The Making and Unmaking of a Dullard

These past two weeks have been a personal tornado. Everything is coming back to normal, though. My husband is almost fully recovered. We still don’t know what all this was. A pinched nerve? Just anxiety? Could the anxiety cause his physical symptoms, or did those annoying symptoms (urgency to go all the time) gave him anxiety that ended taking away his sleep for so long that he could not get better either?

Now he doesn’t have the bother, for the sleep (or lack of it thereof), the doctor gave him a sleeping pill momentarily, but this coming week I’ve finally hooked him up with an acupuncturist and an alternative doctor. I will let you know, but this has just taught us the power of the mind for the good and the bad. I’ve always wanted to see other types of medicine, other doctors, and this has been our perfect opportunity to do so.

In the meantime I finished reading The Making And The Unmaking Of A Dullard, you can also get it HERE for free. After Poetic Knowledge and Ideas Have Consequences, it has been the best book I’ve read this year so far. The book was mentioned in Poetic Knowledge, and Willa, who is reading it too, wrote about it which made me stop The Republic and read it. I’ve also read For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, which is a wonderful book, but the contents are much more familiar to me than what I found in The Making and Unmaking of a Dullard.

If you like Charlotte Mason, if you like reading about education, if you’ve ever been a student, a teacher, or if you teach, if you are a parent and wonder about children growing in the cities, or the country, with learning disorders, or considered behind, or ahead… this book will fascinate you. It is amazing (or expected?) that the book has so many points of overlap with Charlotte Mason’s theories and impressions. Both look back into childhood, as Willa so cleverly pointed, to understand how children learn and behave.

The style of the book is a dialogue and a narration of the author’s autobiography that is the source of his clever remarks, his companions questions, and their theory of when, why and how children learn. A child that in the early years was pushed beyond his fair abilities because of the ignorance of the teacher in charge, who shortly after experienced a rapid physical growth, was then believed to be retarded, a dullard. Since that time, he spends his days in his family’s farm, figuring things in his mind, growing mentally without even knowing it, and experiencing poetic truths of a deepening meaning plus mathematical and abstract reasoning as well. Dr. Thomas Shield is however cautions in his generalizations, and his story a real cautionary tale of how not to educate a child and a youth, and consequently you can find out how to do so appropriately. His story left me with an optimistic message that even in the worse circumstances a child can escape this cruel fate, but we can’t be deceived either, many we know won’t have an easy escape route as Dr. Shield had.

Homeschooling is no panacea, it is not the magic life style that will save all children from this fate of being considered dullards, lazy, ignorant. Much to the contrary, I’m a bit concerned about the tendency to practice homeschooling as modern school on steroids, an enhanced and damaging boot camp to prepare them for academic excellence while we apply a light coat of christian values varnish. To be honest, homeschooling is a two edge sword, so please, if you homeschool, use this tool as a weapon or tool to allow your children to grow. Do not hinder their course of learning and growing by accelerating it or trying so hard to program it like a behaviorist that sets stimulus to get responses,  or in a circle of rewards and punishment and a strenuous diet of meaningless table work. Look beyond the curriculum, the books, the activities, the lessons, and embrace it as a way of life where there is room for them to breath, learn and grow.

Posts that are related to this and I recommend are:

Nancy’s The Rule of Every Homeschool
Jeanne’s A Day on The Farm
They all touch on the issue of leaving time to the children, trusting them to think on their own, and on homeschooling in a way that allows for their growth, versus trying to shape them to our conscious or unconscious desires.

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