A Charlotte Mason Education, Beauty, Habit Formation, Homeschooling
Comments 5

The Difference by Dr. Cindy Swicegood

For several years now I have been dabbling in the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, helping with the annual conference at Gardner-Webb University, implementing an idea or two of Mason’s into my homeschooling.  This school year (Thanks to Carroll Smith for inviting me to pilot a new curriculum.)  I have actually been “doing” Charlotte Mason.  What a difference her philosophy has made in my life!

I have two speeds: go and stop; all-out passionate and Sabbath restful; intense and relaxed.  Many people would describe me as a disciplined person—and that I am, in many respects.  However, until I met Charlotte Mason, that discipline was used in isolated situations; it was not an integral thread through all of my life.

I am a pianist.  I am a basketball player.  I am a photographer.  When I have a project or specific goal before me, I am well able to work toward that goal fairly relentlessly.  I work hard.  I practice the piano diligently and can do so for hours (because, intuitively, I focus on one small section at a time).  My sight is fixed on the goal—performing the piece before me to the best of my ability (both technically and artistically) on the given performance date.  When I play basketball I am intense.  I focus on the task at hand, whether scoring on offense or trying to stop my opponent (or better yet, stealing the ball!) on defense.  When I am taking pictures, I really focus.  (Pun absolutely intended.)  I love seeing the beauty God has created!

And this is where Charlotte Mason comes in.  As I began teaching my daughter the habit of copywork, I couldn’t resist starting my own copywork notebook.  Many times when I am reading to my Year 3 student I grab a sticky note to mark a passage that has grabbed me!  I have copied sentences that are beautifully descriptive, painting the scene like I would never have imagined it otherwise; sentences that are particularly well crafted, challenging me to develop my writing skill and vocabulary; and sentences that encourage or motivate me to live up to a higher calling .  This copywork business is a lovely habit!

The awareness and appreciation of beauty is another habit I’m developing.  Having just had the opportunity to spend six months in another country, I developed the habit of having fresh flowers on the table.  I’ve continued the habit since our return and find that I am so pleased and blessed over and over again, just seeing the beauty of the blooms, the buds, the leaves.  (And, I confess, sometimes I just have to draw or photograph them!)

All of this brings me to education as a life.  As Christians, we are all being transformed into the image of Christ.  I see this transformation occurring as I learn to live an educated life.  (“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Romans 12:2)

B.C.M. (before Charlotte Mason) I spent most of my time being focused—on my to-do list!  Every so often (once every few months, sadly) I would take time to enjoy God’s creation, going for a hike, taking pictures, etc.  But my days were fairly filled with all I “had” to do.  I am a dutiful person and I was resigned to dutiful box-checking.

A.C.M. (after Charlotte Mason) I spend much more of my time living—moving from task to task with purpose and joy AND taking time every day to notice beauty, to create beauty, to give thanks for beauty.  Education is a life—a beautiful, bountiful, blessed life!  I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to pilot this curriculum—and through it (and Mason’s philosophy) to learn to live more fully the life God intended for me!

© Dr. Cindy Swicegood 2011




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. Lanaya says

    Yes, yes! I’m so there with you! Still growing in that area, but loving the time I take now to focus on beauty and appreciate nature and enjoy life.

  2. Lori Lawing says


    Beautiful! How I too have been transformed into a lover of lifetime learning! I absolutely love writing out poetry (currently Robert Frost) for my nine year old’s copy work. I read the poems over again to him every day as he practices his cursive. Through this exposure he delights in poetry! He’s never known any other way!! Precious moments with my young one!

    Ouch! You’ve convicted me with your point about the perpetual “to do” list. Still have some transforming to do in that realm!

    Are you able at this time to let us know some of the specifics of the CM curriculum you are piloting?

  3. Karen says

    This is the year that I have really decided I was going to do CM and I am so glad that I have. I completely understand what you were saying about doing copywork and wanting to remember the things that you read with them. I think what you have written is well said and I am going to pass this along to my friends that also are A.C.M.

  4. Bonnie Buckingham says

    What a lovely post! I love that B.C.M. and A.C.M. I , too, have grown to love words through all the reading these past 20 years of homeschooling. “For the Children’s Sake” changed my life too.

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