Timothy Laurio was homeschooled all his life with Charlotte Mason’s method. He is currently studying English and music at Milligan College.
Here, Timothy reflects on what he considers a strong point of a Charlotte Mason education. Educational stakeholders should read carefully.
I think one of the strongest points of a CM education is that it teaches you to build relationships with the things you study. It can do this because it assumes that the things you study have value in themselves. Too often, at my school, they approach works of art as objects. They use Adam Bede to illustrate the Victorian clash between romanticism and realism, or they use the Revolutionary Etude to illustrate the rise of romantic nationalism. The trouble is, whether they mean to or not, this approach creates a utilitarian attitude towards art. For instance, we end up looking at a poem only as an example of the intellectual and aesthetic climate of the period, instead of engaging the poem as the real expression of a real person’s thoughts. I see it the same way as the difference between a textbook and a living book. A history textbook exists only to bear information about people and events; Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples lets you build a relationship with the author and his subject, so you get to know the history rather than just knowing facts about it. If education really is the study of relationships, then it ought to treat the studies themselves as living things to be experienced relationally, not as tools to be used towards another end. A relational education should let the student experience an idea or work of art for itself, on its own terms, before analyzing it as an object. The encounter with beauty that you have in listening to Faure’s Requiem, or the characters you get to know by reading Sense and Sensibility, or the unsettling sense of ignorance that meets you when you look at Friedrich’s Monk by the Sea: these have nothing to do with objective analysis or historical significance. Such experiences, however, are part of what it means to be fully human; and such experiences only come when you treat the work you study as a thing of value in itself, and enter into a relationship with the art.
© Timothy Laurio 2010