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Excretion of the Mind

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  This scene is by Tasha Tudor from Rosemary for Remembrance.

Excretion of the mind...anyone have a guess as to what Mason is referring to with that phrase?  We came across it at our PMEU meeting where we are finishing up the usually-neglected Volume 5 study.  It should be  read more as it has acorns worth digging for, including this phrase.

In the chapter, "Young Crossjay", Mason talks about a boy character from the novel, The Egoist by George Meredith (1879). (Perhaps some of the challenges of Volume 5 are all her references to novels unfamiliar to us.?)Anyway, we learn that Crossjay balks at his education- he simply doesn't want to participate.  Oh, he certainly "does get it into the Lethe of the mind we call the verbal memory, out of which it can shortly be reproduced on call without having undergone any 'mind-change,' untouched by ideas, unwarmed by imagination  mere dead matter, an excretion of the mind." (4.393)

The Lethe (LEE-thee)  in Greek mythology is the river of unmindfulness that caused complete forgetfulness.  In order to know something, really know, the knowledge needs to connect with ideas or warm the imagination.  If not, it's just "dead matter, an excretion of the mind".  All this points to rote memory, something Mason wasn't fond of.

Waters of Lethe by John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope (1879)

So be careful with how you teach what you teach.  Recitation should be more than just verbal or rote memory - so should narration and so should dictation. (I will explore that in a future post.)  If you are trying to follow Mason's methods and you are doing something in which the student can quickly look, perhaps reproduce, and be done with it - it probably didn't reach the part of the mind that makes things stick. It's good to think about this when we feel we are behind and ask our students to just "quickly finish up the rest of that book" with no narration of any sort.

I know - this post didn't have a pleasing title.  But as each of us slowly moves more and more towards this authentic, relational education, it's good to understand what Charlotte Mason thought about different ways of learning.  It helps me to think through and evaluate how learning happens around here - hopefully all knowledge passes the Lethe of the mind and goes deeper to a place that warms the imagination and sprouts ideas.

From joy to joy,
Nancy


14 comments:

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on connecting knowledge with ideas & warming the imagination, Nancy. It's sobering to think that minds can be filled with dead matter!

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    1. I agree, Carol. Thanks for stopping by!

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  2. My, Charlotte certainly chose words that produce mental images. The juxtaposition of the paintings you chose is striking as well, Nancy. I read Titus 3 this afternoon so your post also speaks to me about truly bearing in mind versus the mere act of recall.

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    1. Yes, she did. I think that's one of the reasons one can find so much in her writings - don't you? Going to look up Titus 3 now...

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  3. Thanks for your insights on this Nancy. It is certainly something to ponder on and explore a bit more. I am looking forward to reading that future post you mentioned!

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    1. You're welcome, Shirley Ann. Now to follow up on that...

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  4. Good reminder! I'm going to pull out Vol 5 and re-read some of this...

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    1. Let me know if anything else strikes you! We can talk about it at the next PMEU meeting.

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  5. Nancy, you have a way with words. I will never tire of telling you how much your writings help me, and how they lift my spirit and encourage me.

    Beautiful illustrations.

    As I was making some cards with an old book by the Provensen couple, I thought much about you! I still remember that Shakespeare book illustrated by them... hmmmm.... maybe I could give my dh ideas for a present these days! :)

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    1. Silvia,
      You are always so encouraging! I like to make cards from old books, too.
      You have been busy creating and writing for your different blogs - a blessing to so many, Silvia.

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  6. If I could narrate this post in one word, it would be MINDFULNESS! Oh, and while people are dusting off Volume 5, head over to the Ambleside Forum. Volume 5 is the Maytag repairman of all the volumes! LOL

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    1. That was a good one, Tammy! And yes, Mindfulness is key.

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  7. Cassey Beardsley shared your page with me and I am so glad she did. New to homeschooling. I am excited for the journey! God Bless!

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    1. It's nice to meet you, Peggy! I miss Cassie so much - I think it's been over 10 years since I've seen her. I am jealous that she is in your life - tell her I said "hi". What an exciting time - the season of being new to homeschooling!

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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