The Child and the Curriculum


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About At the Border and Beyond

The child's interests lie in the world of persons and relationships as opposed to that of facts and laws. Get A Copy. Kindle Edition. Published March 24th first published More Details Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about The Child and the Curriculum , please sign up. How many pages has it? See 1 question about The Child and the Curriculum…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. This book was first published in That's what? I'm guessing educational trends are cyclical, because I found a lot of it contemporary and relevant.

In this book, Dewey's taking on the Child vs. I should add, by the way, that you can read this book online. Check it out. I'm surprised by how Although I generally abstain, I'm a huge fan of writing in library books. You can probably tell from the title that he's not really going to ta This book was first published in You can probably tell from the title that he's not really going to take a side in the argument.

When I was interviewed for my job, I was asked the question "Why do you want to be a teacher. They are what we need to get away from. Although, thankfully we've struck more of a balance than what education was in I try to keep my classroom very child-centered, with a focus on experience. I see myself as more of a facilitator than a teacher. I think it's the best and most effective way to teach. It takes a ton of added effort. It'd be much easier to sit back and lecture all the time.

And sometimes I do, both because it's easier and because there's still a place for that in today's classroom. Yes, I think it's the best, but I still get this nagging suspicion in the pit of my stomach that when another teacher or administrator is walking by and they hear 10 students speaking at once, working on a group project or holding a class debate - they're thinking: chaos.

How does that guy still have a license? Sometimes, when I walk by the room of another teacher - if it's loud, I think the same thing Crazy, huh? From the book: "Inertness and routine, chaos and anarchism, are accusations bandied back and forth. When I walk by a room and the desks are in rows, the teachers at the front lecturing, I think: geez Let the students experience something.

The Child and the Curriculum

Honestly, I'm not nearly as critical as this review is making me seem. Obviously, both the child and the curriculum are important. Dewey explains why, and how to teach to both, and what pitfalls to avoid. Some more interesting thoughts: "There are those who see no alternative between forcing the child from without, or leaving him entirely alone.

As a teacher, he is not concerned with adding new facts to the science he teaches He is concerned with the subject-matter of the science as representing a given stage and phase of the developmental experience. This is why we dissect worms and frogs in biology, why we have the colonization simulation in social studies, why we read books in Language Arts. It's tough though, and leads to what Dewey calls "The 3 Evils. Lack of connection makes it seem formal and symbolic. There's no motivation, since it's already been accomplished there's no need - and need supplies the motive for learning.

When presented it's no longer science. It's just facts. Students lose the experience even when they have the experience. Anyway, it's not a bad book, and it's one I've been wanting to read for a while.

See a Problem?

Most of us adjust recipes without too much fear and trembling. So you tweak it. Not a big deal. But for some reason, many homeschool parents approach curriculum differently. You have to serve it exactly as specified, and your child will just have to choke it down. You, as the teacher and as the parent, have the freedom—indeed, the obligation—to adjust a course of study in order to better fit your student.

So use the curriculum as a starting point, just like a recipe. Find one that is close and then tweak it as needed. The question inevitably follows, then: How? How can a homeschool parent tweak curriculum to better fit a student? It helps to keep that recipe analogy in mind as you think about ways to tweak curriculum. When you tweak a recipe, you usually make adjustments in three main categories.

You might tweak one of the three, two of the three, or all three. You can adjust the content: increasing the quantity of some ingredients, decreasing others, even making substitutions. You can adjust the work required. That works too. A lot of the tweaking of this part of the recipe depends on the tasks involved. The serving suggestions can also be tweaked. The recipe might tell you to serve the chili with shredded cheddar cheese and cornbread, but you decide to serve it with avocados and corn chips.

Hopefully, you will discover a lot of practical ideas that will help you teach your individual child and embrace the freedom to do that. The child is a person. No one person is exactly like another, let alone exactly like all the others in his age range. The beauty of homeschooling is that it allows you to focus on the child as a unique individual. Think about the material in the lesson itself. You might be reading from a book, working with numbers, memorizing a poem, studying a passage for dictation—whatever it is. Focus on the material that is to be presented—the content—and consider these four ways that you can adjust it as needed for your child.

One of the simplest ways to tweak the content is to select its size. For example, deciding how much you will read before asking for a narration. You can adjust the length as needed— anywhere from a paragraph to a full chapter , depending on the student. Leveling the size up or down applies in many other types of lessons too. When you are selecting copywork for a child, pay attention to the size of the passage.


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A young student, especially, may still be exerting a great amount of effort just to hold the pencil correctly and keep its marks between the designated lines. A smaller copywork assignment will encourage that child to pay full attention and give his best effort during this stage. When handwriting becomes easier for him, you can adjust the size to reflect that growth.

If you are assigning a poem for your student to memorize and recite , consider the length of the poem. You want to challenge but not frustrate your student. A shorter poem learned well will have more impact than a longer one muddled through and recited poorly.

