Method vs. System

In order to understand what RiverTree School is about, it is important to first understand the difference between an educational method and an educational system. A method implies the gradual accomplishment of a certain goal and steady progress toward that end. Thus, a method of education is the means by which over the course of years an education is brought about. A method always has the goal in mind but the particular steps toward that goal can vary widely as the situation warrants. In education this is vitally important because, of course, God has made each child unique. The particular steps that are right for one child may be counterproductive for another. The proper application of an educational method requires thought, sensitivity, judgement and a sense of empathy. The method driven teacher is continually evaluating her progress toward the goal and seeking feedback from her students about the effectiveness of her technique, but the technique is not the method itself. A method is an applied philosophy: a mode of action derived from a belief system about the nature of children, people, learning and education.

An educational system, on the other hand, is a series of steps and procedures that can teach a certain skill or impart some knowledge. Systems, properly employed are part of the toolkit of the accomplished teacher. The best teachers have a variety of systematic tools that they can pull out in the proper situation to help students grow and learn.

Where we run into trouble is when we elevate systems and use them in place of an educational method. The lure of relying on educational systems is strong because we want to believe that there is "one best system" that will work for everybody. We want to believe that if we can perfect our systems we can demystify education and change it from an art to a science. This approach always ends in disappointment , however, because children are not machines nor are they blank slates. As Charlotte Mason reminds us, "Children are born persons" with their attendant strengths and weaknesses, each one different.

The educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being, and his business is to guide, and assist in, the production of the latent good in that being, the dissipation of the latent evil, the preparation of the child to take his place in the world at his best, with every capacity for good that is in him developed into a power. (Home Education, p. 9)

A system, or a series of systems, can never have the necessary flexibility or adaptability required to accomplish the task of proper education.

Too many of our schools neglect method in favor of a mere system. The result for students is a frustrating, mechanical, cold school experience. What they really crave and need is the attentive care of a teacher empowered to use a variety of systematic tools in service of a humane and gentle educational method. RiverTree School is committed to providing just such an environment and employ just such an educational method.