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  • 29 Jul 2017 9:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Again––except for the fine power of resistance possessed by the human mind, which secures that most persons who go through examination grind come out as they went in, absolutely unbiased towards any intellectual pursuits whatever––except for this, the tendency of the grind is to imperil that individuality which is the one incomparably precious birthright of each of us.  (Parents and Children, p. 216)

    An Examination-ridden Empire––Probably the world has never seen a finer body of educationalists than those who at the present moment man our schools, both Boys' and Girls'. But the originality, the fine initiative, of these most able men and women is practically lost. The schools are examination-ridden, and the heads can strike out no important new lines. Let us begin our efforts by believing in one another, parents in teachers and teachers in parents. Both parents and teachers have the one desire, the advance of the child along the lines of character. Both groan equally under the limitations of the present system. Let us have courage, and united and concerted action will overthrow this Juggernaut that we have made.  (Parents and Children, p. 224)

    Examinations seem the epitome of everything Mason thought wrong with the school system of her day: students motivated by marks and rewards, bogged down by the grind, reduced to their quantitative score in math and Latin (this was no humanist scheme!), forced into a year's cram that injured soul and body for the sake of praise and social advancement.  It is no wonder she was critical.

    And yet she still assigned term exams in her schools, and the exams carried great weight for the PNEU, its students, and Mason herself. Consider these fond reminiscences of Mason's personal enthusiasm for the process:

    Perhaps the work for a fortnight or more would be the children's written examination papers, each of which she would consider before she signed the report, sometimes modifying or adding to the report herself. How she loved the papers! 'I am always happy when I am reading these,' she would say, 'Just see how these children take pleasure in their work!’  (In Memoriam, p. 68)

    The little note in her own handwriting on every examination mark sheet was an eagerly looked-for joy even to those of us who had never been privileged to see or know her more intimately. (In Memoriam, p. 49)

    There are many more comments in the same vein, enough to show that Mason considered examinations not merely a necessary evil, or even a matter of course, but a joy.

    How can we explain this dichotomy?  In this process-focused, Spirit-led philosophy of education, concerned more with the development of character than information learned or skills gained, what role can examinations have to play?  And how can they bring joy to our homes and classrooms?

    The answer lies in the kind of exams her schools employed. Besides being vastly different from the common exams of her time (and ours), they provide a beautiful vision of what assessment looks like in a model that genuinely values students and respects their mind-work.

    These are exams that cover all areas of the curriculum, from history to drawing, from mathematics to sewing, because all branches of knowledge are valuable. These are exams in which each answer will look slightly different from every other because personality has a chance to shine through, from the little sketches that might accompany a Form I student's dictated narration to a précis (short essay) on a topic of personal interest from a Form V student.  They ask not for students to parrot back the opinions of their schoolmaster or even of the "minds" they have met in their schoolbooks, but for original thought. They look "not for repetition or feats of memory but for evidence of interest, experience, involvement in the subject, not as an academic exercise but as an eager sharing of a universal human inheritance" (Stephens, p. 3). They do not aim to ferret out what a student has not learned, but to provide him the space to demonstrate what he has: "Its purpose for the pupil is to give him an opportunity to show what he has learnt and what progress has been made" ("The PNEU Schoolteacher's Handbook," p. 25). These are exams where all the students in a classroom can potentially get full marks—and that would be a sign of a successful exam, not one that needed to be made more difficult to allow for curves and rankings. These are exams in which the atmosphere is as important as the questions asked or answers given: “there is a warm feeling in the class—the eagerness that belongs in a well-told story, or to the mastery of some point of syntax or of science” (Chief Examiner, p. 9).  They benefit from the sense of delighted accomplishment, shared enthusiasm, and calm interest that they create. They acknowledge the whole student, who knows his work will be judged not just on “right or wrong,” but from a holistic perspective that considers all progress made that term, in and out of the classroom.

    The exams she insisted upon were an extension of her philosophy. They highlighted respect for children as persons, camaraderie among peers, sympathy between teacher and student, the generous feast, an atmosphere conducive to learning.

    But even with this vision for the examination process before us, sometimes it is hard to see their value for us as Mason educators.  In so many ways, we are long-game teachers. We trust in short, consistent calls to attention over long stretches of time; we sow seeds for fruit that will be borne perhaps years from now; we wait on our students to make the connections and stand aside while they do the mind-work. Teaching is a delicate art in the Mason model, and we are constantly assessing. We quietly consider our students as they narrate, keep, comment, question. We watch and listen. Is attention waning? Are narrations showing engagement with the text? How can we better scaffold? Where do our students need our support and where do they need to move toward independence? How can we better model the learning process?  Is it time to step in, or ought we to be masterly inactive at a given moment? 

    When we are at our best as educators, we're assessing in small ways daily, even hourly.  This two-fold requirement of patience in seeing results and mindful engagement with our students seems to leave very little need for term-end reviews. Perhaps this is why exams are not more often practiced by Mason families. But the truth is that Mason saw them both as "best practice" (the most effective way to make sure the student, the teacher, the programme, and the schools were all on the right track) and as a delightful routine worth a precious week of classroom time. 

    So how does this kind of assessment benefit teacher and taught?

    In the case of the student, exams don't just measure engagement with the topic studied; they actually require the student to engage in a new way. If, as E.K. Manders says, "we narrate and then we know," then perhaps we might also say "we take an exam and then we know more, better, differently." At the same time, the process fine-tunes the habit of attention. If the responsibility to narrate after the reading makes the brain attend more carefully, the responsibility to recall at the end of the term also calls the brain to heightened attention. The student realizes that these are ideas the teacher will expect her student to ponder for weeks and years to come.  So the exam is in itself an act of learning, and a particularly valuable one at that. Students learn more about the material by forging new connections and re-visualizing what they have studied.  They learn to be more attentive and give their studies due value. And more than that: they also learn more about themselves. Exams are, at their heart, a moral action. As Elsie Kitching reminds us, "the examination must offer moral training to the pupils, and should be conducted with absolute probity." (p. 26) Because in the end, "Every real examination is a test not of memory but of ourselves, of our whole response to a problem" (G.H.A.S., p. 10). The exam is educative in the fullest sense of the word.

    As for the parent-teacher, the benefits are myriad. When we carefully consider our students' responses, we are able to assess "the degree of success achieved to date in teaching, any set-backs or inadequacies, where methods have succeeded or failed, whether teacher-pupil relationships in the schoolroom are satisfactory, comments on classroom organisation, whether lesson preparation is adequate" and more ("The PNEU School Teacher's Handbook," p. 27).  If we truly sit down and mine the exam results for feedback, we find they elucidate both the trouble spots and the real strengths of our teaching in ways a daily assessment can not. Perhaps we were not scaffolding a book well enough for it to "stick"; the student was relying on his strong memory for daily narrations but when exam time comes, we find he remembers little. Perhaps we accepted vague answers during the term as a sign of understanding, but exams lay bare that only tenuous connections have been made. Perhaps there were a series of "lucky guesses" during a week's lesson and we mistakenly moved on; exams show those areas of weakness when we circle back around.  They show which lessons we have not been consistent with and where we can improve.  They also show where we have been successful in modeling good habits of learning, where we have chosen worthy books that our students have genuinely engaged with, and where our students really shine and might be ready for more independence.  This advantage is partly thanks to the unique qualities of the exam experience, which provides us different kinds of feedback than our regular classroom experience.  And it is partly thanks to the time we take to sit down and focus when we commit to an Exam Week, time we may not take often enough. If we are intentional about it, then it can be "a unique opportunity to sit back and think about how the term has gone. The mere fact of writing down the comments about teaching will in itself be beneficial" ("The PNEU School Teacher's Handbook," p. 26).

