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  • 13 Jan 2018 8:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One morning recently, in a desperate attempt for survival, I had a timeout. 

    The day started off as usual but, during a reading lesson, my seven year old and I came to a standoff. She refused to do what I asked. I pushed my agenda. Tensions escalated for both of us. 

    Then came total meltdown and tears. 

    Hiding out on the floor of the bathroom in self-imposed timeout, I made a decision. I would not despise her and her behaviour. I would embrace her. After several deep breaths, I returned to apologize and invited her to join me on the couch. 

    As I began reading Understood Betsy, she snuggled under my arm and wiped away her tears. Slowly we both began to breathe again. Later we were able to calmly return to that contentious reading lesson. But it is by being shaped by Mason’s principles that it was possible for me to dispel our negative moment and partner with God’s work in her life, and mine. 

    That reading lesson was intense for me. It had me on my knees that night, shaking my head at my failure and God’s grace. 

    There on my knees, I felt the Lord remind me that this is holy business. 

    Mason articulates this well: “never let her [the mother] contemplate any kind of instruction for her child, except under the sense of divine cooperation” (Mason, 1925, p. 274). Mason goes on to say that “our cooperation appears to be the indispensable condition of all the divine workings” (Mason, 1925, p. 274). 

    When I stumbled upon Charlotte Mason four years ago, God provided a friend who gently explained the practices to me. Yet she was very clear: if you’re going to use Mason’s methods, you’ve got to become a student of her philosophy. Our serious study, guided by God’s Spirit, is part of what Mason meant when she said that our cooperation is indispensable. 

    I took my friend’s wisdom to heart. 

    I’ve learned that it’s not about using certain methods so much as it’s holy work – not easy work. As Mason says, it requires the “diligence, regularity and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours” (Mason, 1925, p. 3). 

    When the reading lesson went sideways, it was the Christ-inspired principles of Mason that I leaned on. Without a life-giving atmosphere, my child’s hunger for knowledge would fade. Without a view of her as a born person, there would be no flexibility. Without understanding the way of the will, there would be no larger vision. 

    Feasting at the table of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is hard mental work but in return I’ve entered into deep mysteries in a way that satisfies my soul. 

    How about for you? 

    As a student of Mason’s work, young or old, examining her practices is only the beginning. You, too, must enter into the riches of her philosophy for yourself. You just might save your reading lesson and forge deeper into this holy business. 


    Mason, C. M. (1925). Home education (Vol. 1). London, England: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. Ltd. 

    Mason, C. M. (1925). Parents and children (Vol. 2). London, England: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. Ltd. 

    Copyright © Colleen Klatt 2017 

    Colleen Klatt lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where she homeschools her three daughters using Charlotte Mason’s ideas. 

  • 06 Jan 2018 1:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What, you egg?

    Young fry of treachery!

    (Act 4, Scene 2)

          This line was chosen by most of my students to copy. We busted into laughter right before yet another murder.  I wonder if these words will be echoes in their lives like Hollins Hoodhood in The Wednesdays Wars  ( by Gary Schmidt) when he read Shakespeare every Wednesday afternoon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. I would like to think so as my students read Shakespeare on Thursdays after lunch and another class on Wednesday mornings.

         I began scaffolding Macbeth with a reading from the beginning of Mary MacLeod’s   “Shakespeare Story Book”  called The Weird Sisters (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/49146/49146-h/49146-h.htm) :

          Quoting from the link above, 

    Witchcraft is now a thing of the past unless there still lingers in some very remote corners a belief  for evil of some poor old body, whose only claim for such distinction is, perhaps, her loneliness and ugliness. But in ancient days, and even into the last century, such a belief was a very usual thing. ‘Wise women,’ as they were called, who pretended they had the power of foretelling the future, were by no means uncommon, and even learned people and those in high positions were not ashamed to consult them with regard to coming events. In Scotland, this belief lingered much longer than in England, and even to this day, in remote parts of the Highlands, there are some who claim they have the gift of ‘second sight’ – that is, that they can see in advance events that will happen several years apart. (p. 246)

    The time when the present story occurred was hundreds of years ago, in the year 1039, before William the Conqueror had come to Britain, and when England and Scotland were entirely separate kingdoms. (p.246)

          My Form III and Forms IV – VI classes  opened up the play to see Macbeth coming from war to hear the three weird sisters or three witches. Throughout the term the students acted, narrated, used maps, picked out favorite lines, accessed character and plot, and guessed who was going to die next. We counted murders and discussed motives. They wrote obituaries, newspaper headlines, and rewrote one letter from Macbeth to Lady Macbeth. One student ended her note with a tweet! Another student used the term: seared conscience (which had come from a recent sermon) to define Macbeth’s character.  Plays are to be read aloud and acted. We did and there were many begging to be Macbeth and his Lady Macbeth. I showed a few clips from Kenneth Branagh’s  live performances  in England, New York City, and National Live Theater. I showed images from One Man’s Macbeth by a Senior at The Kings College in New York City. That’s right:  23 characters done by a 21 year old! As many extras came our way I was standing on the words of Charlotte Mason that the Holy Spirit will teach our children.

        Charlotte Mason wrote in Vol. 6, p. 140 about Macbeth’s seared conscience: “Thus, Macbeth, a great general, returns after a brilliant victory, head and heart are inflated, what can he not achieve? Could he not govern a country as well as rule an army? Reason unfolds the steps by which he might do great things; great things, ay, but are they lawful, these possible exploits? And then in the nick of time he comes across the 'weird Sisters,' as we are all apt to take refuge in fatalism when conscience no longer supports us. He shall be Thane of Cawdor, and, behold, confirmation arrives on the spot. He shall also be king. Well, if this is decreed, what can he do? He is no longer a free agent. And a score of valid arguments unfold themselves showing how Scotland, the world, his wife, himself, would be enhanced, would flourish and be blessed if he had the opportunity to do what was in him. Opportunity? The thing was decreed! It rested with him to find the means, the tools. He was not without imagination, had a poetic mind and shrank before the horrors he vaguely foresaw. But reason came to his aid and step by step the whole bloody tragedy was wrought out before his prescient mind. When we first meet with Macbeth he is rich in honours, troops of friends, the generous confidence of his king. The change is sudden and complete, and, we may believe, reason justified him at every point. But reason did not begin it. The will played upon by ambition had already admitted the notion of towering greatness or ever the 'weird Sisters' gave shape to his desire. Had it not been for this countenance afforded by the will, the forecasts of fate would have influenced his conduct no more then they did that of Banquo.”

        See how we wound up the term from two students term exams provided below.

    Form V: Age 16

    1. Write the story of Macbeth from the viewpoint of one character: A) Macbeth, B) Lady Macbeth, C) the witches, D) Malcolm.

                Double, double, toil and trouble.

                We are the servants of Hecate.

                Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

                We are the speakers of prophecies.

                Double, double, toil and trouble.

                We are one in three-

                Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

                We are the shadows under the bed-

                Double, double, toil and trouble-

                We are the movement in the corner of your eye-

                Fire burn and cauldron bubble-

                We are the magic-casters-

                We are the potion-brewers-

                We are the curse-dealers-

                We are the servants of Hecate, we are the stuff of old wives tales,

                  and we are the reason behind Macbeth’s madness.

            He first came to us during a storm. We remember how the lightning flashed, how the thunder roared, and how the rain pounded on the ground like the feet of a rushing army battering the ground. The light from our fire illuminated his face and we remember how he carried himself with such pride, confident in his fine features and his noble wit. He was not a man to be trifled with.

          And yet—we saw in Lord Macbeth something he tried to hide. We saw an ambition that could seize his heart and stop his wit, a thirst for power that could be coaxed into a raging madness.

             A slow smile spread over our faces. It was time to stir the cauldron.

