The Soul of a Schoolboy

The Soul of a Schoolboy

Read this to the girls for their poetry lesson one day:

The Schoolboy by William Blake

I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me:
O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O it drives all joy away!
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hours;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning’s bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing.
And forget his youthful spring!

O father and mother if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day.
By sorrow and care’s dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?

This poem reminds me of the many old school days endured in my own time: the oppressive rules without reason or explanation; the long, drawn-out, and completely compartmentalized lectures on each subject that passed as teaching; the routine, rote memorization designed for us to regurgitate many orphaned facts for the sake of completing our exam papers. We are indeed “well-schooled” and poorly-educated, lacking connection to our surroundings, interests in our society, curiosity in all new things and ideas, and utterly without the ability to think or reason for ourselves.

To not “suck” the fun out of learning (as this young boy claimed that that’s what’s happening to him in this poem) is actually the barest minimal thing one should do for our children’s education.

While I do not consider myself a disciple of Charlotte Mason, I appreciate many important principles she has laid out and am beginning to adopt many more into my homeschooling considerations.

Mason was a well-regarded British educator from the 19th century and she declared that, “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

By that, she does not mean placing a child in a “child-ready” environment in which learning should take place. This is as unappealing and absurd as the many homes where bumpers are obsessively placed on any object that has a right angle, in an effort to so-called “child-proof” the space for the toddler’s safety.

Far be it from that, education is about learning about our past in order to figure out how we relate to our present and future world.

Therefore, it would not be too severe for me to say that anything less than producing a thinking person at the end of the line is actually an abandonment of one’s civil duties,  a desertion of one’s responsibilities to serve our hard-won republic, and a major cause of attrition of liberty, both at home and in the world at large.

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