    But perhaps the greatest value for the teacher is in the way exams expose our students to us. Alongside the exam responses, PNEU parents or teachers submitted a short vignette of each student to examiners, describing his interests and activities, mitigating factors for that term, and so on.  The goal was for the examiner to arrive at a picture of the child "in the round," because, as Stephens puts it, "it is in the child as a person that we are interested" (p.3).  For fair assessment, rather than simply stark (and false) objectivity, the examiners were aiming at an understanding of the child as a whole: "This is the close watch over each child individually and his or her development from term to term in mind and body--and one might well add in spirit, for parents and teachers are expected to report on such matters as responsibility, help in the home, and leadership in the school" (The Parents' Union School, p. 5).  If we do the same, if we sit down, make thoughtful notes on our children, and carefully consider their exam responses, I think we could get at the heart of what the teachers and parents of the PNEU found in exams:  encouragement. As the Chief Examiner puts it, "It can be very rewarding to the parent/teacher to have to pause and look at all sides of the child—at interests and responsibilities that compensate perhaps for poor bookwork; and to be glad after all that he is not the exasperating failure he sometimes seems to be" (The Parents' Union School, p. 6).  Once again, Examiner Stephens sums it up well:  "From the beginning examinations have been an important part of our work, not with the intention of criticizing or grading, but as a means of encouraging and helping both teacher and taught" (p. 1).

    The truth is that unless we are perfect educators (and I think that we "humble plants" all acknowledge there are places we can grow as teachers!), there is room for assessment of ourselves: our practices, our philosophy, how well we are living out the day to day. And unless we are perfect parents (and I doubt any of us would claim that either!), there is room for us to know our children better.  I have never ended an Exam Week in my home without seeing areas in which my methods could be better implemented, my curriculum choices might be tweaked for relationship, or our atmosphere could be more conducive to learning. I also have never ended an Exam Week without a clearer view of my children, a more thorough understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and a clue to how I might better meet their needs.

    It is in this combined benefit--the self-assessment of the educator and the educative qualities of the process for the student—that exams have their power and value.

    I want to share one last quote from Mason herself, in which she laments that in the grind-school of her day, the student learns only what prepares him for his impending public examinations:

    Again, the routine of school-work becomes, at the same time, so mechanical and so incessant, there is so much hurry to get over the ground, so little leisure, so little opportunity for the master to bring himself en rapport with his pupil, to feel, as it were, the moulding of the boy's character under his fingers, that there is no space for the more delicate moral training, the refining touch, which a man of superior parts should bestow upon his pupil. The work, the routine itself, affords bracing moral training. Diligence, exactness, persistence, steady concentrated effort, are not to be despised; but something more is wanted, not easy to define, to be got only in sympathetic intercourse with our betters, morally and mentally, and this something is being pushed out in the press of work.  (Formation of Character, p. 184)

    In the Mason paradigm, exams give us exactly that which she struggles to name: that delicate moral training, that refining touch, that sympathetic intercourse that affects the moral and the mental, and the "more" that results. Exams have the power to mould character, to create rapport between master and pupil. And this happens through diligent, exact, persistent, concentrated work, which does not "press" but rather dignifies the student as he brings his will and mind to bear on the task at hand.  May we all find that "something more" through our Exam Weeks ahead!

    References for Articles and Pamphlets

    G.H.A. Stephens, "Examinations in the PNEU School and Schools Affiliated" - http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/2nd-CM-Briefcase/Box17/cmc115/i1p1-i3p19cmc115.pdf

    "The PNEU School Teacher's Handbook" - http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/2nd-CM-Briefcase/Box16/cmc110/i2p01-p30cmc110I.pdf

    The Chief Examiner, "The Parents' Union School" - http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/Box48/cmc363A/p01-p18cmc363A.pdf

    E.K. Manders, "We Narrate and Then We Know" - https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PRx02p170WeNarrateKnow.shtml

    E. Kitching, "Children Up to School Age and Beyond" - http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/Box48/cmc370/i2cmc370-p28cmc370.pdf

    G.H.A.S., "Confidences of an Examiner" - http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/Box48/cmc363A/p01-p18cmc363A.pdf

    Parents' Union School, "Rules and Examination Regulations" - http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/Box48/cmc367/i01p1-i07cmc367.pdf

    © 2017 by Celeste Cruz

  • 24 Jul 2017 12:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I am ridiculously in love with teaching Plutarch.  Honestly, it’s a little bit weird.  My husband affectionately (albeit a little jealously) refers to him as “my boyfriend.”  “Hey how was your day?  Oh never mind, you’re with him again.”  It is truly a labor of love, because there is nothing about teaching Plutarch that could be termed “instant gratification,” at least not for me.  It is absolutely unglamorous and humbling.  But I love it nonetheless.  

    Often, I will ask what I think is a fantastic open-ended question, and as I scan the faces in our group all eyes lower and I am left with the sound of crickets chirping.  What went wrong?  Was it a poor question?  Now I am perfectly capable of asking ineffective questions, and frequently do, but maybe my question just needs time to germinate?  As a dutiful CMer I know on one level it’s the latter, but the longer I facilitate the Plutarch conversation the more I “know” it’s the latter.  “We feed upon the thoughts of other minds; and thought applied to thought generates thought and we become more thoughtful. No one need invite us to reason, compare, imagine; the mind, like the body, digests its proper food, and it must have the labour of digestion or it ceases to function” (Mason, 1989/1925, p. 26).  So I let them digest their food.

    I have realized I think of each child as possessing keys.  I get a glimpse of the germination process when one of the questions becomes a door whose lock fits a key someone already has in their possession.  It’s electric when a few of them realize they have a key to the same door.  These are inner “fist-pumping” moments.  I play it cool, but I really want to run around the room jumping, screaming, and laughing.  Plutarch is shaping them!  I cannot measure how much, but that’s not the point, is it?!?  According to Adler (1940), Plutarch’s “original intention in writing had been to instruct others, he said, but in the course of the work he discovered that more and more it was he himself who was deriving profit and stimulation from ‘lodging these men one after the other in his house.’” (p. 246).  Personally, I also find that this is happening for me – that I am deriving profit and stimulation from lodging these men in my house.  This has made me realize I am also a host.  I invite these children and these “lives” into our space and I mix and mingle with them both, making introductions and leaving them to hopefully forge a relationship.  “Hey, have you met so-and-so, you should really get to know him.  I think you’ll find him interesting.”  This is a science of relations education.  Watching these young people create these new relationships is so exciting and in-the-core-of-my-soul-gratifying to me.  I think the reason I love facilitating Plutarch so much is that I get to participate with the Holy Spirit in the process of equipping the 10 to 16 year olds in our co-op group.  Watching them think deeply and draw conclusions about life, man, free will and its outcomes, and their contribution as citizens truly feeds my soul.  

    But, it is slow going.  It is a lesson in both patience and delayed gratification for me.  It is the subject above all others that consistently reminds me that “there is no education but self-education” (Mason, 1989/1925, p. 26).  It is humbling, because I care so deeply about each of them and their growth, and I want the time to “feel” fruitful but it isn’t about me.  