           Macbeth trusted us utterly. We looked into the future and saw his ascension to being the Thane of Cawdor, all the way to being king. With a little help from his cunning wife, he was able to be coaxed into murdering the king of Scotland. Of course, we left out the ensuing chaos that we saw in his future as a result of this act. We merely informed him that there was power in his future.

            Each time we saw him, the great Lord Macbeth’s eyes grew wilder. Each time he spoke to us, his voice lost its steady calm ring. Each time he walked into our cave, his gait became more and more hurried. We watched over him with our crystal ball. It was us who summoned the ghost of Banquo and sent him to torture Macbeth into shameful silence.

          One day in the dark winter, our Lady Hecate discovered the game we were playing. Her rage was colder and more furious than any snowstorm we have ever endured. In her rage, she stooped so low that she made an appearance in our filthy cave. If only such an honor had been under better circumstances. Still, even the threats of our Lady were not enough to stop Macbeth, who was heading straight for a massive collision.

    The last time we saw him, we knew that his time was almost up. We looked into his future and saw a mighty army led by the dead King’s sons. We saw the army cutting boughs off of trees and carrying them up the hill towards Macbeth’s castle. Cackling to ourselves, we told him to fear the forest coming to attack him.

            Macbeth, the fool, believed us, and in the short time after this meeting his life fell entirely to shreds.

    We are watching his wife as she succumbs to the tumor of guilt festering inside her heart. We are watching him as a mighty warrior and he engage in hand-to-hand combat, and we are watching as Lord Malcolm finally avenges his family and manages to kill Mac-


    We scream as the temperature suddenly drops drastically low.  We look around—what’s going on? Our crystal gazing ball begins to dim and flicker, and as we watch the glow of it’s all—knowing beauty fades away. The fire crackling under our cauldron winks out in the blink of an eye.

    Hecate knows what we have done.

    Form III:  Age 12

     Describe your favorite scene in Macbeth.

         My favorite scene is in the very beginning where Macbeth and Banquo had just finished visiting the three witches. Macbeth was told by the three witches that he would become king over the land. Now when he told his wife about it, he was still debating as to whether or not he should do something about it. But his wife had given into the temptation right when he told her about the visit with the three twitches. And she nagged and persuaded him to act it, thus fulfilling the prophecies. He didn’t know how to act until Lady Macbeth said, “Tonight there is a banquet where all is invited, after the king, Duncan has drunk his fill and fallen into a deep sleep. I will put wine into the guards’ food to make them also drowsy. Then you will sneak into Duncan’s room and kill him while he is sleeping. Afterwards make sure to spread Duncan’s blood over the hands of the sleeping guard.” Macbeth had given into his dark temptation and excited to become king, acted out what his wife had told him to do. But guilt washed over him so that he couldn’t finish the job. Lady Macbeth called him a coward before entering the dead king’s chamber. When she entered the room, she was horrified to see that the dead king looked quite like her dear father: still, she hardened her heart, took in a deep breath and completed the brutal job.
          The very next morning, when the castle learned of Duncan’s tragic fate, they were in hysterics and were all too quick to blame things on the confused guards. Everyone was crying, weeping, as well Lady Macbeth and Macbeth who played their parts quite well so that they weren’t suspected at all. Those who were also scared they might be suspected fled to England, Ireland, anywhere they would be safe from the rage driven Scottish men.

    © 2018 by Bonnie Buckingham

  • 31 Dec 2017 8:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The question is not,—how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”  (Mason, 1989B, pp. 170-171) 

    This question of Mason’s—“Not how much does the youth know, but how much does he care”—is echoed by James K. Smith: “What if education weren’t first and foremost about what we know but about what we love” (p. 138).  It is a question that forms and directs the education of my children and one that is the bedrock of what, how and why I teach.  As I worry over that question in my mind, I keep coming to the thought that love only happens when you have a deep connection or relationship with someone. Without a relationship, there isn’t love. 

    Ultimately, our goal in education, in life, is that we are in relationship with God.  That He is in our thoughts, our minds, our hearts and that we live and move in Him.  How do we do that?  How do we form our character so that we live for Him?  It depends on what we love.  We have been given a living example in Christ.  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love . . .” (Eph.5:1, NET Bible).  Love for what, for whom? Is not that what we are trying to find out as we learn to be imitators? The connections—relationships—we make form who we are. And those we learn to love, whether they are people in our present or people in the past, they change us. The connections we form with them informs our own character.  And as James Smith says, “You are what you love.”

    So how do we connect with people in our present?  It seems simple, right?  We talk to them, discover who they are, what makes them tick. It’s not too difficult to do with those you are already attached to. It’s much more difficult and requires effort, with those you aren’t. Sometimes conversations never get past the small talk, something that is more and more true with our new world of social media where conversations are considered complete with an LOL or three-word text. It’s hard to get past the surface. But in order to form a relationship with anyone, we have to! 

    My son has a new girlfriend.  Alyssa is brilliantly gifted in a field—namely chemistry—that is a frightfully elusive subject to me and as I drove her home the first time we met, I was wracking my brain to find something to talk about. I brought up the fact that I had made a new glaze for my pottery—and then the spark ignited. She lit up as she examined the details of the chemical problem I was having.  Although I may only have understood one in ten words, the joy and excitement that came bubbling from her was joy to me. I had discovered her “bent leather!”  We had made a connection and I had a little glimpse into her soul. The spark of a relationship.

    Our family has continually talked about Mason’s “bent leather.” In her Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education, Mason (1989A) says, “Perhaps there is no better way of measuring a person of liberal education than by the number of substantives he is able to use with familiarity and discrimination. We remember how Scott tried a score of openings with the man on the coach and got no further until he hit upon ‘bent leather;’ then the talk went merrily for the man was a saddler. We have all had such experiences, and know to our shame that we ourselves have victimized interlocutors who have not been able to find our particular ‘bent leather’” (p. 261).  This story has become our mantra when meeting someone new; everyone has a story, a passion, and it is up to us to find it in them if we ever hope to make a connection. 

    This chance conversation with Alyssa has stuck in my mind for weeks now and I wonder if this idea may be the most important thing that Mason has taught me and that I in turn have sought to teach my children.  Could it be that of all the things we learn, the connections one makes with people—past or present—are what last?  Of all the things I’ve ever taught my children in the past eighteen years, I wonder if what sticks in the end, what forms them, will be simply that: if they have formed a relationship with or made a real connection with a person or idea, it will stay with them.  If not, it will not stay with them.

    I can think of four simple daily practices that are building blocks for forming relationships with people in the past.  Narrations, Commonplace book entries, the Way of the Will chart and our Grand Conversations have been vital in solidifying the connections formed in our readings. Each one of them in turn challenges the learner to look inward, because a real relationship goes both ways—you invest in a person, and you receive back.  Imagine spending a month, maybe a few months, sometimes a year, reading a great book about a certain person. All year that person will be with you, in the back of your mind. You may question their motives, become angry when they make a poor choice, rejoice when they act the way you hoped they would. Spending all that time thinking about them, they become close to you. Mason (1989A) puts it this way:  “ . . . that only becomes knowledge to a person which he has assimilated, which his mind has acted upon” (p.12). 

    “Mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated. For this reason we owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” (p. 12) 

    These books are the springboard to forming relationships. The follow-up is just as important. This is the point of narrations. We hope that in the telling back of a reading, in the writing, acting, drawing, speaking narrations that we continually ask for, the ideas will somehow stick. Sometimes it becomes rote. But something else happens in the telling back: the children put into words what has moved them. And that is when I think it not only sticks, but starts to influence and shape them, to become them. The same thing happens with our Commonplace entries. The lines from books, poems, Shakespeare that grab us, we write down, keep, read and re-read and link us to the speaker. Again, they become a part of us; it is this connection with an idea or person that has power to move and shape us.