Children's needs and interests and the National Curriculum

The same holds true for dictation passages. Keep in mind how fluently your student is reading when you give her a passage to study for dictation. Make sure you are not overwhelming her with a passage that contains twenty words she will have to learn. You can adjust the size of the passage to fit her best right now. You can also adjust the size of the phrases you dictate for her to write. As her confidence strengthens, you can easily readjust the length of the phrases to match. One of the beauties of a Charlotte Mason approach is that it is a set of methods, and those methods work with any size content.

Another way you can tweak the content of your lessons is by spotlighting, or highlighting the most important ideas, as needed. An effective spotlight can help reduce confusion by eliminating less important details and pointing out key concepts. As long as we confine our gaze to what the child here and now puts forth, we are confused and misled. We cannot read its meaning. Extreme depreciations of the child morally and intel lectually, and sentimental idealizations of him, have their root in a common fallacy.

Both spring from taking stages of a growth or movement as something cut off and fixed. The first fails to see the promise contained in feelings and deeds which, taken by themselves, are uncompromising and repellent; the second fails to see that even the most pleasing and beautiful exhibitions are but 13 The Child and the Curriculum signs, and that they begin to spoil and rot the moment they are treated as achievements.

What we need is something which will enable us to interpret, to appraise, the elements in the child's present puttings forth and fallings away, his exhibitions of power and weakness, in the light of some larger growth-process in which they have their place. Only in this way can we discriminate. If we isolate the child's present inclinations, purposes, and experiences from the place they occupy and the part they have to perform in a developing experience, all stand upon the same level; all alike are equally good and equally bad. But in the movement of life different ele ments stand upon different planes of value.

Some of the child's deeds are symptoms of a waning tendency; they are survivals in functioning of an organ which has done its part and is passing out of vital use. To give positive attention to such qualities is to arrest development upon a lower level. It is systematically to maintain a rudimentary phase of growth.

Other activities are signs of a culminating power and interest; to them applies the maxim of striking while the iron is hot. As regards them, it is perhaps a matter of now or never. Selected, utilized, emphasized, they may mark a turning-point for good in the child's whole ca reer; neglected, an opportunity goes, never to be recalled. Other acts and feelings are prophetic; they represent the dawning of flickering light that will shine steadily only in the far future. As 14 The Child and the Curriculum regards them there is little at present to do but give them fair and full chance, waiting for the future for definite direction.

Just as, upon the whole, it was the weakness of the "old educa tion" that it made invidious comparisons between the immatu rity of the child and the maturity of the adult, regarding the for mer as something to be got away from as soon as possible and as much as possible; so it is the danger of the "new education" that it regard the child's present powers and interests as something finally significant in themselves. In truth, his learnings and achievements are fluid and moving.

They change from day to day and from hour to hour. It will do harm if child-study leave in the popular mind the impression that a child of a given age has a positive equipment of purposes and interests to be cultivated just as they stand. To take the phe-. It is just something to do with. Appealing to the interest upon the present plane means excitation; it means playing with a power so as con- 15 The Child and the Curriculum tinually to stir it up without directing it toward definite achieve ment.

Continuous initiation, continuous starting of activities that do not arrive, is, for all practical purposes, as bad as the continual repression of initiative in conformity with supposed interests of some more perfect thought or will. It is as if the child were for ever tasting and never eating; always having his palate tickled upon the emotional side, but never getting the organic satisfac tion that comes only with digestion of food and transformation of it into working power. As against such a view, the subject-matter of science and his tory and art serves to reveal the real child to us.

We do not know the meaning either of his tendencies or of his performances ex cepting as we take them as germinating seed, or opening bud, of some fruit to be borne. The whole world of visual nature is all too small an answer to the problem of the meaning of the child's in stinct for light and form. The entire science of physics is none too much to interpret adequately to us what is involved in some simple demand of the child for explanation of some casual change that has attracted his attention.

The art of Raphael or of Corot is none too much to enable us to value the impulses stirring in the child when he draws and daubs. So much for the use of the subject-matter in interpretation. Its further employment in direction or guidance is but an expansion of the same thought. To interpret the fact is to see it in its vital 16 The Child and the Curriculum movement, to see it in its relation to growth. But to view it as a part of a normal growth is to secure the basis for guiding it.

Guid ance is not external imposition. It is freeing the life-process for its own most adequate fulfilment. There are those who see no alternative be tween forcing the child from without, or leaving him entirely alone. Seeing no alternative, some choose one mode, some an other.

Both fall into the same fundamental error. Both fail to see that development is a definite process, having its own law which can be fulfilled only when adequate and normal conditions are provided. Really to interpret the child's present crude impulses in counting, measuring, and arranging things in rhythmic series involves mathematical scholarship a knowledge of the mathe matical formulae and relations which have, in the history of the race, grown out of just such crude beginnings.