    As I mentioned earlier oftentimes our time together is quiet, and that grand conversation that I was anticipating, sigh, there go those crickets again.  So I just let it lie and I wait.  Wait for the Holy Spirit to do what He does.  When it comes to the part I play in all this, I pray and ask Him to help me be a gracious host by leading me to the questions that will facilitate a connection between their minds and Plutarch’s, and ultimately the minds of the lives we are studying.  Then, casting out those seeds, I trust that what should take root, will take root . . . even if I will never get to see it.  

    Adler, M. J. (1940).  How to read a book.   NYC: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

    Mason, C. (1989). An essay towards a philosophy of education. Wheaton:  Tyndale House. (Original work published in 1925)

  • 02 Jul 2017 7:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    About a year ago, a discussion was opened on the comparison of Charlotte Mason’s educational method and philosophy with that of Classical Education. During the ensuing months, there have been scores of comments, some intellectually stimulating and some on more of an emotional level. There is at least one area that has not been addressed that in my opinion needs to be. I believe that at their fundamental core, CM and CE are vastly different in who they seek to educate, which is one more reason why they are not the same. I will seek to demonstrate this assertion.

    I think all would agree that Classical Education, no matter which variety, has its roots in the methods and philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Their goal was not to educate the masses in ancient Greece but to train up philosopher kings who would rule society. When the Romans took over as the predominant ruling culture, they often took as slaves, educated Greeks, who were then to be tutors for their own young men. Of course, these young men were the sons of the wealthy nobility.

    After the ascendancy of the church and progressing into the Middle Ages, classical methodology continued, but it was for the training of young men who were of noble birth or destined to be leaders in the church. Education was not for the masses. This model continued as the predominant philosophy, for the most part, until the 17th or 18th century. There is no exact time when classical began to fade in its importance, but certainly Rousseau brought a challenge to its preeminence and the walls began to crumble. Nevertheless, Classical Education did continue in the “public schools” (private or independent schools) of Great Britain, where the upper classes continued to be educated and groomed to lead the nation and through Britain’s domination, the world. Paralleling the growth of government, capitalism became stronger, and the elite also oversaw commerce as the captains of industry.

    Author David Hicks in Norms and Nobility writes the following: “The popular mind associates the idea of a classical education with the narrow and elitist schools of Victorian England. In fact, these schools perverted classical education by teaching in precept and in example a hereditary aristocratic ideal intended to serve the ambitions of Empire and to preserve the status quo.” (p. 17)

    On page 36 Hicks quotes Matthew Arnold in a positive light:

    Rigorous teachers seized my youth,

    And purged its faith and trimmed its fire,

    Showed me the high, white star of Truth,

    There bad[e] me gaze and there aspire.

    These "rigorous teachers" that Arnold and, by extension, Hicks speak of favorably are none other than the Victorian school masters who dominated British public school education, the very ones that Hicks earlier asserts on page 17 corrupted classical education. Nonetheless, these teachers were and are representative of Classical Education. Not only were their methods primarily didactic, but their audiences were the elite children (usually between 11 and 18 years of age) of the rich and aristocratic. They also were primarily male students. Although it can be argued that this was simply a sign of the times, it nevertheless represents the true roots of Classical Education. The methods were not carried into the schools that taught the poor, nor were girls allowed to benefit from their methods.

    In chapter one of his book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Douglas Wilson describes why he chose Classical Education as the model for his own children’s education. It was a direct reaction to the failure of the [American] public school system to adequately train and compete with the educational systems of the rest of the developed world. The failure of the U.S. to compete internationally in literacy and mathematics led him and two other families to start their own Classical School, Logos Academy. For him, after reading Dorothy Sayers’ essay The Lost Tools of Learning, he saw the classics as the only viable way to educate children and to instill a Christian worldview. Of note is the recurrent theme of putting learning into the child/student, not inspiring the child to learn for himself or herself. While not specifically directed at training up an elitist cadre of classically educated Christians to rule the world, his opening three examples to illustrate the problem are telling—a young man filling out a job application who cannot understand the instructions, a young mother who dropped out of school in the tenth grade who cannot read street signs, and a business executive who is frustrated by the high cost of remedial education to bring his work force up to speed. The apparent solution was to make students smarter.

    The problems present in the American educational system are self-evident and none of us would deny that measures such as “Outcome Based Education”, “No Child Left Behind”, SOLs, and “teaching to the test” are evidence of the continued failure to raise literate young people. However, it is a straw man fallacy to say that Classical Education is the only approach that offers a solution. Furthermore, I do not wish to confuse “elite” with “excellence” in education. There is nothing wrong with wanting children to learn the classics or to achieve academic excellence, but is filling students with more knowledge the same thing as instilling a love of learning?  

    Just to be clear, let me offer a definition of “elite”, one taken from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

    1a singular or plural in construction:  the choice part:  cream the elite of the entertainment world b singular or plural in construction:  the best of a class superachievers who dominate the computer elite — Marilyn Chase, c singular or plural in construction:  the socially superior part of society how the French-speaking elite … was changing — Economist, d:  a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence members of the ruling elite

    Definition “d” deems to best fit the present discussion, although “c” certainly gets at the concept as well.

    My wife and I have been home educators for over 30 years. During that time, we have explored and used virtually every curriculum category that is available. For me, as the father, I confess that for most of the early years, I looked on proudly as my wife did the lion’s share of the work and I wrote the checks for the curricula. I told everyone who would listen about our homeschool and just how much smarter our children were than public school-educated kids. In the late 1990’s, we acquired a copy of the Well-Trained Mind, and for a season, I was convinced that Classical Education would make my children smarter and brighter, and who would one day be fit to rule the world! Of course, I am engaging in a little hyperbole, but the point I want to make is this—I was drawn to Classical Education because of its perceived elitist position in educational circles.

    David Hicks observes that,

    Education in ancient times was aimed at a small elite, and classical education has never shaken the charge of being elitist. Its ideals are often said to be irrelevant to the conditions and requirements of life in an industrial democracy. A number of notable classical scholars…have complicated the issue by using Plato’s critique of democracy to support their case for the recognition and formation of educated elites. Democracy’s stampeding masses will destroy themselves and trample down their beloved liberties – so the argument goes – if they are not led by an elite of learned men and women.  These scholars build their argument for educating small elites on the same footing of social and political exigency as those who think all classical education an aristocratic impertinence.  (Norms and Nobility, p. 78)

    I am aware that my charges of elitism are generalized and there are exceptions. I will go so far as to provide two of them. In an article that Cindy Rollins wrote for CiRCE Institute in 2012, she described a classical school that her own father attended in Cincinnati that was aimed at “street urchins” and the fact that the two years he spent there were the greatest influence on his life.  Another example is one that received a lot of attention in the 1970’s. An inner-city Chicago woman named Marva Collins started a private academy (Westside Preparatory School) that targeted young inner city black students.  She utilized a classical curriculum with the result that their graduation rate was almost 100% and most of her students went on to college, something unheard of in that community.  Other examples undoubtedly exist as well. But the exceptions do not negate the principle that CE has historically been aimed at an elite body who would be prepared to one day govern the rest of society.

