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Seven Liberal Arts

After discussing piety, gymnastic, and music, Clark and Jain finally get to the topic of the liberal arts. They acknowledge what anyone wanting to discuss classical education or the The Liberal Arts Tradition really has to acknowledge: “Today people use the term liberal arts with a great variety of meanings.”

Yep.

So you have to define your terms, and they do, focusing at first on the distinction between an art and a science. The seven liberal arts are arts and not sciences because

An art could only be attained from an extensive foundation in action and imitation forming cultivated habits.

Basically, an art is something that you do—that must be practiced—while a science is a body of knowledge that produces nothing on its own. The liberal arts do produce something!

This leaves the question, “What is it then that the liberal arts are producing?” Aquinas gives us the answer: the liberal arts are used to produce the works of reason.

I think that bears mulling over for a good long while, and I have been doing that. It seems to me very, very easy to either embrace the idea of the Trivium and Quadrivium and leap into action to implement the liberal arts as “subjects” (which they are not), or else to dismiss them if you have decided classical education is irrelevant or undesirable.

Clark and Jain remind us that the trivium and quadrivium are paths (that’s what “vium” means) that are meant to lead somewhere. In formal medieval studies, that was to philosophy and theology. But, as I learned, “trivium” doesn’t just mean “three paths”—it is the word the Romans used to refer to an intersection of three roads, and a “quadrivium” was a four-way intersection. The trivium is the intersection of grammar, logic, and rhetoric—language—and the quadrivium is the intersection of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy—mathematics.

What makes these seven arts the most vital? What will mastering them give us that will prepare us for the higher contemplation that is to follow? I feel that those questions have to be asked before we get to “how do I teach these things?”

Clark and Jain take a fair amount of time with each of the seven arts, and I think that’s what I’ll do, too. One thing to bear in mind is that these arts are not intended for six-year-olds, not historically. This was a university education. I visited the museum portion of a medieval university in my home town (the Jagiellonian University in Krakow—over 750 years old), and the tour guide told us that the original course of study was…grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. And the next words out of his mouth were, “Copernicus came here when he was 18 years old and was introduced to astronomy for the first time.”

I don’t think we need wait until university today, but I do think that a full recognition of what it means to practice the liberal arts means acknowledging that it is meant to come after a lovely poetic foundation of music and gymnastics, underpinned with piety which will place a learner in the best frame of mind for true learning.

I have a feeling Charlotte Mason would appreciate the way that Jain and Clark place the liberal arts into a larger picture. She saw them that way, too—literally—as they appear in the fresco that she was so fond of.

She considered that the liberal arts were knowledge given to the world directly from the Holy Spirit. That was what she called “the medieval view” and that is the understanding that Clark and Jain have as well. And so, if this is right—if the liberal arts are part of a grand scheme of knowledge that belongs to the world and are a gift from God—they merit our attention and consideration.

If you want some bonus content from one of the authors, Kevin Clark, about what you do with the liberal arts, check out his guest post at Afterthoughts.

Copyright 2018 Karen Glass

Link to all the posts in the Liberal Arts Tradition discussion.

A Generous Curriculum

In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Clark and Jain suggest that early education should be founded upon music and gymnastic, in accordance with the  education described by Plato and others who followed him. The words are not defined narrowly, but broadly. Music refers to everything inspired by the “muses.” This is how the authors envision such an education:

This aspect of education includes what we now call music, but also poetry, drama, the fine arts, and literature. As the Muses Clio and Urania suggest, history, geography, and even astronomy are “musical” subjects as well.… In classical antiquity a major portion of the education of children (throughout many of the years we devote to our pre-K through 12th grade programs) consisted of physical training, singing, memorizing poetry, acting/imitating, drawing, sculpting, learning of the deeds of the great men of the past, reading great literary works, and experiencing and observing the natural world. This, we think should cause us to consider these oft-forgotten elements of classical education.

If you compared that description to what is encompassed by a Charlotte Mason education, I think you would find that her proposed curriculum hits every mark, and even exceeds some of them. This sounds very much like the “generous curriculum” that Miss Mason urged as the right of every child.

Like Charlotte Mason, Clark and Jain emphasize that children have innate abilities. Education need not be focused on trying to give them what they already possess, but on refining what they can do with their assets.

