Children Feed on Ideas, Not Facts

There are two words that are the very legs upon which our homeschool stands. I borrowed them from Miss Mason. (Are you surprised?) They are HABITS and IDEAS. If a child has not learned good habits, he won't have the will power to do the digging needed to acquire knowledge from books. So the instillation of good habits is foundational. Likewise, if a child is fed with a steady diet of facts rather than IDEAS, his interest will die and school will become drudgery for all involved.

For many years, schools have mistakenly equated knowledge with information or the getting of facts. Since this is how most parents today were schooled, we naturally tend to do the same with our own children when attempting to educate them. Quite quickly, however, we realize that the impartation of facts is not enough to hold a child's interest and a deficient means of stirring up the heroic. True knowledge can only be gained when someone cares about his subject matter. This is because he enjoys thinking about it, mulling it over in his mind, internalizing it and even building his own ideas upon it. This is where IDEAS come in.

The mind feeds on IDEAS. We all know that books contain an incredible storehouse of IDEAS from people who lived in all places at all times. Therefore, if children are given the opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the people they meet in their school books, they will thrive intellectually and spiritually. Worthy ideas are not only found in history and biography, but in poetry and literature and fairytales. The narrower our book choices are, the fewer ideas we are giving our children.

However, NOT ALL books house IDEAS. Some books merely house facts. But facts are not what move people, because they are lifeless. IDEAS change people; or better yet- IDEAS make people; nations, too, for that matter.

"The intellectual life, like every manner of spiritual life, (Miss Mason did not separate the sacred from the secular) has but one food whereby it lives and grows––the sustenance of living IDEAS. It is not possible to repeat this too often or too emphatically, for perhaps we err more in this respect than any other in bringing up children. We feed them upon the white ashes out of which the last spark of the fire of original thought has long since died. We give them second-rate story books, with stale phrases, stale situations, shreds of other people's thoughts, stalest of stale sentiments." -cmason

Classical educators today are quick to embrace the notion that the so called 'Grammar Stage' is a time to fill the child with facts since he retains them so well. Miss Mason was a classical educator, but stated that just because a young child's ability to reason may not be as sophisticated as the older student does not mean he should be fed mainly upon a diet of facts. Clothe those facts with the thoughts, the ideas of men and women and you will be assured of a child who loves knowledge. This is where the value of 'Story' comes in:

"A teacher objected the other day that it was difficult to teach from Freeman's Old English History, because there were so many stories; not perceiving that the stories were the living history, while all the rest was dead."

She called those areas of education that did not house IDEAS, the 'Disciplines.' Grammar and Math are good examples of the disciplines which work out one's 'intellectual muscles.' They are just as necessary for one's education, as bread is necessary for physical nourishment. But IDEAS should be the main course. If our curriculum consists mainly of the Disciplines with a few IDEAS scattered here and there, then our children will begin to starve.

A practical way of testing the amount of nourishment our children are receiving would be to look at our daily schedule of lessons for the children. Count the fact fillers (hopefully, there aren't any), count the disciplines, Then count the IDEA givers. Let's compare two hypothetical meal plans:

Bread and Water Rations
30 min Recite memory verses
Bible review quiz
30 min Phonics wkbk
60 min Math textbk do one lesson
30 min Grammar workbk
45 min Science textbk- do next lesson, take quiz
20 min Spelling workbk
20 min Logic workbk or Vocabulary building exercises
30 min Composition wkbk- do next lesson
40 min Mom reads aloud from History text to all the children,
answer questions,
30 min Art- make paper castles.
30 min Read your assigned literature selection for the day
(begin at 8:30am, take 30 min break, and 30 min lunch break, finish by 3pm)


Rich Stew with a slab of Thick Bread
20 min Bible Read next Old Testament passage- Fiery Furnace
Narrate aloud
5 min Read aloud one poem from the poet you are studying
30 min History-Read next chapter from Child's History of the World
Narrate aloud and add figure to timeline
20 min Read 4 pages from Peter the Great by Stanley
20 min Math workbk, game or living book (if you dare)
20 min Geography- Read Paddle to the Sea
continue to trace his route on your map of North America
15 min Copywk - copy a few lines perfectly from a poem of your choice from the poet you are studying
20 min Science- Take a field guide outside and identify six new flowers.
30 min Drawing -Draw one flower in your nature journal and paint with water colors
30 min Dictation- passage from Robin Hood, notice difficult words for spelling
10 min Go over your memory work
( begin at 8:30, includes 30 min break outside, finish before lunch at 12:30pm)
Choose any book from your literature list to read during quiet time

Now, go out on a limb and let your children pick which schedule they prefer. Not only that, think about which schedule will feed your child's mind with many and varied IDEAS.

You can learn more about this in Vol 3: School Education by Charlotte Mason