    In that same article, Cindy Rollins described the difference between CM and Classical Education:

    I must note one difference between a ‘classical education’ and a ‘Charlotte Mason education’ and here we may find the key to the problem. There is nothing elite about a CM education. Its first distinction is that ALL children are born persons and can be educated this way with some success. This kind of education is not only for Ivy League prep schools, middle class Christian schools and dedicated homeschools, it is also viable for those back corners of our society that long ago lost the idea of any kind of education. It is education for ALL and that makes it truly classical and truly Christian.

    Following are the words of Charlotte Mason herself, which she wrote in the preface to volume 6:

    I am unwilling to close what is probably the last preface I shall be called upon to write without a very grateful recognition of the co-operation of those friends who are working with me in what seems to us a great cause. The Parents' National Educational Union has fulfilled its mission, as declared in its first prospectus, nobly and generously. ‘The Union exists for the benefit of parents and teachers [and children] of all classes; . . . .’ ( Mason, 1989A, p. xxviii.)

    Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is perhaps best summarized in her 20-principle Short Synopsis found in the beginning of volume 6.  Principle #15 states:

    Acting upon these and some other points in the behavior of the mind, we find that the educability of children is enormously greater than has hitherto been supposed, and is but little dependent on such circumstances as heredity and environment. Nor is the accuracy of this statement limited to clever children or to children of the educated classes; thousands of children in Elementary Schools respond freely to this method, which is based on the behavior of the mind. (Mason, 1989A, pp. xxx-xxxi)

    For Charlotte Mason, the principles that she formulated were universal, intended for students of all classes. Her hallmark was “A Liberal Education for all.” It is well documented how her educational system was taken into the lower-class schools with the amazing result that the students flourished and grew to love knowledge as much as the upper-class students. On page 246 of volume 6 she makes the following statement:

    I have ventured to speak of the laws of the mind, or spirit, but indeed we can only make guesses here and there and follow with diffidence such light as we get from the teachings of the wise and from general experience, because peculiar experience is apt to be misleading; therefore, when I learned that long-tried principles and methods were capable of application to the whole of a class of forty children in the school of a mining village, I felt assured that we were following laws whose observance results in education of a satisfying kind. (Mason, 1989A)

    The appreciation for art and nature study by these lower-class children, heretofore reserved for upper class children was astounding. Take this example:

    It has come to us of the Parents’ Union School to discover great avidity for knowledge in children of all ages and of every class, together with an equally, remarkable power of attention, retention, and intellectual reaction upon the pabulum consumed.  The power which comes into play in the first place, is of course, attention, and every child of every age, even the so-called ‘backward’ child seems to have unlimited power of attention which acts without mark, prize, place, praise or blame. (Mason, 1989A, pp. 254 -255)

    Charlotte Mason, like CE, was committed to changing the world. The difference was that she did so from the ground up rather than from the top down. Her intent was to spread a love of learning through a love of God, rather than promoting some vague sense of virtue and then hoping it would become Christianized in the student.

    In Mason's 5th volume on page 213 she wrote:

    Moreover, it is not the sort of thing that the training of the schools commonly aims at; to turn out men and women with enough exact knowledge for the occasions of life, and with wits on the alert for chances of promotion, that is what most schools pretend to, and, indeed, do, accomplish. The contention of scholars is, that a classical education does more, turns out man with intellects cultivated and trained, who are awake to every refinement of thought, and yet ready for action. But the press and hurry of our times and the clamor for useful knowledge are driving classical culture out of the field; and parents will have to make up their minds, not only that they must supplement the moral training of the school, but must supply the intellectual culture, without which knowledge may be power, but is not pleasure, nor the means of pleasure. (Mason, 1989B)

    Even in Charlotte Mason’s day, she saw the elitist bent of Classical Education, to prepare children to succeed and armed with specific knowledge to be promoted to successful and prominent positions. She saw the irony that in drilling the facts of CE into students that we were driving “classical culture” out of them.  Charlotte Mason’s method gave the student a feast from which they can choose for themselves what they wish to learn, and to do so with passion. 

    My contention is that whichever form of CE one chooses there is a fundamental goal of training the brightest minds to gain entry into the best colleges and universities and to achieve leadership positions in business and government as a means of changing the world—from the top-down.  Historically, only the elite were allowed to govern and classicists have always believed that their children should be trained to be that ruling class.  They have done this because fundamentally their approach is rooted in the classicists such as Plato, Socrates, and the medieval church, who believed that education was only for the rich, the privileged, and the elite.

    For Charlotte Mason, education was finding the myriad associations between objects and ideas in God’s created world.  Making those associations is not something a teacher can do for students but must be made by the children themselves.  That association can be made whether the child aspires to become a politician or a tradesman, a business professional or a stay-at-home wife and mother.  Charlotte Mason’s approach is for everyone, and society benefits because all are raised to a higher plane.  Each person grows to their capacity, recognizing that while all persons are different, at the same time they are all children of God with a unique place and position in God’s Kingdom.

    Classical Education cannot escape the accusation that at its core, it is an elitist philosophy while Charlotte Mason is all-inclusive.  There is one note of caution that I must interject, and that is the danger that we who are advocates of Charlotte Mason’s methodology, would become ensnared with the same pride and even arrogance that we accuse others of having.  It is a gift that Charlotte’s works have been rediscovered and that we are able to share in the renaissance of her ideas in our own time.

    References

    Hicks, D. (1999).  Norms and nobility:  A treatise on education.  Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

    Mason, C. M. (1989A).  An essay towards a philosophy of education.  Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (Original work published in 1925)

    Mason, C. M. (1989B).  Formation of character.  Charlotte Mason Research and Supply.  (Original work published in 1925).

    Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.  Retrieved from:  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elite.

    Rollins. C. (January 10, 2012).  Towards a defense of Charlotte Mason. Article. Retrieved from:  https://www.circeinstitute.org/blog/towards-defense-charlotte-mason

    © 2017 by Scott Cottrill

  • 23 Jun 2017 4:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Again, we know that the human hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause of joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success. We begin to understand this and make some efforts to train the young in the deft handling of tools and the practice of handcrafts.  (Mason, 1989/1925A, p. 328-329)

    The architect is a man of poetic temperament, of creative imagination, and of artistic taste and judgment: coupled with seeing eyes and deft hands, he must have scientific accuracy and constructive power; he is at once a designer, a builder, a man of culture, and a man of business. (Robins, 1890) 

    How does using our hands and our creative imagination connect with teaching our students in this wide large room of knowledge?  Can we use arts and science to help stimulate our students to use their own creativity after main lessons?  How are we using the ideas from reading about architecture and engineering to learn a new skill, initiated by the biography we’ve read about the person in history, geography, science? How are we using the new skill, to teach our students to live happy, fully engaged, satisfying lives?  These are some of the questions that we can ask ourselves before diving into the world of architecture, engineering and craftsmanship studies. 

    As a teacher and parent, we do not know if our children will be architects, engineers, welders or carpenters.  They may pursue a field in chemistry, politics, social work, or business.   About half of a freshman class can easily change their major by their junior year in college.  Many students do not even use their degree they so painstakingly acquired in college when getting out into the workforce.  Many have a change of heart after working a few years in their chosen field of study, realizing that it is not something they want to pursue forever.  These scenarios are not mentioned because the students were in the wrong; it is just part of growth as a developing individual and alterations in our society over a period of time that can cause a change in plans.  Yet we would like our students to have some ideas, previously thought upon, that they can use to guide their decisions on what careers they would like to pursue in the future.  As our Charlotte reminds us, “It rests with parents not only to give their children birth into the life of intelligence and moral power, but to sustain the higher life which they have been borne.  Now that life, which we call education, receives only one kind of sustenance; it grows upon ideas. You may go through years of so-called 'education' without getting a single vital idea; and that is why many a well-fed body carries about a feeble, starved intelligence . . .” (Mason, 1989B, p. 33). As we provide our students with these vital ideas, many may use their hobbies to start their own businesses, becoming entrepreneurs--enjoying themselves more now, than when they were working for someone else in the corporate world.

