Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking - the strain would be too great - but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. - Charlotte Mason
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Education is an atmosphere—that is, the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives.
Education is a discipline—that is, the discipline of the good habits in which the child is trained.
and a life.
Education is a life, nourished upon ideas;
Typical Day at Roots
A young boy arrives at school before 8:20 a.m. and waves at his older and younger friends busily helping out with the garden and animal morning chores. His rotation was the two weeks before. He was assigned to feeding and watering the egg-laying hens. His chest filled with pride, remembering how he had finally carried full buckets of water to the coop with a minimal amount of spills. He has one favorite chicken he named Petunia because her feathers were the deepest color of black with a deep violet sheen. She reminded him of the petunias he sketched and labeled during one of his nature studies in the flower garden last summer.
He walks into his homeroom, a warm and inviting environment decorated with soft colors, wooden desks, lamps, and floor rugs. A few prints from great artists provide a vibrant contrast to the cream walls they adorn. He sets his backpack on a hook and carefully places his reading book on his desk. Last night he read a colorful picture book about Abraham Lincoln. He relates to Abe because the book focuses on his birth and early years.
The sound of music streams down the hall initiating the morning assembly. He excitingly joins his peers looking forward to a new day that begins with a song, the pledge of allegiance, and morning announcements. The director bids everyone a good day, and students cluster into their Forms and return to class. This is his last year in Form I. Next year he will be starting Form II or what would traditionally be the fourth grade.
He always looks forward to math instruction, but this morning, in particular, his class is working on calculating fresh egg sales for the upcoming Farmer's Market. He loves Saturday morning markets because he gets to share pictures of Petunia and talk about all of his responsibilities on the farm. He gets to help count the money and keep a record log of sales. The director said that if they save the money from the market, they might be able to purchase an Alpaca for the farm next year. So far, they had collected over half of the funds needed.
After a quick fact drill, he heads to his homeroom tutor for literature and composition. He quietly enters and sits at his desk. He pulls out his copybook and practices his penmanship.
Today he is copying Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, "From a Railway Carriage." He pays close attention to spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. As he carefully copies the words, his imagination swells with the sound of the train engine horn and billowing smoke.
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows, the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!
When his tutor signals for the next reading group, he eagerly finishes his last word with his best effort and joins her. The habits of attention and best effort are their focus for the trimester. He hopes to receive the word "Always" for these habits on the report to his parents that fall.
The tutor reads the novel, Old Yeller. The children are asked to sit quietly and listen, paying close attention to detail and visualizing the story in their mind's eye. After reading a section, she asks the them if there were any words they wanted to be defined before they narrate the passage. She then calls on one of the students to recite what they heard in the story. If they struggle, another child is called on to fill in the holes. She asks a few questions prompting sequencing of events or words that may point to the conflict or theme in the book. The children are asked to return to their desks and create a written narration in their composition books. If they finish their written narrative earlier than others, they are encouraged to write a reflection, opinion, or poem about the reading passage if they wish.
The children prepare for morning break. They follow their tutor outside for a brisk walk around the perimeter of the campus. One assistant stays behind for bathroom breaks and then takes the second group. Today, the eight-year-old boy and his friends excitedly plan out the remainder of their time exploring, playing games, or petting the farm animals. After twenty minutes, the tutors blow their whistles, and they return to class.
The children study their lines for the Shakespearean play the students are performing that spring. This year they chose The Tempest. When he recited his part at home, his mother's commented that her favorite quote was, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." He thinks about his dreams and looks forward to what the future holds.
The young boy pulls out his map book. His class has been studying world rivers. Today he learns about the longest rivers in South America. He learns the Amazon River is 6,992 kilometers or 4,345 miles long! His teacher shares pictures and stories of the Amazon people. He learns about their history, culture, dress, and how they obtain food. Later in the lesson, the children will learn to make a traditional South American dessert called Tres Leches cake. He can't wait! Cooking is a part of life skill instruction held during the afternoons.
Next, the young boy is asked to pull out his grammar workbook to learn about prepositions. After a short lesson, the class sings the preposition song.
The tutor calls for everyone to sit at the rug for the Spanish lesson of the day. Foreign language lessons are one of his favorite activities. Next year, he will begin writing in Spanish. Today they focus on introducing themselves and their families. The children stand for a song that follows the oral practice. Then they prepare for lunch.
It's lunchtime, so he fetches his sack lunch and places it in the basket for his tutor to carry to the lunchroom or outdoor eating area if the weather permits it. He and his buddies take off to continue their make-believe archealogy dig near the field. After 20 minutes of free play, he is prompted to wash up for lunch. He retrieves his cold lunch as others line up for hot lunch. Today is a Fancy Friday, so the tables have linens and LED tea lights. He unfolds a napkin and lays it on his lap. He practices properly using utensils even if it means cutting up his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He doesn’t rush to eat his lunch because he feels relaxed after his physical jaunt before sitting down.
The boy returns to his study for a short composer study. Today they are listening to Frederic Chopin's "Heroic" Polonaise. This piece concludes his study of Chopin. He sits and listens, letting his imagination chase the notes creating a moving picture in his mind's eye. Afterward, he and a few of his classmates share out what they saw and heard.
Today in Ag Science, they are talking with a local sheep rancher about the sheep on the farm. They walk the field and bring in the sheep to a smaller pen. They are talking about the feeding program to ensure the ewes are getting proper nutrition and are ready for the upcoming lambing season. He has to make a plan for where the ewes will be during lambing and what needs to be done once lambs are on the ground. The class comes back together with their ideas and together with the sheep rancher discuss what the next steps will be. He is excited for lambing season because he will be picking out one of the lambs to take to the fair next summer.
It is the last session of the day, and the rotation he joins is art class. They have been learning about the art element of line and use clay to roll coils to form a bowl. He enjoys working with his hands. He turns the cold earth between his palms and thinks back to the ancient culture of Mesopotamia. Last year he learned about their civilization and recorded it in his Book of Centuries. They used soil, plants, and animals to survive just as he is learning to do. He realizes they were not that different than he is.
The last ten minutes of the day is spent sweeping, washing windows, wiping down desks, dusting, and emptying trash cans. He takes pride in the task he is assigned to complete. He practices the habits of best effort and cleanliness as he does his part to restore beauty and order to his learning environment.
After the learning day is over, he gets to go to his first 4H meeting held on campus. He will be choosing what projects he wants to participate in for the year. He really wants to do rocks and minerals, archery, photography, and market lamb. He understands that he needs to narrow down his choices and that he always has next year.