The whole vision for education in the classical tradition can be summarized in the proposition that education is directed at perfecting inherent human abilities. Human beings are able to do things simply because they are human. Education trains and directs these things; it does not produce them.

Children are born persons, right?

That quote reminds me of this one:

If we have not proved that a child is born a person with a mind as complete and as beautiful as his beautiful little body, we can at least show that he always has all the mind he requires for his occasions; that is, that his mind is the instrument of his education and that his education does not produce his mind. (Philosophy of Education, p. 36.)

I want to pause and make sure to notice the connection between the music-and-gymnastic education and what might be called “poetic knowledge,” such as James Taylor writes about. I’ve mentioned before how “CM” this approach to learning is. I love this:

Musical education is soul-craft: carried out properly it tunes the soul, and makes one receptive to truth and goodness.

What does that look like in practice? Well, it is made up of the songs we sing, the stories we hear, the art we admire. These things are not intellectual exercises alone—they also touch our hearts. We learn to appreciate art and artists because we have a favorite picture. We have favorite stories and songs that bring us joy, and pleasure, and we learn to perceive goodness because we have learned to love. Our “moral imagination” is stocked with examples to which can compare new things and ideas that we encounter. I think another way of viewing this would be Charlotte Mason’s idea of “educating the conscience.” She discusses it at length in Ourselves, devoting many chapters to the way poetry and history, among other things, give us stability of mind.

Clark and Jain refer often to The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. If you are familiar with that book, you will understand what is meant by “men with chests”—that is, men who have developed heart as well as intellect, who feel as well as think. This, they tell us, is the business of education in the early years.

On page 28 of The Liberal Arts Tradition, they envision what such an education might look like.

History would not be so many facts to memorize, however creatively we do it, but an opportunity to use stories from the past to build up a child’s moral imagination—a possibility that, if followed, instantly unlocks the significance of ancient historians. Literature as musical education would resist the modern encroachment of critical reading in order to awaken the same imagination. Science as musical education has perhaps the greatest potential of all, especially in our context. Imagine if the foundations for all future science were a wonder and awe of God’s creation and sympathetic love of the created world.

I told you that Clark and Jain never mention Charlotte Mason—possibly weren’t aware of her educational contributions at all. They merely imagine this approach to education, but I hope you have gone further.

Charlotte Mason developed these very ideas and lived them out, and if you’ve been following a “CM” education in your homeschool, so have you!

If this idea intrigues you, I highly recommend reading what Brandy of Afterthoughts wrote about this topic.

Copyright 2018 Karen Glass

Link to all the posts in the Liberal Arts Tradition discussion.

What do I owe?

In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Clark and Jain have chosen the word “piety” to represent the beginning of their classical paradigm. They know this isn’t a popular choice (“Piety is a word nearly lost on our contemporary culture.”), but it represents a vital aspect of the liberal arts tradition that truly underpins all the rest. This is how they define it:

Piety signifies the duty, love, and respect owed to God, parents, and communal authorities past and present.

I know I sound like a broken record (if you remember what that sounded like), but doesn’t that remind you of Charlotte Mason?

Have we then no rights ourselves, and have other people no duties towards us? We have indeed rights, precisely the same rights as other people, and when we learn to think of ourselves as one of the rest, with just the same rights as other people and no more, to whom others owe just such duties as we owe to them and no more, we shall, as it were, get our lives in focus and see things as they are. (Ourselves, Book I, p. 139)

The motto of the PNEU was “I am, I can, I ought, I will.” That word “ought” is the same as the word “owe”— we owe something—duty, respect, obedience, reverence—to our family, friends, country, and God. Charlotte Mason didn’t use the word “piety” often, but never doubt that it was foundational to all that she hoped her educational methods would accomplish. Without it, life becomes a cramped and selfish business.

Why do we not all honour one another? Because our vision is blinded by a graven image of ourselves. We are so taken up with thinking about ourselves that we cannot see the beauty in those about us, though we may be able to admire people removed from us. Conceit and self-absorption are the Dæmons which hinder us from giving that honour to all men which is their due. (Ourselves, p. 147)

When I see that Charlotte Mason criticized her own culture for conceit and self-absorption (which hinder piety/respect toward others) I positively quail. What would she think about ours? Clark and Jain discuss piety at length, and link it to love, which I find very interesting. Linking duty and love reminds me of the way that Charlotte Mason links justice and love, which I believe is a distinctly Augustinian point of view (at least, that’s where I remember encountering that particular pairing—there might be another source).