To see the whole history of development which intervenes between these two terms is simply to see what step the child needs to take just here and now; to what use he needs to put his blind impulse in order that it may get clarity and gain force. The child is expected to "develop" this or that fact or truth out of his own mind. He is told to think things out, or work things out for himself, without being supplied any of the environing conditions which are requisite to start and guide thought.


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  • Nothing caji be developed from nothing; nothing but the crude can be developed out of the crude and this is what surely happens when we throw the child back upon his achieved self as a finality, and invite him to spin new truths of nature or of conduct out of that. It is certainly as futile to expect a child to evolve a universe out of his own mere mind as it is for a philoso pher to attempt that task. Development does notmean just get ting something out of the mind. It is a development or experience and into experience that is really wanted. And this is impossible save as just that educative medium is provided which will enable the powers and interests that have been selected as valuable to function.

    A psychological statement of experience follows its ac tual growth; it is historic; it notes steps actually taken, the un certain and tortuous, as well as the efficient and successful. The logical point of view, on the other hand, assumes that the devel opment has reached a certain positive stage of fulfilment. It neg lects the process and considers the outcome.

    It summarizes and' arranges, and thus separates the achieved results from the actual steps by which they were forthcoming in the first instance. We may compare the difference between the logical and the psycho logical to the difference between the notes which an explorer makes in a new country, blazing a trail and finding his way along as best he may, and the finished map that is constructed after the country has been thoroughly explored.

    The two are mutually de- pendent.. Without the more or less accidental and devious paths traced by the explorer there would be no facts which could be utilized in the making of the complete and related chart. But no 19 The Child and the Curriculum one would get the benefit of the explorer's trip if it was not com pared and checked up with similar wanderings undertaken by others; unless the new geographical facts learned, the streams crossed, the mountains climbed, etc.

    The map orders individual experiences, connecting them with one another irrespective of the local and temporal circumstances and accidents of their original discovery. Of what use is this formulated statement of experience? Of what use is the map? Well, we may first tell what the map is not. The map is not a substitute for a personal experience. The map does not take the place of an actual journey. The logically formulated material of a science or branch of learning, of a study, is no substitute for the having of individual experiences.

    The mathematical formula for a falling body does not take the place of personal contact and immediate individual experience with the falling thing. But the map, a summary, an arranged and orderly view of previous experi ences, serves as a guide to future experience; it gives direction; it facilitates control; it economizes effort, preventing useless wan dering, and pointing out the paths which lead most quickly and most certainly to a desired result. Through the map every new traveler may get for his own journey the benefits of the results of 20 The Child and the Curriculum others' explorations without the waste of energy and loss of time involved in their wanderings wanderings which he himself would be obliged to repeat were it not for just the assistance of the objective and generalized record of their performances.

    That which we call a science or study puts the net product of past ex perience in the form which makes it most available for the future. It represents a capitalization which may at once be turned to in terest. It economizes the workings of the mind in every way. Memory is less taxed because the facts are grouped together about some common principle, instead of being connected solely with the varying incidents of their original discovery.

    Observation is assisted; we know what to look for and where to look. It is the difference between looking for a needle in a haystack, and search ing for a given paper in a well-arranged cabinet. Reasoning is directed, because there is a certain general path or line laid out along which ideas naturally march, instead of moving from one chance association to another. There is, then, nothing final about a logical rendering of ex perience. Its value is not contained in itself; its significance is that of standpoint, outlook, method.

    It intervenes between the more casual, tentative, and roundabout experiences of the past, and more controlled and orderly experiences of the future. It gives past experience in that net form which renders it most available and most significant, most fecund for future experience.

    The ab- 21 The Child and the Curriculum stractions, generalizations, and classifications which it introduces all have prospective meaning. The formulated result is then not to be opposed to the process of growth. The logical is not set over against the psychological. The surveyed and arranged result occupies a critical position in the process of growth. It marks a turning-point. Hence the need of reinstating into experience the subject- matter of the studies, or branches of learning. It must be restored to the experience from which it has been abstracted.

    It needs to be psychologized; turned over, translated into the immediate and individual experiencing within which it has its origin and significance. Every study or subject thus has two aspects: one for the scien tist as a scientist; the other for the teacher as a teacher. These two aspects are in no sense opposed or conflicting. But neither are they immediately identical. For the scientist, the subject- matter represents simply a given body of truth to be employed in locating new problems, instituting new researches, and carry ing them through to a verified outcome.

    To him the subject- 22 The Child and the Curriculum matter of the science is self-contained. He refers various portions of it to each other; he connects new facts with it. He is not, as a scientist, called upon to travel outside its particular bounds; if he does, it is only to get more facts of the same general sort.

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    The problem of the teacher is a different one. As a teacher he is not concerned with adding new facts to the science he teaches; in propounding new hypotheses or in verifying them. He is con cerned with the subject-matter of the science as representing a given stage and phase of the development of experience.

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