    Knowing how important and life-shaping a meaningful relationship is, I sometimes try to force it.  It feels that way with our Way of the Will chart sometimes.  Each Friday my kids are to choose a person—real or fictional—that they have met that week and describe their character: whether this person is governed by will for good or ill, or whether they are willful.  This always sparks the rather frustrated discussion of what part of the person’s life they are referring to.  People are not always consistently governed by will or willful! They change and its not easy to slot them into a neat compartment.  But as my kids objectively try to understand the people they have met, admired or despised, they continue to form that relationship with them, clarifying the reasons they are drawn to or repelled from them.  And as that relationship is formed, it in turns forms my children. 

    Lastly, as the kids grow older I find that oral narrations quickly turn into discussions; that the sharing of Commonplace quotes turn into discussions; that the Way of the Will choice is frequently disputed, as they dig into the character of the people they have met. Our post-reading time sometimes takes longer than the readings and has become the most valuable time of our day. The discussions, or Grand Conversations, are a time of digesting and assimilating our knowledge and contribute to the forming of a lasting relationship with the character in question. Best of all, they open a door to discussing who we are, what we want to be, what we care about, what we believe. Through the Holy Spirit’s guiding, prompting and directing, our conversations go to the heart of learning: what do we love? 

    As we continue throughout our whole lives to learn and grow, it is my prayer that we will strive to build a real relationship with people we meet today and those we read about from the past so that we will not become static, but will be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV).


    Mason, C.M. (1989A). A philosophy of education. Wheaton, IL; Tyndale House. (Original work published in 1925). 

    Mason, C.M. (1989B). School education. Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.  (Original work published 1925).

    Smith, J.K. (2016). You are what you love:  the spiritual power of habit. Grand Rapids, MI:  BrazosPress.

    ©  2018 Sandra Zuidema

  • 19 Dec 2017 1:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last year about this time I met a young woman at our monthly local CM book study. She shared her dream of starting a Charlotte Mason tutorial in our area. She asked me to pray about how I might be a part. As providence would have it, circumstances allowed me to say yes to being one of four tutors at this new endeavor.

    It was quite heady to be in on the ground floor for the planning, the praying, the hoping, and the sharing of ideas. I stood amazed as her dreams became reality and this past fall, Ingleside Tutorial opened its doors to 24 students in a charming house on a lake. The students are in grades 1 – 6 for a four-hours a day, four days a week homeschool tutorial. 

    Even though I had been using Mason’s ideas and philosophy to educate my own children for the past twenty plus years, the tutorial board insisted on sending me to two rounds of training at Ambleside Schools International. Honestly, I tried to tell them that the money would be better spent on books for the tutorial! Not that I knew everything, but I had been reading and studying the Charlotte Mason Method ever since I had toddlers and the training at ASI did not come cheap. But the board insisted on sending me and so I went for one long weekend to observe the Ambleside School in action in Fredericksburg, TX and for another week to an intensive teacher training in Minneapolis, MN.

    Of course it is always enjoyable and inspirational to read from Charlotte Mason’s writings and to discuss their ideas with other Charlotte Mason instructors. It was quite the challenge to have to narrate in front of others after we read Mason’s writings! I especially enjoyed sitting under the teaching of folk whose books and articles I have read (Bill and Maryellen St. Cyr). Seeing how Mason’s principles function in a small private school setting with real teachers and real students was encouraging as I thought about the coming year.  

    Here are some of my gleanings from that first weekend of training at Ambleside Fredericksburg.

    One of the principle ideas of the teacher training was that education is formation, not just information. In teaching our children we are forming them with ideas, with habits, with truth, goodness and beauty. We are not just ticking off boxes, and filling up brain space. Your child is a person and how you teach can affirm their personhood. He or she is a relational being, not just a rational being. God created us for relationship, for conversation, and for sharing.

    Charlotte Mason says, “What we call ‘science’ is too much with us. We must either reverence or despise children; and while we regard them as incomplete and underdeveloped beings, rather than weak and ignorant persons, whose weakness we must inform and whose weakness we must support, but whose potentialities are as great as our own, we cannot do otherwise than despise children, however kindly or even tenderly we commit the offence.”  (Mason, 1911, pp. 421-422).  What she is saying, it seems to me, is that we can regard our children as incomplete and underdeveloped beings or as weak and ignorant little persons. When we see them as the former, we will assume that they need to be remolded into our image of a good student or a good child. But if we respect them as persons, albeit weak and ignorant, then we see their potential, we recognize we need to come alongside them, we need to form their character and feed their mind with ideas. This is the job description of a teacher, of a homeschool mom.

    We must teach our children that work is not a negative thing. The word work must be redeemed in our culture. Too often we as parents chime along with the world in giving our children a negative view of work. We label our weekdays with Wednesday being hump day, the day to get over so we are on the weekend side of the week. We say TGIF and look eagerly toward the weekend. Work is something to get over, to quickly get done. The workweek must be endured until the weekend is here at last, and we can finally enjoy ourselves. To view work this way is a huge disservice to our children. Instead we should say there is a set time for set work. Work is what we are called to do; we are called to be productive, to use our talents and abilities as God has given them. Doing our work well blesses us and blesses others.

    If you ask an 8-year-old child what does it mean to be an adult, most likely you will get the answer, “it means I get to do what I want.” Our culture reinforces this idea. Commercials tell us that we should have it the way we want it, that the product is what we want, and that we do after all deserve it. We tell our children in any number of ways, subtle and not so subtle that the fullness of life is doing what we want.

    Here is what Charlotte Mason says: “In the very act of giving their freedom to children we impose fetters which will keep them enslaved all their lives. That is because we confound liberty with license and do not perceive that the two cannot co-exist . . . The child who has learned that, by persistent demands, he can get leave to do what he will, and have what he likes whether he do so by means of stormy outcries or by his bewitching, wheedling ways, becomes the most pitiable of all slaves, the slave to chance desires” (Mason, 1911, p. 423).

    What is the antidote? Miss Mason continues, “Let him learn that ‘do as you are bid’ is a child’s first duty; that the life of his home is organized on a few such injunctions as ‘be true,’ ‘be kind,’ ‘be courteous,’ ‘be punctual,’ and that to fail in any of these respects is unworthy and unbecoming” (Mason, 1911, p. 424).

    To this quote, I added in my notes: Children today do not learn the meaning of “must.” What is more, their parents do not teach them that they too live by the rule of must. Instead parents today present an image of unlimited choices, of feeding all their wants, of fulfilling all their desires. Parents should make a point of letting children know that the dishes must be washed, the laundry must be folded, and the meals must be cooked. Children, who see their parents fulfilling duties, will be more likely not to shirk their own. Again parents can come alongside children and help them to fulfill their duties. A conversation over bedtime is not “you are going to go to bed at 9:00 pm” but rather, “your body must have 10 hours of sleep to function at its best, I am here to help you accomplish this. What time you do need to go to bed in order to ensure that you get 10 hours of sleep?” Now it is not the father’s will over the child’s but it is the child realizing that if he needs 10 hours of sleep, his parents are his allies in getting this accomplished.

    And finally Mason says, “Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food” (Mason, 1925, p. 109).

    I hope you have enjoyed these readings and notes on my training time. It is exciting to see all the forms that a CM education is taking in our communities. Our journey does not end when our children are graduated. There are exciting possibilities ahead. What part will you play?


    Mason, C.M. (1911). Children are born persons. Parents’ Review, 22. Issue 6. 419-437. 

    Mason, C.M. (1925).  An essay towards a philosophy of education.  Retrieved from AmblesideOnline.org. 

    © 2017 Jeannette Tulis

  • 10 Dec 2017 5:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Most of us encounter Charlotte Mason when exploring educational options, but before long we learn that her perspective on education embraces far more than science, history, or the arts. We find that her educational philosophy grows from an understanding of persons. Viewing others as made in the image of God, each one reflecting his nature, expands our perspective on education beyond knowledge for intellectual development of persons. We discover that the living ideas and habits fit for us as persons nourish our character to grow into all we were ever meant to be as persons.