    This reminds me of a short time ago, watching my husband over the course of several weekends; I realized how happy he is with his hammer, screw gun, wood and level.  He has always expressed his desire and a dream to own his own business, yet lack of assets has changed and altered his plans.  Using his skills, passed down from grandpa to dad to son, my husband is very content using his hands and mind to plan, build and carry out his ideas in his head for a fun family project in the backyard. 

    Gathering up the kids, rising early, he starts his work before the sun has time to peek out from behind the trees.   Even though it is hard, laborious work, we are all happily talking about how much supplies we will need to accomplish this sort of family project.  Will the project fit within the financial budget and time frame that was already discussed during our family meeting?  We pile out of the car at our local hardware store, with our list in hand, ready to accomplish the task of gathering supplies.  And later on in the day, as we build the structure, we start thinking aloud.  Who will be responsible for each of the different tasks needed to complete the project?  Can the sequence of steps to be done, affect the outcome and end result?  Who will measure to figure out the angles?  Who will use their geometry and math skills to double-check the measurements are correct?  What could we add onto it as to make good use of the space?  Will there be enough room to share the space with friends, neighbors and community?  How will we protect the tree with proper materials using the design thought upon?  How will we give the tree room to grow and sway in the wind, yet endure the weight of each person?   Hasn’t it been said, “The great secret to education is to combine mental and physical work so that one kind of exercise refreshes the other” (Larson, 1903, p. 10).

    As the days pass, we are seeing with our eyes something that is visual; something that is measurable as the end product.  We notice that our children enjoy the craftsmanship because it allows them to prove something to themselves.  They revel in the confidence that comes from participating and completing a project from start to finish.  And looking at my husband, I realized that this building project was likeable and enjoyable for him as well.  There was a part of him, which was playfully engaged in the task at hand.  He was using his mind and skills that took him beyond himself-- into a different world almost, that required of him to be fully engaged.  To use his mind and hands as he went along; he was figuring out how things worked so that the structure would be lasting and safe for the kids.  Besides thinking of safety, he wanted it to be aesthetically beautiful as well.  Creating something that can be used again (the reason for the screws, not nails), allowed him to be, not a consumer of stuff, but a creator of something beautiful, meaningful, useful and reusable.  I think these opportunities for him to teach skills to our children, give him some joy and light in a corporate world that can be dull at times for the human heart and mind. 

    As I am gazing at the finished product, I see how the success of the project was more than just a lesson on the skills of building.  It also was a lesson on creating something, being involved in finishing a task, and being happy during the challenge of a goal.  I start to think of the builders and engineers that we have read about this past year.  Their inspiring work of planning towns, inventing concrete, building aqueducts, plumbing bath houses--these Romans gave us many enjoyable afternoons of drawing floor plans and townscapes; building with mud, sticks and stone; using modeling materials or blocks and bricks to simulate what these old Romans built so long ago in the ancient days.  This is one of the many reasons why I embraced and dove into the ideas of our mentor Charlotte Mason.  This way of living is to “Make it your goal to live a quiet life; minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before” (I Thessalonians 4:11, New Living Translation).

    Many educators think that our philosophy of education is just an overabundance of reading.  It is quite a bit of reading, yet it is also conversation and opportunities to use of our hands.  The readings in history, literature, geography, science, architecture and engineering are invigorating!  They touch on and lay the foundation of independent thought.  They provide us with daily conversations about duty, citizenship and patriotism.  While our reading is wide, generous and varied, we are also allowing our students to use their hands in the afternoons, evenings and weekends. 

    Many times, especially with the little ones, this type of work is play.  It is natural with no preplanning on the teacher’s part to encourage the students.  With the older elementary, middle and higher forms, a bit of planning of some choices of projects are offered, only if the student cannot come up with a design on their own.  Study in perspective and scale drawing is continued to aid in using their mind for their creations.  Different materials are offered to the older students to use for their 2D plan to become a 3D model.  Verbal and written narrations and essays are still used; yet we also include renderings of architectural designs from the readings, building with blocks, constructing with branches using pioneering skills with knots, or compass drawings are just a few examples.

    During our afternoon session, we are first reading about the architect or engineer, who is the chief builder, the designer. We then choose an idea from the story that inspires each individual student.  Whether it be through using wood and hand tools, forming sculptures with plaster of Paris, or materials from nature, using clay for monuments, drawing in our architecture and engineering journals, using leather or other fabrics--we let the student decide what project they will create while using their mind and imagination. 

    As we read, we are also aware that there are more people in the story besides just one maker.  We see that there are a variety of professions of people.  There may be apprentices, assistants or journeymen, using their talents and ideas to help with the end result.  We are also engaged with learning about people that create things using their own craft.  We learn about the professionals in the trades that are becoming lost skills in the modern world.  We look at the architect or engineer-- yet we also look to the sculptor, the blacksmith, the glassmaker, the wood worker (carpenter), the tinsmith, the potter, and so many more.  All these amazing skills that could be the one skill your students use throughout their life to enrich and understand their own humanity.  

    Recently, we spent the afternoon talking with a print maker as we were experiencing the colonial life in Williamsburg, Virginia.  As he shook the ink that was to be applied to the moveable metal letters, he talked about the invention of printing.  Showing our small group the metal and how it was cut and prepared to become the moveable type cast.  Then he showed us how the metal was pieced and puzzled together to form a mirror, upside down image.  Placing the paper, pressing the lever, he showed us the end result of the page that was circulated around the first colonies in this great land.  Did you know that the printing press helped start the American Revolution by the passing of ideas on paper, in a fast, more frequent way to mass amounts of people?  These ideas and stories, which were exchanged on paper, provided unity among the colonies.  This unity was a new idea.  These ideas shared in the pamphlets and newspapers connected the people in a meaningful way and were the heart of the Revolution.  By listening to one tradesman talk about his craft, we are educating our students to use learning as a way to seize upon this life, just as our forefathers. The world becomes more tangible--and a thing of beauty, when we use our hands and minds.

    We need to provide our students with experiences in which they have the opportunities to make, to build, to create.  We know that wrestling and struggling with a problem builds the heart and mind muscle needed for character to develop. It is the experience of empowerment over being able to solve a problem that is needed to fulfill the soul.  Let us guide our students to a more fulfilled and engaged life.  The world is not abstract or distant--it is full of opportunities to learn, stretching our minds and using our hands.

    It is the man who has read and thought on many subjects who is, with the necessary training, the most capable whether in handling tools, drawing plans, or keeping books. The more of a person we suceed in making a child, the better will he both fulfill his own life and serve society.  (Mason, 1989A, p. 3)

    References

    Burkeman, O. (7 May 2010). Working with your hands: The secret to happiness? The Guardian. Retrieved from:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/08/working-hands-happiness-burkeman.

    Crawford, M. (21 May 2009). The case for working with your hands. The New York Times. Retrieved from

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html.

