Below are a few questions to ponder as you read the pages for this week. Downloading and answering these is not a requirement to participate, they are simply for your convenience. I look forward to discussing these with you at the end of this week!
Attached here are some questions for you to ponder as you read the scheduled pages for this week. You don't have to answer them all, and they are not intended to cultivate guilt or self-doubt. They are only intended to gently prod you to ponder the topics presented. Many of these questions were also discussed in our live discussion on Instagram. You can find that video below, followed by my summary for this week.
Below is a synopsis of our week 1 readings. It is simply a “narration” of pages 1-20 in my own words.
Part I: Some Preliminary Considerations
Children are a public trust:
In this first section of the book, Charlotte lays out the importance of education for young children, laying the most basic foundation, and touching specifically on the mother’s duties to her little ones. She reminds us that children are not are personal property, but they are a “public trust,” meant to enter into the world one day and become contributing members of society. The education and upbringing that they receive (especially at home) can be either beneficial or detrimental to the world.
“That work which is of most importance to society is the bringing-up and instruction of the children.” (pg. 1)
Have we taken this into account? That one day these small souls we are nurturing will one day impact the world? So much rests on our shoulders as mothers and home educators!
“It is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends.” (pg. 2)
Mothers Owe a ‘Thinking Love’ to their Children:
Charlotte goes on to point out that mothers are endowed by our Creator with the “principal agent in the development” of our children, and the love we have for our children is the very first agent in education. But if we are to take our task of home educating our children seriously, it is paramount that we seek out a proper theory of education.
The more we educate ourselves, the more likely we will begin to see our profession of educating our children as equally valuable to those professions of our husbands. (And it is through her Home Education volumes that Charlotte strove to empower mothers in such a task.)
If we view the task of home educating as a profession, doesn’t it make sense that we should seek to broaden our understanding of an educational philosophy?
“Is it not madness to make no provision for such a task?” (pg. 3)
Society may tell us otherwise, but this job is of UTMOST importance!
How parents usually proceed:
Our default assumption is that child development is the slow detachment of a child from his dependence on us: growth toward independence. While this approach does have some value, it only extends so far.
“Nothing is trivial that concerns a child; his foolish-seeming words and ways are pregnant with meaning for the wise. It is in the infinitely little that we must study the infinitely great; and the vast possibilities, and the right direction of education, are indicated in the open book of the child’s thoughts.” (pg. 5)
Our duty is to keep the big picture in mind: that one day they will go into the world and it is our responsibility to bring them up to their highest potential while they are in our care. Working to understand them will help us know how best to educate them.
I. A Method of Education
Traditional Methods of Education:
Theories for “how best to raise a child” abound… how to discipline, what they should eat, what they should be allowed to endure, what duties or activities they should be allowed or expected to participate in.
While the perfect method of raising children has yet to be achieved by any one parent, we should be diligent in how we approach the education of our children and have an overarching goal in mind.
A Method is a Means to an End:
Method = Goal + Pathway
Following a method means that you have an end goal in sight, and when you instruct from this perspective, learning opportunities come effortlessly through the life unfolding around you.
“So easy and spontaneous is a method of education based on Natural Law.” (pg. 8)
A System is Easier than a Method:
A system of education tends to hold more allure than a method because a system can be more easily measured. But systems don’t account for the individualities of each pupil. (Think standardized tests!) While systems have their place, they are faulty in their lack of providing space for the growth and nourishment of a real person.
So while we may be tempted to adopt a system of education because of its measurable process, we may find ourselves dissatisfied to learn that it has only produced development in one direction rather than the full and robust results we were hoping for.
So is a mother expected to teach the whole of everything?? It’s impossible! Instead, Charlotte suggests that a few broad and essential principles cover the whole field, and by implementing them, the art of whole child learning flows naturally.
