Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reading Thomas Armstrong's book "Awakening Your Child's Natural Geinus"

I've just started reading his book (because he's talking at the VaHomeschoolers' conference in July) so I can't do a review yet, but he really makes a case for not using traditional schools. The sidebars of the pages are strewn with great quotes. I'm going to copy the ones I particularly like here. From pages 16-17, where Dr Armstrong discusses the fact that learning takes place in everyday life, that one should "value learning for its own sake" and "honor your child's choices in learning:"

  • Children are the most learning-hungry beings in the world. --Ashley Montagu
  • The child, the ordinary man, and the creative artist are all moved by a flash of self-identification in the same way, but there is no doubt that the child is moved more often and that these flashes illuminate his whole being with a more penetrating light. --Sir Kenneth Clark

In the third chapter, titled "The School--Bridge or Barricade to Life?" there is a long quote:

In the summer of my sixth year a great expectation arose within me; something overwhelming was pending. I was up each morning at dawn, rushed to the top of Dorchester Hill, a treeless knoll of grass and boulders, to await the sun, my heart pounding. A kind of numinous expectancy loomed everywhere about and within me. A precise shift of brain function was afoot; my biological system was preparing to shift my awareness from the prelogical operations of the child to the operational logic of later childhood, and an awesome new dimension of life was ready to unfold. Instead, I was put in school that fall. All year I sat at that desk, stunned, wondering at such a fate, thinking over and over: Something was supposed to happen, and it wasn't this. --Joseph Chilton Pearce

This next one sums up my thoughts, and is similar to a lot of what you'll find in John Taylor Gatto's writing, I think. It is from the same chapter as the previous passage.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. --National Commission on Excellence in Education

This is also in chapter 3:

Let us reform our schools, and we shall find little reform needed in our prisons. --John Ruskin

What is desired is that the teacher cease being a lecturer; satisfied with transmitting ready-made solutions; his role should rather be that of a mentor stimulating initiative and research --Jean Piaget

This one is inspiring:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. --Goethe

This next quote is from chapter 4, "The Whole Language Road to Learning." I know plenty about phonics, not much about whole language, and I'm still in this chapter. I do appreciate the sense of this one:

I have no patience with the stupidity of the average teacher of grammar who wastes precious years in hammering rules into children's heads. For it is not by learning rules that we acquire the powers of speaking a language, but by daily intercourse with those accustomed to express themselves with exactness and refinement and by copious reading of the best authors. --Erasmus

You certainly won't get that in a classroom full of kids your own age!

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