During launch week, I want to share a little of the story behind the writing of Consider This. It truly is the product of twenty years of learning.
The story starts with my first visit to a homeschool convention in 1994. I was already planning to homeschool using A Beka Books (yes, really), but I thought the homeschool convention would be fun, so I showed up with my two children, ages 3 and 9 months.
It was a small convention hall, but as a lover of books and reading myself, I gravitated toward the corner occupied by Lifetime Books and Gifts, then operated by Bob Farewell. I can only imagine what he must have thought about my browsing a homeschool convention with my preschoolers, but he handed me a copy of For the Children’s Sake with the injunction: “you need to read this book.”
I did. Thank you, Bob Farewell. (I still have that book.) It was the first time I’d ever heard of Charlotte Mason, but what I read in that book changed my ideas about education forever, and A Beka lost a customer. As soon as I could, I ordered the complete Original Homeschooling Series. And I started reading. And possibly you know what it feels like to jump into the series and wade through Charlotte’s Victorian prose?
How lucky for me that 1994 found us in the infancy of the internet. Using my computer I could do this new thing called “going online” and find people who shared my interests. I found people who were trying to read and understand Charlotte Mason, as I was, and I’m fervently convinced we all learned so much more than we ever could have done alone. Most of those ladies are mentioned in my acknowledgements, and some of them are my fellow Ambleside Online Advisory members.
Fast forward a few years, and I felt pretty comfortable with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods. By then I was homeschooling and seeing the fruit for myself, and lots of reading and discussing had clarified the methods for me. I no longer found it hard to read and understand Charlotte Mason’s writing, and I had read through the whole series a couple of times.
The publication of books such as The Well-Trained Mind and Teaching the Trivium was creating a lot of interest in classical education in the homeschooling community, and I found myself, again and again, defending Charlotte Mason’s methods to those who thought that their children were in the grammar stage and needing to be memorizing facts instead of reading and hearing real books. I read the books in question, but the same thing that had made me read Charlotte Mason herself after reading For the Children’s Sake also made me go looking for the “original” classical educators after reading 20th and 21st century authors. Again, I was so lucky to have the internet as a source for reading Plato, Augustine, Erasmus, and others.
If I’m honest, I can only say that it was bewildering and confusing. I couldn’t find one clear, consistent definition of classical education. I couldn’t reconcile the modern practices with the historical ones. I couldn’t reconcile Dorothy Sayers with Quintilian. I could think of four different ways to define classical education, and I had no way of knowing which one was right. And then someone suggested that I read Norms and Nobility by David V. Hicks. Like For the Children’s Sake, it changed my ideas about education forever.
Norms and Nobility was a challenging book to read, but the vision of classical education involving mythos, logos, paideia, and the normative influence of an ideal resonated with what I already knew about Charlotte Mason. Classical education focused on character development? So did Charlotte Mason! Classical education was conducted primarily through literature? That’s a primary emphasis of Miss Mason’s philosophy, too! I realized then that Charlotte Mason’s methods were consistent with the classical tradition at a very foundational level. I knew that David Hicks thought so, too, because his bibliography included her book Philosophy of Education. Only later would I discover that the link with the classical past was deliberate on Charlotte Mason’s part.
I wrote quite a few articles, posts, and a newsletter to share what I had learned. It was then that those first “you should write a book” suggestions were tossed to me. But it was a busy season of life. I was homeschooling three children by then, and had another baby in 2004. Time—years of time, even—moves by quickly. I read few blogs, but the ones I did read often mentioned the link between Charlotte Mason and classical education, and I came to believe that what I had learned was now general knowledge.
Apparently, I was mistaken. In the past couple of years, some younger homeschooling moms convinced me that such a book was needed as much as ever, if not more. As I entertained the idea of tackling an actual book, another online friend starting writing and creating art that truly inspired me. It is a part of what helped me to focus and begin, and I want to share it here.
Sheila Atchley is in nearly the same season of life as I am (except she didn’t have a baby in 2004), and has begun using her multi-faceted talents in both art and writing to be a blessing to women, especially, who are “in the middle.” Her blog has been a blessing, and the print above (shared with permission) hangs over the desk where I worked on Consider This, as inspiration.
Earlier this year, I went away for a week and buried myself in a hotel room to write, with this view for inspiration.
After a week of intense writing, I spent many months fleshing out the book, and yet here at the end of the year, Consider This is already in the hands of readers. It truly has been an amazing journey, and I’m sure this story gives you a glimpse into just how very honored I was that David Hicks agreed first to read the book and then to write a foreword for it. As my small addition to Charlotte Mason’s message goes out into the world, which contains nothing really new, but only brings into focus the links that were always there between her ideas and the classical tradition, I would like to imagine her nodding in satisfaction that we have “caught” her vision and are carrying it on.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. Thank you, Bob Farewell. Thank you, David Hicks. Thank you, Sheila Atchley. And thank you, readers of Consider This. We’re part of the story together. Never stop learning.
(I love that when I looked up the website for Lifetime Books and Gifts to find the link above, For The Children’s Sake was featured on the front page. Bravo, Lifetime. Still sharing great books twenty years later…)