They write:

If piety shapes who we are and orders our loves, then it clearly affects one’s relationships and actions.

This takes the form of good manners, among other things. Jain and Clark suggest that the “culture” of a school educates a child in these things, as much as any curriculum, which puts me in mind of “education is an atmosphere.” Some things are better “caught” than “taught,” and piety is probably one of them.

Very few educators begin the approach to education with anything like piety. This is a bold and brave thing to put forth in the 21st century. The authors lament that, “Modern civilization, having lost all sense of obligation, is brought up against the fact that it does not know what is due to anything.”

If you’re a Charlotte Mason educator or if the classical tradition is important to you, you won’t be letting your students continue in that ignorance. Piety. Duty. Reverence. We have to walk in that path ourselves if we expect our students to find the way.

Charlotte Mason said that man who knows his duty and does it has integrity—that is, he is integrated—he is a whole man. A man with piety?

He has said to himself, ‘I owe it to my parents’—or my teachers, or my employers—‘to do this thing as well and as quickly as I can; what is more, I owe it to myself.’ (Ourselves, p. 170)

If you want to know more about piety in The Liberal Arts Tradition, you won’t want to miss Brandy’s thoughts about it at Afterthoughts.

Copyright 2018 Karen Glass

Link to all the posts in the Liberal Arts Tradition discussion.

Clark, Jain, Mason and the science of relations.

One of the things I really like about The Liberal Arts Tradition is the open acknowledgement that they are seeking a broad, full understanding of what classical education is and all that it encompasses. (You remember that it isn’t easy to define.) Their perspective is unabashedly Christian. And they aren’t trying to make any connections to Charlotte Mason (they never mention her at all). But because they, like Charlotte Mason, are seeking universal truths they land in more or less the same place. Clark and Jain write:

This full-orbed education aims at cultivating fully integrated human beings, whose bodies, hearts, and minds are formed respectively by gymnastic, music, and the liberal arts; whose relationships with God, neighbor, community are marked by piety; whose knowledge of the world, man, and God fit harmoniously within a distinctly Christian philosophy; and whose lives are informed and governed by a theology forged from the revelation of God in Christ Jesus as it has been handed down in historic Christianity.

Is there anything in there you imagine Charlotte Mason would object to?

On the contrary, it recognizes the full nature of man, focuses on relationships, places knowledge in the same three categories she uses, and gives Christianity—specifically Jesus Christ— the governing position that informs everything else.

I really like the authors’ contention that education is “grounded in piety.” Their definition of piety is something I’ll discuss in another post, but this is a key understanding:

The foundational distinction between traditional education and modern education is that the ancients believed that education was fundamentally about shaping loves.

For many years, I have considered Charlotte Mason’s principle that “education is the science of relations” one of the key things that ties her philosophy to classical traditions, and this is why.

According to Clark and Jain, the education that is rooted in piety bears fruit in philosophy and theology. The liberal arts have a place in this paradigm, but they do not define it, and particularly, classical education is not fully defined by the seven liberal arts, let alone the trivium by itself.

It was only when I began to understand this fuller appreciation for the classical tradition that I saw how Charlotte Mason fitted into it. Clark and Jain speak of philosophy as “the unity of knowledge which covered all subjects.”

It reminds me of Charlotte Mason’s call to action:

Let us set ourselves to labour with purpose and passion to restore to the world, enriched by the additions of later knowledge, that great scheme of unity of life which produced great men and great work in the past. (School Education, p. 156)

I am really enjoying this book. I think it brings a much-needed perspective into the discussion of classical education, and I look forward to the rest.

Copyright 2018 Karen Glass

Link to all the posts in the Liberal Arts Tradition discussion.

Treasure for the taking

The Preface! I’m up to the preface. (In blogging. I’m beyond that in reading.)

Here are few tidbits:

Authors Clark and Jain write:

“In our view, the whole of education ought to proceed from the love of God and neighbor.”

I invite you to consider that view and compare it to Charlotte Mason’s “captain idea” that “Education is the science of relations.”