    In her book Ourselves, a narrative account full of living ideas of what it means to be born persons,  Mason masterfully unfolds the realms of personhood. Over and over, she asserts that attributes of God are within us, part of our person, and need only to be nourished and practiced to become habits of life. She writes for example, that our hearts have inborn desires for love and justice, shown by the existence of such character qualities as kindness, sympathy, humility, courage, and loyalty. Cultivation of these natural qualities of persons by knowledge and formation of habits strengthens us to fulfill the law of God to love our neighbor as ourself and to love the God in whose image we are made.

    Take, for example, her explanation of generosity. In this season of gift giving it is easy to see demonstrations of generosity all around us. Even the myth of Santa Claus reveals our longing for liberal distribution to all. Everywhere we turn there are opportunities to give charitably for the needs of others. Our minds are occupied and our eyes confronted with boundless options for ministering to the needs and pleasures of others.

    Mason asserts that generosity is not exclusively a characteristic of a few noble individuals, but exists within us all:

    The nature of Generosity is to bring forth, to give, always at the cost of personal suffering or deprivation, little or great. There is no generosity in giving what we shall never miss and do not want; this is mere good-nature, and is not even kindness, unless it springs out of a real thought about another person's needs. (Ourselves, p. 104)

    Mason describes her notion of generosity as “large trustfulness.” Generosity comes from the heart, and affects our thoughts, attitudes, and interactions with others. In each instance, it puts aside self and cost to self in order to give the best of our thoughts and attitudes toward others, whether individuals, groups, or countries. Guardedness, suspicion, and widely held prejudices have no part in generosity.   Taking the generous road in these areas usually does cost us something.

    I remember puzzling over the verse in the famous “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13: “Love trusts at all times.” Surely this could not mean in cases where I knew the person to be untrustworthy? Clearly, Mason’s idea of generosity gives room for second chances for others. In Christianity, we allow no place for bitterness or grudges. Surely such thoughts focus on self more than what is best for the other. A generous person, Mason remarks, may come to the end of life without a long list of the ways he has been cheated or defrauded.

    Mason says, “What magnanimity is to the things of the mind, generosity is to the things of the heart” (p. 104).  Generosity involves more than just the cost to the purse, which we most often associate with generous persons, but is “always costly, because it is always dispersing” (p. 105).  One way she describes that we can prevent ourselves from the narrow view of others, stinginess of thought and attitude, is by cultivating wide and varied interests. The feast we spread for our children lays a foundation for such boundless interests. She encouraged “liberal interpretations” of the ideas of others, the appreciation of which is fostered by those multitudinous interests to which this education introduces our children. Generosity with material things is only an outgrowth of hearts full of concern for the other person, and consideration of circumstances and conditions outside of our own experience.

    And yet, Mason does acknowledge Biblical remuneration when we are always dispersing any goods or goodness to others. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, running over, shall men give into your bosom” (Luke 6:38).  One of the practical rewards we gain, Mason says, is living a life free from anxiety, worries, endless fretting over slights, inequities, or perplexities. The mind set on giving to others has no time for petty grievances.

    She does list a few commonly held views towards others that prevent the “large and warm living” our nature is meant to express and enjoy:

    1.     “Mind your own business.” This principle often springs from a motivation of fear of obligation to others, unworthy protection of self. Naturally, she agrees that we should mind our own work and do our best in the hours we are given, otherwise we are not considering the load we expect others to bear by our negligence. Especially busy mothers, she notes, have an incessant care for others as their daily work. But, work well done in the time allotted leaves time to “throw our interests into outer and wider channels” (p. 106). This is the secret to being a generous person, minding our own work so well, we have more time to spend in work for others, because “the more there is of a person, the better the work will be done”(p. 106).

    2.     “Every man for himself.” Our lives are not our own, she reminds, and wisdom lies in entering into the wide current of life. Our purpose in the world is not for ourselves alone.

    3.     “Every person I have dealings with is worse than myself.” This statement gives us a bit of a jolt. She admits that we don’t speak this one aloud, but nevertheless, it is behind many of our thoughts, attitudes, and consequent actions. Why, she asks do we expect unworthy behavior from others when we would never consider willingly cheating, stealing, lying, or hurting another person ourselves? Just before Jesus command to “give,” noted above, He reminds us that we are children of the Most High, who “is kind to the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

    Surely at this Christmas season, we realize this afresh. “While we were yet sinners,” God gave his only Son, the most generous gift ever given: God himself wrapped in swaddling cloths, born in the humblest place, announced to the lowly, ministering to the poor and outcasts, giving regardless of rejection, giving at the cost of His own life—giving largely that we might continue to give largely. “You have received freely, freely give.”


    Mason, C.M. (2017). Ourselves:  our souls and bodies. book 1.  Pennsylvania: Riverbend Press. (Original work published 1905)

    © 2017 Liz Cottrill

  • 03 Dec 2017 9:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There is a book that is near and dear to my family’s heart.  This book introduced us to a whole new world at the beginning of our Charlotte Mason journey, opening the door to understanding perhaps the greatest writer in the English language. The book is Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb and I would like to share with you some fascinating biographical information, a few details about the book itself, and its place in a Charlotte Mason education.

    December 3rd marks the 253rd anniversary of the birth of Mary Lamb. She was born the third of seven children in the year 1764 in London. Unfortunately, Mary had a mental illness and in 1796 during a particularly horrific episode, murdered her mother. Her devoted younger brother Charles (b. 1775) took over her care and they agreed to remain single the rest of their lives. They were voracious readers, reading and discussing works of great literature and enjoying their literary circles (which included Wordsworth and Coleridge) as much as Mary’s recurring illness would allow. Charles himself left school at 14 when he couldn’t advance, due to a speech impediment. He also suffered from a mild mental illness.  Yet together, these two burst upon the literary scene with a collaboration published in 1807 that is still published and cherished today, some 210 years later.

    The book was groundbreaking in a few ways.  First of all, it didn’t point the moral to the children which was typical of books written for children during that time. Second, it was real literature – well written, interesting, and beautiful. And thirdly, it was the first retelling of a classic for children.  A Critical History of Children’s Literature describes the creation of Tales:

    Mary paraphrased the comedies and Charles, the tragedies. The project itself was a difficult one and left little chance for much of their own character and style to be represented. But it is remarkable how well they have avoided pure summary of the immortal William’s intricate and sometimes incredible plots. They capture the spirit and essence of each play, and they give one so strong of a sense of the central character and his or her vital problem, that even a young mind can get an immediate unity of impression to carry away with him until the high moment when he reads and then sees the play in its own form (Meigs, Eaton, Nesbitt, Viguers,  1953).

    For over 100 years the book was under Charles’ name only, despite the fact that the book was Mary’s idea, that she wrote 16 of the 20 tales (the comedies and romances), and that she wrote most of the Preface.  It should be noted that in 1893, 87 years after the publication of Tales, Harrison S. Morris wrote retellings of 16 plays that the Lambs did not cover, also titled Tales From Shakespeare.

    Interestingly, the book was written mainly for girls.  The educational opportunities for girls were slim when it was written and this excerpt from the Preface makes it clear that sisters would not have access to the original plays as early as their brothers would.

