It can be hard to trust that offering a "quiet growing time" will actually set our children up for success rather than holding them back. In the third episode of the Thinking Love podcast, Amy and Leah discuss why delayed formal lessons can be helpful for our children, and necessary to their development.
"No, let us be content to be the handmaids of nature for the first five or six years..." Parents' Review, Volume 23, Three Educational Idylls
In our society, academics begin very early. Charlotte Mason, however, recommended that we begin formal lessons at the age of six. Choosing to wait to teach reading, writing, and math is a counter-cultural concept.
Academics keep getting pushed earlier and earlier. First grade skills have been moved to Kindergarten, and Kindergarten skills to preschool. These changes occurred gradually in the US, and will likely continue on the same trajectory as these ideas are so deeply ingrained in society.
During the Renaissance, being educated meant that one was able to read Greek and Latin classics in the original language. Academic time with young students was often wasted, until they began the tedious task of learning to decipher these languages. Similarly, children today are often set on a very specific education track- to get good grades and go to college. It IS possible to start a very young child out on that track with ABC;s and 123's, but we ought to consider what our goals are for our children's education. In a Charlotte Mason education, the goal is to place a child in the midst of beautiful ideas which they will forever care about--
"The question is not, -- how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education -- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” Charlotte Mason, School Education
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Three Educational Idylls, The Parents' Review, Volume 23
What if Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica
Essays on Educational Reformers by Robert Quick
Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens by David Soebel
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
2 thoughts on “Delayed Formal Lessons- Episode 3”
In this episode, you were talking about the common worry that a child who starts later will be behind. You said that to answer that, you need to know “behind what,” and if you were comparing to students at a traditional school with a goal of eventually going to university, then yes, children with a CM education who start a little later (age 6 or 7) will probably be behind. Does this mean that CM is not a good option for a family whose goal includes, among other things, to send their children to college or university when the time comes?
Hi Rachel, I can see how that comment is confusing! In most cases, it really just means ‘behind for a while’. For example, we recently started formal lessons with my six year old. Compared to his peers who have had 18 months of full-time school by this point, I imagine he is behind where they are with reading, handwriting, and even math. However, over the next few years, I expect that he will catch up to where they are. Certainly by the time we are thinking about university, those differences will have completely disappeared.
Starting later could also mean that you are able to cover just a bit less than their peers in terms of other subjects – a year less of history, literature, geography, etc., but that doesn’t at all mean that Charlotte Mason graduates are not prepared for university. In fact, because a goal of a Charlotte Mason education is for children to self-educate, and because the tools of a Charlotte Mason education protect a child’s inner motivation to learn, then there is every likelihood that they can do very well in higher education.