Rather than the fragmented approach to subjects, the authors tell us:

“In a word, this paradigm allows for a high degree of integration.”

Integrated is a Latin derivative that means the same thing as the Greek derivative synthetic, so I’m taking notice.

And I appreciate this so very much:

“We offer this paradigm not, we pray, as innovators, but as those who have discovered a great lost gem.”

It echoes something Charlotte Mason said near the end of her life, too:

“If you picked up a bracelet lying by the way it would be no credit you. It is precisely the case with us. These principles are picked up, found, a find which is no one’s property; they belong to all who have wit enough to take them.” (L’Umile Pianta, June 1922)

The vital principles that underlie a liberal arts education are always there, within arm’s reach of anyone who is fortunate enough to spot the gleam and take the time to investigate. I hope that this book will play a role in in helping others find these gems for themselves.

A few years ago, Brandy at Afterthoughts blogged through this book, too. As I go through, I’ll link to some of her posts, especially if she has said some of the same things I would say. No sense repeating! I’m amused that she got caught up at first in the preliminary material as well.

This is a book that bears reading with an open mind, because the authors are trying on purpose to broaden the common modern conception of classical education into a view that encompasses some vital aspects of education that are not inherently “academic.”

I really appreciate their use of the word “tradition.” I subtitled Consider This “Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition,” and of course this book is titled The Liberal Arts Tradition. The use of the word “tradition” is a recognition that we are dealing with a long history of thought and practice, which is not always perfectly consistent, but that the differences are of less importance than the tradition—the common elements that have been planted, sprouted, borne fruit, and further seeded the thinking of generations to come.

The preface concludes:

“We hope that our exploration of the tradition may provide others with resources that will inform and inspire their teaching.”

Because teachers should always be learners, right? Yet another thing I enjoy about this book, very much, is that the authors are so clearly learners themselves. One way that they show this is by the extensive use of footnotes, which, I must say, are making my “to read” list longer and longer as I go through the book.

Copyright 2018 Karen Glass

Link to all the posts in the Liberal Arts Tradition discussion.

Are you still planning your summer reading?

I shared a list of reading suggestions about Charlotte Mason, and I wanted to do the same for books that focus more particularly on classical education. I found it a more difficult list to make. If you are interested in classical education, there’s always—ahem—Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition which will help you see how Charlotte Mason’s methods fit into the classical ideal.

But classical education has many faces, and it can be perplexing to decide which voices to listen to. I can only share the books that have been most important to me.

The modern book that I value most highly on the topic is Norms and Nobility by David Hicks. It is expensive, and it is not easy to read, but if you want to ponder the questions that shape classical education, this is the book to read. I have a series of study posts, written across an entire year, which might make it more accessible if you decide to dive in. (Requires registration at the AmblesideOnline forum, but it’s easy and free.)

If you read no other modern books on classical education, I highly recommend reading The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain. Their search for a workable modern pedagogy is broader and stronger than most, very much in line with Charlotte Mason’s views.

And although it isn’t explicitly about classical education, I highly recommend Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling by James W. Sire, if you are interested in deepening your own classical education. His insight into thinking and reading, linked to John Henry Newman, really provides a framework for the intellectual habits we want to inculcate in ourselves and in our students. (Hint: synthetic thinking at its very best.)

And you can pretty much pick up anything by Jacques Barzun and learn at the feet of a mighty teacher, but a good choice is Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning simply because each chapter is a stand-alone article and you can take your time and dip into it when you have the chance.

But if classical education is a topic of interest to you, I deeply believe that you must read beyond the writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. As Charlotte Mason said, “who feels that he has mastered a book if he is familiar with only the last page of it?” If you want to know classical education, you must read what has been written about education a long time ago.

If you’re just getting started, I think you cannot do better than to read Plutarch’s short piece, The Education of Children. His advice to parents was inspiring to Charlotte Mason and the PNEU, and it is so relevant for parents in the 21st century that from this one piece alone you will begin to see the timeless nature of classical education and to perceive the things that make it vital in every age.