    It was no easy matter to give the histories of men and women in terms familiar to the apprehension of a very young mind. For young ladies too, it has been the intention chiefly to write; because boys being generally permitted the use of their fathers’ libraries at a much earlier age than girls are, they frequently have the best scenes of Shakespeare by heart, before their sisters are permitted to look into this manly book; and, therefore, instead of recommending these Tales to the perusal of young gentlemen who can read them so much better in the originals, their kind assistance is rather requested in explaining to their sisters such parts as are hardest for them to understand: and when they have helped them to get over the difficulties, then perhaps they will read to them (carefully selecting what is proper for a young sister’s ear) some passage which has pleased them in one of these stories, in the very words of the scene from which it is taken; and it is hoped they will find that the beautiful extracts, the select passages, they may choose to give their sisters in this way will be much better relished and understood from their having some notion of the general story from one of these imperfect abridgments; which if they be fortunately so done as to prove delightful to any of the young readers, it is hoped that no worse effect will result than to make them wish themselves a little older, that they may be allowed to read the Plays at full length (Lamb, Lamb, 1918).

    Thankfully, this is not the state of things today. And those of us practicing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods are placing the real, unabridged plays into the hands of our students around the ages of 9 or 10. While we admire the sensitive, caring brother mentioned here, we recognize today that sister’s mind is equally keen to enjoy and understand the plays.

    I assumed that Charlotte Mason used Tales from Shakespeare in her schools and I examined the archives and only found about two dozen references to Tales. Most often it was included in  listings of recommended books for sale through the PNEU bookstore with comments like “these tales have proved favourite children’s reading for one hundred and fifty years” (PNEU, 1957) or a Parents’ Review article which said of Tales as belonging to a list of books that “all children before they are, say, sixteen should have read”(PNEU, 1906). Only in a Parents’ Review article by Charlotte Mason’s close friend, Henrietta Franklin, do I see it used in school as a text for a reading lesson:

    Class IB.—Children averaging from seven and a half, to nine. Here the same time-table is used, but the reading lessons are less frequent, and are taken out of such books as Old Tales from British History, Tales from Westminster Abbey, Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, The Heroes of Asgard (PNEU, 1909).

    Since the reading books were taken from the set books under Tales, History, and Geography for the form, one assumes that Tales was part of the programme, yet we don’t see it actually listed. So while this children’s classic is spoken of warmly and was a recommended book for the home library, it appears to have been used only sparingly in the PNEU schools, if at all. Considering that students began reading the full plays with their own copies of Blackie’s Plain Text editions (which were simply the text of Shakespeare’s plays with no omissions or annotations) in Form II and that there likely was more of a cultural exposure to Shakespeare in England, perhaps the Tales were not deemed the necessary prerequisite as they may be today, given our different context.

    I know that when my children were very young (ages 4-8) we loved reading and narrating many of the Tales from Shakespeare, often with  props such as beanie babies and dolls. Sometimes we read them just for fun, too. These retellings became a happy time of cozy reading, a fabulous preparation before viewing a performance, and the best bridge to the real deal, which was soon begun in earnest. I think the Lambs sum things up nicely at the end of their Preface:

    What these Tales shall have been to the young readers, that and much more it is the writers’ wish that the true Plays of Shakespeare may prove to them in older years,—enrichers of the fancy, strengtheners of virtue, a withdrawing from all selfish and mercenary thoughts, a lesson of all sweet and honourable thoughts and actions, to teach courtesy, benignity, generosity, humanity: for of examples, teaching these virtues, his pages are full (Lamb, Lamb, 1918).

    You can find this book at http://amzn.to/2AtmX6L.  It is published by Yesterday's Classics.


    Lamb, C., Lamb, M. (1918). Tales from Shakespeare, preface, xiii-xv.

    Meigs, C., Eaton, A.T., Nesbitt, E. & Viguers, R.H. (1953). A critical history of children’s   literature, 90.

    PNEU. (1957). Books. Parents’ Review, 68. London: Parents’ National Educational Union, 279.

    PNEU. (1908). Our children’s play: their toys and books. Parents’ Review, 17, London: Parents’ National Educational Union, 375.

    PNEU. (1909). The home training of children. Parents’ Review20, London: Parents’ National Educational Union, 20-26.

    Nancy Kelly writes about her experiences living and teaching the Charlotte Mason philosophy and method at her blog, Sage Parnassus.

    © 2017 by Nancy Kelly

  • 26 Nov 2017 5:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

       “‘The thoughts of God are broader than the measures of man's mind
      And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind,’ 
    and all other knowledge and relationships and facts of life will settle themselves. Thus, only, is it possible to live joyfully, purposefully, diligently . . . At any rate, seeing these things, a man must go softly all his days and wait for light.” 1

    Charlotte Mason

    Pick any day last spring, or any hour for that matter, and you probably would have found me reciting these words:

    Still dark, and raining hard  

    on a cold May morning

    and yet the early bird

    is out there chirping,


    chirping its sweet-sour

    wooden-pulley notes,


    pleased, it would seem,

    to be given work,

    hauling the heavy

    bucket of dawn

    up from the darkness,  

    note over note,

     and letting us drink. 2

    We had been learning this poem, The Early Bird, by Ted Kooser, in our Charlotte Mason-inspired Children’s Worship Ministry at church, and it quickly became my litany, my go-to thought—over and again—for months and months. Not being of a faith tradition that makes use of such things, it was something of a new experience for me.

    I knew the first words to be true: this past year was filled with things that I would rather not have happened; months have gone from bad to worse, one after another. And while things could always be worse, my particular plate is full to overflowing, thank you very much. It has been “still dark, and raining hard.” I’ve been waiting for the light, any light at all, to break through.

    Persevering through trial takes stamina, which adds to the weight. Chores and regular activities took significant effort, and I wasn’t always up for it. And knowing that so many things in my life were catastrophically different, and that people I love were hurting, and so was I, brings with it mental fog, distraction, identity crisis, and ennui. Except on the other days, when it brings about anger and fear, impatience and a constant, low-grade irritation with basically everyone.

    While having a meltdown recently, my child wailed “What’s the use of living? Everything is just ruined by sin! It’s all ruined forever!”

    And so many days this past year, I have agreed with her. What is the use if things are so far from where they ought to be?

     “And yet.”

    That “and yet” catches my breath. It’s like how they always tell you in Bible studies that the “But God” is the best part of whatever passage you come across; how every single thing is entirely hopeless until that truth inserts itself. I know the “and yet” is only a line in a poem, but I have clung to it as a piece of truth.

    My mother was Charlotte Mason-y before Charlotte Mason-y was a thing; my childhood was spent reading beautiful books and gobs of poetry. I spent time studying and writing poetry in college; I love reading it and reading it to my girls.  I believe in poetry, yet sadly, I’ve really only dabbled in it; I never made a consistent habit of memorization.  How did I come to meditate on this poem, at precisely the time I needed to hear every hour that dawn is coming up from the darkness, note over note?

    God does provide, and this time, He was using the Children’s Worship Ministry at our church.   We began two years ago, and we chose to include choral music, technique, hymns, composer and picture study, instrument exploration, as well as poetry and Psalms recitation in our time together. This approach helped us explore new avenues and reasons to worship the Lord.  Of course, these types of things can be used in a variety of ministries or groups in order to facilitate wonder and worship.

    We know that hard times and darkness will come—or have come already—for every person and child. And yet, the light has dawned on those living in the land of shadow.3 This means the church must follow Jesus into the light. We push back the darkness in any way possible—toward beauty and light—through grace. We know that each part added to the schedule of our Children’s Worship Ministry is a small reflection of a piece of God’s glory, and each shows us his glory in a way nothing else could. Charlotte Mason says the most vital thing is to ensure that the children know personally that God’s heart is “most wonderfully kind.”4  So as we participate together in these small tastes of grace, we are praying that we all will come to know the beauty of the Lord in a way that will make a difference in how we are able to remember His goodness and kindness to us, even in dark times.

    Charlotte Mason tells us that grace “comes to us most freely in the moments we set apart; so it is well to secure for them the necessary leisure.”5 In this case, however, we were scheduling a time slot in order to set apart that leisure, and striving for a restful and joyful time together.

