Category Archives: Articles

A Few More Considerations (repost)

This post originally appeared on the Charlotte Mason Institute blog, in response to a lengthy critique of Consider This. As it is no longer available there, but the critique itself can be read elsewhere, I decided to publish my response here. If you haven’t read the critique (which is much longer than my response), you don’t need to read this (which is still pretty long). This post is just a bit of housekeeping. Mr. Middlekauff responded to this critique, but not as he originally suggested, by correcting his errors. Rather, he argued that my concerns with his critique dwelt upon matters he deemed less important than others.  My response deals largely with pointing out only a few of the ways in which I was unjustly misrepresented, making the rest of the critique essentially a straw-man argument, as it addressed itself to things I did not say. However, my conclusion here remains steadfast—it does not make a great deal of difference in the implementation of Charlotte Mason’s methods if you understand the classical nature her philosophy or if you do not. The final determination rests in the definition you choose to use for classical education. Meanwhile, we have learning to do, books to read, children to educate, and a wide, wide world to inspire our wonder. I would prefer that we do that as friends.

Continue reading A Few More Considerations (repost)

The Spirit and the Letter of a Charlotte Mason Education

Parents are persons. That’s not one of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles of education, but it is implied in the first principle, because if children are born persons, and they grow up to be parents, they are presumably persons still. What does that mean for parents as educators? (And all parents are educators of their own children, whether they homeschool or not.)

Just as Miss Mason reminds us that personality in children is not something to be encroached upon by undue influence and pressure from without, so personhood in parents has a role to play, and should not be artificially burdened by excessive rules, lists of “dos” and “don’ts.” What we need is a principled approach to education, to bringing up children. A few solid principles upon which to frame our practices will be far sturdier than a slippery ladder of rules. Continue reading The Spirit and the Letter of a Charlotte Mason Education

Education is the Science of Relations

Charlotte Mason’s 12th principle of education is “Education is the Science of Relations.”

You really have to think about it.

Science. Of Relations?

Relations don’t seem all that scientific, really–more organic and, well, relational. But let’s just roll with it, because in Charlotte Mason’s lifetime, “science” was a buzzword, and everything was a science. Housekeeping was a science. Hygiene was a science. There were mental science and moral science. So why not a science of relations? At least it makes you stop and think.

What is the science of relations? This principle is similar to Charlotte Mason’s first principle, “Children are born persons,” in that there are are layers of meaning and multiple applications. It’s a principle, not a rule, and it has broad implications, which grow more complex as the children themselves grow. Continue reading Education is the Science of Relations

Great Thoughts are for Sharing…Again and Again


I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the link between Charlotte Mason and “classical” traditions of education over the years, and went so far as to write a book about it. However, even in that book, I have never suggested that the only thing Charlotte Mason was interested in was an education that belonged to the past. Far from it! In the very introduction to Consider This, I wrote, “She looked back, as we will see, but she looked forward as well, and the world she lived in was more like our own than we often suppose.”

Continue reading Great Thoughts are for Sharing…Again and Again

Narration: What’s the Point? or, Where Are We Going with This?

By Karen Glass

This article originally appeared in an online “ezine” in 2003

signpostAs we continue our series on narration, this month’s focus will be the actual process of narrating. We will peer at narration through a magnifying glass, as it were, and examine some of the nuances of this educational method.

The simplest explanation is that a child “tells back,” in his own words, something that he has read, or that has been read aloud to him. It is, on the surface, such a very simple idea that it is not immediately apparent how much mental activity is involved. It is certainly not apparent how the continual use of narration will build language skills and lay the foundation for higher-level thinking and writing. Nevertheless, this simple technique contains the seeds that will make use of the wonderful abilities of the human mind, disciplining and sharpening them, so that the young adult who has years and years of narrations behind him will be exceptionally well-equipped for mental effort, challenge, and communication. Continue reading Narration: What’s the Point? or, Where Are We Going with This?

Wholes and Parts—Which is Which?

applegraphicIn chapter two of Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education, entitled “The Philosophical Foundations,” Dr. James Taylor traces the historical “Great Conversation” of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and others on the validity of poetic knowledge from its known roots to the present. The topic crystallizes in a few key ways. To begin with, poetic knowledge is closely allied with love. Education is concerned with “ordering the affections”—teaching us to know and love that which is beautiful and good.


Augustine wrote:

Because love is a movement [of the soul] and every movement is always toward something, when we ask what ought to be loved, we are therefore asking what it is that we ought to be moving toward….It is the thing in regard to which possession and knowing are one and the same.

Poetic, or synthetic, knowledge is not a thing that can be accomplished by systems, lesson plans, or direct command. Continue reading Wholes and Parts—Which is Which?

Where Can the Definition Be Found?

Definition GraphicOne of the questions that naturally presents itself when we discuss classical education is the very definition of our topic. What is it? The truth is, there are many ways to define classical education, and a reasonable case can be made for some of them. What happens, then, when conflicting definitions or understandings arise? If I think classical education is one thing, and you think it is something else, how will we reconcile those differences?

If we take a step backward…well, that’s not going to be far enough. We’re going to have to back up quite a long way. We are talking about classical education, after all, which has roots that reach back in history almost two and a half millennia. A staggering number of voices have contributed to the Great Conversation as it pertains to education. The necessary process of educating the young has been the concern of civilization from the beginning. Continue reading Where Can the Definition Be Found?

Why Did She Have to Say That?

This article originally appeared in three parts in an email newsletter during 1999 and 2000.  I share it here as a single, somewhat lengthy article.

In each volume of her six-volume series on education, Charlotte Mason prefaces her book with a list of her educational beliefs or principles. Some of these are practical, but many of them are philosophical.  As we read them, it is easy to attempt to interpret them in light of our own 20th century ideas, but that will not give us a complete understanding.  Miss Mason lived in a philosophical environment and society which were different from our own, and some of her principles can only be understood properly in light of that environment.  From her own writings, we can get a picture of the society in which she lived. Continue reading Why Did She Have to Say That?

The Teacher as a Philosopher

When we consider what is required of us when we take up the task of educating our children, donning the cloak of a philosopher is not generally at the top of the list. More likely, becoming a philosopher is not on the list at all. Nevertheless, Charlotte Mason twice suggests that one of the roles of a teacher is that of a philosopher. Continue reading The Teacher as a Philosopher

The Still Progress of Growth

Progress! It’s a modern word to match a modern concept. Observable, calculable, measurable, definable, quantifiable progress! We measure our economic progress from every conceivable angle–new housing starts, consumer confidence, and gross national product. We measure our technological progress–this model is faster, bigger, more powerful, multi-functional. We measure our scientific progress–we gather vast quantities of data, calculate percentages and ratios, and deliver our results as statistics and percentages. Wherever we are today, we know that progress is being made, and tomorrow or next week, or next year, we will be further along the road. Progress means that we are going somewhere! Continue reading The Still Progress of Growth