A Charlotte Mason Education, Charlotte Mason, Early Childhood Education/Pre-School, Parenthood
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Educating Jem by HollyAnne Knight

HollyAnne Dobbins Knight grew up coming to the Charlotte Mason Education Conference with her mother Deborah Dobbins.  She helped her mother for many years present a session on teaching first and second graders Nature Study.  Now, as an adult HollyAnne Knight shares with us her hopes and dreams for her first born, a son, Jem, who is due to arrive around Christmas. . . .Here is HollyAnne’s post.


So many of  you have watched me grow up from Nature Study sessions at the Charlotte Mason Institute conferences and thru College; it is fun to continue the story. I graduated from Covenant College in the spring, but rather than pursuing my MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching) as “originally planned,” John and I began to count down to the arrival of our first child. “Jem” is due near Christmas time, so I’m six and a half months pregnant and, of course, wrapped up in all things baby. This includes, naturally, my hopes and dreams for my son’s education.

Charlotte Mason said: “Nothing less than the Infinite will satisfy the spirit of a man.  We again recognize that we are made for God, and have no rest until we find Him.” Thus, my first priority is discipling Jem in Jesus—teaching him about the Word, worship, and prayer, but also showing him traces of our Creator in nature, art, music, and books. I look forward to teaching him a children’s catechism as I change his diaper and reminding him daily that he is a Child of God, a Covenant child.

As far as the rest of his education, I think of the four areas I’ve already mentioned: Nature, Art, Music, and Books.

John and I strolled through Barnes and Noble last night and looked at their toys as well as their books. I understand the angst of all those shelves no longer being filled with books, but I’m also fascinated by the puzzles, board games, and Smithsonian science sets that are now part of their inventory. Those are the kinds of pastimes I hope will fascinate my son—stories to enrich his experiences, games and the like to challenge his mind, and opportunities to encounter, experiment with, and learn about the natural world.

I’d love to see Jem curled up with a book about fungi of the Southeast one night and have him beg me for a walk in the woods the next morning so he can find specimens to identify and look at under a microscope. I’d love to see him lost in the stories of Sherlock Holmes and then ask to play Clue so he can solve a mystery, too. Or maybe we’ll read about Leonardo da Vinci, and he’ll spend a rainy afternoon researching and drawing what our cats’ skeletons look like under all their fur and skin.

This kind of growth and learning, however, is not an “experience” I can create for Jem. Mason declared boldly in An Essay Towards A Philosophy of Education that, “All education is self-education.” Ultimately, my goal for Jem is to model self-education to him and encourage him to foster and pursue his curiosity. I can only create time, an environment, and be an example. Perhaps this is not so much a dream for Jem as a dream for the kind of mom I want to be.

I want to guard against distractions—against too much screen-time, against trying to do too many things, against hovering and over-structuring. And I want to be for things like quality time, independent play, reading the story one more time, involving him in household tasks to teach responsibility and skills (even though it makes that task last fourteen times longer), and healthy challenges. I want us to work hard and play hard, love hard, laugh hard, and learn hard. In our home and family, I want “hard” to be a challenge, an adventure, not an anxiety.

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” (Mason, School Education), and those pillars are what I hope to erect for Jem and for all the children yet to come, our own “House of Education.”


© 2014 HollyAnne Knight


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.

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