Month: November 2014

The Steadfast Heart by Liz Cottrill

Thirty years ago, I embarked on the  homeschooling journey. I now compare it to attempting to cross an ocean in a rowboat with one oar and no compass. At the time, I thought a good education meant working through the best curriculum and covering “all” the right subjects. Thankfully a friend introduced me to Charlotte Mason fairly early on and I discovered a different approach to learning. Using living books, narration, and nature study opened my eyes to new ideas about education. But was I “doing it” correctly, were these things enough? Questions and doubts constantly assailed me. It took time for her philosophy to become clearer. Changing to an entirely different perspective on education is a process, and sometimes a slow one in which the teacher becomes the student. The questions and uncertainties I had along the way echo back to me from the hearts of younger mothers who share their fears with me to this day. I can only encourage them that I did not begin to overcome these insecurities until the year I began to read Mason’s own words in …

Postmodern Polymaths: A Charlotte Mason Perspective on Specialization vs. Generalization by Timothy Laurio

We no longer ask ourselves whether it is better to learn a few subjects ‘thoroughly,’ so we say, or to get a ‘smattering’ of many. These questions are beside the mark.—School Education, 75 During my teen years I had several discussions with my parents about the virtues of specialization versus generalization. Should you focus on one or two subjects until you are extremely good at them, or should you emphasize broad knowledge of many things? At first the discussions were just theoretical, but as I came closer to graduating, and having to choose a major and a career, they became increasingly urgent. In the end, I only half reached a conclusion, and the question still stands. Charlotte Mason, of course, believed that it was unhealthy to study only a single subject: she said that “specialisation . . . is to be deprecated” (Philosophy of Education, 53) and crafted her method to give students a rich, wide-ranging education. The result, at least among the Mason alumni that I know, is obvious. They have a plethora of …

Taking Our Time by Amy Fiedler

“We can’t make a child hear God’s voice, but maybe we can place the child in the place where we know he takes walks.”   I can still remember hearing this spoken at the ChildlightUSA Conference (now Charlotte Mason Institute) in 2012 during a lecture given by Art Middlekauff.  What a beautiful idea—that through his own creation, God could speak directly to my children, without my mediation.  Having just been introduced to Mason and her philosophy, these were the parts of a CM education that were keeping me up nights, anxious to begin and embrace a new way of life and learning with my children. It’s funny, though, what an introduction to Charlotte Mason will do to a person.  Or, maybe it’s just me.  In 2012 when I started my “paradigm shift,” and the reordering of the life of my family, I’m not sure I began with a realistic perspective on what it really looked like to make such a transition.  I wanted it all.  And I wanted to know it all.  And do it all.  This …

Cheers for Examinations by Carroll Smith

Recently, Andy was reading in Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason.  She came across the following quote.  Mason in this quote seems to be addressing entrance examinations for universities.  Her words, I believe, can be applied to our situation today particularly here in the US in which so much testing is being done because states are measuring the accomplishment of standards through testing.  Read carefully and slowly her words.  I hope to write a paper on this quote before too long. It would also be interesting to know from educators outside the US whether or not the same testing mania is evident and what are the consequences for this mania. From Parents and Children, pp. 215-218 Tom passes his ‘Exams.’—  By-and-by comes a report the main delight of which is, that Tommy has gained six places; more places are gained, prizes, removes (see below)—by-and-by scholarships.  Before he is twelve Tommy is able to earn the whole of his future schooling by his skill in that industry of the young popularly known as Exams.  Now he aims at larger game; ‘exams’ still, …

Some Thoughts on What Poetry Does by Bonnie Buckingham

Charlotte Mason says, “Poetry is, perhaps, the most searching and intimate of our teachers” (Ourselves, p. 71). Mason, herself a poet, also said , “. . . some one poet should have at least a year to himself, that he may have time to do what is in him towards cultivating the seeing eye, the hearing ear, the generous heart” (Formation of Character, p. 224). Through this kind of intimacy with a poet, poets are bound to grab you for a lifetime. Luci Shaw is one for me. Her words reach into my heart and deeply nourished me, bringing water and light. I have collected her books and have made sure to share the beauty of her poetry with my students and friends. In October, I was thrilled to hear Luci Shaw in person for the first time.   At Hutchmoot in Nashville, she was introduced by Andrew Peterson, author and musician. In his introduction he used words that made me think of a Charlotte Mason education: “a child-sense of wonder”  “wishing for better eyes from reading her …