II. The Child’s Estate
The Child in the Midst:
These children we’ve been entrusted with are of the highest importance. Wodsworth described them as being most connected to God- our home. And even Jesus taught that children should be our example in regards to the kingdom of heaven.
Code of Education in the Gospels:
Christ offered a code of education in the gospels: “Take heed that ye OFFEND not-- DESPISE not-- HINDER not-- one of these little ones.”
Charlotte explains that we should look at these three laws as prohibitive in order to “clear the ground” to impart a method of education.
“... for if we once settle with ourselves what we may not do, we are greatly helped to see what we may do, and must do.” (pg. 13)
Let’s prune the dead limbs that aren’t contributing to positive development in order to clear the garden for the nourishing cultivation that needs to take place in our children!
III. Offending the Children
“We offend them, when we do by them that which we ought not to have done; we despise them, when we leave undone those things which, for their sakes, we ought to have done.” (pg. 13)
Children are Born Law-Abiding:
We’ve all seen that even the smallest of toddlers has an acute sense of right and wrong, and when mother is displeased with them their spirit is pricked with the pain of guilt. So how then do we develop natures of selfishness and wrong doing?
“By slow degrees, here a little and there a little, as all that is good or bad in character comes to pass.” (pg. 14)
When we allow a child to get away with little indiscretions, we are teaching him the habit of getting away with that which is forbidden, “and henceforth the child’s life becomes an endless struggle to get his own way.” (pg. 15)
They Must Perceive that their Governors are Law-Compelled:
But when we show by example that we, as his parent, are “law-compelled,” and there is no compromising when it comes to choosing to do what’s right, a child easily “submits with the sweet meekness which belongs to his age.” (pg. 15)
Explanations aren’t necessary when children are very young because they can read the resolution of a mother’s position in her face.
Parents may Offend their Children by Disregarding the Laws of Health, Intellect, and Moral Life:
Creating habits of unhealthy eating or laziness, providing an uninteresting or boring education, or even not showing equal affection to each child… we must consider how these things affect a child’s mind, and impact the whole of their lives.
IV. Despising the Children
Children Should have the Best of their Mothers:
Grown ups have far too low an opinion of children, often disregarding the fact that they are always learning and being impressed upon by the people around them and by the things they are exposed to. We should be extra careful in who and what they spend time around because bad habits are most easily caught.
This isn’t to say mothers can never be without their children. In fact, small amounts of time away may help her to come back refreshed.
“They should have the best of their mother, her freshest, and brightest hours.” (pg. 18)
Children’s Faults are Serious:
When we allow little indiscretions to pass by unchecked, we’re forming habits in our children that will be hard to undo. Better to form the good habits of right-doing now, than have to untangle the habits of wrong-doing in the future.
“If the mother settles in her own mind that the child never does wrong without being aware of his wrong-doing, she will see that he is not too young to have his fault corrected or prevented.” (pg. 19)
V. Hindering the Children
A Child’s Relationship with Almighty God:
“The most fatal way of despising the child falls under the third educational law of the Gospels; it is to overlook and make light of his natural relationship with Almighty God.” (pg. 19)
Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him, as if it were the most natural thing for children to do… their natural inclination when grown people don’t interfere.
And this quote may be my favorite so far:
“And perhaps it is not too beautiful a thing to believe in this redeemed world that, as a babe turns to his mother though he has no power to say her name, as the flowers turn to the sun, so the hearts of the children turn to their Savior and God with unconsious delight and trust.” (pg. 19)
We have to be careful not to present God only as punisher when a child does wrong because this discourages him from the command to “come unto Me,” and makes him painfully unaware of Christ’s affection for them.
“The mischief lies in that same foolish undervaluing of the children, in the notion that the child can have no spiritual life until it please his elders to kindle the flame.” (pg. 20)
That concludes our week 1 readings summary! How are you feeling so far about Charlotte’s ideas? If you’re on Instagram be sure to check out the discussion on today’s post and keep your eyes peeled for our live discussion in my stories this weekend!