Another short, readable piece to tackle is Of Education by John Milton. This “tractate” or essay gave Charlotte Mason a few key hints, too. It is also funny if you read it correctly. At least, I always laugh at “And either now, or before this, they may have easily learnt at any odd hour the Italian Tongue” and “ere this time the Hebrew Tongue at a set hour might have been gain’d, that the Scriptures may be now read in their own original; whereto it would be no impossibility to add the Chaldey, and the Syrian Dialect.” But, when you are reading on this topic (classical education), you have to learn to separate what is vital and necessary from what is incidental.

If you really want to dig into primary sources, you can tackle Book II of Plato’s Republic or dabble in Quintilian.

If you are extremely ambitious, you might purchase a copy of The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being and begin reading through it slowly, like the ladies at The Classical Homeschool Podcast. Or you could just listen to a few of those podcasts (I chatted with them about Plutarch!) while you sip iced tea in the backyard and watch the kids splash in the sprinkler.

If you’re like me, you’ll overload your “to read” list for the summer ambitiously, and if you’re like me, you’ll be lucky to get through half of it. But that’s okay. Read a little bit every day, and week after week, it adds up. And if you don’t finish it all this summer, that’s really, really okay. Next summer will be here before you know it.

My suggestion is to pick one contemporary book and one older book and do the best that you can. What you read and digest slowly and well is what will feed and nourish your mind during the busy-ness of the next school year. I suspect quality matters more than quantity in this case. If you do decide to read anything from this list, let me know!

Copyright 2018 Karen Glass

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Do you ever wonder?

I’ll eventually get to the part of the book actually written by Clark and Jain, no worries. But the preceding material is good, too. This statement jumped out at me from the “Publisher’s Note,” written by Christopher Perrin:

‘Wonder’ is a condition for all future study.

You could just ponder that for a week to good effect, I think. The idea of wonder has been under-appreciated in educational realms. Those who have taken hold of it and recognized its vital role in learning have found the key that will unlock many doors. Little children have a natural inclination to wonder, and school often destroys it. What educational practices contribute to that? What should we not be doing? And is there anything we can do to cultivate and preserve that sense of wonder? Those are the kinds of questions that could occupy us for a week!

This sentence caught my eye because I always focus on this word when I see it. I learned about wonder and its role in education in the first place from Charlotte Mason.

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this—that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder—and grow. (Home Education, p. 44)

…One of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him; for every common miracle which the child sees with his own eyes makes of him for the moment another Newton. (Home Education, p. 54)

But she is not the only one who perceived this truth.

Philosophy and poetry have more in common than is usually thought: both begin in wonder. (Habits of the Mind by James Sire, p. 79)

Aristotle concludes this point clearly near the beginning of the Metaphysics when he recognizes that there is a poetic impulse to know in all men, an experience he calls “wonder,” that initiates all learning. (Poetic Knowledge by James Taylor, p. 24, emphasis added)

I could easily be wrong, but I think the reason that wonder is a condition for all future study, as Dr. Perrin says, is that it keeps us in that humble and hungry frame of mind that is uncritical.

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength. (The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, p. 42-43)

Rachel Carson’s wish is my wish, too. I wish that sense of wonder could be preserved for my children, your children, all children. But I am jealous for the grown-up children, too, who have already suffered its loss. I think we can recover it. I know we can, because I did. Just wonder a bit about wonder this week, and that will be a very good start.

Next time, I’ll definitely get into the actual chapters of the book.

Copyright Karen Glass 2018

 

Link to all the posts in the Liberal Arts Tradition discussion.

 

 

 

(some links are affiliate links)

Blogging through The Liberal Arts Tradition

Have you read The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain yet? If you are interested in classical education, this book is not to be missed, and if you are interested in Charlotte Mason, you will do yourself a disservice if you dismiss it without a thoughtful reading. (If you just don’t have time, I commiserate!)

As I write this, I have read 50% of the book—on my Kindle. I decided I had to have a physical copy, and so much time elapsed between that reading and now that I need to go back to the beginning. It’s been worth it!

I thought I might blog through it as I read—in a “this is what caught my attention” kind of way, and not systematically. If you’re reading now, or have read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Foreword, by Peter Kreeft, explains that the book isn’t just about the seven historical liberal arts alone, but “It is an education of the whole person, not just the calculating intellect.” I hear echoes of Charlotte Mason, already.