    Perhaps the question in your heart has been how to set apart this leisure for the children in your church or community.  Unfortunately, the particulars are so entirely different for each situation.  I know that both Jesus and Charlotte Mason remind us that some things only come about by prayer.6  It will be important not to count on success—or even progress—but to proceed out of love.

    Practically, our group relies on Charlotte Mason’s principles. We utilize short lessons in order to fit many things in our hour, varying the type of activity.  We allow children to tell back or respond after a “lesson.”  We divided into age groups so neither students or teachers would be overwhelmed; however, the lessons are consistent across the classes, with each student appropriating what they are able.  Finding teachers who understand and support this style of class has been challenging at times, but we have tried to provide training, support and encouragement as we learn together how to apply these principles in different settings. At the end of the semester, we have a celebration, inviting parents and grandparents to share in all that we have been experiencing over the semester, with cookies to follow (obviously).

    There’s one other small thing that has been a help to me as we have sought to bring an entirely new program and format into being: Charlotte Mason prescribes things that are true. Because they are true, she’s not the only one to have noticed.  (She may be the only one who has noticed them altogether, but many have recognized the truth in parts.)  I have found this to be very useful when talking with people who neither know or care who Charlotte Mason is, or what she suggests.  When your suggestion of helping the children learn a poem in your Sunday School class is met with hesitancy, it doesn’t hurt to be able to pull out a quote, or even a whole article, by John Piper about why the church does need poetry.7 Or Francis Schaeffer on art.8 And so on, and so forth, including plenty scriptural support for each component of our class.  Don’t be afraid to (graciously) use all the resources at your disposal.  And adding things in slowly is quite alright: it's never all or nothing. 

    The other good part about the things that Charlotte Mason prescribes is that they do work, and because they work, after a while people stop thinking that you are crazy for suggesting poetry, and a few might even start telling you how much they enjoyed listening to the poem all semester.  (Don’t count your chickens, but it’s happened to me.)

    Madeleine L’Engle writes “In art, we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move unfettered among the stars.”9  By adding all these bits of grace to our corporate time together each week, we are teaching children about remembering God’s kindness when it seems impossible to believe. We remember together that He doesn’t leave us alone in the darkness, and that there is always a path forward through faith. And so we are able to wait patiently for the light after all.


    1 Mason, C. M. Formation of Character. (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989. Original work published in 1906), 150.

    2  Kooser, T. Delights & Shadows. (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 2004). 75

    3 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016). Matthew 4:16 & Isaiah 9:1-2.
      See also John 1.

    Mason, C. M. Formation of Character, 150.

    5 Mason, C. M. Formation of Character, 211.

    6 Mason, C.M. Home Education. (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989. Original work published in 1935), 348.
    And The Holy Bible. Mark 9:29

    Piper, J.  “God filled your Bible with Poems.” Desiring God Blog.  Retrieved August 2016 from

    8 Schaeffer, F. “Art & the Bible.” (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. 2006. Original work published   1973).

    9 L’Engle, M. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. (Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press. 2015.)

    I have also been helped and inspired by a few others that have written and researched about this topic on this blog (and other places.)

    Fiedler, A. “Beyond Dust Particles: An Experiment in Sunday School.” Retrieved November 2017 from

    Glaser, T. “Living Mason’s Ideas at VBS.” Retrieved November 2017 from https://childlightusa.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/living-masons-ideas-at-vbs-by-tammy-glaser

    © 2017 Julie Stuber

  • 19 Nov 2017 6:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

                Narration or retelling is an essential part of a Charlotte Mason education. In some ways, it seems so simple that we may wonder if we should add more to make sure our students are really learning. However, the danger of adding more is that the students may actually be learning less. If the teacher is the one asking the questions, lecturing about the topic or summarizing the text, the students are not actively involved in assimilating the information to become their own knowledge that is personal, meaningful and a springboard for further thought and action. Mason understands that people may be skeptical about the perceived simplicity of narration and states, “This, of telling again, sounds very simple but it is really a magical creative process by means of which the narrator sees what he has conceived, so definite and so impressive is the act of narrating that which has been read only once” (Vol. 6, p.261).  The word “magical” can be defined as “beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life.” On the surface narration may seem simple, but beneath the surface lies a method that transforms the learner intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I want to talk about the following three ways that I see narration as a “magical” educational practice: it values the role of the reader, it utilizes oral language and it leads to long-term memory.

                Narration values the role of the reader and what they bring to the reading process. Most of reading comprehension instruction throughout history has focused on comprehension-as-outcome (looking for the standard interpretation) or comprehension-as-procedure (mastering reading strategies) (Aukerman, 2013). These methods of reading instruction promote uniformity and finding the one correct answer the teacher is looking for, while narration promotes originality and allows students’ unique backgrounds, and idiosyncrasies of their thoughts and attitudes to shape their understanding of a text.  When children feel that their narrations are not being critically judged against some standard, they can feel free to enjoy narration as a chance to be a storyteller, or an artist or an actor. Certain readings will cause my children to want to act it out or even sing a song about it. I treasure those moments when their personality can really shine through.

                Mason did not want children’s narrations to be exact replicas of the text or to be overly focused on using the author’s language. Mason states, “He will recast, condense, illustrate, or narrate with vividness and with freedom the arrangement of his words. The child who has got only information will write and speak in the stereotyped phrases of his text-book, or will mangle in his notes the words of his teacher” (Vol. 3, p. 225). This ability to create a new, original narration shows that true learning has occurred. Meaning is not written straight from the text onto the blank slate of his mind. The text is not doing the meaning, the child is bringing his life knowledge to the piece. That is why we cannot interpret or narrate for them. Their background knowledge and experiences are different from ours and they can only make meaning from their perspective.  We cannot expect them to think about things or pick out the same ideas that adults would. Only this method of reading comprehension allows them to enter where they are. Comprehension questions do not allow any room for this individual meaning to take place. Mason consistently emphasized the fact that narrations were to be a reflection of the individual child and should reflect “a certain spirit and coloring which express the narrator.” She continued, “By the way, it is very important that children should be allowed to narrate in their own way, and should not be pulled up or helped with words and expressions from the text” (Vol. 1, p. 289).  Narration treats the child as a person and allows reading to be a relational, meaningful activity.

                The second way that narration is “magical” is that it utilizes oral language in the formation of cognitive development.  Everyone knows that children need many opportunities to talk in order to learn. However, most talk in classrooms or homeschools is geared around the IRE conversation which stands for Initiation, Response and Evaluation. The teacher initiates the question, the student responds and then the teacher evaluates the answer and states whether it is right or wrong. The questions are directed questions that the teacher already knows the answer to. The students are expected to answer in what has been called “final draft talk.” They are expected to have a polished answer where they show that they have already come to some conclusion about what they understood about that topic. It is mostly just repeating back exactly what was written in the book or what the teacher just said.

                The opposite of final draft talk is “exploratory talk” where talking is used as a means for coming to know or understand something (Barnes, 1992). This is where students do not have to have a polished answer before talking. They feel free to use language as a means for knowledge building. Narrating is a perfect example of this exploratory talk. When a student tells back, they are creating their narration “on the spot” and not expected to have this polished answer. Sometimes it may sound kind of rough to us with all the ums and run-on sentences. However, we want to encourage our children to talk freely and not interrupt them or judge them.  All these opportunities for language are building up their composition skills, their reasoning skills, their public speaking skills and incorporating new vocabulary into their language. Giving them a simple fact to recite or having them answer a comprehension question would take away all those opportunities for learning and growing. 

