Use out-of-school time for enrichment

2012-12-13 00:00

HAVING our children around us during the holidays can seem like a daunting experience. Alternatively, we can embrace it with anticipation and expectation.

During the school year, children often have little time for exploring many aspects of life. Charlotte Mason, an educationist from the early 1900s, saw this time of interacting with real items, people and places as being fundamental to a child’s education. She explained how these experiences allowed a child to develop new ideas, which, in essence, fed the mind as food feeds the body. These ideas were, however, often not found in text books, but rather upon interaction with real objects that children stumble upon or that grab their attention. She writes: “Set [a child] face to face with a thing, and he is 20 times as quick as you are in knowledge about it; knowledge of things flies to the mind of a child as steel filings to a magnet.”

As children gain this knowledge, so grows their understanding, not only of the world around them, but they are able to link this thought to other information they have gained and so develop a deeper understanding of life. Charlotte referred to this as developing the science of relationships. This is the key to a person becoming knowledgeable or educated in any area. This is because without this aspect, people simply know about the topic and can recite the information, but when they can relate to it and link it to the world around them and beyond, it becomes alive — to them and those they are engaging with.

The science of relationships works in such a way that children have stored up a wealth of knowledge and information, so that when they are given a reference point, it will engage a wealth of different information that they can relate to that point.

Let us say that two children go to a park together. One child sees the trees and grass and vaguely hears birds. He runs at will, kicking a ball and returns home having had fun. The second child has a general knowledge of birds, fauna and flora. When she arrives, her trained ear focuses upon the bird calls and she is able to picture the multitude of hidden friends perched around them. This second child also sees the spoor upon the river bank and knows that recently a mongoose scurried across their path. The flattened grass tells of bush pig that would have rested there the night before. For this second child, the world has come alive, is three dimensional. She not only sees what is there, but is able to see beyond.

So, instead of feeling overwhelmed with having your children home during school breaks, try to view this time with anticipation. It is a time that we are able to explore with them and let them experience all that is beyond their daily experience. We are able to connect our children to new people, places, things and experiences, and so develop their science of relationships to the world around and beyond. In this way, we allow them to return to the classroom with a greater three-dimensional view of this world in which we live.

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. Find out more about her at www.susaparent



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