I'm so excited to dig into our first book club here at Brave Grown Home! We'll be taking the next 20+ weeks to slowly digest all of the wealth of information in the century old book, Home Education, written by the truly inspirational education expert: Charlotte Mason. If you haven't downloaded your reading schedule yet, you can do that here.
The following video is a short introduction to the book club, complete with details and what you can expect for the coming months: (If the video doesn't load for you here you can view it on my IGTV channel.)
So now that you know what you can expect as we make our way through the book, I thought we would take a moment to glimpse at both the preface to the Home Education Series, and the preface to Home Education, Volume I, which are found at the very front of the book. These aren't included on the book club reading calendar, so if you haven't had a chance to read them, this is just a brief summary of both. Both prefaces are Charlotte's methodology in a very tiny nutshell. If you'd like, I've attached a journaling page where you can summarize Charlotte's principles of education in your own words like I have.
Synopsis of the Preface to the Home Education Series
The “law” of education is somewhat perplexing to educators. (Can I get an amen?):
We can feel its presence
We know that it must be used to illuminate and measure our educational efforts
We know it pervades every aspect of our life from birth to death
We know it has no set transitions-- only continual swelling and growth.
As educators, we’re constantly grasping at this “law” in order to better understand it. How do we best implement it?
“A discontent (is it a divine discontent?) is upon us; and assuredly we should hail a workable, effectual philosophy of education as a deliverance from much perplexity.” (preface)
In her Home Education series (Volumes 1-6), Charlotte attempts to humbly offer her own philosophy of education as a means to lay out this “law” of education as plainly as possible for home educators-- removing the burden of perplexity and instead offering feasible solutions.
The foundation of her philosophy is built upon the following principles (written in my own words for my own processing!):
Children are born persons-- their story is already unfolding from the moment they arrive in this world.
Just like adults, children can make choices for either good or for bad.
Authority and obedience between parent and child are a natural harmony, but--
This principle of authority and obedience should never be abused by the person in authority in any way, for good or for bad.
Therefore, the educator should implement the 3 most important educational instruments: atmosphere of environment, discipline of habit, and exposure to rich, living ideas.
“Education is an atmosphere” does NOT equate to a child being confined to a “child environment”, but instead means that he should be exposed to the richness of the world around him, both at home and away. “It stultifies a child to bring down his world to a child’s level.”
“Education is a discipline” means that we cultivate healthy and honorable habits that are good for their physical, mental, and spiritual health.
“Education is a life” means that learning is all-encompassing (moral, intellectual, physical). The mind feeds on ideas, why not provide it with a broad and satisfying feast?
The mind of a child is NOT an empty bucket to fill.
Rather, a child’s mind is a spiritual organism thirsting for knowledge and ideas. (Which is why we think they “absorb things like a sponge.")
Assuming that a child’s mind is empty in need of filling results in unnecessary pressure on the teacher and bored, mentally parched children.
Instead, we should believe in and nurture the power of a child’s mind by offering him generous portions of informing ideas.
Education is the science of relations. With this approach, a child grows natural relationships and interests, with an ever broadening wealth of ideas and thoughts. We guide them in physical activity, nature, handicrafts, science, and art by use of many living books. Our job is to inspire children to make connections with the world around them. Our job is NOT to teach all the things.
The secrets of moral and intellectual self management are the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason.
The Way of the Will is the ability to discern and correctly choose between a tempting desire and what is right. (Although spontaneity and failure can be beneficial to growth.)
The Way of Reason means that children should be taught not to lean too hard on their own understanding. Though reason is good for proving mathematical truths, it cannot always be trusted because our reasoning is limited, and can justify all sorts of ideas if we desire it, whether they are right or wrong. (This is true for adults as well… how many times have I had a firm “understanding” of a particular idea until I dug a little deeper and found my reasoning was flawed?)
