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Valuing the Classics

by Beverley Paine, June 2005

According to Charles Hayes, author of Self University 1 , "entertainment today is a cheap substitute for the thrill of intellectual pursuit. Just a few metaphorical feet above popular culture lies a jet stream of ideas shaped by the geniuses of our species: a legacy of ideas by philosophers, great literature by authors expressing the essence of the human condition and a historical record of how their actions squared with their theories. no matter what your situation if you have a thirst for knowledge, you can enter the great conversation of humankind. You can try on the ideas of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived, take them home, and keep them with you forever."

I find this thinking echoed in the philosophy of Charlotte Mason 2 , a nineteenth-century educator much beloved by a growing number of homeschooling families. Miss Mason shunned what she called "twaddle", books that aimed primarily to entertain - or worse, to capture a lucrative market - and encouraged people to read "living books". These books are described as books on history, geography, nature, religion or science drawn mostly from firsthand sources; they display imagination, originality, and the 'human touch' with an emphasis on literary quality. Fictionalised accounts of endurance, discover and invention, when well written, bring together learning across the traditional curriculum and captivate readers in a way that dry historical accounts never can.

Although a great fan of books, I'm also aware of the ability of visual media, such as television, film and computer programs, to add richness to our learning environment. As with books, select only the best, aiming to borrow or buy those that not only entertain but also educate. A good test is longevity - is it a much loved classic, which draws accolades beyond the first flush of popularity, a resource you'll want to pull out and use again every so often as the years go by? If so, then it probably justly deserves a place on your bookshelves.

1. Charles D Hayes, Self University , (Autodidactic Press, 1989) available from Always Learning Books, www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au

2. For information about Charlotte Mason and her approach to education see the links on Ann Zeise's A-Z Home's Cool Homeschooling http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/methods/CharlotteMason.htm

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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