                This aspect of narration as a way of coming to understand a text is not emphasized as much as narration being a way to communicate what you know about a text.  However, I think this is an important facet of narration. When I asked my 11-year-old daughter about narration to get a child’s perspective, she said that when she reads something or listens aloud to something that is a little more challenging, for example Plutarch or ancient history, she is sometimes unsure whether she is understanding the passage during the reading process. But when she narrates and puts those ideas in her own words, she says that retelling helps her come to understand the text and make sense of it. When she first told me that, I was intrigued by that insight and had not thought of narration in that way.  Then I came across this quote from Mason, “But, it will be said, reading or hearing various books read, chapter by chapter, and then narrating or writing what has been read or some part of it, ––all this is mere memory work. . . he will find that in the act of narrating every power of his mind comes into play, that points and bearings which he had not observed are brought out” (Vol. 6, p. 16). Learning is happening at this unconscious level and it is brought out through narration.

                Narration is a “magical” process because it allows short-term memory to become long-term memory. The aim of all instruction is to alter long-term memory. If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned. So how do we get information from the short- term memory to the long-term memory?  There needs to be a “dialogue” between those two kinds of memories. Even if a student is listening or reading attentively and thinks they have comprehended what they read, most of their thinking is in the short-term memory which will soon decay and is lost.  What is important is to actively and consciously reach into long-term memory through short-term memory to retrieve and think about and process the reading. The more we process and think about something new to the learned, the more enduring and retrievable the memories become. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham (2008) makes the simple but profound statement, "Memory is the residue of thought."  He continues, “What remains in your memory from an experience depends mostly on what you thought about during the experience . . . Students have to be given a specific task that will force them to think about meaning” (p. 20). Willingham does not mention narration, but narration sounds like the ideal way to implement that understanding of memory making. We cannot tell kids to just think about something because what does that mean? There has to be some kind of action going on, a turning over of information in their mind. Through narration you are naturally synthesizing, evaluating, and sequencing. Because you have the goal in mind of narrating, you are attending to the material before you. It is not questions set by a teacher that causes this deep thinking because a lot of questions, especially direct questions, do not require a lot of thinking. Direct questions already pull out specific facts for the student. It is the students asking themselves the questions that engages them in thinking.  Is not that the way Mason described the process of narration?  She said, “The mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself” (Vol. 6, p. 16).

                This idea of linking new knowledge to old happens naturally during narration because students are drawing on their previous readings from that text and adding new ideas and details they learned in the present reading. They are also drawing on experiences, vocabulary knowledge, understanding of characters, plots, human nature, other events that connect to this the new information. What is left over after thinking and reflecting or creating interaction between short-term and long-term memory is the stuff of learning.

                 In a Parent’s Review article, the Emily Miall talks about this idea of linking old to new. She writes, “This mental digestion is not a rapid process; gradually fresh facts sink into the mind, associating themselves to facts already there, pictured in the imagination, weighed and accepted by reason, brooded over and developed; slowly new ideas take root, finding through many channels a resting-place in the intelligence, and mysteriously cherished till the day comes when they shall bear fruit. This operation cannot be hurried; every child, every youth and maiden will digest their knowledge in their own way and at their own pace; all that is wanted is leisure and rest. Knowledge acquired in any other way is absolutely worthless and temporary; it leads nowhere and to nothing; it is much unassimilated mental food doomed to be rejected.

    (Vol. 3, p. 362). Those words should inspire us all to press on and realize that through the um’s, hesitations, and run-on sentences of oral narration, magic is taking place.


    Aukerman, M. (2013). Rereading comprehension pedagogies: Toward a dialogic teaching ethic that honors student sensemaking. Dialogic Pedagogy Journal, 1(1), A1-A31.

    Barnes, D. (1992). From Communication to Curriculum. Michigan: Boynton/Cook Publishers.

    Mason, C. M. (1989a).  Home Education. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (Original  work published in 1925).

    Mason, C. M. (1989b).  Parents and Children. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.   (Original work published in 1925).

    Mason, C. M. (1989c).  Philosophy of Education. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.   (Original work published in 1925).

    Miall, Emily (1892). There is no necessity for it. The Parent’s Review, 3(5), 362-364.

    Willingham, D. (2008) What will improve a student’s memory? American Educator, Winter  2008-2009.

    © 2017 Shannon Whiteside

  • 13 Nov 2017 5:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week I encountered a young woman weeping in – of all places – the entry area of the girls’ bathroom our university education department shares with the elementary school to which we are attached. I had never seen her before; it is my guess she sought out this place to cry because it is at the periphery of the school and only used by children coming to or from the school gymnasium. I could have just walked by and pretended not to notice, which is perhaps my natural inclination. Instead, I stopped and asked if she was all right. I thought she might turn away or otherwise indicate it was none of my business, but she did not. Rather, she continued to stem the flow of tears with the tissue in her hand and shared briefly. I still do not know her name or exactly what her job is at the school, but she told me she was crying because of what she had just learned about one of her young students. My impression is that this child has been abused or neglected or treated in some abhorrent way. The last thing she said was, “You just wish you could take them home with you.” Not just him or her – but other children she knows also have difficult lives.

    I live and work primarily in the world of American public education. Much of my time is spent on tasks required to teach future elementary, secondary, and special educators; some of these tasks keep me in my office or in a university classroom, but others send me into general and special education schoolrooms attended by K-12 learners at all levels. I can say without exaggerating that every time I visit a school I hear of increasing concerns about the life circumstances of students and the behaviors they exhibit as a result.

    Just as our fall university term was starting in late August, I found myself spending one day in an educational setting with a manifestly different atmosphere. Melissa Deane had invited me to be one of the speakers at Charlotte Mason Connection3, the third annual conference planned and presented by the Mason group in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, area. It was a wonderful day. When I think back, two lasting impressions immediately come to mind: the tables full of living books used in the homeschools represented by the organizers and the wonderful young people – children of those organizers – who facilitated the event in many ways such as helping in the kitchen and running the technology. The schools represented at this conference contrast in diverse ways to typical American public schools. These Charlotte Mason educated students and their families are truly blessed.

    Mason’s statement that “education is the science of relations” is one of the principles that accounts for the effectiveness and – I would say – peacefulness of her educational approach. This principle is similar to the principle “children are born persons” in that there are layers of meaning and manifold applications of each. In conjunction with each other, these two principles are foundational to implementing an educational process that leads to more than “college and career readiness.”

    College and career readiness is a phrase that can be found many times on the website of the Common Core State Standards (Common Core State Standards, 2017), mission statements of many public schools, in promotional materials for textbooks, and throughout the current educational milieu. If promoters of college and career readiness are to be believed, the goal of an education is utilitarian only and content taught and tested is limited to that aligned to state standards, primarily in mathematics, English language arts, and to a lesser degree science. The South Dakota Kindergarten English language arts (ELA) Standards document for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language is 41 pages in length; for first graders, there are 46 pages of standards. Subjects other than the three tested receive scant attention in any amount that would allow a child to develop a relationship with them.  

    Outside of school, parents often tend to encourage a child to pursue a single interest such as music or sports, for example, based on the family situation or on cultural trends. Many opportunities, ideas, creative pursuits, and interests are not noticed, acknowledged, or explored. Recently I attended a theatrical production on our campus. One of the talented actors is in his junior year; his major area of study, however, is not related to the affinity for the theatre he has recently realized. When I talked to him after the final curtain call, he sounded regretful and said it was “too late” to change his mind about his future. In Charlotte Mason terms, an aspect of his personhood was somehow not recognized earlier on, and he did not have the opportunity to develop wide relationships that would have allowed him to lay hold of his affinity for theatre.

    However much I sometimes desire to be more directly involved in learning and teaching the Charlotte Mason way, I am grateful for the online Study and Facebook groups, the Connection3 Conference, the Living Education Retreat, and other opportunities that remind me that education is a life. I can continue to apply Mason principles in my current setting while being watchful for “Mason sightings,” inadvertent application of Mason principles in current educational practice. Two such trends that may warrant examining are project-based learning (PBL) and gentle teaching.