    Crawford, M. (2010). Shop class as soulcraft:  An inquiry into the value of work. NYC: Penguin Group.

    Csikscentmihalyi, M. (2013). Creativity:  Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. NYC:  Harper Perennial.  

    Korn, P. (2013). How we make things and why it matters:  The education of a craftsman.  Jaffrey, New Hampshire:  David R. Godine, Publisher.

    Larsson, G. (1902). Sloyd. Boston:  Sloyd Training School.

    Mason, C.M. (1989A). An essay towards a philosophy of education. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (Original work published in 1925)

    Mason, C. M. (1989B). Parents and children. Charlotte Mason Research and Supply. (Original work published in 1925)

    Rebanks, J. (2015). The shepherds’ life:  Modern dispatches from an ancient landscape. NYC:  Flatiron Books.

    Robins, E.E. (1890). Our Sons:  The Profession of Architecture. Parents’ Review, 1, Issue 1, pp 17-21. Retrieved from The Charlotte Mason Digital Collection http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/ParentsReview/ParentsReviewV1/PDFs/n1/p017-21PRv1n1.pdf

    © 2017 Kerstin McClintic

  • 25 May 2017 11:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Charlotte Mason Community School began as Ambleside Community School in Detroit in 2002, with 18 students. The founders first spent a few years studying Charlotte Mason and researching how to start a school. This fall, God willing, we will begin a new school year, with 70+ students, in a building that we lease from a church in Detroit. Attrition, from teachers who are choosing to stay home with new babies, and from retirement, has thinned our ranks, and we hope to hire new teachers who will join with us in this mission work in Detroit. It will be my pleasure to train and oversee the new teachers. 



    Therefore, I recently set myself the task of reading Towards a Philosophy of Education once more, from the beginning.  I thought I would be going over familiar territory, not realizing that I most often refer to some well-read pages in this volume, and have not read it from cover to cover in some time.



     The first topic that caught my attention was Mason’s reference to the Great War. She reflects in the Introduction about how Germany came to be in the place in which they would allow what she calls a “breakdown in character and conduct.” The reason soon follows:

    “the symptoms have been duly traced to their cause in the thoughts the people have been taught to think during three or four generations (p.1).”

    Our school in Detroit is adjacent to Wayne State University, my alma mater, where I truly hope great thoughts are still encouraged and expected. However, surrounding us are casinos and sports venues that won huge tax concessions from the city so that they could be built. At the same time, funding for the education of the minds and souls of the children of this city is in question. Give us three or four generations more of these sad priorities and injustices, and where will we be?  Not being a public school, our school must charge tuition or close our doors, but we depend on every dollar given to us to make up for the tuition fees the parents cannot in any way afford to pay. The public schools are similarly endangered.



    The bright spot in all of this worry: our present students are being allowed to think, to question, to delve into great works, and not only that, but to become persons, because Mason also says in this Introduction,

    “the more of a person we succeed in making a child, the better will he both fulfill his own life and serve society (p.3).”



    A few years ago, I took a few days off from school to visit my son and daughter-in-law in Oakland, California, as they were moving from a loft apartment into a tiny house that they had purchased. Oakland is a city undergoing many changes. The homeless gather in parks and under highway bypasses, even as young people, like my son, are moving into their neighborhoods and bringing with them the usual gentrification signs: bike lanes and coffee shops.

    I stepped outside their loft apartment one morning, waiting for them to come down, when suddenly I felt a person touching me, surrounding me from the back. I turned quickly, and a tall man was behind me. He never spoke, but followed me as I backed away.  I headed for the front door of the building to be let back in. I felt threatened, but I wasn’t hurt. My son said, when I pointed him out, that he most certainly was a heroin user, because of the telltale signs on his face. I kept thinking of the man, wondering how he came to be homeless, and whether anyone had ever shown him kindness or opened up the world to him as a child.  When I returned to Detroit, Evelyn, our principal, told me that a woman was asking if we would take her son as a student. It was March, and late in the year to be taking new students.  She said the woman was a bus driver who drove past our school every day, and wanted something better for her son. He was being bullied at school and was behind in reading. I thought of the homeless man, and told Evelyn: we must take him.



    Our little child, we saw immediately, needed all of the nurturing and care we could give him. We provided an atmosphere that fosters growth as persons. We provided the discipline of habits, formed “definitely and thoughtfully”. We provided life: “intellectual and moral, as well as physical, sustenance”. (Preface)

    These three educational instruments are the backbone of the methods we employ to teach students to think, to narrate back what they read and hear, and to make connections and form relationships with the world around them. We will continue our commitment to help them become persons who will both fulfill their own lives and serve society. If we are diligent, perhaps there will be future generations in this city and this country who will be thinking great thoughts about the problems of society, whose characters and conduct reflect the great minds and hearts of our most admired leaders, not the wishes of those who would prey upon the weaknesses of others.

    I am going to continue my re-reading of Towards a Philosophy of Education, but I am amazed at what I have already gained from the first few pages.

    ©  2017 by Therese Racklyeft

  • 13 May 2017 6:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I have been working with a group of people just starting out on their Charlotte Mason journey.  It has given me the opportunity to see with fresh eyes the awakening that happens as one is first touched by this whole new way of living.  I am amazed at how far things have come, and how much richer it has grown over the years.  As I peer through Mason's Alveary, it makes me wish I could start all over.  I can only imagine enjoying the richness of learning together without all the time eaten away by research and study that was necessary in the early years.  There is so much more access and support available now.  I’m awed by the fact that truth really is eternal as the same enriching and inspiration I received washes over the hearts and faces of those first becoming acquainted with Mason’s feast.

    I feel like a “Selah” is in order to stop and really consider all that God has done.  I am so grateful for all the people that have sacrificed and contributed over the years.  The maturity and depth has only continued to increase, and so much has been firmly established.  I believe the hardest work has already been completed and there is a momentum that will give an easier path and an acceleration for the things ahead.  For all those that gave so selflessly and suffered to get us here, and for all that has been achieved, truly celebration is in order!  

    It seems like we, as a movement, are at the top of a mountain.  I can look back and see the challenges of the climb and the exhilaration of having arrived at the top.  The view all around is breathtaking.  I can also look ahead and see the path moving forward into new territory, with gravity working for us on this next part.

    I believe we are at a divine moment in time where there is hunger for what we have to offer.  I also see things orchestrating incredible opportunities for us to do just that.  I’m referring to political shifts that have taken place in a couple countries, and a longing for truth stirring amongst people unlike I have seen in many decades.  There are also four additional countries where people have reached out for help in starting schools in the future.  It certainly appears to be time to advance!

    The potential for what this can impact is tremendous.  In other countries there is a desperate need for justice amongst the poor, and education can help provide that.  The girls are the ones  where this is realized the greatest.  A woman without an education is vulnerable to slavery, abuses of every kind, and oftentimes murder.  I attended a lecture on Women: Survival and Empowerment given by Dr. Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, that addressed the oppression of women in undeveloped countries.  His number one answer to combat it was education.  

    Other significant changes needed are the ability to think logically, understand the worldview behind ideas being promoted, and the ability to discern truth—especially the truth of the Gospel.  I’m sure every one of us has had moments in the last year where we wondered if the world has lost its minds as we’ve watched the news!  The susceptibility of people to be swayed by sound bites and distorted news-reporting is a result of an education system that I daresay has failed, but at the very least is in great need of reform.