Here’s a list of links to all the posts in the series:

1. Do you ever wonder?

2. Treasure for the Taking

3. Clark, Jain, Mason, and the science of relations

4.  What do I owe?

5. A Generous Curriculum

6. Seven Liberal Arts

7. Liberal Art #1—Grammar

8. Liberal Art #2—Dialectic

9. Liberal Art #3—Rhetoric

10. Liberal Art #4—Arithmetic

11. Liberal Art #5—Geometry

12. Liberal Art #6—Astronomy

13. Liberal Art # 7—Music

14. Seven liberal arts, One long tradition

15. Do you want to know the truth?

16. Natural Philosophy—ask why, not just how!

17. Moral Philosophy—what do you see in the mirror?

18. Divine Philosophy—questions are as important as answers

19. Theology—elevating education

20. Paideia in the principles

Education Fit for a King

At the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, I was reading through A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason for the umpteenth time. It was the first read-through since 2015, when I read it eight to ten times while creating Mind to Mind.

However, Charlotte Mason is just so broad, so deep, so far-reaching in her thinking that I  learn something new each time I read a volume, and this time was no exception.

Several of the chapters in Book II of A Philosophy of Education were published earlier as stand-alone pamphlets. The chapter “The Scope of Continuation Schools” is one of these. It was written not long after the end of the Great War (WWI), when labor unrest began to be a serious problem in Great Britain. It is with the potential hope to alleviate that situation (through education) that Charlotte Mason writes.

She says:

Our upper and middle classes, professional and other, are singularly stable folk, and they are so, not because of their material but of their intellectual well-being; in this sense only they are most of them the ‘Haves’ as compared with the ‘Have-nots.’

The lower class—the laboring class—had been shut out from a humanities-based liberal education, and Miss Mason thought that made them vulnerable to bad ideas and bad logic.

The full mind passes on, but that which is empty seizes on any new notion with avidity, and is hardly to be blamed for doing so; a hungry mind takes what it can get.…I do not hesitate to say that the constantly recurring misery of our age, ‘Labour Unrest,’ is to be laid at the door, not of the working man, but of the nation which has not troubled itself to consider the natural hunger of mind and the manner of meat such hunger demands.

Looking at those eight hours per week that working young people could use for education, Miss Mason wanted to urge on the British public the right kind of education. Plenty of voices were in favor of a vocational kind of education—training that would help them in their work. Miss Mason had other ideas:

This particular gift of time must be dedicated to things of the mind if we believe that mind too requires its rations and that to use the mind is by no means the same thing as to feed it.

She goes on to describe the full education she has in mind, and if you are familiar with Miss Mason’s educational methods, there is nothing new in them: knowledge of God, man, and the universe so that the feet of each pupil might be set in a large room. She deplores the conclusion that was reached by some educators, that “all is not for all” or that the best education is “only for the elite.” Her experience had deepened her conviction that a liberal education should be for all, and she brings all her examples to bear. “Dull” children and “slum” children have been eagerly learning from books “with great success and very great delight,” and Miss Mason hoped that the programmes of the PNEU might become the foundation for the continuation schools—a liberal, literary education, rather than a utilitarian, vocational one.

Her plea is for the benefit of the young people, but for the nation as well:

Instability, unrest, among our wage-earners is the serious danger threatening our social life.

And it definitely was. Strikes and demonstrations often ended in violence. The Russian revolution which deposed the Tzar had just happened in 1917, and the threat in Britain was real. Miss Mason believed a liberal education (in English) for the working class was an antidote to this.

A careful analysis will bring us to the conclusion that not Latin and Greek, Games, Athletics, or environment, but the ‘humanities’ in English alone will bring forth the stability and efficiency which we desire to see in all classes of society.

All of this I had read and apprehended in previous readings. So far, nothing in this chapter was “new” for me. But then I came to the closing paragraph, which caught my attention in a way which it never had before:

Demos is king to-day, and who may dispute his right?

Demos, of course, is the Greek word for “the people”—the root of the word “democracy,” in fact. Up until the Great War, Britain had been ruled by the elite upper class, but that was in the process of changing. Power—and awful responsibility—was being grasped by a group of people who had never wielded it, and were perhaps ill-prepared to do so. Miss Mason had a solution that may be a bit startling:

But let us all give him [Demos, the people] the chance to become that philosopher-king who according to an ancient dream was to be the fit ruler, or rulers, of the people.

