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Reflections on a Charlotte Mason Education by Timothy Laurio

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

This entry was posted in: Art


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. nwilliams551 says

    Thank you so much for sharing your thought on this. I very much appreciate that you take the time to look back and give us your thoughts on your education. It is encouraging to those of us moving forward with faith alone!
    Nicole Williams

  2. willowspring says

    Tim, your comments are so timely. And Jennifer Spencer’s blog post tackles similar issues. Do we learn about God’s creation — from those He inspired to create great works of art and music to those He inspired to invent cotton gins and electric light bulbs — for the purpose of analysis or to somehow fill our brain buckets with information? Or do we learn about created things, systems, inventions and great works of art, literature, and music in order to relate to both the world that God has given us and the God Who gave it?

    Relationship is key, I think, because it brings meaning to the study. Without meaning, we have no incentive to learn anything really. What does understanding algebra mean to me? It means I can better understand the order in the universe and the God Who created mathematical order itself. It also broadens the realm of opportunities open to me for future employment, but if that was all it did, why bother? And that’s what many students think — why bother? If, instead, mankind could see the study of algebra as an act of worship and adoration, as an opportunity to understand, just a tiny bit, something of the personality of the Creator of the Universe, what a difference that would make!

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