A Charlotte Mason Education, Art, Beauty, Childlight USA Conference, Composer Study, Music, Parent's Review
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The Beauty of Aesthetics by Lori Lawing

ON May 2, 2012 The Scream (one of Edvard Munch’s four originals) sold for $120 million at Sotheby’s.  Why?  What is it about this painting?  Is it the haunting expression of the androgynous figure? The wispy curves of the face and fiord?  The blood-red sky?  Whatever it is, it strikes me.  Something is going on that touches my soul.  BEAUTY.

ON our first morning in Florence we entered a non-descript building through a side street door.   My two teens and I had taken a trip, the culmination of 10 years of schooling and delighting in art. We rounded the corner of a long hall.  There he was – larger than life, towering 17 feet high.  It took my breath.  Michelangelo’s David.  More grand than I had imagined.  Why do we among the crowds flock, admire, and marvel at this masterpiece of perfection?   BEAUTY.

ON an early spring morning my nine year old took me by the hand as he scurried out the front door.  “Mom, Mom!” Quietly he led me to see, springing up from beneath the decaying leaves, the Daffadowndilly “in her yellow sun-bonnet and her greenish gown.”

“Winter is dead!” he whispers.

He had heard the A.A. Milne poem when he was five, and ever since, the daffodils of early spring make him whisper, “Winter is dead!”

How is it that a poet can capture the birth of spring?  How is it that a poem can capture the interest and heart of a little boy? BEAUTY.

Why do the aesthetics (paintings, sculpture, poetry, literature, music) touch us so?  Aesthetics is the study of Beauty.  Aesthetics technically pertains to “sense perception” or that which we perceive through our senses.  Charlotte Mason entreats educators to give children a feast of the very best in aesthetic beauty, thus her insistence on picture study, musical appreciation, poetry, and living books (See Carroll Smith’s April 9 ChildlightUSA Blog “The Literary Form: Friend or Foe.”)

Why?  She wants education to touch the whole person, not just the intellect.  Beauty touches the soul.  When Truth comes to us through the Beauty of a poem, we are moved, changed.

Thanks to Milne, my son will never think of the daffodil as just a pretty flower.  God gave it meaning.  Its early springing signals the end of morbid winter and announces the delight of new life.

So we set before them the feast of the masters: Milne, Mozart, Rubens, Rembrandt, and of course, Shakespeare!  In the article, “Art and Enjoyment” (Parents Review, vol. 11) K. Sidford implores, “Start early!  I advocate the regular study of Art at a very early age…”

Sidford (1900) states, “Education in taste and beauty has, for its object, to train up in the utmost attainable harmony the whole sum of the powers both in sense and spirit…In the invaluable years in which the childish faculties are awakening, home influence is the most important factor; to it we must look for guidance of the early “love of beauty” which every child possesses, though in varying degree.”

Join me at the 2012 ChildlightUSA Conference for a Thursday evening book review of Saving Leonard, a profound look at art and culture, and also at the workshops, The Beauty of Aesthetics and Teaching Shakespeare, where we shall further explore “The Scream,” the “David” and the works of the masters!     

© Lori Lawing 2012



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. Lori Lawing says

    Dear Readers,
    I am seeing the need to clarify my blog above, especially my inclusion of the evocative painting, “The Scream.” You may have concluded that I find “The Scream” to be beautiful or that I give credit to a disturbing painting just because it’s “art.” No, this was not my intention. I may have misled you with the word Beauty. My use of the word Beauty is in relation to how art communicates ideas.

    Art (paintings, literature, etc.) communicates ideas in profound ways which touch us deeply. Think of Nathan confronting David about his sin with Bathsheba. He could have simply presented him with the truth: you’ve sinned. But instead he presents the truth through a story which stirred his heart first to righteous anger and then to repentence. The “beauty” of story (literary form) touched his soul.

    Likewise, when I use the word Beauty in regards to “The Scream,” I’m suggesting that a message is presented in the painting which can touch us deeply. The painting does indeed evoke! As art often does! The message may or may not be beautiful.
    Here’s what “The Scream” evokes in me: This is the state of humanity in a fallen world, and I am stirred with compassion to give the hope of Redemption to those without hope.

    I welcome your comments!
    Lori Lawing

  2. This is lovely Lori. So rewarding to see the response of one’s children to beauty in art, literature, poetry and music. I am trying not to be jealous of the trip to Florence bit! Sometimes the effect is not so evident but one can hope that the seed impression will yield a later harvest.

  3. Lori,
    I did at once decide we had very different aesthetic taste when I came upon your first selection 😉 heheh. Your comment was very helpful to understand where you are coming from and where you were going with that, thank you.

    I am very intrigued by the idea of beauty and it’s purpose in the world, for life, for glory… I am very much looking forward to reading the book over the coming weeks.


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