That is the sentence that arrested me. I will admit that I am more attuned to Plato than I used to be, and that is probably why I caught this reference as if I had never seen it before. Because this is a direct reference to Plato’s Republic. He imagined a society in which a special class would be educated to be philosophers, and with that education, they would be fit to be rulers—the “philosopher-kings” who wielded benevolent power from a position of knowledge and wisdom.

And that—Plato’s finest education for the ruling philosophers—is the kind of education Charlotte Mason wanted for everyone—for the working class, for the poor, for girls. It’s not about following his exact curriculum or method, but about following the principles. Rulers must have wisdom and virtue.  Education that is worthy of the name is deeply moral and produces at least the possibility of noble conduct, the ability for self-control that might extend to ruling others.

Humanistic education, whether in English or Latin, affects conduct powerfully.

Demos is king today. This is probably as true today as when Charlotte Mason wrote it, though our unrest is of a different nature. If all knowledge is to be for all, it will take a mighty effort and many willing hands to see it done. I hope you’ll be a part of it. Read a book and talk about it. Teach your children while you can. Teach other children if you’re given the opportunity. In a culture which de-humanizes human beings on many levels, we need all the humanistic education we can get.

 

[All the quotes in this post are from A Philosophy of Education, Book II, Chapter 3, “The Scope of Continuation Schools.” It’s a stand-alone chapter which you can read in full here.]

Copyright Karen Glass 2018

Plan your summer reading and be an encourager!

We’re within sight of the summer months (not here yet, but we’re dreaming), and you’ll probably want to read a book or two that will deepen your understanding about education, refresh your heart, and inspire you to  look ahead to the next year with renewed enthusiasm. We’re not all in the same place in our educational journeys, so the right book for you this year might not be exactly the same book another teacher/mom needs. We’ve been blessed in recent years by a number of new books that I appreciate deeply, and not just because I’m personally acquainted with the authors. It’s one thing to read about an educational philosophy, and another thing to listen to the understanding gathered by an educator who has walked and practiced that philosophy for a couple of decades.

You are probably aware of all the books I’m going to mention, but I’m gathering them into this one post to encourage you think about them and choose the ones that will be a blessing to you in your current season of education. I also want to invite you to return the blessing. How? Well, authors are more encouraged than you can imagine when readers review a book and share their thoughts with potential future readers. If you appreciated a book, you’ll put a smile on an author’s face today by clicking over to Amazon and saying so. Those reviews stick around and bless others, too, because when you’re considering which book might be the best choice for you right now, seeing how others found have a book helpful might be just what you need to hear. Besides linking to the books I think you might want to read, I’ve included review links so you can easily leave a review for a book you’ve already read.


Have you read Charlotte Mason for yourself yet? It’s really easy to read and learn from a lot of secondary sources and let a good amount of time go by without realizing that you haven’t read a volume for yourself.

You can begin with Home Education, or any other volume that appeals to you. Even for these, you can leave a review.

Leslie Laurio has paraphrased the entire series in modern English, and you may find that a more accessible way to read Charlotte Mason. She has also created a summary that will give you a bird’s eye view of the vital elements in a Charlotte Mason education.

Have you read Home Education in Modern English? Leave a review! Have you used the Charlotte Mason Summaries? Leave a review for Leslie and let others know that this is a valuable resource.

Finally, there’s Mind to Mind. This is an abridgement of A Philosophy of Education, in which most of the dated material and the rabbit trails have been removed, so that you can see Charlotte Mason’s ideas and philosophy in a sharper focus, especially since I’ve added introductions to each chapter and added subheadings to the text which essentially outline the material for ease of reference. The idea of an abridged book doesn’t appeal to everyone, but if it was helpful to you, consider reviewing it for others.

No matter which book you choose, digging into Charlotte Mason’s own material will be well worth the effort.


I said that we’ve been blessed recently by some new books, and that’s what this section is for. Maybe you’ve devoured all of these already, and maybe you’ve been too busy to get to them. As you look ahead to the summer, think about reading one of these to deepen your understanding.