    If we can see that these things are established, we will see nations affected in one generation.  Give that a moment to sink in, because the power of that is beyond comprehension.  

    In light of all of this, there are several things I am praying for.  First, I want to see cross-cultural communicators who can instill in the business community the vision and importance of funding transformational education.  Secondly, I would like to see a wave of Charlotte Mason schools started.  Lastly, I would like to see teacher training colleges and universities established, especially in other countries.  

    I’m dreaming with God for this to leave the nations with a legacy.  Will you stand on this mountaintop and dream with me?  Will you join me in praying and networking with others unto the advancement of this precious movement that has so enriched our lives, so that others can share in the abundance of life it has provided us?  

    © 2017 by Tara Schorr

  • 07 May 2017 4:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be at the House of Education in Ambleside as a student teacher? Here are the requirements:

        Prospective candidates, who were not admitted under the age of 18, entered the House of Education in January. Each must have had a sound education and had taken an entrance exam in order to be educated to become a Primary Governess (not primary care, but rather the teaching of 6 – 10 year olds) or for a  Secondary Governess (upper grades: 10 – 17 or 18 years old) or to be Mistresses of the PUS schools or classes, and Mistresses in Secondary Schools. In becoming a primary or secondary governess, past certificates of attainments would determine which you qualified for. The course of study was for two years. Each of the two years consisted of three terms and three vacations. Seniors spent a summer in probationary teaching and Juniors were expected to spend some weeks in France. At the end, the student sat for the House of Education Certificate, which may be first, second, or third class. This certified teaching 6 year olds to 17 or 18, depending on Primary or Secondary levels. The student teacher also showed an enthusiasm for childhood to receive the certificate. In Charlotte’s words, this showed the work and training as heart-felt service to God.

         During the course of study, the students were required to write three papers, dealing with the history of education, practical methods, and theory of education. The final certificate depended on these papers. The aim of education, as presented to the students, is to produce a human being at his best—physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually quickened by religion, and with some knowledge of nature, art, literature, and manual work. Each student teacher undergoes Criticism Lessons and a lesson that is examined by an Inspector. On Thursday mornings, two or three students give Lessons for Criticism before the other students and staff. Miss Mason calls upon those present to criticise the lessons, finally summing them each up herself. The marks went towards the final certificate. On every Tuesday evening,  one of the students reads a paper dealing with a given author or composer, illustrated by readings or performances from his works. These evenings are known as "Scale How Tuesdays.” Some of these are in the Parent’s Review, labeled “Scale How Tuesdays.” Also, students took weekly charge, two at a time, of the girls (classroom pupils) who boarded while in the Practising School.

          They learned all subjects from learning to play the piano to great pains taken for elementary Greek, Latin, French, German, and Italian for excellent accents and fluency. This was tested orally.  Every student was required to keep a Nature Notebook and a Nature Lore Certificate assured the knowledge which should enable the teacher to gratify the intelligent curiosity of children, and to introduce her older pupils to the delightful pursuits of the field naturalist. This nature study is supplemented by definite scientific teaching in botany, biology, geology, astronomy, etc.

         There were difficulties, which a former H.E. student, Miss O’Ferrall, wrote in 1922: 

    I believe that two of the difficulties of many parents who teach or have their children taught at home are (1) the choice of books, and (2) the fact that they don't know how their children stand with regard to other children of their own age. She presented the curriculum which was sent out as one joined the PNEU and how to do it (The Work and Aim of the Parents’ Union School link listed below). None of us can study at  the House of Education today but as Miss O’Ferrall encourages us from 1922: It must not be imagined from this that Scale How Students are the only people allowed to teach on this method. This is far from the case. Many parents have a governess who has studied the methods under Miss Mason herself, but a great many do not, for the demand for students far exceeds the supply, and there are hundreds of mothers and other people using the method who have never had the opportunity of Ambleside training. 

         Miss O’Ferrall  concludes with these words which we should take to heart: 

    I can only say that the more I know of these ideals the more wonderful I find them to be and the more you study them the more you will realise the truth of our motto: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

          Can you  imagine being at Scale How with Charlotte Mason observing your teaching in a Criticism Lesson or asking her all your questions? Read about one of her student’s experience in the Parents’ Review:  Miss Mason of the House of Education by R.A.Pennethorne Volume 34, 1923, pgs.73-77.  ( https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR34p073InMemoriam.shtml)

    From these Parents’ Reviews:

    - The House of Education by Charlotte Mason (London: PNEU, 1921?), 1921?, pgs. 61-66 https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR32p066HofEd.shtml

    - The Work and Aims of the Parents' Union School  by Miss O'Ferrall (Ex-student H.E.) Volume 33, no. 11, November 1922, pgs. 777-787 https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR33p777WorkAimsofPUS.shtml

    - Training Lessons to Mothers by The Lady Isabel Margesson Volume 4, 1893/94, pgs. 17-24  https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR04p017LessonsMothers.shtml

    © 2017 Bonnie Buckingham

  • 30 Apr 2017 9:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join Cheri Struble and Sara Dalton at the Eastern Conference, Asbury University, Wilmore, KY.

    There are two elements to implementing any kind of educational theory – the philosophy and the practical application; the how and the why. Without a basic understanding of both of these aspects of Charlotte Mason’s educational method there is bound to be frustration, vexation and failure. On the other hand, with a little instruction in both (and a lot of grace!), education can be a delight for you and your students. 


    In our pre-conference session we will outline Miss Mason’s basic philosophy and hopefully whet your appetite to start your own journey into studying Charlotte Mason’s own books and other Mason resources.  It takes time to learn the nuances of any philosophy, including Miss Mason’s. However, this step should not be overlooked, as to try to recreate a school day solely based on time tables and book lists is destined for frustration. But with the scaffolding of the “why”, you may adapt Mason’s method to fit your family, your children, and your culture. Then your efforts are supported and do not come falling down around you.


    If philosophy is the scaffolding, the framework, then practical application and demonstration are the brick and mortar.  Many subjects like picture study, music, and even narration can be intimidating to a teacher just beginning to practice Mason’s philosophy.  Often things seem complicated when we read them, but once we participate in the new skill, they are easily reproducible.  Because we want you to leave the day inspired but also prepared, we will have several demonstrations of Miss Mason’s philosophy in action.   


    Education should be a joy and delight, not about lists and subjects to check off.  Having the freedom to adapt suggestions to your family or classroom, yet remaining true to Charlotte Mason’s principles takes time, thoughtful discussion and prayer. Hopefully this class will inspire your home or classroom education to be a place where a peaceful atmosphere, thoughtful habits and amazing ideas abound.

  • 15 Apr 2017 8:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I have been on this Charlotte Mason journey a while now. I enjoy the planning that comes with each year and have embraced the natural times of reflection and evaluation that come as we approach end of terms and the close of the school year. This year is different, and I find myself at a hard stop. Next month my oldest graduates from high school. I find my usual reflection is deeper and more pronounced. I would like to share some of my thoughts as I reflect, ask questions, and surprisingly find grace.

    Interestingly enough one question I find I am not asking is – does this Charlotte Mason thing really work? I am already confident my children will be adequately prepared for the larger world. For some time now I have felt a deep assurance that this philosophy of education prepares unlike any other – both academically, as well as, and more importantly, for life. And though it is not what matters most, I can now say with first-hand experience that our children can do well on standardized tests and get into college. I do not share this to boast or because I have just discovered it; but rather, it is because I remember truly wondering if I dared trust this Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. You can! I did, and I have not regretted that choice for a moment.