Therefore, as children grow in maturity, they should be taught that their chief responsibility as persons is “the acceptance or rejection of initial ideas.” It’s our job as educators to provide them principles of conduct and morality in addition to a wide range of knowledge.
There is no separation between the spiritual and intellectual life of a child; rather, God guides and fulfills them in all of their pursuits.
Synopsis of the Preface to Home Education, Volume I:
Charlotte states that her attempt in this first volume is to offer “a method of education resting upon a basis of natural law,” and her aim is to highlight the mother’s duties to her children.
While she believes that mothers receive from God Himself a natural intuition regarding her children’s needs, strengths and weaknesses, and so forth, she also believes that most mothers would likely desire to obtain a deeper understanding of the general principles of education. And this can only be achieved through our own effort and studies.
Her approach in educating children during their earliest years of education (particularly ages 6-9), is to expose them to a wide array of subjects in an organic and relaxed way, without the stress of lectures. This is when we lay the foundation for a liberal education and instill a habit of reading for instruction.
And that's that, folks!
An incredibly thorough summary of Charlotte Mason's principles of education. Based on these initial principles, how would you say your ideas of education differed or aligned with Charlotte's? Has she offered you any illuminating ideas thus far? Please do share!
(Just so you know... This post may contain affiliate links, which means, at no extra cost to you, I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something I have recommended. I will only ever recommend things that I deem worthy. Thank you so much for your support of my tiny online space!)
Hello, Brave Mamas!
*** This post is now updated with the NEW 20 week reading schedule and calendar! Find them by clicking the buttons below!***
Welcome to the first ever book club hosted here at Brave Grown Home. This past weekend I asked if y'all would be interested in reading Charlotte Mason's Home Education with me, and you all responded with a resounding YES. So I've whipped together a reading calendar for us to follow and I'm so excited to get started!
If you don't have the book yet but you'd like to join, don't worry! You still have time to order the book because we're not going to start until September 10th. Here are a couple of places you can purchase the book. Just click the following links and you'll be taken to the purchase page:
From all that I can gather, page numbers are the same in each version of the book, but if for some reason they are not, the calendar readings are separated by sections as well, so it should be easy for everyone to follow along.
If you don't receive your book by the 10th, or you'd rather not purchase, you can still follow along and read it for free at Ambleside Online. There are also some Kindle versions available on Amazon.
After fiddling with the page numbers and how many pages I thought I could handle per week, I settled on a 20 week schedule, with readings 3-4 days per week. This will give us plenty of catch up time every week if we fall behind. The projected dates are September 10th-February 23rd. The weekly readings range between 15-20 pages, which is around 3-5 pages per day (though a few are more because the section being read that day/week is longer).
I'll be posting snippets on Instagram every Friday but the bulk of the discussion will be here on the blog where I have more room and flexibility to write. (I'm debating whether I should do live IG videos on Fridays, but at this moment the thought of that terrifies me so it probably won't happen!) If you'd like to keep updated via email I will also send out a weekly email letting you know the discussion is up. You can subscribe to my email list at the bottom of this post.
Before you download the calendar, please, please, please know that you do NOT have to follow this outline to a T! You don't even have to finish at the same time as me. This is just a simple guide for those who need it written out (like myself) to stay on course. All of the discussions will be posted here on the blog forevermore, so you can always come back and participate later. In fact, after the book club ends I am going to redo the calendar so that it can be used any time of year.
And now to the fun! Click the following buttons to download the detailed 20 week reading calendar, or the simplified one page reading schedule! Or BOTH! (They both contain the same information, but one is more detailed than the other.)
If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to contact me via Instagram or email: email@example.com.
I'm looking forward to learning more from Miss Mason alongside all of you guys! Thanks so much for joining me!
My new updated planner is now available for purchase in the shop! I hope you guys are as excited as I am about the FREE student planner that's also included. All the information you need to know about the planner can be found on its product page. A few pictures are below and you can also see every page included in the videos below.