    Problem (or project) based learning has been used in K-12 schools for close to a quarter century.  “In problem-based learning courses, students work with classmates to solve complex and authentic problems that help develop content knowledge as well as problem-solving, reasoning, communication, and self-assessment skills” (Problem Based Learning, 1994).  In the instances I am familiar with, some of the concerns related to teaching based on multiple overly-focused content standards are set aside as a real-life problem is addressed, using content from whatever subject or skill area becomes needful. Once the problem is solved or the project completed, the teacher analyzes which standards have been met. There are many iterations of this model, and in some cases, the teaching and learning may recognize both the personhood of the learners and relationships to a wide variety of ideas and content.

    Just recently, one of my students made me aware of gentle teaching, an approach to teaching children and supporting adults with special needs that seems to focus more on relationships and less on modifying behaviors and developing functional skills. There does not seem to be much literature as yet about gentle teaching. Both gentle teaching and PBL need to be considered carefully before any claim can be made that they implement Mason principles and contribute to understanding of the way knowledge is related to the world, to others, and to God’s truth.

    In Parents and Children, Mason writes about Wisdom, the Recognition of Relations:

    It is curious how the philosophy of the Bible is always well in advance of our latest thought. ‘He grew in wisdom and in stature,’ we are told. Now what is wisdom, philosophy? Is it not the recognition of relations? First, we have to understand relations of time and space and matter, the natural philosophy which made up so much of the wisdom of Solomon; then, by slow degrees, and more and more, we learn that moral philosophy which determines our relations of love and justice and duty to each other: later, perhaps, we investigate the profound and puzzling subject of the inter-relations of our own most composite being, mental philosophy.  And in all these and beyond all these we apprehend, slowly and feebly, the highest relation of all, the relation to God, which we call religion. In this science of the relations of things consists what we call wisdom, and wisdom is not born in any man,––apparently not even in the Son of man Himself.

    Wisdom increases; Intelligence does not––He grew in wisdom, in the sweet gradual apprehension of all the relations of life: but the power of apprehending, the strong, subtle, discerning spirit, whose function it is to grasp and understand, appropriate and use, all the relations which bind all things to all other things––this was not given to Him by measure; nor, we may reverently believe, is it so given to us. (p. 258-59)

                      Mason encourages us to continue to pursue the science of relations and grow in wisdom in all our lives and circumstances. There is much to be gained in settings that fully apply Mason principles. There are also blessings in places that may not know of Charlotte Mason, but through the Holy Spirit and common grace, exemplify relational concern for children and teaching that recognizes the personhood of each learner.  The young woman I met that day last week was truly saddened by the plight of a misused child and through her tears, meant to be private, expressed “relations of love and justice and duty to each other” as well as care and wisdom that will inform her relationship with that child.   


    Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/

    Gentle Teaching. (2013). In Gentle Teaching Netherlands. Retrieved from

    Mason, C. M. (1989). Parents and children (Vol. 2). Wheaton IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (Original work published 1925)

    Problem Based Learning. (Winter, 1994). Speaking of Teaching. Stanford University Newsletter on Teaching 5(2): 1-3.

  • 07 Oct 2017 7:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At the Institute conferences we have the Eve Anderson Nature Study Tea and the Eve Anderson Nature Study Lecture.  Why?  Who is Eve Anderson and why are these two events named in her honour?  To answer these questions, first, let me tell you how I met Eve and give you a bit of a description of her.  Second, what role did she play in the Mason movement in the US?  And finally, why did the Institute name a lecture and social gathering at our conferences in her honour?

    To my best recollection Eve and I first met through something we no longer do—hand written letters.  The first letter I still have is dated 23 May 1997.  She discusses in this letter her planned activities for her trip to the states.  Rosemary Moore, who had sought Eve’s help on starting a PNEU type school in the states, was the first to invite Eve to come to the states.  Eve assisted Rosemary Moore in setting up a school here like her PNEU school in Windsor, England.  She went on from there to help other schools by visiting classrooms, training teachers, informing parents about Charlotte Mason, and to generally act as a “consultant” to help schools understand more about Mason.  She generally stayed a month and travelled from school to school.  I wrote her apparently in May 1997 and invited her to visit Andy and me in Roanoke, VA which was where we were living at the time.  Eve planned her flight for the following October on her US visit to schools by arriving first at Dulles Airport in Washington, DC, where I picked her up and drove her to Roanoke.  She stayed with us for two nights.  Andy drove her to Charlotte, NC where she then flew on to, I believe, Atlanta or Dallas.  

    I don’t mean this to stereotype Brits, there’s one in my family, but Eve was the quintessential Brit—no nonsense, straight to the point, that’s how it is and get on with it without any fuss—kind of person.  We loved her and enjoyed her visits with us.  The October 1997 visit was the first of several visits.  Below is a picture of Eve, Andy, Corban and Anna in 1999 at the Charlotte Mason conference held at the Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside, UK by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and Elaine Cooper.  

    Eve loved nature and when she stayed with us she enjoyed walking and seeing the natural environment she was in.  She stayed with us in South Carolina where we lived when I became an assistant professor of education.  She loved viewing the North Carolina mountains which could be seen beyond the lake that was across the road in front of our house.  We enjoyed outdoor picnics sometimes just so she could enjoy the view.

    Eve was a lovely person, always interested in nature and people.  She enjoyed her dog, Jim and frequently in her letters mentions taking him for walks.  She loved the school, Eton End, (https://www.etonend.org) where she was headmistress for 28 years and where she had many friends.  Her love of nature inspired many of us to rekindle our interest in nature which had slowly died since our childhoods.  She took her nature notebook with her everywhere and I have included some samples from it here.

    Eve was an important link following the publication of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book For the Children’s Sake. As a former student at Mason’s House of Education which by Eve’s time was called the Charlotte Mason College, she was the last remaining Mason trained teacher running a PNEU school when she retired from Eton End.  Thus, by coming to the states she provided a vital link between Charlotte Mason and the schools and parents here in the states trying to implement Mason’s work.  Her role was crucial.  It was also sacrificial.  In her retirement she could have done other fun things rather than spend her time here helping schools.  But isn’t curious to watch how God provides the support we need in the most unexpected ways. Eve was one of those ways and she chose to help and thus she provided a link that helped to carry the educational theories and practices of Mason into the US which is still slowly and steadily growing today.  

    Images of Eve Anderson's Nature Notebook provided by The Armitt Trust

    Because she played such a vital link that carried Mason’s ideas into homes and schools here in the US, the Institute chose to name our Thursday afternoon lecture in her honour.  And, to further honour her, the Institute decided to make that yearly lecture about nature study, her beloved subject.  To Eve we give our thanks for supporting so many of us as we deepened our understanding of Mason’s methods.

    This past spring while speaking with one of our friends out west about the western CMI conference, I mentioned that maybe we should name the Thursday afternoon lecture after something or someone more western.  To my surprise the response was no, we want the Eve Anderson Tea and Nature Study Lecture.  I was thrilled to further the memory of a person who has had such a profound effect on the Mason movement in the US and Canada.  Eve Anderson was a Charlotte Mason trained teacher and she ran a PNEU school for years.  What a joy and privilege to know and work with someone who cared enough for the Mason movement in North America, to share her knowledge and experience with us.  

    We look forward to many more years of the Eve Anderson Teas and Nature Study Lectures.

    We are indebted to the Armitt Trust for providing the pictures of Eve Anderson's Nature Notebook.

    Come join us in 2018 at Roanoke College, Salem, VA  and University of Redlands, Redlands, CA for our next CMI Charlotte Mason Education Conferences.  The dates are:

    Roanoke College, Salem, VA - 13, 14, 15, and 16 June 2018

    University of Redlands, CA - 25, 26, 27, and 28 July 2018

    And—be on the look out.  There may be one coming closer to you!

    © 2017 Charlotte Mason Institute

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