    As a homeschooling mom with several more years of schooling before me, I find myself asking – what would I do differently or wish I had done sooner? Is there anything I regret? Or rather, what things I am thankful that we did do?

    Looking back, I am thankful we have continued to spread the feast even in high school.  It can be tempting to allow poetry, picture study, drawing, music, nature study, and more to be crowded out by what can mistakenly be deemed the more important subjects such as math, science, and writing. Certainly there is always room for improvement, but I am thankful we continued to make the broad feast a priority not only in the school day but in our daily lives. Cultivating relationships toward God, man, and our world is vitally important as we lay hold of the broad field of our inheritance.

    In a similar vein, I have tried hard to create margin, so we are not constantly coming and going with every hour scheduled and full.  We all need time to be – time to savor and ponder the great ideas we are gleaning from our books and the beauty around us, and time to share and discuss ideas with others. Unhurried time is vital to the sinking in of ideas and the forming of relationships, and that is what it is all about.

    I have found myself amazed that I do not find myself wishing we had crammed in just one more book. I remember many times agonizing over book choices, literally almost feeling sick at the thought of what we might be missing. How could we not schedule this biography or that literature choice? It was so hard to pick a few from the many great options and ignore the temptation to speed along. I was told we are educating for life, not just until graduation, and I have found it is true.  The desire for knowledge for its own sake will carry on into the future. 

    I find I am also glad we embraced the study of language arts in the manner and timing Charlotte Mason recommends. It seemed too simple at first, and I struggled whether or not I would trust as well in this area. But we did, and I found that once again she was right. Copywork, dictation, oral and written narration, composition (often based upon the living books we were already reading), and yes, formal grammar and essay instruction - but in its place and time - have joined together to create a cohesive but natural whole. It does work and I am thankful.

    What would I do differently? It may not be what you might think, then again, maybe so. As I reflect I find I regret developing habits in myself and my children that would take so much effort to undo. I can attest to the fact that it is easier to make the proper habit in the first place than to undo the bad and replace it with a new one.

    I wish I would have realized sooner how easily I could and should model the delight and expectation of joy in our studies and the great world around us. Fostering anticipation and delight is such a simple thing that can reap great rewards, but it takes being aware and alert.

    I have been awakened to the importance of my own attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. So often it starts with me. I have found that it is I who greatly influences the atmosphere and tone of our home. And frankly, I need work. Implementing a Charlotte Mason philosophy has been life changing as I discover so much more than simply how to teach children.

    There are many important aspects of home-life from first training to highest education; but there is nothing in the way of direct teaching that will ever have so wide and lasting an effect as the atmosphere of home. And the gravest thought concerning this is that in this instance there is nothing to learn and nothing to teach: the atmosphere emanates from ourselves--literally is ourselves; our children live in it and breathe it, and what we are is thus incorporated into them. There is no pretence here or possibility of evasion; we may deceive ourselves: in the long run, we never deceive our children. The spirit of home lives, and, what is more, is accentuated in them. Atmosphere is much more than teaching, and infinitely more than talk.

     Atmosphere of the Home, by M. F. Jerrold, PR, Vol. 8, no. 12, 1897.

    I wish I had realized sooner that fewer words often say more and speak more clearly. Many times my mouth should simply remain shut.

    As I ponder what I wish we had done better or sooner, I find it has nothing to do with which math curriculum, biography, or science book we chose.  Though some could argue we have done well, I can see all the things I could have done better or sooner. It is an interesting thing, isn’t it? The more you come to know the more you realize how little you actually do know.

    If anything, my biggest regret is not implementing the philosophy and methods of Charlotte Mason sooner and more fully.  But as a wise woman once told me, I cannot do anything about what I did not know in the past, all I can do is move forward implementing now what I do know in the present.  I can make all kinds of wishes and consider regrets.  I wish I had read Home Education when my children were small, but I didn’t even know Charlotte Mason existed.  I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.

    So as I come to this unexpected hard stop and reflect, I find what I need most is grace.

    Grace. Have you ever noticed that we often fail to extend ourselves the same care and grace we would so freely extend to others?

    As I choose to extend grace to myself – and it is a choice – I gain confidence in the knowledge that I am not alone in this endeavor. That the Holy Spirit would wish to join me is such a balm to my sometimes weary spirit and such cause for rejoicing! 

    In the things of science, in the things of art, in the things of practical everyday life, his God doth instruct him and doth teach him, her God doth instruct her and doth teach her. Let this be the mother's key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the Divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child. Because He is infinite, the whole world is not too great a school for this indefatigable Teacher, and because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of his infinite attention for the whole time to each one of his multitudinous pupils. We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us. 

    Parents and Children, p. 273.

    So I will continue to take time to reflect for there is merit in examination and evaluation. I will continue to trust the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy—continuing to learn and grow. I will continue to work on habits and atmosphere, as we seek to be persons who live closer to life. I will continue to draw strength as I partner with the Holy Spirit in the education of my children. And I will also embrace grace – grace for the past, grace for today, and grace for the future.

    © 2017 by Joy Shannon

  • 08 Apr 2017 8:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Are you considering attending a conference this summer?   Over the past six years I have been attending conferences specific to Charlotte Mason that encourage me and my family on our homeschooling journey.   The conferences I have attended sometimes focus on the abstract and give me big ideas to ponder for months to come.  Other times I have been able to attend a conference that just allows for rest. From these I come home ready to face the rest of the schooling year with a light heart.  Still other times I have attended conferences that allow me to be the student.  I follow along in the footsteps of another homeschooling mother or father and become the complete learner.  I experience a day or a morning through the eyes of the child.  This allows me to see another way of implementing the philosophy and methodology.  It gives me pause to consider how best I may be the teacher in the coming months.  When I put myself in the place of those I will teach, I can begin to be more empathic for their experience. 


    This summer I will be offering a Nature Study Immersion at CMI East.  What are some reasons you might want to take the nature immersion?  Are you afraid of bugs and dirt?  Do you feel like nature is boring or drudgery?  Have you lost the joy in nature study?  Do you want to open your own eyes to the natural world?  Need some systematic help in getting special studies soaring again?  Think a Natural History Club would keep you accountable to more outings?  These are just some reasons to attend!


    Our gathering will begin with a short exercise in the habit of attention with a mini lecture on the impact of nature study for us as mothers and for our children.  Soon after we will head outside where we will spend the rest of the morning on a nature walk discovering the flora and fauna of Kentucky.  Together we will admire, wonder and question at all that we see and hear.  We will take time to record in our nature journals.  It’s important that you check the current weather trends to be appropriately dressed for all kinds of Kentucky weather! 


    After lunch we will return to our discussion of the impacts of nature study including ways to implement it with various Forms.  We will share different products necessary and not so necessary to begin your family culture of nature study.  I’ll share my experiences with the Natural History Club in central Illinois and what I’ve gleaned from the Parents’ Review articles.   My daughter, Catherine, a homeschooled sophomore, will help direct a little dry brush exercise and give you helpful hints in making dry brush a breeze! 

    Won’t you join us? 

    Read more on my blog about our nature forays at www.motherwonderswhy.blogspot.com 

    © 2017 by Marcia Mattern

    Register now at Events.

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