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