First up in this category is The Living Page. Laurie Bestvater’s research into “keeping”—gathering things into paper notebooks—is deep and inspiring. She understands Charlotte Mason’s philosophy at a deep level, and while she discusses the different kinds of notebooks you might want to keep, she’s also giving you insight into vital ideas. There is much more to this book than just notebooks. If you’ve already read and appreciated it, leave a review.

 

Well, I can’t leave this out. Consider This is my first book—the one that took me twenty years to write. Charlotte Mason’s ideas are linked to important ideas about education that aren’t just about what writing curriculum we’re going to use, whether we study Latin or not, or how much of our efforts should be devoted to STEM subjects. Right relations lie at the heart of education, and that’s what I tried to convey. And yes, I will be encouraged if you leave a review for Consider This.

 Have you read Minds More Awake? Whether you are new to Charlotte Mason or have been using her methods for a while, this is a book that is going to give you added clarity. Anne White has a knack for putting her finger on the key ideas, and after reading this book, you’ll have a more solid grasp of the vitality of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and be better equipped to put that philosophy into practice. You won’t be sorry you read this one, and if you already have, please leave a review.


One of the newest books available is A Touch of the Infinite. Megan Hoyt’s love for music just sings on every page, and like The Living Page, you’ll find more here than just information about music. Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is far-reaching, and the relational nature of her ideas is deeply embedded in this book. Music is not my strong suit, and I loved this book. If you did, too, make another author smile with a review.

Have you read Mere Motherhood yet? This is one that you won’t want to miss. Most of us write about Charlotte Mason’s ideas, but Cindy Rollins writes about the Charlotte Mason lifestyle, and she knows what she’s talking about. She is the mother of nine children, and transparently honest in this memoir of how she lived out the ideas in her home. You can listen to her as she continues to share on The Mason Jar podcast, and if you loved this book, please do leave a review.

 

This one isn’t really a new book, but it’s newly available in this nicely-formatted paperback version. In Memoriam is a collection of testimonials and writings from people who knew and worked with Charlotte Mason when she was alive. Because it is made up of short writings, it’s a good choice for when you only have time to read a little bit here and there. You’ll be surprised at how much insight into methods and philosophy these memories contain. If you leave a review, other readers will know , too.

Last (but I hope not least) is my newest book, Know and Tell: The Art of Narration. As I’m writing this, it has been available for just two months, and I’m hoping those who read it and find it helpful will leave a review and let others know how it helped. This book is designed to help you make the most of narration in your Charlotte Mason educational paradigm.

It’s a blessing to be so spoiled for choice. I hope one of these books makes it onto your summer reading list and recharges you for the 2018-19 school year, which will be upon us before we know it.


Besides the blessing of newer books, there are some books that have been around for a while to help with implementing Charlotte Mason’s method. These have stood the test of time and are still excellent choices that will give you firmer footing as you progress in your knowledge of this philosophy. None of the newer books are going to be quite like these, because these are already here to fill that role.

For many of us, the journey began with For the Children’s Sake. You can get even more from reading it if you pair it with Start Here: A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles by Brandy Vencel, a study guide for groups, although you can use it for yourself alone. If these resources have already laid a foundation for you, leave a review for For the Children’s Sake, or leave a review for Start Here.

 


Sometimes you need quick and practical, and that is what A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual has to offer. It’s been around for a while, and has helped hundreds of teachers jump into the Charlotte Mason methods. If you’re one of them, leave a review.

 

 

Long ago, after we read For the Children’s Sake, Karen Andreola was probably the next voice we heard telling us about Charlotte Mason. A Charlotte Mason Companion is her  collection of  insights into many nooks and crannies of Charlotte Mason’s ideas and methods. Most of the chapters are stand-alone articles, so this is another book that lends itself to reading now and then when you have time and need some gentle encouragement. Leave a review if you’ve found it helpful.


There are so many books I could add to this list, but I think you’ll find a gem or two here. I’ve focused on Charlotte Mason-specific books in this post, and I think I’ll do another one next month for some titles more directly connected to classical education. However, if you’re following Charlotte Mason’s methods of education, you’ll probably want to put most of these on your “to be read” list and make your way through them as you have time.

Let me know if any of these make it on to your reading list, and I do hope you’ll take the time to encourage an author and share your experience with one or more of these that you’ve already read. Happy summer reading!

 

 

 

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